News for October 2002


Radiation tri-blade symbol 31oct2002 - Alex sent word that he released an updated version of Motherboard Monitor: v5.2.1.0. MBM monitors just about every system parameter you can imagine, such as CPU and case temperature, CPU usage, etc. And it does it more elegantly than any other utility. I've been using it for years. It's free.

Over the years, we've become digital buddies. Alex lives in the Netherlands, on the other side of the world. He recently re-designed his site. I like it better, but he claims people don't like it. He claims to be just a so-so coder who works harder & longer on his software when others quit.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 30oct2002 - Saw Bowling for Columbine last night. Several friends suggested I see it. The film explores America's penchant for violence (guns) following the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado (20April1999). The last thing these kids did before shooting their classmates was to go bowling.

The film raises more questions than it answers. The main question is: Why do Americans murder far more people than any other country? If the film offers an answer, it's FEAR, propagated by the negativity broadcasted incessantly by network TV.

Statistics form the film's most poignant assertions. Michael Moore, the writer/director, interviews many people such as Dick Clark, Charlton Heston (NRA chairman) and Marilyn Manson. Ironically, in this film, Marilyn Manson seems to possess far more insight than Charlton Heston, who played Moses in The Ten Commandments.

At one point, the film seems to make the point: What's the big deal, since the government kills far more people?

Moore is not a very pleasant person to look at and he is in a lot (too much) of this film. Nor did he dress particularly professionally. Perhaps he intended things to looks that way, but I feel his film would've been much more convincing if he stayed in the background & used a real professional to conduct the interviews. But that's just my take on it.

The film had a seedy feel to it that I did not like. Kind of like 60 Minutes done by derelicts. But in the end, it makes some points that need to be reckoned with. So I feel that the film suceeds despite long list of negatives. It could've been done much more elegantly. Wait for it to hit TV.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 29oct2002 - Wendy is getting lots of attention from her online chronicles of The Life of a Film School Student at USC. A Google search for the terms usc film school returns links related to her experiences for 5 of the top 10 results. Google ranks only the university itself higher.

Google is known to return the most relevant search results, which is why I include it for your Radified convenience on this page. Also seeing much traffic coming from a Google search for wendy usc film school books.

I saw an article here, claiming that USC admits only 150 undergrads out of 14,000 applications annually. If my math is correct, that's represents about 1%. Not very good odds of getting in. Actually, Graduate Production is their marquee program. Only about half the students are able to complete it in 3-years. It's almost impossible, if students opt to do for a thesis project film (photos from this project are posted here).

Wendy is TA'ing (Teaching Assistant) this semester for the first-ever 508 class to edit (16mm black+white film) using digital technology (Avid Xpress DV). The transition from normal (linear) flatbed editing to digital technology has been fraught with problems & challenges. If you've ever edited video on your PC, you know what a royal pain it can be working out all the kinks.

But she met the challenge and her class just screened their first projects. She said, "I'm so proud of them." There are three 508 groups each semester (~16 students in each group). Wendy's group is the only one of the 3 editing with Avid. The other two groups are still using (ancient) flatbeds.

The school likes students to be familiar with flatbed editing. But truth of the matter is that no one in the industry actually uses a flatbed any more. Digital (non-linear) technology makes editing so much faster & easier. Flatbeds used to cost US$30,000 each. Today you can pick up a used model for ~US$300. They do look pretty cool.

Film purists feel that you put more thought into each cut you make with a flatbed (cuz each cut takes so much more work/effort/time). Proponents of non-linear editing (Avid) claim that digital technology allows the editor to explore many more options. You can try/test 20 (or more) different cuts in the time it takes to make one cut-n-splice on a flatbed. Sometimes it's that 20th cut that produces the magical effect you were searching for.

