Archives: September, 2009

What’s New

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Let’s see…

First, a bit more about the CBS6 piece seen below. I was walking around campus Thursday after classes when I spotted the CBS6 satellite/live broadcast truck with its huge antenna high in the sky next to the footbridge. I headed over to the RPI TV room to grab a camera and see what was up with the news team. I also planned on collecting some footage of Freshman Elections in the DCC and Commons as well as begin my hunt for the elusive Alby, the albino squirrel who lives near the Alumni house. I grabbed Z5U 02 and proceeded to walk outside to where CBS6 was conducting interviews. I recorded footage of the reporter interviewed a pair of students. The reporter clearly noticed, and asked me a couple quick questions about RPI TV. He then asked if I wanted to be interviewed. “Uhh, I guess” I said. He asked me a couple questions about Swine Flu (none of which he used in the edit) and then a couple about my coverage of Swine Flu and other campus events for RPI TV (which he ended up using). After the interview, his cameraman (or photographer, as they’re called in the biz), wanted some B-roll shots of me walking around filming stuff with the camera. I obliged, and he recorded me walking over the footbridge, supposedly recording the campaign signs on the handrails. I asked if he had all the footage he needed, and he said he was good. I thanked him, and walked away. Apparently, his camera was still rolling, as he used that final thank you in the news report.

My thoughts on the piece are as follows. I’m really quite surprised how it turned out. The editor didn’t use any bits of the student interviews (besides the one frat guy), which I found strange. Instead, he added a bit of narrative to the report by adding my (mostly fabricated) story, which had little if anything to do with Swine flu. The footage of me walking over the footbridge is really quite strange. I’m amazed he added the “thank you” part at the end. It has very little context, and overall seems really strange. The “whose audience hangs in the balance” is one of the more awesome parts of the interview. I hope my audience doesn’t die from Swine Flu.

Last Friday was the first cultural production for RPI TV. The production in question was Cultural Pride Night, an annual collection of entertainment from various corners of the world put on by Lambda Upsilon Lambda. I was on Camera for the first time this year (strange!). And I was on a special camera too; I was seated in the first row of the audience with a Z5U in my lap, gathering close up shots and floor shots. It was a bit perilous, as since I was handheld the camera shook quite a bit. I think I murdered a couple shots by doing stupid things when my camera was live (especially towards the end, I believe I was on when I decided to sit back in my chair, which probably resulted in an awesome floor shot. Hopefully it’ll be up on our website in a couple days.

Saturday was our first Hockey Game of the season! It was a Women’s Exhibition game though, which means it couldn’t really matter less. Regardless, it was a great first experience for our rookies to get an idea of how a hockey game is run. We cycled through three different directors (which, on an unrelated note, is still something I have not done) and tried some new camera positions. We now have the ability to get an awesome overhead shot from the catwalks above the ice. I did titles as usual, which was the first use of the new style 2009-2010 graphics. I’ve got a huge list of upgrades I want to make to the titling system. Eventually, I’d like to track stats live, and streamline the ability to update titles. I’m still constrained by the terrible Panasonic MX-Navi software though… The game itself was quite a blowout, with the Engineers beating the team of high schoolers 6-1.

During the Hockey game, I was watching a live feed of Petit Le Mans that I was streaming from the capture card in my desktop situated in my dorm room. The beginning couple hours of the race were great; a lot of action taking place on track between Audi and Peugeot, and battles all over the place in GT2. The race ended up being a huge disappointment, however, as the skies opened up and drenched the track in three inches of rain, red-flagging the race. There was good news though, next year’s 6 hour race at Laguna Seca will take place in late May, so I’ll be able to attend (as long as I’m not living in the North East, in which case I’ll go to Limerock instead).

I went shopping Sunday and bought a lot of Paul Newman lemonade. By Monday evening, I’d already consumed a half gallon. Yum! I can’t remember doing anything else Sunday. F1 also happened, but I’d rather forget about the race. Highlights were Glock finishing second and Vettel beating Brawn. Lowlights were Vettel finishing 4th, Raikkonen outside the points, drama for Rosberg, and Sutil crashing out.

Monday was fairly routine; class, DDR, dinner, homework, sleep. I added some more decorations to my room; the tracks of the 2009 Formula 1 season now adorn my walls near the ceiling.

