19 December 2008

Hairy Kiss Miss

Been workin' lots, ecco my excuse for not posting for a while. Not "showreel" work, "paying the bills" work.

Flying out to the motherland tomorrow to kiss the nieces.

Mr Barack Obama has won the US presidential election (maybe you've heard?) since i'd last posted. Everyone asks me "are you happy [about that]?" My reply is, "Ask me in three to six months." The elaborated answer is, "After eight years of literally running the nation into the ground, not only in financial debt but in spirit as well, just to line the already-deep pockets of 1% of the world population, yes, i'm very happy that that frontline madness has ended. I'm also glad that Mr Obama seems to have the power to inspire and hope that he at least continues such." Congratulations, Mr Obama. Please, give me a reason not to be so jaded in 2009.

More Mac bitching: so far, i've compained about OS X spawning new windows under the Dock when placed on the left side of the screen. It also seems that Finder temporarily forgets window placement on the initial opening of a folder on the Desktop. There are folders on my Desktop that when i open them via the standard double-click they launch not only under the Dock (at the left) but also at the (i suppose) default Finder-window geometry, that is shorter in width than how i have them placed. The invisible .DS_Store files are not instantly updating as they should.

Now let's talk OS X audio. Since its inception, all Macs power on with the Macintosh chime. Previously, if you'd left your headphones or external speakers plugged in but switched off, you would hear no chime, which is nice when you need to power up your Mac at 3 am. Not so with the new iMac! The only way to kill that chime is to power down with volume set at zero.

And speaking of volume at zero, in its previous incarnation, a password-locked screensaver would allow you to control the volume, convenient for someone whose colleague left iTunes plugging away while they went for a coffee. Not so with the new iMac! If it's password-protected and the screensaver has kicked in, you're fucked! Or for those who use the Mac as a stereo. If you have to lower the volume, you have to unlock the screen first.

More bitching to come! Ciao!

26 October 2008

Finder Vs. The Dock

Pictures speak a thousand words...

...OSX Finder (10.5.5) spawns windows under the Dock. The above examples are two random examples.

05 October 2008

Masochism, X11-style

The installation of The GIMP (2.4.5-1) and Inkscape went allright, strangely enough. But alas Scribus is the problem du jour, immediately puking on not having the correct version of cmake installed...a version that doesn't exist (latest version being 2.4.6 according to Fink), despite having the latest X11 and Fink installations. And so far, "Google is not my friend."

All this, just to use a few programs that i personally don't really even like (The GIMP, in particular).

04 October 2008

X11 and Leopard

I'm trying to install X11 on Leopard (OSX.5.5) and gosh is it finicky this time around! I don't remember installing X11 being so hard on previous systems. I've already encountered the following roadblocks so far:
  • inability to install update the packages (neither Gimp2 nor Inkscape were on the list!). Resolved by switching from configure-rsync to configure-cvs;
  • having to mv /usr/local to /usr/local.moved, installing a lib that wouldn't install and then mv /usr/local.moved /usr/local (see here);
  • having to symlink libXrandr.2.0.0.dylib...i'm not even going to pretend to understand that one (see here)

And at this point my terminal is scrolling data just like in the movies. Every now and then i'll glance over at it and see some non-fatal error wing by.
Let's leave it at this: if there're no more posts about this grisly subject, it means that all's well that ends well.

15 September 2008

The War on Hurricanes

Just checking in to see if my blog is still standing.

This morning on Uno Mattina i heard that US President George W Bush was saying something about the hurricane that hit Texas these last few days and i half expected to hear him declare war on hurricanes. After the last eight years, it doesn't sound that far-fetched, does it? And it will probably be just as successful. Alas there's no money to be made in it. On a less absurd note (when speaking of Bush and his brethren and cohorts, is there a less absurd note?), i'm seriously curious how fast and efficient aid will be for Texas, as opposed to Louisiana.

Today Richard Wright died at 65 from what's reported as a short but fatal bout with cancer. I'm left with only one thought: no matter how much cash you've got, it won't necessarily save you. My condolences to the surviving family.

And speaking of family, and signing off on a positive note, Happy Birthday, Pop!!! You're my hero!

09 September 2008

Raising the bar of horror

I've just had the "pleasure" of reading this story about a Dayton, Ohio woman sentenced to life in prison for...wait for it...microwaving her one-month-old baby daughter to death. I believe for all the countless times i've sarcastically used the phrase i've just had the pleasure of..., this is the most sarcastic occurrence to date.

