Ancient History

This is a blog I posted to practically daily for 9 months in 2004. I started it a few weeks after I turned 30. I didn’t continue it into 2005. It has languished quite neglected for many years, and has been seriously broken for about 4 years with hundreds of missing pages.

I have resurrected it, not because I intend to continue writing in it, but as a digital time capsule. I am also adding in some of my older websites including my first website I built in college. Not everything works exactly as it should, and there are lots of broken links–though I have linked to The Wayback Machine where possible.

Roadkill on the Information Superhighway (1994-1995)

I created this website as soon as NCSA Mosaic and the Netscape Beta web browsers added support for images. It included a site for one of my favorite bands at the time, The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones, and a site for my late-night radio show, The Boneyard. This site predates The Wayback Machine as do many of the sites to which I linked. I’ve been able to restore most of what was on my own site, but almost all of the external links are dead, and many were never captured by The Wayback Machine.

The Donnas: Rock ‘n’ Roll Machines (1998-1999)

A Bay Area punk rock band that I saw many times in concert.

Right Turn Clyde (1999-2000)

A snarky zine about pop culture that my friends and I published.

Luke, Come To The Darkside

Ok, now I’ve done it.

I am a Mac guy. There’s no question about it. My job, my sensibilities, and the enjoyment I get from computers all points me down the road to Cupertino. Unfortunately sometimes the rest of the world decides to stand in the way of that path.

Now to be honest, I haven’t always used Macs. From the time my dad first started bringing computers home from the office when I was in grammar school—remember the Compaq luggable?—all the way through high school I used various DOS computers to do my school work. However, when I went off to college I bought my first computer and it was a Macintosh LCII. I’d used them in the computer lab in high school and they seemed so much cooler.

In college I always had a Macintosh sitting on my desk in my dorm, but I used a mixture of Macs, Windows, DOS, and Unix at my work-study job in the campus computing center. Later when I entered into the “real world” of life after college and got a job working on post-production sound for film, I found that a large percentage of Hollywood makes use of Macs.

There was a period of time when I was working that I didn’t have a lot of spare money to throw around and I’ve always enjoyed tinkering with computers, so I built my own Windows machines for a while. They were much less expensive than my beloved Macs and since Apple was caught in the doldrums of System 8, I only felt occasional pangs of abandonment guilt.

It wasn’t until a few year later when I started working for some other companies when I saw the coolness that was System 9 on Blue and White G3s and Graphite G4s that the longing became unbearable and I had to return to the fold. Step back into the warm, embracing arms of Steve Jobs’ goodness. And that’s where I’ve remained until yesterday. Actually it’s where I will remain, period. Unfortunately like I said, sometimes the rest of the world gets in the way.

I’ve started working on a project that pretty much requires me to run Windows. I fought against it as much as I could but not even my copy of Virtual PC could fill the gap of an ugly grey box sitting on floor of my apartment. So after talking it over with some people, a bit of internet research and a lot of soul-searching, I stopped by a local “build-your-computer”-type store and picked up a new motherboard, processor, some RAM and an OEM copy of Windows XP.

Last night after work I dusted off the last of my FrankenPCs, an unwieldy 500MHz Celeron running Windows 98—first edition—in the largest case you’ve ever seen, and ripped the guts out of it. By 2:30 in the morning I had an AMD Athlon XP 2800 nestled in the socket of a new ASUS motherboard, a 120GB second hard drive removed from one of my Macs reformatted (of course only after moving 80GB of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix bootleg concert FLACs to the safety of an external Firewire drive) and Windows XP installed.

I crawled into bed and lay snug while dreams of DDR RAM danced through my head. At least until 5:30 when the alarm went off so I could get a couple more hours of work in before I had to go back to the office for a temp dub. The update to SP2 went down without a hitch and I installed the 5 CDs of material that I need for the project. Unfortunately when I went to fire up the application for the first time it crapped out on me when the first of the 3D graphics were drawn on the screen.

