Archive for the ‘blogging’ Category

Well, Obviously, Harrumph! is Back

February 28th, 2012

GDlogoHair on fire. Apology on tap.

After five days, this blog is back up. I regret all who got database connection errors in that period. I did too. Most hits here come from Google and other search engine operations. So, if you were clicking around for something, I hope you found it elsewhere.

Logo note: The problems and solution came from GoDaddy. I claim fair use of its surely copyrighted and/or trademarked logo.

For the curious, the outage came in a server migration. I’ll be upgrading WordPress now. I could not before for some convoluted set of reasons whereby my old GD servers could not upgrade to the MySQL versions that WP and other modern apps require.

After telling me on and on for two years they couldn’t help unless I closed the account and reopened it, they announced thaty they could when I called again last week. Yet, it did require new technologies on new servers, saving off everything, shutting it down, and waiting up to four days for the GD IT fairies to work their magic.

I was away for the weekend, so that seemed OK. Yet it turned out that wasn’t quite the case. All of the GD tech are pleasant and most know a lot. It was the small seams that caused the garment to come apart.

After GD saved the DB with five years of blog content, a tech directed me to copy the whole server content to my HD…just in case. He assured me that almost certainly, the automated migration would restore the works. I just had to call in a day to put in the order for the new 4GH server transfer.

I did call in, only to hear, curiously, that the order was in and in a couple of days, all would be as it was on the new technology. As these things tend to go, that didn’t happen. I returned to see messages by URL that there was no database connection or by IP addresss to the new server that there was no database at all.

Turns out, the latter was correct. The third nice tech apparently does this transfer regularly. She told me correctly that I needed to follow three separate intricate, but well documented procedures, which she sent me by email. I had to create, restore and configure the DB manually with GD tools online. Where were my fairies?

This was the proverbial blind men and elephant in that each tech was savvy about parts of it. I didn’t get the big picture and real set of procedures until the third tech.

Far, far worse things happen in the computer and internet worlds.

Dreck Rolling Downhill

December 29th, 2011

In this season of annual-updated, photo-illustrated family letters, let us praise the continuing migration of the most relentless of beasts — the cute and personal LITE. Many under 30 escaped some migratory stages, but the herd of pseudo-candid will continue to seek new homes.

Today, I came across a witty and insightful “Oh No! Blogging is REALLY, REALLY dead this time!!!!!! : D ” post on gapingvoid.com.  To my point, it includes:

We for­get JUST how utterly time-consuming blog­ging used to be, back when it was the only game in town. I remem­ber the early blog­ging days, don’t you? Remem­ber how kee­ping up with the blo­gosphere pro­perly took ten hours a day? Nowa­days, the only peo­ple who are left blog­ging are the peo­ple who REALLY want to, who ACTUALLY have something to say. Ever­yone else is uploa­ding cat pho­tos on Face­book. I think this is a good thing.

Yes, mimeographed (look it up) annual holiday letters preceded photocopied ones. They came before the dreaded desktop publishing (young’uns may need to look that up as well).

DTP all too clearly proved the poverty of the typical intellect, imagination and artistry. Putting layout, illustration and typography options at the disposal of the masses produced millions of newsletters and personal epistles in what is known derisively in journalism circles as circus layout (alluding to Ringling Bros. posters). It seems everyone felt their most trivial thoughts were brilliant and worthy of circulation when there was enough variations on fonts and type sizes. How could everyone else not realized how handsome and clever were their children, pets, houses, and on and on?

Along came the World Wide Web, which most folk use synonymously with the internet. A decade latter, it was blogs. They were the new habitat of the cute and cluttered herd.

Along came variations and most notably Facebook, as gapingvoid’s Huge MacLeod noted. There’s a home for all-too-easy display of cute kids and kittens, leading to a herd migration from blogs. Now those who need to show their beloved beings, or every meal they eat (seemingly in purple and black tones of unappetizing low quality), do so nearly instantaneously on FB.

Certainly a very positive outcome of this migration is that finding and keeping up with relevant and meaningful blogs has gotten easier. Many of the regularly updated ones are far more likely to feature news and views, and not furry, drooling or pasted-smile loved ones.