I'm still reeling. Her baby. In a microwave. And she, Ms. China Arnold, and her lawyers are still pleading her innocence. Yet from what i understand from that lone article i've read, she was in her home when it happened (the article claims that Ms. Arnold and her boyfriend Terrell Talley were quarreling). She was in the same room when it happened. From what i understand, she was there.

Oh, the horror. The desensitization bar has just been raised. No, i take that back. It'll take a lot more before i dismiss occurrences like that as mundane. I mean, i can understand heat-of-the-moment crimes of passion (and anyone who says they can't is a liar). I can understand (but not condone) murder with your bare hands or with the nearest instrument unfortunately within reach during that moment. Anything where an idea to execute violence has to be realized ("I've got a gun in the other room...I'll go and get it, come back and use it.") is already very suspect as far as i'm concerned. As they say, "your mileage may vary."

But the very idea, however convoluted the path of your arrival to the idea, of putting your one-month-old baby daughter in a microwave oven to cook her alive... How does a person even think of doing something like that, if not only in a nightmare? How does a person even consider putting their infant child in a microwave oven, much less turning the oven on? Much less closing the oven door?

This is the first i'm hearing of this ghastly story (the crime occurred in 2005) so i'm not entirely informed on the trial and its history. But nowhere in the article does it mention Mr. Terrell's hand in it. Either Ms. Arnold actually placed/tossed/threw the infant in the microwave oven and switched it on and Terrell did nothing, or a similar situation happened with the roles reversed. I'd even give Arnold the benefit of the doubt, that she couldn't remove her child from danger because Terrell impeded her. But alas, it is Arnold who has been sentenced and not Terrell. So...did Terrell even try to save his disputed daughter? No, i meant to say, did Terrell even try to save a human being from being internally boiled alive? Did Arnold impede his doing so? Or was that just not his problem?

I wonder: how long does it take to microwave to death a one-month-old infant? Seriously. 60 seconds? 90? I imagine (but do not know nor do i care to investigate the matter) at 30 seconds there is already irreparable damage. Maybe even less? Is that not enough time to react to this abominable situation and at least try to stop the microwave oven?

I'm currently reading Jared Diamond's Collapse (highly recommended) and am at the chapter regarding the recent Rwandan and Burundi genocides. Thousands of people massacred by guns and/or machetes. Thousands. We've also all heard the horror stories about (usually) teenage mothers leaving their newborns in garbage dumpsters, not always alive. Both of these unfortunately human stories are acts of violent desperation, from one end of the spectrum to the other.

But to put one's own infant daughter in a microwave oven and cook her alive...?

I'm done for today. This story has obviously shaken me.

30 August 2008

Happy Birthday, Nina!

Today's the 30th of August, so Happy Birthday, Nina! She's getting a punk-rock birthday gift from me...i can say no more!

Other than this momentous occasion, nothing new to report. Everyone's been on holiday here so my professional life's been a little slow, although i did do some bill-paying work. Thinking i'd like to be in a band again, if only to rediscipline my guitar-playing, but this time as a bowling league/hobby and nothing more.

I'll be back when i actually have something to say. Ciao.

30 June 2008

Keep them dogies rollin'

Ciao a tutti!

Nothing new to report other than making up for lost time these last few weeks, work-wise. Some of it bill-paying work and some of it showreel-ish, luckily most of it relatively stress-free...as much as television work can be. Got to see and work with old friends and colleagues, so all in all, life's good.

The uke's on hold, unfortunately. A casualty of working (aww, that's too bad!). But, arms akimbo, i will finish it!

Been listening to lots of Gang of Four lately. Gang of Four is one of those groups that are one of your favorite "forgotten" groups. That is, you forget how much you love them until you put something on of theirs. Hell, i'd seen Gang of Four twice, once in Ann Arbor in 1982 and once in Ypsilanti in 1983, both gigs not exactly near to me at the time. My god, a truly original band. John King and his melodica shrieking life-as-politics polemic for the dancefloor. Guernica rhythm section courtesy of Dave Allen (bass) and Hugo Burnham (drums). And i'd go as far as to say that Andy Gill is as important to modern rock guitar as, say, Jimi Hendrix or Robert Fripp or Link Wray: like the aforementioned guitarists, his is an instantly and unmistakably recognizable style and no one plays (or doesn't play!) like Andy Gill, try as some may.