It was a crushing blow to spend all those hours and be so close to the finish line and have my hopes dashed. Suddenly I started to remember why I enjoy Macs so much more. Of course I’ve had programs crash on me, or strange bugs have popped up that I’ve had to diagnose. But it’s been a fairly rare occurrence. Maybe I’ve had good luck or maybe I just know more about how to head off trouble from Apple’s computers, but firing up a new system in the world of Macintosh is a pleasurable experience. On the other hand, my travels in the Gatesian realms usually leave me feeling like I’ve been mugged by a street gang “saying hello” to foreigners.

Thankfully by 7:30, right around the time I was giving careful consideration to seppuku, I was forced to pull myself together and get in the shower or there was no way I was going to make it into the office at 8am. And in the hours since, I’ve had time to reflect on the joys of Windows system construction and do some research on the ASUS and NVIDIA websites. I’m crossing my fingers that it’s just an issue of old video drivers being used in Windows XP SP2. Tonight I’ll find out when I go back to fight some Redmond dragons.

Cuesheets: The Way It Should Be

Today I had to print out 4 reels of FX and BG cuesheets from Nuendo and it really couldn’t have been easier. The editor had one session per reel with everything in it. Predubs A through D were backgrounds—E, F and G were hard effects. Initially I tried printing the whole session in one pass in Nuendo 2.2 in Mac OS X, but it kept crashing on the the last page. I switched to printing a couple predubs at a time and from that point on everything went very smooth.

Nuendo has group tracks. Click on plus sign in the group track labeled “AFX” and it will open revealing all the AFX tracks. By clicking the solo button on the AFX group track, all AFX tracks are soloed. If you solo tracks, only those tracks will be printed on the cuesheet.

I soloed predubs A through D—the BGs. Under the “Project” menu I selected “Track Sheets”. A new windowed opened and I saw my cuesheet. I clicked on the “More” button to show all the options. By default the cuesheet is a vertical US letter (8.5″ x 11″) page. I selected “Page Setup” from the “File” menu to change that to a horizontal Tabloid (11″ x 17″).

Back in the cuesheets (track sheet) window, I turned off the timecode column from the pulldown menu, filled in the blanks for the name of the cuesheet and editor, and dragged the track width until everything fit on two pages across. Then I selected “Print” from the “File” menu.

So amazingly easy.

The cuesheets look pretty good. If I had my way, I’d make a few minor tweaks to the layout. I think there should be a space between the track header and the first cue. Likewise there should be a space between the cue in-point and the description. Plus there are a couple of line-wrapping issues that need to be resolved, but considering I was able to print out those four reels in three separate passes each in less than 10 minutes, I didn’t care.

This was such a huge difference from my usual struggle with Tape. Plus with OS X 10.3’s built-in “Print to PDF” option, I was able to save great looking digital files of all my cuesheets that I could email to the dub stage for safety.

If I have some time tomorrow, I might investigate and see how hard it is to open a Pro Tools 5.1/5.3/6.x session in Nuendo and print the cuesheets from there. It might be possible to Pro Tools 6.4.1’s DigiTranslator to save an OMF file with no media. Open that in Nuendo and print.

Huma, Verminaard And Caramon Walk Into A Bar…

Today was an interesting day for me.

I offered my services to a great group of people doing some amazing work for the Neverwinter Nights game and they accepted. So as of this afternoon, I am officially a member of the Dragonlance Adventures team. Take a look at the screenshots in the gallery on their website and you can see the quality of work they do. I just hope that I can live up to their high standards.

One day when I was in fourth or fifth grade my mom took me to the bookstore to pick out some things to read. Actually she took me to the library and the bookstore often, but on this particular day I happened upon two paperbacks. One had a red spine—the other blue. They both had “dragons” in their title and I soon discovered the fantastic realm of Krynn.

Tanis, Flint, Goldmoon. Draconians and Kender. It’s cool to think that I’ll be making a contribution—small as it may be—bringing this world to your computer screen.

It’s That Time Of Year

It must be getting close to Christmas.