She just got her mid-semester evaluations from her students. She received (anonymous) comments such as: The best TA I've ever had at USC! .. and .. The best TA I've had in my entire academic career! Her head swelled up so big that they had to call Maintenance to come take the door off its hinges so she could get out of the room. =)

Radiation tri-blade symbol 28oct2002 - Angels win the series! Will miracles never cease? They have blown it so many times over the years that I honestly didn't think they'd pull it off. Even at the very end, when Lofton stepped up to the plate, with 2 men on, representing the tying run himself, I said, "This guy can hit the ball."

When he cracked it out, I thought to myself, "There it goes." But it fell short. Now everybody is saying, "I knew all along they would win." Yeah, right. Edison field is only 30 minutes away. If I thought the Angels would win, I would've drove up there & joined the celebration.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 27oct2002 - Saw The Truth about Charlie last night. The previews looked interesting, but the movie sucked. We left for the theater during the 7th inning of the World Series, when the score was 5-0. Things looked hopeless for the Angels. I thought the series was over. But after returning home, I couldn't believe they actually pulled it off (6-5). So I missed the best part of a great game to go see a sucky movie. Dang. Seventh & deciding game later today. Go Angels.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 26oct2002 - Posted my version of the ultimate latte. See here for the perfect latte. After writing this in several emails, it became easier to copy & post it online. Believe it or not, I'm trying to take a break from the bean. It's pretty dang difficult. I went without for one day yesterday. The headache started today .. so I had to self-medicate.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 25oct2002 - Saw Punch Drunk Love today. Directed by the same guy who did Boogie Nights (Paul Anderson). Wendy says the students at USC Film school are raving about this one.

It's a different type of movie. Defies an easy description. I enjoyed it. Laughed my ass off. Had to wipe tears a few times. It really appealed to my warped sense of humor. Not everyone will find it so funny.

Stars Adam Sandler, who reminds me of the guys I grew up with (on the East Coast). He did a superb job. My respect for him as an actor just grew 10-fold. Now I see what everyone is talking about. The theater was packed. Good reactions from the crowd. I can recommend this one for people who like different types of movies.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 24oct2002 - An armed robber was shot & killed by police here in Laguna Beach yesterday afternoon while robbing The Herb Store. Not sure, but I think he was stealing bongs (glass pipes used to smoke marijuana). And they say drugs don't hurt you. See here for the story.

This is only a few miles from where we live. A policeman was shot, but is doing fine. The TV news cameras were there all day, reporting live.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 23oct2002 - I noticed that Shoutcast now hosts over 50,000 listeners during the day (see here). Peak listening time seems to be ~noon here on the West Coast (California). The number of listeners taper off after that. It wasn't that long ago when 1,000 listeners were a lot. It's growing fast.

I posted a link to Shoutcast in the upper right-hand corner, so you can easily tune in during your Radified stay. I listen to DigitallyImported (128kbps from Europe) when working (gets me cranking) and Smooth Jazz (from Monterey) when relaxing. I keep links to both these stations on my LINKAGE page.

More info about Internet radio & mp3 streaming is posted here (a bit dated). The best way to listen to these streams is with Winamp, a broadband connection (Cable or DSL) & some decent speakers or headphones.

Internet radio is experiencing much turmoil right now. The Recording Industry (boo, hiss) is trying to saddle small stations with big fees. You can read more about the situation at saveinternetradio.org.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 22oct2002 - Wendy is beside herself. Last night she shook the hands of both Steven Spielberg (Raiders of the Lost Ark) and George Lucas (Star Wars). She has been at USC Film school for over 5 years now, as both an undergrad (Critical Studies) and graduate student (Film Production) and she finally got to meet the filmmaking gods.

She made me guess, saying, "Guess whose hand I just shook 10 minutes ago?" Wouldn't tell me. When I guessed George Lucas, she said, "Who else?" Luckily she had her camcorder with her, and got the whole thing on video. The big boys were at USC (Los Angeles) to donate funds to establish an endowment for the Sound department. Sound is a big part of movie-making.

Wendy happened to wander in the back, following the festive music. After she found a seat at a table, her idols wound up sitting only a few steps away. She said, "I walked up to them, shook their hands, looked them in the eye and told them my name." She's on cloud nine. You can read the chronicles of her trials & tribulations at USC Film school here.