All hail the migration!

Butt Out, Then Back, in Pakistan

November 23rd, 2011

As usual, alternating her smart views with silliness, Rachel Maddow had fun with Pakistan’s announcement that it was banning well over 1,000 words from texting. F-word phrases of course made it, as did one that amused her, if you pardon, no end — crotch monkey. Then in what she lightly proclaimed as “a small reprieve for foul mouthed liberty,” the government stepped back, saying it was kind of a test.

The initial list includes 1,109 English words and 586 Urdu ones. Selections from the four major regional languages are in the works.

robertyoungmandrillMaddow was also amused that one of the officials who would been (and likely will be when this comes to fruition) responsible for implementing the spying and censorship had the last name of one of the banned English words, Butt.

Pic Note: The image is adapted from John Paul Young’s photostream and under Creative Commons license.

That’s a fairly common last name there, as it is in the singular or plural in many English, German and French speaking countries. I bear my own surname cross and empathize with the Butts in the puerile ridicule they often endure.

I’m not big on censorship and snort at the vainglorious and futile effort to re-cork the texting genie. Yet, I’m not surprised that Anglo-Saxon vulgarities and common phrases for sex parts and acts made the initial thousand-plus.

However, in a country where people surnamed Butt run the soccer league or are stars in it, as well as are high ranking officials, how silly is that to ban their names?

Years ago here in MA, I was not amazed to learn that my last name, Ball, is not deemed suited for display on a license plate.

Even Wikipedia has a page listing some of the noted Ball sorts and I have that occasional blog in which I have tunneled down to some of the many with my specific version. I feel that over the years I’ve more than earned Ball.

We moved every few years throughout my childhood. While Ball is a fairly common last name — 300 and something down the list of the tens of thousands of U.S. last names and much more common than non-ridiculed ones like Robertson — it gets far more than its share of puerile jokes. As we moved, I endured the same highly obvious repetitive puns and insults again and again and again. It was worst in junior high and high when kids and even teachers always had sex in mind.

In college days, I had a discussion with an Ivy linguist about risible surnames. He figured that mine had the greatest number of possible jokes. For a few like Fuchs or Shoemaker, there are jokes, but a pretty limited set. Mine includes, but is not limited to, most sports, primary sex acts, sexual body parts, myriad clichés like on the ball, have a ball, behind the eight ball, and get on the ball, food like meatball, non-sexual body parts like eyeball, formal dances, and down the list.

Over the years, it turned out to be a sort of intelligence test as I moved into a new school or neighborhood. People who made the most predictable insults invariably stood grinning as though someone was supposed to confirm how clever they were. These are the same folk who ask a tall person how the weather is up there or inform a balding guy that he’s losing hair. Sigh.

I briefly wondered whether ball made the Pakistani list, or just the more obvious balling. The beadles compiling the list must be bureaucrats’ bureaucrats.

FB TMI

September 23rd, 2011

As a chum posted on FB, “If I want strangers to read the story of my life, I’ll write a fricken autobiography.”

That should be the road sign marking the bifurcation of Facebook. As in yesterday’s rant about the most recent blunders of pop companies, I remain astonished at the paternalism or we-know-best-ism of those companies.

At it’s f8 event (chronicled in tedious detail in the FT), the big honking chief FACES, like founder Mark Zuckerberg, intend to crush competition with technology and cachet. The ALL NEW IMPROVED version has an annoying constantly updating news feed sub-window, but really one thrust in two features.fk

First, there’s more media, either to ingest or to regurgitate. More videos, more pictures, for you, from you, from Friends. OK, for the target audience that’s smart enough. FB users have largely come up reading little. They are the 21st Century equivalent of tabloid customers — why read, when you can get a flavor of something by looking at a picture? It may be a small-brain marketing ploy, but it is timely and profitable.

Second is that timeline. The FACES at the announcement can’t withhold their joy at their cleverness here. They are enabling a logorrheic (small and few words, but in many, many places though) display of personal trivia. Each FB account can be self-absorbed in a way few have seen outside mental institutions.