After bugging me for the last several weeks about playing Christmas music in our cutting room, Dana finally convinced me today to put some on. For the last few hours that we were in the office we worked away to the gentle melodies of the Glenn Miller Orchestra’s “In The Christmas Mood” volumes one and two.

When I was growing up there were two Time-Life cassettes of Christmas music that my parents had and for me those songs really represent the spirit of the season. Unless my memory is playing tricks on me, I think the series was called “Home For The Holidays”.

Time-Life doesn’t sell it anymore but thankfully a few years ago I discovered that they had a new set of CDs with nearly the same track list, “The Time-Life Treasury Of Christmas”. I gave those as a gift to my mom that year and now I insist that if she’s going to put on some music when I visit her, those have to go into the rotation.

Christmas music is one of those festive holiday things, but I can’t take a lot of it. I hoping that we don’t have to listen to it everyday for the next three weeks.

Don’t Know What You’ve Lost ‘Til It’s Gone

I find it’s amazing how quickly the internet has become a integral part of my life. Today at work our internet connection was down most of the day and it was remarkable the number of times I was frustrated because I couldn’t go online. I have two editors working out of their homes and the picture department is on the other side of town. So it is certainly easier to exchange certain files over the net than it is to drive there in a car. Recently we’ve had some ADR sessions in Toronto and Montreal. With an ISDN hookup to a local stage we were able to get immediate recordings of those lines but with the internet I was able to download the original files within an hour or so of finishing the session. Even faster than FedEx overnight.

Plus Dana and I tend to have many pop culture-related conversations while we are doing our work.

“‘Dance Fever USA’? That sounds a lot like that movie with Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt.”

“‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’?”

“Exactly. What was the name of the dance TV show on that?”

“I don’t know. But Shannon Doherty was the younger daughter.”

“Yes, but who was the geeky little brother?”

“Little brother? I don’t remember that one.”

“‘Tune-in Tokyo’? No? Jonathan Silverman.”

“Oh yeah!”

Of course it’s not always that easy to remember all the names or the movies so we’re often going online to look at IMDB or All Music Guide or Google searches. So without the internet today, the conversations tended more towards the oblique.

“You know. The guy. That one who did that thing.”

“The guy? What thing?”

“You know, in that movie with the woman with the hair.”

“Most of them do have hair.”

“No. But she married that other guy.”

Much less fun.

I first got on the internet when I started college in 1992. Twelve years is certainly a long time to be online. However back then it was with my 2400 baud modem—not even comparable to a 512kbps DSL connection today. I don’t think I had a dedicated broadband internet connection in the office I worked in until 2000. Obviously I used the internet a lot in those eight years but it was really only sometime in the last four that it has become so pervasive, so much a part of my life that I feel a sense of loss when I don’t have access to it.

Figure Out When Things Are Good Enough

Sometimes it’s best just to leave well enough alone. Things might not be perfect but they’re good enough. Sure, you’re sitting there. Taking stock of things and you say to yourself, “Hey! I know I can make this better.”

The problem is that intent does not always equal success. Good intentions are certainly good. We all like good intentions. However, when those good intentions lead to failing miserably, you have to ask yourself, “Was it really worth it? Are good intentions all they’re really cracked up to be?”

I have a goatee. I’m one of those “trim around the edges” kind of goatee guys. It can get big after a while if I don’t cut it back. Initially, years ago, I started growing it out because it didn’t come in very full—kind of the comb-over equivalent to facial hair. Now it comes in much better.

This morning I had the brilliant idea that I might finally be able to set my trimmer to #2 and just buzz over everything. Much faster and probably cleaner looking in the long run. Easier than the trim around edges.

Unfortunately I now have a couple of bare patches on my upper lip thanks to some over-zealous clipper work. Thankfully it grows back. I’ll just have to suffer through looking like an idiot for a couple of weeks until I can even it all out.

“Hello. I’m Jon. Big dummy.”

“Troll Bridge” Update

After much sleeping on everyone’s part, I got the final word from Daniel about the screening of “Troll Bridge” for Terry Pratchett, well, I should let Daniel say it in his own words:

Overall reaction from him?