She is still working on her thesis project film, titled Breakwater. A collection of photos taken during the week of shooting this past summer is posted here. Her web site (lagunacinema.com) is posted here. She is getting close to picture lock.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 21oct2002 - Yesterday I learned that I've been blogging for years .. without even realizing it (see here). A while back, someone asked: What is blogging? I answered: Not sure, but I think it's British slang for talking about meaningless bullshit. =)

The heart of this site is found in the guides, not the daily blogs. Since I've begun blogging, the site has grown from zero to almost a million hits a month. Most site traffic comes from links such as this.

For me these blogs are a form of therapy, like keeping a journal or getting a massage. I'd do it even if nobody read them. Speaking of readers, John Stehman (Wisconsin) writes to say:

Rad, if you like Sonic Foundry's software, I suggest you stock up. Their stock has dropped so low that they are about to be delisted from NASDAQ. They may cut back their operation according to this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

On a more personal note, last night I went to see Theatre Zingaro (more info here). 30 amazing horses from France perform with dancers to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (music). Reminded me of Cirque du Soleil with horses.

Hard to describe, but imagine a big tent, with a circular, dirt center. Exotic lighting, other-worldly music, scented fog for atmosphere. The reddish dirt is piled highest in the center, like a baseball mound. Riders wear ornate costumes of Camelot, while dancers wear skin-tight suits. We had 3rd-row seats for the 90-minute performance.

Sat next to two older ladies who drove down all the way from Humboldt county. I asked them if they knew what Humbolt county is famous for around here (growing the best marijuana; they knew). They own a ranch up there, several hundred miles away, in Northern California, not far from the Oregon border. I asked if they grew any cash crops. =)

The tent gets completely dark & quiet just before the magic begins. Totally enchanting. At one point, mid-performance, 6 or 7 ceramic horse-shaped pieces descend from above attached to cables. While two dancers (1 male, 1 female) danced with these inanimate object, two older ladies got up and left. They made a lot of noise leaving.

I think they might've become uncomfortable with the somewhat erotic performance. You know how modern dance is. It almost seemed like they were making love to the horse-shaped pieces. I think the dancers were symbolizing a show of respect for the horses. Enough blogging for today.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 20oct2002 - Weeping & gnashing of teeth here in Southern California as the Angels lost the first game of the World Series (4-3). On a happier note, Sonic Foundry (Madison, Wisconsin) is re-releasing CD Architect. (Thx to James for the heads-up.) This is simply one the coolest pieces of software I've ever used. It allows you to create (compile) the ultimate in audio CDs.

I use an older version (4.0g). Have not tried version 5. In fact, I never upgraded my old, 8X CD burner cuz it works with my older version of CD Architect, which functions as a Sound Forge plug-in. Sound Forge is an audio-editing program that you can use to do just about anything with digital audio. IMHO these are must-have programs for the Radified Warrior. I list my favorite best programs & applications here.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 19oct2002 - Saw Abandon last night. This one is easy to give away, so I won't say much. I enjoyed it. Walked away satisfied. Written & directed by the same guy (Stephen Gaghan) who wrote Traffic, which I really enjoyed. I liked Traffic cuz the story moved along at quick pace and was richly layered. Abandon also moved right along and was well layered.

My theory of movies is based upon expectations. By that I mean, if you go to a movie expecting something great, you're likely to come away disappointed (valid paradigm for much of life in general). But if you go in without any (or low) expectations, you're likely to be pleasantly surprised. It's rare for people to walk into a theater with high expectations, and walk away feeling satisfied.

At first I found myself expecting a lot cuz the story was written by the same guy who wrote Traffic (for which he won the Oscar). But then I realized this would set me up for disappointment, so I expected to be disappointed. In the end, I walked away satisfied, even tho it wasn't as good as Traffic.

Surprise ending. I never see these coming. I've sat next to people in the theater who actually predicted the ending, but I refused to believe it. Other people seem to be able to anticipate endings better than me. Looking back in retrospect, I feel like I should've seen it coming.