Those who think the foursquare (a.k.a. rob-me-now) application is egotistic and inane may have palpitations now. FB is automating this self-absorption, which seems for the moment largely limited to the 20 something and 30 something users. For a long time (in net speak), you could bore people with personal trivia, but you had to do it piecemeal. On FB or Twitter or Tumblr or foursquare and a few others, you could put in:

  • Where you were headed
  • Where you arrived
  • Whom you were with
  • What you ordered
  • What you ate
  • What movie you saw
  • And on and on and on

This level of detailed sharing supposedly is gregarious. It supposedly influences others. It supposedly is avant-garde. It is certainly increasingly popular. The new FB timeline jacks that up by letting you automate such inputs and lay out a garden slug like trail of all your activities.

Not too long ago, and still in some groups, folk ridiculed bloggers for the ain’t-my-kid (or kitten)-cute posts. People would photograph adored beings or every meal. Those sad little blogs would have look-at-me-and-mine content exclusively. Even close family members quickly lose patience with those.

Now it looks like FB will force a true bifurcation, largely along  generational lines. Those who believe that each act and choice is as worthy of comment as any other should love this timeline concept. Berners-Lee knows, the FACES will love it; those who leave their slug trails for all to see and follow will provide a level of salable marketing data unknown today. We may soon see, should we have the stomach for it, when people pet their cats, have their bowel movements, or choose a peach instead of apple at Whole Foods.

This is only different in degree from how most of us use cellphones. We don’t seem to realize how stupid we are and how much of our lives and thoughts we waste by constantly speaking drivel. Walk a store or mall, ride a subway, or sit in a waiting room anywhere to overhear it. She is about to go into a pizza parlor. He thought last night’s The Office sucked. Often these cell phonies walk into each other or posts, sometimes they drive that way too. Broadcasting trivia is the feel-good-right-now stupidity of the era. The FB timeline capitalizes on that emotional need brilliantly and viciously.

I suspect when this settles, user graphs will show a steep drop-off by age. Many of us don’t and won’t care about minuscule choices of others any more than the status of your FarmVille cow.

Niner One One Respite

September 14th, 2011

Through the accident of calenders and school schedules, we headed to Block Island on September 11th. The side effect was a relief from the relentless, if understandably expected, leaping, braying 10th-anniversary commentary.

Leading up to and in that morning’s papers, NYT and Globe definitely included, were all 9/11, from not-news to full-page ads, to editorials. Americanism points were in the tally for everyone. Advertisers see a chance for another few bucks by association. Editors feign insight or wisdom where they had none. No one it seemed wanted to appear less patriotic and involved than the next exploiter.

We had long before found that this year, Sunday, 9/11 would be the very end of the tourist season there. Rooms were more available, enough restaurants were still open to satisfy, and we would not be madras to polyester with other interlopers.

We took cell phones for family contact…if necessary. However, Even though our guest house did not brag about WiFi, I figured that there’d be lots of free wireless around. Hence the decision about whether to go three days without internet, news or social media. I admit to a Jones on all.

We receive multiple newspapers (each of us having been newspaper and magazine writers and editors). We’re on the tubes throughout the day, and blog, tweet and blah blah blah.

CGjudith

Yet when it came time to pack, I looked at laptops and the iPad. I realized I had lots of room and any of them would be light. Upon arriving, I could fire one up or not.

The planned or-not won. I took nothing.

We left early, right after breakfast and the Sunday papers. We didn’t speak of 9/11 and had no reminder until the ferry left Port Judith. There and then a Coast Guard gunship paced us to and beyond the breakwater, well into the open sound.

That’s not usual and almost certainly a date-specific display of caution or precaution or something. It was certainly unnecessary and suited only for those simpleminded who are wont to chant, “Better safe than sorry.”

For three days and two nights, we did just fine. We spoke to each other, of literature, of the wildlife and other nature we saw or touched or photographed, of our kids a bit, of our current and earlier selves more, and of the comparative textures and tastes of food and drink before us. We biked every paved foot of the island. We marveled in the deep tones of the shingles — round pebbles thumping insistently to beat of the tide — as we walked upper Crescent Beach. We toured Indian and white-settler cemeteries.