But, unlike the aforementioned guitarists, i'm afraid that despite how many past, present and future rockstars cite the band as a major influence, in the long run Gang of Four may end up an underrated footnote in rock and roll history exactly because they are "your forgotten favorite group."

Gang of Four (all four original members: King, Gill, Allen and Burnham) had reformed in 2005 to release Return The Gift, a re-recording of their first album Entertainment with other select songs from the discography. As of recent, Gill and King have returned to touring and have released new material, a new single called Second Life. I like it...lots. It's not rehash. It's not lame. It's Gang of Four (or Gang of Two plus two) reenergized. It's sonic Jackson Pollock. "Who's gonna save you with your house on fire?"

I may even go to see them in Pescara...but being how i'd already seen them twice, i think they'll forgive me if don't make it. Rome-Pescara is a bit farther than Detroit-Ann Arbor.

25 May 2008

Ukulele! 4: Stress Cracks

The plan (?!) was to reuse/recycle parts and pieces left from last year's guitar experiment. This mini-plank...
...was my first attempt, a proof-of-concept “guitar.” A minimalist affair, a piece of walnut strung with four lengths of fishing line, four nails act as the tailpiece, four fisheye screws for tuning pegs, a threaded bolt for a bridge, a scrap of walnut for the nut and frets pencilled in (the above photo is the back sans any of the described installed) And the ancient Greeks were right: strangely enough it worked. Not the most beautiful-sounding nor -looking guitar but nevertheless functional.

Since my plank guitar was around 20cm long, i figured i could easily get my ukulele's neck out of it. So goodbye plank, hello uke neck.

Since this was to be my 23,546th time to not think things out, i cut the 17° scarf joint and glued the head to the neck yesterday, giving it around 24 hours to set. I don't know if you can see from the above photo but, to avoid splinters while playing, i'd rounded the back sides. Cutting a scarf joint from such a rounded piece of wood leads to a peghead with...uhmm, channels. Ah, no problem, i've got a can of wood putty to fill in the recesses. In any case, being a ukulele, there's going to be minimal force exerted by the strings on the head anyway.

Everything clamped, i started to form out the neck anyway. I was making good progress, enjoying the nice weather up on the roof, wood curls whizzing around. About 80-90% there, i'd noticed a stress crack in the wood...

Apologies about the blurry photo. The Nokia doesn't handle
semi-extreme close-ups very well.

...right in the neck wood. Not the jointed head side but the neck. I was thinking, among many other things, Super Attak (cyanoacrylate) the bad boy but...i don't know. I just had to test it.

Here you can see not only the cracked headstock but the rounded back
in the scarf joint. At least i got some sun today!

It gave with minimal force applied. What to do what to do what to do? I'm analyzing the situation at this very moment. I'm “thinking” that i could probably graft on another peghead. Therefore i should just finish the neck and continue on.

And speaking of stress cracks, Happy Birthday, Mommy! Hee hee!!! That was a joke, Ma! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Ma, I love you!

23 May 2008

Ukulele! 3: Slow But Sure...

Between the rain here in Rome and revenue earning, the ukulele project has been on the proverbial back burner...but as of today, no longer! As you can see in the photo, i've got the sides bent thanks to a two-hour window of decent weekend weather. For better or worse, the sides are comprised of two halves instead of the projected single slat; the plywood cracked at around the lower right bout while i was bending it. I'm getting a little better at not scorching the wood, which i find difficult with my setup as it's not a constant heat source.

So it's up to the roof with me to finish off and join the sides, and maybe install the kerfing...oh, hell, let's just see how far i can go today and leave it at that.

06 May 2008

Happy Birthday, Feexy!

Feexy, yr beautiful! Hope you like yr colored pencils.

04 May 2008

Ukulele! 2: Triumph of the Will

There's a difference between “persevering against all odds” and “not knowing when to quit.” I believe i fall into the second category.

There's no bending the sides today as yesterday i'd run out of butane for my torch and today's Sunday, meaning no hardware stores in a ten-kilometer radius are open. So how about cutting the top and back of the uke's body then? O-KAY!

I first glued the two sheets of plywood together around the edges and then cut them simultaneously. In the middle of cutting though, the coping saw blade snapped! And i swore i had spares...but to a different coping saw!