Me on CBS6’s coverage of Swine Flu

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Adventures a-Plenty

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Models of Computation is quickly becoming my favorite class. Dr. Moorthy is possibly the most amazing teacher/professor I have ever had. From his strong Indian accent to his exciting, enigmatic teaching style, everything about the class is wonderful. The material itself doesn’t seem relevant to anything at all, and I wonder when I’m ever going to use any of it. However, it makes sense in its own world, so I won’t question it; I just accept it. On Monday, we learned about the Pumping Lemma (which, when said, is always accompanied with a fist pump). We also learned about the Pigeonhole Principle. Why is everything in the class named so awesomely! Even things like Non-deterministic finite state automaton just seem to roll off the tongue beautifully.

There were two separate fire alarms at Polytech, one around 3:00 PM and one later in the evening at around 8:00 PM. The 3:00 drill prompted my departure from Polytech for a trip to Walmart. A Keyboard (for my Desktop), Hot Wheels, and foodstuffs were purchased.

My return from Walmart instigated one of my more inane ideas as of late. With my new Hot Wheels in hand, I set about creating a method to display them on my wall. I cut in half the plastic cases the came in, applied liberal amounts of masking tape, and stepped back to marvel at my work.


Later that evening, I also hung the lyrics to all 8 good tracks from Muse’s “The Resistance”, accompanied by the album artwork. Finally my walls are becoming less barren.

At around 6:00, it was time for dinner. The Asians and Fernie had decided to go to Blitman. Someone decided we were driving. Trouble was, only Fernie drives, and he has a Dodge Dakota that only seats two. Luckily, our group has a lot of ingenuity and/or stupidity. I logically theorized that the three of us who were unable to fit in the cabin could sit in the truck bed. Two problems arose with that statement. Luckily, the latter problem ended up solving the former. The first problem was that the route to Polytech passes directly in front of a police station, and generally bed riding is frowned upon by the coppers. The second problem was that Fernie’s truck bed has a tonneau cover. Clearly, the solution was obbious: hide under the cover. Jinzhen, Renato, and I were the ones chosen for the ride in the bed. It turns out there’s plenty of room to smuggle Asians in the back of Fernie’s truck. Renato had a bit of a squeeze though, as Fernie’s bed extender created a little cage near the tailgate. The result was capture in this amazingly lit photograph.

The trip took place without incident. Overall, I’d rate the experience as “A++++++++++ FAST SHIPPING ITEM EXACTLY AS DESCRIBED WOULD BUY AGAIN”.

After Blitman, it was time for the two hour season premiere of House! Jeff, Jinzhen, and I watched on the projector, without commercials thanks to my PVR software. I quite liked the episode. It was quite long, and seemed to drag at points, but it was full of quick, witty House humor coupled with deeper themes on psychological illnesses. I can definitely see the content of the episode help others who may be struggling with psychological disorders of their own. For the first time, the episode is not centered in Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. The episode chronicles House’s rehabilitation from Vicodin and his misanthropic tendencies. Based on the preview for next week’s episode, things seem to be returning to “normal” soon. It’ll be good to have the regular cast of characters back, but this week’s episode was a good change up.

Lastly, I had my first experience with Windows 7 today, and it wasn’t a very good one. Bluescreen before even reaching the install environment. I troubleshat for a while before giving up, hoping it’s just a bad ISO and not a deeper hardware issue.

Weekend Update

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Really? Really now Laptop? You’re telling me I only have 1:23 until Ted Kennedy dies on a full charge? That can’t be right.

Two weeks ago I purchased an additional battery for my laptop to help me last through my 6 hour block on Tuesday and Fridays. While there were some small differences in the label, it was tough to tell the difference. The difference was the presence of two additional zeroes after the spot where it said “Li-ion”. So I decided to name my batteries. As a tribute to one of my fallen heroes, I decided to name my old battery Ted Kennedy. Because, you know, he’s the li-ion of the Senate. I then named my new battery Billy Mays, as he also recently died, and he obviously has a lot more energy than Ted Kennedy.

On to the weekend.

Saturday consisted of the second football game of the year. After last week’s shenanigans with Jim Evans, I wasn’t particularly excited about the prospects for this week’s game. My fears were all for naught though, as the production went amazingly smooth. Our camera operators by now had had a bit more experience behind the viewfinder, and we were actually able to run 4 cameras in the desired locations. Jim Evans had backed off as well; he was just using one main camera for the Jumbotron, and it was staffed by one of his underlings and/or friends. Thus, RPI TV has successfully escaped from the clutches of Jim Evans. Titles were great, closeups were wonderful, and switching was terrific as usual thanks to Dan.