Returning Tuesday PM to the newspapers, the net, and the news, we missed nothing. Commenters had nothing original nor insightful nor wise not palliative. They spoke flatulent words only competitively, because everyone else was doing it.

As emergencies and wars and crushing disappointments prove our mental and intellectual mettle, so do eulogies and memorials demonstrate our compassion and understanding. The many efforts we saw on returning failed. If the worst of times brings out the tritest of clichés in us, we had best speak aloud to ourselves what we intend to say…and then keep quiet.

Bad, Worse, Worst, By Cracky

July 13th, 2011

Dig in the cliché bag. You don’t have to go far to find, ta da, that no one can afford to live in Manhattan.

My recurring chuckle on that emerged after reading a humor piece One of the Grumpy Old Men of the Blogosphere. As he writes, “I walk around smacking the young folks with my cane and tell them that when I started blogging seven years ago it was a different blogosphere than it is now.”

Thus it is on so many topics, including NYC.

A few weeks ago, number one son considered another job, moving from Davis Square. One of the company’s options was California and another 200 miles South. He commented that Manhattan, where he was born and lived his first six months, was far too expensive.

Where’s my cane?

Truth be told, residents of the City have told that truth for well over a century, like Bostonian love to brag about ephemeral weather. Even such visitors as Mark Twain spoke of that, as in 1876. Before the pop term meme, pride in the mercurial weather was conversation filler and marginal assertion.

Let’s set aside that over 1.5 million live in Manhattan, over 8 million in the five boroughs, and over 18 million in the metro area. Let’s pretend that they all moved there decades ago, “the last time the area was affordable” or that they inherited a rent stabilized flat.

If that’s not enough to kill the cost fantasy:

  1. Compare NYC prices to other high-rent/ownership cities
  2. Ask old, long-term locals

I got my first lessons in this shtick in the 1960s, when I was in high school about 20 miles west in New Jersey. Having moved from exurban Virginia, I was ready for a real city and thrilled to be there. For a small bag of dirt (under a buck, really), a bus would drive into the Port Authority station. I was a regular.

Many other students were afraid to go and had parents who refused to let them take the bus to see the larger world. I think of one of our class trips, to visit the United Nations, when a teacher asked the captives how many had been to Manhattan before. I thought that had to be a stupid question and that surely 100% would raise a hand. Under half did, including my seatmate, who said his father had been last when he left the Army there after WWII ended, over 20 years before. That dad found it dirty and did not feel safe, so he and his family had sat 22 miles west all those years without the museums, shows, restaurants, and wowsers, the energy of Mahattan.

I was all over the 14 miles of Manhattan and much of all the boroughs, with limited Staten Island time beyond the ferry and a few near-dock spots. I promised myself I’d live there after college, and did for a decade. Even as I moved to first the East and then West Village, people all around me who somehow managed to afford living there said no one could afford to live there.

Circling back to the cliché and grumpy old and young people, I have heard it at least hundreds of times, maybe thousands, each with great assuredness. The discussion comes in two flavor:

  1. New York used to be affordable, but no longer is
  2. People have always said it used to be affordable, but no longer is, so blah blah

While Manhattan is way down the list in overall expense worldwide (maybe 32), at the moment it does top the U.S. list. Oddly enough, it’s not that far beyond the next four — San Francisco, LA, DC and Boston. At various times, it has not been at the top.

Of course, housing prices, which reflect desirability, are the largest driver. Moreover, the results for many residents are skewed in favor of the big five cities by income. Employers, particularly white-color ones, compensate staff to adjust for higher prices, bringing the real expense down.

Forget the mitigating factor though. The fun part is that for over 40 years, I’ve heard the same loony rap about unaffordable Manhattan. I also have met long-term New Yorkers who are more rational and less emotional about it. They don’t feel the need to chant no-one-can-live-here-anymore at the least provocation.