Screw it! I wasn't going to permit another setback! I took the spare wrong coping saw blade, attached it to the saw and finished the rough cut.

Ha! The ukulele project marches forward!

03 May 2008


Okay, it's officially beautiful out here in Rome! Time to head back up to the roof and retry my hand at weekend lutherie. Inspired by YouTube star GUGUG (check out, among others, his rendition of Link Wray's Jack The Ripper), this time i'm trying to build a ukulele. I found actual plans by Jan van Cappelle at the MIMF site's library. I figured a ukulele shouldn't take me an entire summer to create. Well, let's hope not. In fact i figured i could have at least the sides bent today!

Here's my big-time luthier setup...

My hand-made bending tube station

...and here's as far as i got before the torch ran out of butane(!)...

You'd think here in one of the world's major metropolises, in the very heart of the city, a hardware store would obviously be open. Where i live there are no less than three in walking distance. Roberta just laughed. “You know there are no hardware stores open on Saturday afternoon,” she chided. But i couldn't believe that. So off i went to one, two, three hardware stores...all closed at 4:30pm on a Saturday afternoon.

So, i got as far as you see above, and Roberta got ice cream and the right to dance around and laugh and say “i told you so.”

30 April 2008

$832 million

That's a lot of cash. That's a lot of net cash. That's taking one hundred thousand people and giving them each US$8,320 (as of today, €5,263.32; UK£4,227.54; CHƒ8,619.52; CAN$8,427.74; etc.).

That's net profit. That's after bills and expenses. That's an enormous chunk of change that goes in the figurative pocket of just one multinational corporation. Just one.

That's pharoah money. That's emperor money. Is that unfathomable or do i just not think big enough?

That's taking eight hundred and thirty-two of yr closest friends and family and giving them each one million dollars.

I remember when i was little, Mr Joseph Arco, god rest his soul, telling me that you could bank $1,000,000 and live off the interest for the rest of your life. I wonder if that's still true. I'm pretty sure it hasn't changed much even if we are talking 35 years later.

How much does one person need to live comfortably? Every one has a different comfort level, you say. Well, i'm against the “lowest common denominator.” I'm for the highest common denominator.

I say per person annually three million US dollars -- last i looked, still the monetary yardstick. They're still pricing petroleum in US$. I say an annual three million dollars of net income in yr pocket after all expenses, taxes, investments and whatnot have been paid is “enough.” “Enough” to feed yr family, enough to pay all yr bills annually, “enough” to keep the Ferrari running smoothly, “enough” to burn yr fucking brains out with all the cocaine and heroin you could do...basically “enough” for anything. A personal jet? A 100-room estate in Seychelles? Well, hell, with an annual net income of $3,000,000, who'd ever decline your loan?

That's (as of today) €1,924,743.00, UK£1,524,353.92, ¥311,610,008.24, HK$23,382,599.83...you get the picture.

Is there still someone out there who doesn't agree? Is there someone who actually thinks that this “communist” line of thinking would stifle competition and research and development? After all, there's no incentive to do anything if you can't net more than three million dollars annually!

Would there actually be somebody who says that three million dollars net annually isn't enough? Would there actually be someone who would want US$3,000,001?

Bigger question: let's pretend that the $3 million ceiling is alright. What to do with the surplus money? Or more specifically, where does it go and how is it managed while it's waiting to end world hunger forever, fund teletransportation research, etc.? I'm still working on that one.

28 April 2008

Bugs, Bugs, BUGS!!!...and Banners

HEY, I'M BACK! Yeah, yeah...

The latest trend on italian television is promo banners during programs. Everywhere in the world, i imagine, you pay for television either in the form of advertising interruptions, license fees, cable/satellite service or a combination thereof.

This is an example of any program on any TV station years ago...

Example 1: the transmitted picture and only the transmitted picture.

...exactly that: an image. A transmitted image. It probably would have been in black and white as well, but that's beside the point.

A cathode-ray tube TV screen "eats" an amount of the outer picture (anywhere up to ten percent). I say "anywhere up to ten percent" because, unlike paper with a bleed margin, no two television monitors trim the image exactly the same. Pay attention the next time you're in an appliance store with their wall of TVs. No two TVs are pixel-identical. So effectively you are seeing only this much of the transmitted image...