The game was a thriller as well, with RPI narrowly defeating Utica 17-14. Utica had the ball on the RPI 18 with 46 seconds to go. Three plays later, and Utica reaches the 13, but decides to go for a field goal. The kick was (somehow) blocked, and (somehow) recovered by the Utica QB. The QB ran toward the sideline and through a pass, but it was (somehow) intercepted! RPI’s Herrera ran the ball some 90 yards down the sideline, only to be taken down at Utica’s 2 yard line. RPI sat on the ball to win the game 17-14.

Check out the footage here: Skip to 34:50 in the 4th quarter to see the final play.

After the game, I ran the hard drive recorder back to the Union on foot to start processing the footage for the web. It only took me about three and a half hours to have the whole game up in SD, which I think is a new record. I was quite happy. I promptly fell asleep back in my dorm at around 8:30.

Sunday basically only consisted of TV business as well. I quickly did a rough edit of this week’s Wednesday Night Live during the morning hours. It looks great, but I’m going to give it a second pass in Final Cut once I get the final mix of the audio from WRPI. I napped for a bit, then went to Blitman for dinner. I helped Fernie learn the basics of a Sony VX2000 for his Intro to Film (or whatever) class. Silverware and selected dishes were washed before the night grew to old, whereupon I retired to my room to type this entry.

I’m going to try to hold RPI TV editing office hours Mondays and Thursdays from 12:30 to 3:00. Tomorrow will be an unpublicized test.


Saturday, September 19th, 2009

It’s official, Swine Flu has been confirmed at RPI. The mass paranoia and rumors are already spreading. I’ve read that Blitman Hall (probably just certain floors/wings) is being transformed into a quarantine zone, as Tiffany indicated she was forced out of her room to make way. Orian and I discussed the symptoms of what we’ve now determined are most likely colds. I’ve been sick since last Saturday, when I had an extremely dry/sore throat, runny nose, and tons of sneezing. The sore throat subsided earlier this week, as has the sneezing. The runny nose persists. I had a terrible sinus pressure yesterday; it hurt ridiculously when I tilted my head. Things seem better today, as my nose is now walking rather than running, and the head pain has subsided. If the Institute bought all students thermometers, I’d tell you my temperature, but evidently they don’t care.

What’s new since yesterday? Well, this afternoon I finished up some homework for the evening and played a bunch of DDR. I played 15 songs from Extreme, and 5 more from Extreme 2. I’m going to make sure to play more Extreme 2, as it has possibly the best setlist ever for a PS2 DDR game (topping even my favorite, Max 2). Harris stopped by, but we bored him so he left.

For dinner, I decided to prepare a meal I’m well used to at home. Atleast once a week, my family does Taco/Burrito/Tostada night. My dad prepares a variety of ingredients, typically consisting of Refried/Pinto Beans, a couple varieties of meat, mexican rice, ample cheese, lettuce, cucumber, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole. With my limited resources, I was able to prepare a similar meal consisting of Black and Refried beans, cheese, sour cream, and salsa! Gorgeous presentation follows.

After dinner, it was time to see Up! on UPAC Cinema’s big screen. RA Corey Stalls had purcashed 15 tickets using his residence hall budget, so our group got in for free. DCC 308 was completely packed. I think every single seat was taken. I haven’t seen it that full since orientation last year. Unbelievable. Onto to the movie itself… I won’t say it was a bad movie; I’d recommend it to my mom for sure; but it could have been so much more. The first 30 minutes are solid gold. Pixar draws upon its Wall-E experience to create a plot where dialog is not important. The beginning introduces the adorably lovable main characters, utilizing comedy to aide in characterization. It seemed to me like it was going to end up being a deep story rich with important themes and lessons. But things devolved quickly into a slapstick comedy-fest lacking in any greater meaning. I found the rest of the movie to be completely unfulfilling. Obvious plot twist after obvious plot twist, coated in ridiculous comedy catered to crazed ADD kids. Some incidences and scenarios seemed to be straight out of a Family Guy script. These events really killed the flow. I guess I’m rather disappointed (seems to be a running theme lately) about what could have been compared to what was. Regardless, it was a couple well-spent hours.