Instead, the observant and experienced say they too had heard that from much older, longer-term residents and know it’s jive. Sure, you pay to live where the vitality, personal, business and artistic, is. Yet millions have, do and want to. Let the cliché ricochet around the room or vehicle. It’s boring, but harmless, plus it keeps the easily daunted away.

Those millions manage. They just have to want it, not be afraid and make it work…by cracky.

iPad? Two Fingers, Please.

February 10th, 2011

Perhaps channeling a prissy boxer, Jack Roach stabbed and jabbed furiously with his index fingers poking out of chubby fists. With an IBM Selectric typewriter (this was before PCs), he could hit 30, maybe 40, words per minute.

Although he was editor of Management Review, the American Management Association’s monthly maggy and he had reported for United Press for a long time before, he had a block about touch typing. He said he could do just as well with two fingers. After being his number two for a bit, I figured that style matched his mental text creation speed. All was well, although text by poke is often loud.

He came to mind as I begin to us an iPad. It’s virtual keyboards are touch-typing hostile. I snicker as I found myself flitting over the device with two index fingers.

The design behind the iPad is typically Apple sophisticated. As much of the work as possible is behind the scenes, requiring expensive hardware and software to work, but easier for the user. You can turn the iPad any of the four planar directions, the screen rotates to match. Then, when you open an app and touch a field that can take text or numbers, ta da!, an appropriate keypad appears at the bottom of the screen.

Applehead warning: If you are a true believer, leave now. candor follows.

ipadpadTo a touch typist, these keypads come with two major problems. The first is obvious and common across several technologies, like netbooks and Blackberries, the keys are small. Even without the second issue, they’d be damned hard to use with adult fingers.

Insurmountable though is that the iPad pressure is binary — on or off. There is no pressure adjustment. Try to rest your fingers on the virtual keys and you are entering characters left, right, top and bottom.

Unlike many aspects of their products that Apple marketing would have us believe, this is not a keen feature, not a better way of doing things. While flexible from a software perspective, this is a throttle.

I note that for my many years of computer and trade press, I had been exposed to or reviewed various versions of touch screens used in design or in factories and warehouses. Some were made for high sensitivity, but most were hardened for rough environments and big fingers. Then in the workstation and PC world came membrane keyboards, many with software adjustments for pressure and sound (the typewriter like click).

The iPad ignores all that silliness and history. What it does instead is pretty much a per-app QWERTY, with variations such as the .com key that appears when you load up the Safari browser. What you get is very useful.

Of course, that comes with the Apple attitude —Take what you get, love it, and don’t ask to know how it works or expect to alter it. So, there you have it, or in this case, I have it.

I first saw and held an iPad in April last year. The day after its release, several members of the Boston Media Makers showed them off. They had waited overnight or from pre-dawn to get theirs. They then apparently spent all their time until the meeting playing with their very own so they could provide prima facie commentary.

The BMM are largely Mac users…and iPhone owners…and iPod listeners. They love nothing more than telling someone he wouldn’t have this or that problem if only he has a Mac Pro instead of a PC. Yet, they each and all quickly commented on the iPad virtual keyboards. Their conclusion in general was you could create a blog post or do some writing with an iPad, but you wouldn’t want to.

I of course had to try. I’ve posted on three blogs with an iPad. Yet, it is more work. You really can’t keep up with your brain hunting and pecking. The screen real estate makes it harder to see what you’re doing. Mostly though, the two-fingered typing gets tedious quickly.

Nonetheless, I do surf with it. Its Safari browser is nowhere near as full featured or even as fast as Chrome on a PC, but it’s fine. I do enter short blog posts with the iPad. I also have added a quarter screen of apps, some of which are cloud ones, so I can share text or other files or whole apps from different platforms.

I am not inclined to spent $50 to $100 for a wireless keyboard or docking station with one built in to essentially create a netbook with iPad works. I have a laptop and a couple of desktops. If I wanted the add-ons to make the iPad into an impostor, I’d likely just spend much less and get a netbook.

Regardless, the iPad is fun and adequate to its tasks. It is also seriously light and portable.