Only a couple parts of the story raised questions for me. I thot the casting was great, acting believable. Good camera work and interesting visual scenes. Many of the characters were stereotyped to an extreme, but in a good/humorous way. I like stories that delve into the psychology of why people do the things they do.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 18oct2002 - I appreciate all the letters of encouragement. Yes, I'm back on the bean. Thought I was getting sick, but soon as I had that first cup, I was instantly healed - just like folks at a Benny Hinn crusade. Felt like a million bucks within minutes. But I'm gonna have another go at it. Maybe next week, I'll try to abstain until I quit feeling like crap.

In other news, this link (thefreeworld.net. thx to Sidney) is interesting. It's difficult for individual countries to enact laws that pertain to the Net, cuz the Net doesn't stop at national boundaries. The related No-DMCA license is posted here. DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a highly controversial US-only law.

The thing that has copyright owners of audio/video media so up in arms about copy-protection is that digital technology allows people make perfect copies (exact clones) .. unlike analog technology, where each subsequent copy generated what is known as generational loss, degrading the quality further. Nicky discusses media piracy here.

The copyright owners want to wrestle control of the Net away from the geeks. If they knew some of the hackers I know, they'd know this is an exercise in futility. Copyrights are good. If you're interested in making perfect copies of your legally purchased CDs, check out the Radified Guide to Ripping & Encoding CD Audio. More good info on US Copyright laws is posted here and HERE.

I get a lot of mail on this subject (from both sides) cuz a Google search for "ripping cd" or "ripping cd audio" yields my guide. Doom9 is probably the #1 place to find info about backing up your video collection (their disclaimer is posted here). To be honest, I've never backed up a DVD. The only DVD player I own is set-top. So please don't send me mail telling me what a bad person I am for sharing this info.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 17oct2002 - Received a surprising amount of mail in response to yesterday's entry. Much of it like this:

Best wishes on your drug-elimination project. May you be as successful as you've been with your hardware projects. The body should be considered priceless hardware.

"My head hurts and my mind feels cloudy. It's difficult to concentrate." Sounds like caffeine withdrawals. Tough it out!

After 20 years of drinking a gallon of coffee a day, I developed a caffeine reaction (imagine that) that forced me to quit cold turkey. I had a splitting headache 24x7 for over a month. Eventually it passed.

It was much more difficult to quit drinking coffee than it was to stop a 20-year, two-pack-a-day habit. I'm not convinced caffeine is bad like smoking, but if you can achieve your goal of staying off it, you will have achieved quite an accomplishment.

Hang in there, Rad!
Aloha, John

Radiation tri-blade symbol 16oct2002 - Last week we watched the movie Traffic, a 2000 film about drugs starring Michael Douglas. The movie followed with out-takes of the actors & filmmakers mentioning how drug use has become epidemic. After hearing that, I decided to go one week with no drugs of any kind.

Without getting anal, I eliminated caffeine (my drug of choice) from my diet, alcohol (no brewskies), nicotine (no Macanudos), and every other drug I could think of. It has been almost a week, and I must admit, I feel more whacked out than ever.

My head hurts and my mind feels cloudy. It's difficult to concentrate. Motivation has waned. I just want to sleep. Starting to feel like crap. Maybe I'm coming down with a cold. I'm firing up the dang espresso maker right now. =)

Radiation tri-blade symbol 15oct2002 - The buzz on campus at the world's best film school is about the new movie titled Punch-Drunk Love, starring Adam Sandler. This film was directed by the same guy who did Boogie Nights, which was a different type of flick. Being released this Friday. Supposedly even people (like myself) who aren't crazy about Adam, like him in this flick.

I'm actually more interested in seeing Abandon, written by the same guy who wrote the screenplay for Traffic, for which he (Stephen Gaghan) won an Oscar (Best Screenplay Adapted From Another Source). And Katie Holmes is a real cutie.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 14oct2002 - The big news here in Southern California: the Angels are going to the World Series .. for the first time in baseball history. They will probably meet San Francisco. Game 1: Saturday. Everyone here is beside themselves. Most folks had given up on the Angels, after so many almosts.