After the movie, Kevin challenged me to another game of hall chess. Hall chess is normal chess on a grand scale! The hallway near the elevator expands out into sort of a small common area. Most of this area has a tiled linoleum floor with alternating dark/white tiles, perfect for playing chess. The dimensions of the area are 9 x 18, just enough for two games with a bit of buffer room (and an extra unused row). One of the most exciting elements about hall chess is the ability to draft your own team! My team is constructed out of emptied drinking containers, mainly Vitamin Water. Other teams consist of various containers, cans, and bottles. My bowling pins often make an appearance as bishops. I carried out my big box of pieces (enough for two complete sets), and exuberantly emptied in front of me from a height well above my head. The sound was thunderous as around 30 plastic bottles tumbled to the floor. However, I had forgotten that my normal bishops were ex-Shirley Temple bottles, which happen to be glass. One shattered. Glass went everywhere. Heads stuck out all the way down the hall, just like they do in the movies. The RD came out, wondering what the commotion was. She didn’t care though (thanks Alli!) and we cleaned up the mess pretty quickly.

I ended up losing the chess game to Kevin (as usual). I’m certainly not good at chess, but I understand the game pretty well, and I understand basic strategies. I have a very outside-the-box mentality when it comes to chess; I try to look for unpredictably good moves more than simply great moves. I generally stand my own and put up a fight, though. The loss marked my fourth in a row against Kevin, dropping me to 3-4 in our hall chess league.

Tomorrow (err, later today) contains an RPI TV production of the football game against Utica. The titles aren’t ready (situation normal), but I should have plenty of time before the game to figure something out. Orian found this cool picture of me at the Activities Fair holding a Z5U behind our video switcher:

That’s it for tonight, gotta get some rest for tomorrow!

Back in School

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Tomorrow ends my fourth week back in school (3rd week of classes). Things are a lot different from last year, which is good because I don’t like it when things get boring. There’s certainly always something going on, some new exciting activity to partake in.

Already I’m extremely busy. RPI TV is quickly ratcheting up its productions, soon we’ll be hitting 3 a week with hockey and football. Last night was the first Wednesday Night Live of the season. The band sounded great (from what I’ve heard), but the camera work may not be so great. I delegated an entirely rookie crew to man the cameras. I sat in the studio with them and supervised, helping them move around tripods, get some cool shots, and change tapes. I believe this was the first WNL where I wasn’t behind a camera. I’m looking forward to editing the production, but I’m not sure when I’m going to have the time.

Saturday marks the second football game of the season for us. Hopefully it will commence a bit more smoothly than last week’s production. I still have a lot of titles to finish up before then, but that’s what classes are for tomorrow. Our freshman crew is rapidly gaining experience and becoming more confident behind the cameras, which is definitely a key to a successful production. I’d really like to arrange some sort of NFL broadcast viewing, but I’m unsure how to best implement it. Maybe I’ll DVR something on my desktop and show it to the camerafolk before the game.

Classes seem to be mostly “hits” for me. Robotics entails far more Math than I’d like, but it’ll help me keep my brain sharp while learning some practical knowledge. Models of Computation is extremely abstract, yet bearable. Dr. Moorthy certainly helps make it interesting. Economics remains full of action and excitement. The professor is quite conservative, and he makes sure that his viewpoints are known. I feel like he’s spewing propoganda, but at least it makes the class interesting, especially considering I already know all the concepts from IB Econ three years ago. Operating Systems should be the most valuable class this semester in terms of my major. As long as we move at a decent enough pace, I expect to enjoy it the most. Computer Organization is quite different from last semester; it feels like an entirely different class. The professor isn’t as much of an asshole, but he’s quite… thorough.

I finally got my Desktop up and running (with the help of Fernie’s keyboard). It’s not really serving me much use, though, as almost everything it can do my Laptop can do better. It has helped bring some much needed variety into my music collection; the tracks on my Zune were starting to get a bit repetitive. It’s main purpose should be to act as a DVR, however its efforts were hamstrung tonight when campus cable randomly decided not to broadcast NBC HD. The niggling bugs it’s had for a while now, including some sort of storage device driver bug causing a variety of annoying symptoms, are starting to creep up on me. Windows seems to be rotting away. I’m planning on installing 7 as soon as I can acquire a keyboard for it.

Fathers finally had Vitamin Water 10 Energys in stock today, so I cleaned out all the ones they had on the shelf. I’m not sure when I plan on drinking them, as I’ve been heading to bed at a reasonable time lately to allow ample time to prepare for my 8:00 classes in the morning. I’ve managed to already spend $100 at Fathers, 1/4 of my semesterly allotment.

Haris wrote an awesome article for the Poly.

Muse’s new album, The Resistance, came out on Tuesday, prompting me to make an adventure to Walmart armed with some temporary checks from HSBC. The drop went well; apparently Walmart didn’t care at all that the checks lacked my name and address. I also ended up with The Beatles: Rock Band and Need for Speed: Shift (I have a thing for games with colons in their names) as part of the same purchase. A stop at Price Chopper yielded more salsa, corn chips, sourcream, applesauce, lemonade, Smart Balance, and Wheat Thins. Since then, I’ve ran out of soft cheddar cheese and waffles, a problem I need to correct soon.