The keyboard limitations hark back to when workstation and PC users used to refer to the Apple products as MacinToys. That was unfair then, as so many graphics folk proved with their understandable loyalty to systems that served their needs better than the Intel-based world could.

When I use the iPad, my index fingers fly. Sometimes, I’ll think of Jack. He managed an entire successful career as writer and editor just using two fingers. Worse things could happen.

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With Greed from Iran

January 29th, 2011

Wowsers, kiddies, it’s been almost four years since I strummed the glories of my spammer’s accidental poetry. Now for my next act, I got around to checking the meaning of the spam I’m too ignorant to read.

Starting about two months ago, I began to get an ever increasing amount of Arabic spam to one of my email addresses. I plugged several into Google Translate and learned a bit.

First, over half of them are not Arabic, rather Persian, most popular in Iran. More significant, none, zero, nilch, nyet, nada relate to the stereotypes of English-language versions. From early email days in old browsers, I have long gotten used to invitations to double my penis length, to pay a few thousand dollars to reap millions in a dead man’s fortune, and from the beginning of the housing collapse, sure, cheap ways to refinance.

So, I’ve been looking at those undecipherable (to me) strings, like

جورج کلونی دوست ندارد رئیس جمهور شود !؟
جورج کلونی دوست ندارد رئیس جمهور شود !؟

and not getting it. That was my first task for Google. As I don’t click on unknown and unknowable (read perilous) links,I still don’t know that one was offering. It is in Persian and translates literally into, “Geoerge Clooney does not like to be president?” The link in the nondescriptive message from one  mohammad ali hasankhani with a gmail account had a condensed URL and I didn’t brave it.

However, letting Google translate several other, I limned a pattern. They are sports oriented and maybe just trying to sell some worthless medical product or more likely charge a fee for a sports video or instructional booklet. Granted, a click to the links may send you someplace phishing for your credit card info, but at least these seem relative wholesome in contrast to what I regularly see  in English in my spam bucket.

One promises exercises to make you taller:

Collection of sports movements for increasing height

In the first step regardless of your age level, growth will begin Qdtan! ! ! ! ! Maybe have a little surprise, but 100% regardless of your age, this growth will occur in your height. For further should be said, more than 95% of people without news have bent and your spine curved in the back part of their Darndv the bezel and also sinking more than is normal.

Persian with sales pitch and shortened link from “Amir Ghazaee”

Another promises pool prowess:

Billiard

This unique collection of the principles and professional billiards learn pool training pool world by top professors and applied a set of rare beauty, secrets find a pool professional to teach you. all tips, trick and All the intricacy of fun playing pool with all the film one hour to learn. different ways of tapping method to cut the ball and everything you need to know to enjoy billiards ..

For more information, click and buy

Persian with sales pitch and shortened link from”Mani Rahnama”

Still another eluded Google’s Arabic powers, but seemed to be selling videos of what we call soccer here:

Sutee Hay House Khandh worldly affairs Voetbal

Goofs your friends are a set of football world to see? Scoring itself, Goofs and goalkeeper … In this CD in a series of world football Goofs collected

Include:

Scoring automatically by defenders and goalkeepers

Nzdn striker scored in a few step away gates and even the empty gates

But besides these reactions Goofs stunning diving goalkeeper and their golden

The beautiful flowers by the attackers will also be displayed

Click to view

Arabic with sales pitch and shortened link

After decades of primarily sexual oriented spam, I find some small joy in seeing what appears to be a more naive type of hustler. Maybe their net censors would never pass along  lewd pitches. Maybe they just have different hot buttons. Taller in the body instead of longer in the middle seems so, well, 1950s, a simpler time.

Artist and Geek Rumble

January 3rd, 2011

herbsOur visiting artist, Savannah, a.k.a. Marion Etheredge, figuratively slapped me upside my head quite a few times this weekend. It was about creating videos, newish to me and new to her.

Like speaking another language while in a foreign town, being made to see through the eyes and in the brain of a real artist is broadening. I flashed on the British cryptic puzzles of which I am so fond and such a habitué. My wife claims they are impossibly illogical, while I contend that one must first shift mental gears to be open to the ambiguity of the clues.