I think he was pleasantly surprised. I did hear him chuckle a couple of
times – so that’s always a good sign. He had a few suggestions here and
there, and was certain to tell us about the stuff he did like. From Felix’s
illustrations, and the stand-in footage of the troll – he’s very keen to see
the completed Mica. He’ll also be scripting some very short dialogue for
the guards to be speaking around the lake. So I guess – all in all – it
was a success. Especially considering the screening of Troll Bridge we
showed him, had a lot of stuff only half done (or not even done at all).

So I think we’ve done good. I know I for one was a nervous wreck those last couple of days as Dana who shares a room with me at work can attest to. It was, at least in my mind, a big undertaking for me. I was providing all the sound for something that I really cared about.

I’ve been working in the sound industry for just shy of nine years. I know how to use the software, in fact I know it quite well. I know how to do a lot of the functional parts of editorial like converting picture to usable formats, sample rate converting sounds to get them in sync, and doing changes from change notes and worktracks. But for nine years I’ve been an assistant sound editor. I know that job really well. I haven’t done a lot of actual cutting—a lot of sound editing. I know what I like when I hear it. I can use the sound database better than most people but that process of cutting and positioning and combining and stretching and processing, I haven’t done a lot of it. So this is a big step for me.

I’m glad I’m taking it. I hope everyone is pleased with the end product.

Who’s That Tramping Over My Bridge?

Terry Pratchett is one of those truly gifted authors—someone who just “gets it”. With a few words he can make the most cutting and incisive comment on modern life. And all of his Discworld stories are set in a fantasy realm. I don’t think he’s as widely known in America as he is in England and Australia. The typical response I give to the inevitable query “Who’s that?” is that he Douglas Adams of fantasy novels.

Unfortunately even that leads to another question by the lesser informed of my countrymen. “Oh. Who’s Douglas Adams?”

“You know, ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’?”

“Oh yeah! Never read it.”

“Well, it’s satire of modern life and pop culture told in science fiction novels. Douglas Adams, that is. Terry Pratchett does a similar thing with fantasy. Kind of a literary Monty Python.”

Thankfully most Americans are at least passingly familiar with Monty Python.

A little over a year ago, I was delighted to read about a intrepid group of Australians who decided to make a live-action version of one of Terry’s short stories, “Troll Bridge”. After a little investigation I found their website and starting reading about their undertaking.

As it turns out they got in touch with Terry and he agreed to allow them to make the movie. Terry’s stories have been turned into plays, mostly in England, and there are even two cartoons available on DVD and VHS of “Wyrd Sisters” and “Soul Music”. But there hasn’t been a live action version. Until now.

My immediate reaction was “Wow! Wouldn’t it be great to work on a Discworld film?!” So I sat down a wrote an email to Daniel Knight, the director, offering my services as a post-production sound guy. For some unknown reason, he was actually impressed with my resume and said “Sure.”

And for the better part of a year that’s been it. This is a mostly volunteer movie. People offering their services because they, like me, wanted to work on a Terry Pratchett movie. Or they just wanted to work on a movie period. But most of us have day jobs. The things that pay the bills. So it’s taken time.

About 2 weeks ago, I got an email from Daniel asking if I could help him out with some sound. Terry himself was going to be sitting down to watch some scenes and he wanted to make it as cool as possible. Of course I agreed and that’s what I’ve been working on in my spare time. This weekend has been the big editing session for me. They’re meeting with Terry Pratchett on Thursday. Work for me seems to have gotten extra busy recently. And Daniel is 19 hours ahead of me in Australia so this weekend is really my last chance to get the majority of the work done.

It’s been a lot of fun. I’m continually amazed at what I can accomplish on my laptop with an Mbox, Pro Tools LE, Soundminer and a good sound effects library. Of course this isn’t even really a temp dub. When it comes time to really do the sound, I’ll be working on my full-blown Pro Tools system because there will be a lot more sounds to carry and I’ll try to work out a deal with a local dub stage for mixing.

But with that little setup, a fast internet connection, some online storage space, email and instant messaging, we’ve been able to make this happen. It’s been an exciting time.