Despite a comfortable 13-5 lead, no one left the stadium early. Everybody remembers back in '86 when the Angels were one strike away, but gave up a 2-run homer, then lost in overtime .. and lost the next two games. Even people like me who normally aren't baseball fans are getting caught up in the frenzy.

In unrelated news, Rad congrats go out to Alex (Motherboard Monitor), who's site broke 5 million hits. See here.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 13oct2002 - Saw a sneak preview of the Dreamworks release The Ring last night. Won't officially be released until next week. Well made, richly layered whodunnit. Gave me chills a few times. Pretty scary, but not too bad. Original concept. Kept me thinking.

One guy in the theater totally lost it during a particularly scary part and freaked out. I can recommend this flick to people who enjoy scary, suspenseful movies.

Some critics are comparing this film to The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby, both of which scared me shitless. I wouldn't go that far, but I know what they're talking about. The sense is realism in this movie is very good. Before you go, I got one thing to say: make a copy.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 12oct2002 - A reader sent in this link from the New York Times, titled Making My Own Music, dated today. I hope the author has read the Radified Guide to Ripping CD Audio & MP3 Encoding.

Went off the bean two days ago. Usually start the day with a double espresso (or two). Can hardly keep my eyes open today. Think I'll go take another nap.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 11oct2002 - Saw Knockaround Guys today. I thought it was gonna rock when they opened with Marvin Gaye's classic Trouble Man. [Marvin Gaye is one of favorites. He was shot to death by his preacher-father at point-blank range.] But the movie sucked (mostly), despite a strong performance from Malkevich. A different twist on your typical Wise guy flick. Dennis Hopper was good, but only played a small part. Might have to go see White Oleander.

An advance screening of The Ring will be out tomorrow. Dreamworks usually makes good flicks. I like scary movies.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 10oct2002 - New Line Cinema releases Knockaround Guys tomorrow, starring Dennis Hopper & John Malkevich, both of whom I like. Can never tell from the trailers, but this one looks interesting. Caught myself laughing at some of the lines. Vin Diesel is also in this movie. I saw him featured on Charlie Rose a few nights ago. He's much more intelligent than he appears.

White Oleander is also being released tomorrow. Looks like the quintessential chick-flick. Mom read the book, back when it first came out. Doesn't sound interesting to me. The white oleander is a poisonous flower (more).

Sony Pictures is also releasing Madonna's new movie: Swept Away. Directed by her husband. Looks like a cross between Cast Away and From Here to Eternity. Heard one critic say, "It's almost as bad as Mariah Carey's Glitter. I thought: Hey! I liked Glitter. =)

Radiation tri-blade symbol 09oct2002 - Installed a new SCSI hard drive today. A Maxtor/Quantum Atlas 10K III. They are getting so cheap. Got mine a few weeks ago from Newegg for US$104. That means I now have 3 SCSI drives in my system, all from different manufacturers: 1 Cheetah X15-36LP (Seagate), 1 36LZX (IBM), and the new Atlas 10K III.

No problems. Everything working just skippy. Seems the SCSI standard is defined well enough that drives from different manufacturers work together reliably. See here a HD Tach benchmark of the Atlas 10K III. (I also have 3 IDE/ATA drives in my system for cheap mass storage, all IBMs.) The SCSI guide details my hybrid approach to disk storage. A good explanation of hard disk performance facotors is posted here (3.6 MB PDF, best to download to your PC before viewing, 8 pages).

Radiation tri-blade symbol 08oct2002 - My buddy from Bangalore, India, Deepak, sent word that he updated his Linux Intro. This Powerpoint presentation is now at version 1.4 (384 KB). If you've ever wondered about Linux, you can kick back and watch a 13-minute presentation that will explain the basics behind the open-source, server operating system that is all the rage, and detail why it's so cool.