Savannah has recently begun expanding from the still camera in her smart phone to its video. If you don’t make video, that may seem trivial, but I’ve been attending Boston Media Makers for quite awhile and learned that many of the hotshot video makers and vbloggers started with the low-level functionality in inexpensive digital cameras and phones. Longest journeys and first steps, and like that.

She’s been visiting from South Carolina. That included a Sunday session of BMM. She also was deeply curious about the equipment and hardware I’ve been using. She knows that I am doing a series of short videos for a food website that’s about to go live.

So, she sat with me while I combined a group of clips on how to dry fresh herbs from my garden. She wanted to know how I planned it and particularly how I edited the mess into a 3 or so minute clip for the web.

She’s a Mac sort and as it turns out, I recently discovered the marvelous free online video editing site JayCut. That was the right thing to show her, even though I am new to it. JayCut is much more similar to the Apple built-in video software iMovie than the clunkier Microsoft variation MovieMaker.

Not the least advantage in JayCut is conversion from QuickTime. My video camera saves in QT and MovieMaker doesn’t do Apple. I’ve been having to use QT Pro or other conversion utilities before playing with clips in MovieMaker. Then even with my high-powered desktop, MovieMaker grunts and grinds to save edited files. JayCut does its work on its own servers, faster and without complaining about QT files.

jccut

On the downside, JayCut is very Apple-like in doing a terrible job in explaining itself. It arrogantly assumes that its icons are so intuitive and simple that it doesn’t need to explain anything. For a couple of examples, consider the cutting process, involving the scissors icon. In many audio and other editing programs, deleting a segment means clicking something like this, dragging it to the end of the section to delete, releasing the mouse button and hitting a delete key. Through trial and several errors, we discovered that this tool in this package takes clicking the scissors, picking a starting point, releasing the button, clicking the icon again, clicking an end point and releasing the button to create a standalone segment. Then clicking the arrow icon and dragging the segment to the upper bar deletes it.

jcdragNext to close up the generated space in the file, you can mouse over the arrow embedded at a segment beginning. Popup text tells you go grab the arrow and change the beginning of the segment. In JayCut reality, if you want to close the gap, you need to select the arrow icon above, move the cursor to the middle of the segment and drag and drop it from there. Moving the beginning arrow invariably goofs up the segment, possibly re-inserting deleted material.

The sparse help function shows next to nothing and illustrated neither of these. Having worked in software companies for many years, I’m sure the attitude of developers there is that if customers are too stupid to figure these out, they have no reason to use the program and service. In this case, I did figure the quirks out, and of course, with the free service, I lost no money, just some time and patience. In my Windows world as well, the speed benefits of JayCut, plus the ability to save the result in many different formats made it well worth my while to solve these little puzzles.

So to the artist, she thinks differently about video, like, well, a painter and sculptor. I come in as a journalist, general writer, and technical communicator.

The biggest difference was that aural and visual details were huge to her. To me, content is king, queen and court.

My inclination has gotten lots of reinforcement from the many BMM meetings I’ve attended. I strongly recommend them to anyone in new media. Attendants love nothing more than helping others solve or even better avoid problems with hardware, software, techniques and more.

recursivesg.jpgI came in very humble with this group of experienced film and video heads. Starting with founder Steve Garfield, they really know their stuff. As a blogger and podcaster, and not a video person, I was and remain awed by their experience and expertise. I gleaned tips on the right camera to begin with (Kodak Zi8 in my case), and such obvious to them but new to me basics as you need to grab the viewer in the first 15 seconds of a clip and you damned well better have great stuff if you intend to go more than two and one-half minutes.

Wowsers to that, but then it is pretty similar to what I learned in journalism school and practiced for years in newspapers and magazines. There, the short lead paragraph had to be compelling enough or the readers would be on the next article. Likewise,  you had better assume that nearly no one would read the whole piece — hence the inverted pyramid style of writing with the best stuff up front.