Back the the new Muse album. I initially raged on Facebook and on the Rock Band forums that I was displeased with the album. The more I play it, the more its growing on me. There are still some huge disappointments on the album, namely tracks 9-11, which contain a 3 part “symphony”. Muse is an altrock band, not a classical orchestra; this stuff has no place on the album. Excerpts from my pseudo-review I wrote for the Rock Band forums:

Let me preface this by saying I had HUGE expectations for this album and for Exogenesis. Let me also explain that I’m an extremely hard person to please (I’ve gotten into some arguments already earlier in this thread over BH&R). And now I begin:

Exogenesis is the biggest waste of 12 minutes and 51 seconds I’ve heard in a while. It takes up almost a quarter of the album. For no good reason. If it wasn’t Muse, I’d have switched to another track. I’ve listened to it half a dozen times since yesterday, still trying to find some redeeming qualities. And I can’t find anything. It comes off to me as overwhelmingly pretentious. It goes, and goes, and goes, nowhere. Exogenesis… I can’t find the Muse in it. It has Matt’s vocals… and… one short anti-climax in Cross Pollination? The more I think about it, the more I seem to discover my problem with this song, and certain elements of this album. It seems to push Chris and Dom into the background to allow more room for Matt to play with his ego (which has apparently escaped from a pink box). Exogenesis seems like a solo project gone wrong. It’s not “Muse”, it’s “Matt Bellamy”. I won’t argue that it’s bad music, I will argue that it’s not the Muse I love.

I guess I was expecting Exogenesis to be an epic, progressive voyage through piano and rock supplemented by symphonic climaxes and powerful vocals. Butterflies and Hurricanes + Citizen Erased + Knights of Cydonia + Space Dementia, or something. Instead, I find it to be a slow, plodding, ride through ambient strings with sleepy vocals punctuated by some sounds from an electric guitar and some toms, sprinkled with slow piano. Ruled by Secrecy + Megalomania + Hoodoo, all terrible songs in my opinion.

Unnatural Selection
MK Ultra

I Belong To You

Guiding Light
Undisclosed Desires

I don’t understand how Muse is going to perform half of these live. Actually, I wouldn’t pay to see half of these live. I’ve previously raged in this thread about BH&R being too “raw” for me. Well I want raw Muse back. Stop the drum samples and electronic basslines. Bring some character back into the music. More distortion, more power.

If Muse/Matt came out with an entirely symphonic album and labeled it a concept album or a side project, I’d accept it for what it was. But I feel extremely disappointed that only 3 of these tracks are half-decent. Another 2 years or so of waiting for something.

Maybe the B-sides will be good. Maybe the next live album will cut out the crap and deliver the classics. I can only hope. I’m debating with myself, thinking about demoting Muse to my #2 favorite band behind SSPU. I’m really that disappointed.

My album ranking:

1. Origin of Symmetry
2. Showbiz
3. Absolution
4. (tie) The Resistance
4. (tie) BH&R

I’ve made a couple edits to the post; namely, I decided I now like MK Ultra, and that the album is now tied with BH&R rather than being much lower (as it was previously). I’ve been thinking about wrapping up my thoughts into an article for the Poly (perhaps inspired by Haris’ escapade), however I feel that as an avid Muse fan my view on the album is distorted compared to the average listener.

As noted earlier, I also purchased NFS: Shift for PS3. I’ve played it for around 4 hours now, and I absolutely love it. It’s a wonderful racing sim. The physics feel miles better than Gran Turismo 4, yet the game is just as fun as GRID. It’s got a good mix of real and fantasy of tracks, plenty of cars with multiple tiers of upgrades, and just enough extra modes and gimmicks to keep me entertained for some time. The physics model delivers a similar feel to GTR/GTR2/GTR:E in that its extremely loose and unforgiving. Stamp on the throttle and you will spin out. Slam on the brakes and they will lock. Yank on the steering and you’ll feel its effects immediately.

TB:RB remains unopened pending a new set of Rock Band drums to serve as replacement parts for my ailing RB2 set. I purchased new MetalWorkz heads for the set, however I broke several of the rubber pegs that hold the pads in place, and at $25 a whole new RB1 set proved to be the best solution. Once my drums are up and running, I look forward to jamming to classic Beatles tunes.

Well, that about encompasses my current status. Good thing too, because I’ve written an essay and a half!