I mirror the file for him on my downloads page. You will of need Microsoft PowerPoint to view the file. Most people have this program, which comes with the MS Office suite. Deepak's home page is posted here. You can read about him here. I've never been to India, and he's never been to California, but we have been digital friends for years. Isn't the Internet grand?

The biggest problem with Linux (for me) is that it takes a while for drivers to be released for new components, such as chipsets,.. gfx cards,.. sound cards and network interface cards. This is why it's best to keep an OLD computer, dedicated especially for Linux. Linux works great with old hardware.

Just about the time they get around to releasing drivers for hardware I own, I'm ready to upgrade to newer/faster stuff .. and indulge my technolust a little more. Far as the various distros go, I'm a fan of Mandrake, now at version 9.0. You can download any Linux distro for free. If you don't have a broadband connection, you'll probably want them to send you the CDs, which cost US$30.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 07oct2002 - The forums broke 1000 posts today. Statistics are listed in lower left-hand corner. I'm considering converting to the new YaBB SE mod (Yet another Bulletin Board), which uses a combination of PHP and MySQL. Supposedly faster, but conversations like these rarely go smoothly.

The Rad forums currently use the original YaBB, which is based upon a (free, open-source) CGI script. Kinda old-school. Not nearly as cool as PHP and similar open-source scripts.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 05oct2002 - Wendy made a video for a real estate agent. She calls this "a paying gig". I think she got a couple of thousand bucks for the deal. He found her by searching Google for usc film school student. You can check it out here (4 minutes, 48 secs).

You'll need a broadband connection in order to stream it (streaming begins playing soon as you click on the link). Otherwise (dial-up connections), you'll have to download the file first (7.45 MB).

This project was shot with a Canon GL1 and edited with Avid Xpress DV v3.0 on a home-built rad rig. The posted version you see here was encoded with Real Video encoders to broadband streaming specs. Wendy's site is posted here (lagunacinema.com). Her web-hosting provider (Communitech) supports Real Video streaming. I think she's also going to post a Quicktime version if she gets time.

The clip contains sexy images of scantily-clad Kelly: same girl who starred in BodyMind. She plays a nature nymph in this one. The agent is going to use the video to sell the house you see featured (nice place, yours for only US$7M).

The vdo isn't quite done. The agent just called & said he's very happy with how it turned out, but that she spelled his name wrong. So she has to go back and fix a few things .. but nothing that should bother you. She started crying cuz she thot she was done. Now has more work to do. You'll need a recent version of Real Player to view the clip. If you have problems, see here.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 04oct2002 - Saw Red Dragon today. Maybe I expected too much. Wasn't bad, but I came away disappointed, feeling like the film was a hastily-made. The script needed more time in the oven. Many times a sequel/prequel simply tries to cash in on the success of the original. I feel that's what happened here.

The beginning was most awkward. Here much background information was presented clumsily. Hard to descibe, but it simply didn't feel natural. I was conscious of a screenwriter sitting at his desk, attempting to spoon-feed the audience with all required background info.

Of all the actors, Ed Norton's performance was most disappointing. Felt like he was reading his lines. Normally I like him, too. On the other hand, I thought Harvey Keitel did good (believable). Ralph Fiennes, who played the sicko ("I am becoming"), did good, too. He wasn't very scary, but I believed he was really a sicko.

It would've been so cool, at the very end, if Jody Foster (Agent Starling) showed her face - even if only for 2 seconds. They could've even used a clip from the original. If you don't go to this movie expecting something as well-made as Silence of the Lambs, you might enjoy it more than I did.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 02oct2002 - Universal Pictures is releasing Red Dragon Friday. Prequel to Silence of the Lambs. I enjoyed SOTL, but wasn't crazy about part-2. Wendy says SOTL is one of the most discussed films at Film school, cuz it cuts across so many different genres. It's one of my all-time favorite flicks (along with Apocalypse Now). Hope the prequel rocks.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 01oct2002 - First day of October. Where does the time go?