Chair to chair, Savannah’s concerns and style were markedly different from mine. For one example, she was appalled to hear the rustle of my feet on dry leaves as I moved for two or so seconds to the perennial herb bed. Likewise, she thought I should enlist my wife or someone else to hold and direct the camera, which I had on a tripod, so that my hands tying the herb stems would be the absolute center of the screen instead of the lower area.

Editing the clips with her, I felt the values were solid and those details OK improvements but nonessential. The audio and visual were clear and understandable. The procedure was accurate. The sound was at a good level. Someone seeing and hearing this little clip would know what to do and how. Content was solid.

I suspect she would be much happier with the output if the production values and appearance were prettier and artsy perfect, even if the message and steps were not quite accurate or were hard to follow. Yet, she is a remarkable artist with a keen eye. I can keep her attitude handy for future shoots. In fact, my wife has agreed to be pressed into service making sure the focal point of a clip appears central in the frame.

In the end of our session, I had debugged the editing steps and she left with confidence that she could follow my procedure from rough storyboarding through shooting a series of clips in the right order to stripping out the unnecessary and distracting (like popping into the scene).

We are crafts folk each in our own way, but she and I learned from the process. That was a fine and useful way to pass a couple of hours. The artist and the geek rubbed elbows and each come away better for it.

Tags: harrumphharrumphervideoBoston Media MakersJayCutiMovieMovieMakerartistSavannahediting

Crackling Anniversary

February 8th, 2010

Today marks a year since my tib/fib fractures of my left leg and one day short of the surgery to pound 14.25 inches of titanium rod into the tibia thorough the knee. (My misadventure and recovery are more than covered in posts available in this blog’s Health category.)

A sipped a couple of bourbons on the rocks for the occasion. In light of my relatively successful rehab, this is a celebration of sorts.

Yet, this has been a lost year in many ways. I was already pretty depleted after 19 years as a tech writer/editor/manager. The economy and the region’s high-tech industries already were in their own rehab units, with fewer jobs and most employers trying to buy or rent cheap. My last company was one of many sold and dissolved. Then there was that financial meltdown thing. The few employers who had guts and felt personal responsibility to keep their section of the economy perking then seemed to lose all courage and conviction — understandable perhaps, but hard on us contract tech communicators.

I’ve had phone and in-person interviews for contract and permanent jobs, but no offers, just as close as second choice from a long list. That was with a hiatus of several months when I was in hospital, using a walker, on opiates, on crutches, with a cane, and doing other things. Other things included:

  • Remembering that I had switched as necessary from newspapers to trade magazines, from one industry to another, to computerized everything, to high-tech reporting and reviews, to telecommunications, to  hardware and software manuals and on and on.
  • Thinking about what I would like to write.
  • Blogging, podcasting, roughing out food and other articles and books, and church volunteer work.
  • Realizing that I turn out computer manuals superior to the vast majority (I know, not too hard, but I do know how to think like a user and like a network admin — very useful and unusual skills).
  • Realizing that I could do more manuals and help system well and quickly, but that the thrill was gone.
  • Allowing myself some meditation time.
  • Accepting that another set of talent in the cooking and broader food categories are more interesting.
  • Admitting that trying to switch to food writing would mean establishing myself from scratch…yet again…with all the emotional overhead there.

In my year, we had many other stresses, like a son in a distant college and a move from my long-term Boston neighborhood to another (JP to HP). Fortunately, my wife’s job was stable and sustains us.

So there I was yesterday at the Boston Media Makers meeting putting out a group query about how to promote myself as a food writer. I got one biz card and I’ll put a query to the group. I’ll ask video blog/group founder Steve Garfield about the video blogging he does for his food-writer wife friend Nina.

I already blog here and there and podcast over here (coming up on three years of weekly poddies).  I remain intrinsically shy, but I don’t feel I have any shame left and no longer mind blushing. I think even I can self-promote.

I have the article concepts and roughs. I have a couple of books in various forms of preparation. Moreover the best part of a move like this would be the unqualified comment. As a tech writer, I always felt I had to say something to the effect I wrote computer manuals and help systems, knowing it wasn’t exactly writing writing.

There’s nothing like a lost year, is there?

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