Example 2: normal 10% picture loss.

For some years now viewers have experienced this type of graphic called a bug on their TV screens (in the lower right corner in this example)...

Example 3: a "bug" in the lower right corner of the picture. Note that the bug
is placed INSIDE the safely trasmitted area which is known as "action safe".

This bug was invented to identify the channel being watched at a glance, among other reasons of varying degrees of legitimacy. And most bugs are relatively unobtrusive when they are semitransparent.

In the next example, you see that we are losing even more of the transmitted 4:3 picture thanks to purely stylistic uses of "letterboxing"...

Example 4: fake 16:9 letterboxing.
While i usually believe "less is more" , here "less is...LESS!"

It's honestly been a while since i've had the...opportunity...to view other countries' programming but here in Italy, normal PAL programs and commercials add letterboxes, presumably to give the product a cinematic look. I'm sorry...i personally call "bullshit". Who is gonna buy that the perfume ad you are watching was really shot in Panavision? Oh, is this pseudo-news program really in 16:9? Especially, as in the next example, when a second bug is added in the letterbox!

Example 5: Working so hard to create a cinematic look
that's fooling no one and then sticking a clown's bowtie on it.

The whole letterbox idea is to present a cinematic work of a widescreen format in television's 4:3 context without having to pan and scan, losing significant portions of the shot. If you start taking advantage of that space, you're just trying to pull a two-bit con. And you probably wear white tube socks to a formal engagement. And the above example is tame tame tame. I've seen commercials with letterboxing, product logo as a bug and even a supermarket-style burst expousing "50% off" or some other life-changing message. Or even a programming block with channel bug, block bug and program bug, sometimes even ANIMATED. A regular "cazzotto nell'occhio."

But WAIT! It gets worse! The latest trend is to interrupt the viewer with an inline promo! Example, please...

Nice, huh. This is your standard scroll taken to ludicrous lows, no matter how nice the graphic is. And it's animated. Boy, is it animated! There is no way a viewer is gonna miss that blooming and booming across the lower third of the screen during a program. As if commercial interruption wasn't enough (especially US broadcast TV but that is for another rant). As if your cable/satellite bill wasn't enough. As if the license fee isn't enough. As if the combination of those three wasn't enough to assure you a relatively tranquil viewing of a program that interests you. It's not enough that we are losing more picture content every day with cheap gimmicks like this.

It's never enough.

Television flowflow.

13 March 2008

the REAL greytomorrow, Part II

I discovered on YouTube, there's a user who's going by the name of greytomorrow. No, it's not me. My page is here. What do i do? Do i contact this (at the time of this writing) 21-year-old male from the UK telling him that's my name and trademark since 1980? The rub is that this "greytomorrow" account was created only two months ago! My bad?

10 March 2008

Twiddling in OS X

I've always been a Nextstep fan, which is weird because i've never actually used it. I've never been an Emacs fan because that, to me, is akin to attaching alligator clips to my genitalia. Yes, i know some people actually like that...and i realize some people actually like Emacs.

“What's yr point, big fella?”

After reading this post on Slashdot, i learned that you can “twiddle” (exchange characters) in any NS textBox field! Therefore, “teh” with the cursor after the “h”, after a deft CTRL-t, becomes “the”! Or in my case, “becuase” becomes “because”!

The reason i mention Emacs at all is that any NStext (basically any text field using the system libraries for text) can take advantage of Emacs key bindings, CTRL-t being “twiddle”.

The bad news: Firefox does not use NSText fields and guess what i'm using right now to write this post? I'm sure Safari doesn't have this problem.

Bonus points: don't forget about CTRL-F4 for switching between open windows instead of open apps. It's not as ergonomic as Command-Tab but it's nice to know and use.

13 January 2008

Do Italians know what an orangutan IS?

Saw for the first time a few days ago a new promo for a National Geographic channel here on Sky (NatGeo Wild, if i'm not mistaken). It's basically a montage of animals that corrispond to animals in a children's song...
Ci son 2 coccodrilli
ed un orang-utan
due piccoli serpenti
poi l'aquila reale
il gatto, il gufo
e l'elefante
non manca più nessuno
BUT...instead of an orangutan, there's a nice big close-up of a gorilla. A gorilla. Apparently the Italian branch of one of the most respected names in natural science reportage can't tell the difference between the two great apes. Forza, NatGeo!