deane: (Default)
Spring is the time of year when the local rabbit community's kits take their first steps out into the world, and waiting for them are our cats, Timid to the fore. I don't know whether she has a particular liking for rabbit meat or whether she's just a better hunter than the others, but more often than not when I hear the shrill cries of a kit in pain, she's usually the one standing over it.

Normally they're half eviscerated when I get to them so I just kill them with a blow to the head.Tonight, for better or worse, I got to the poor thing before it had reached that point. Timid had torn off a band of fur running completely around the circumference of the kit's abdomen. The skin below was bleeding a fair bit but seemed intact. No internal organs were visible.

So I decided to give the little guy a chance. I've never cared for a sick rabbit before. I put some polysporin on its wounds but for all I know that stuff is toxic to rabbits, or maybe is overpowered for such a small creature, so I used as little as I could get away with. Then I wrapped the wound with sterile bandages. I took a discarded plastic contain that some strawberries had come in, which has a bunch of either drainage or air vents around the bottom, filled it up with shredded paper towel for bedding, tore a leaf of kale for food, and put in a jar lid with some water. I laid the kit inside, closed the lid and now it's sitting in the bathroom, with the door shut so that the cats can't get to it.

I seriously doubt that it will survive the night, my feeble ministrations notwithstanding. Probably all I've done is to extend its suffering. But I couldn't bring myself to just kill it without trying.

No to bring up wikipedia and start reading up on rabbits.
deane: (Default)
Over the years my depression has very slowly, but relatively steadily, gotten worse. At first it meant that it took me all day to get in my 8 hours of work. Then I had to spend weekends catching. Then I had to spend holidays and vacations trying to catch up as well. Eventually even that wasn't enough as I found myself only able to put in 3-4 hours of work each day.

This all came to a head three weeks ago when I finally ran out of excuses and sent my boss an email admitting that the depression had overwhelmed me and I simply wasn't putting in the time. He didn't respond for the rest of that day. I figured he was consulting with HR about what how to handle the situation, and I was right. The next day he called me and laid out my options. I could take medical leave until I was better. If I didn't take leave then I would have to be online and available 9-5 (my time), put in my 8 hours of work each day, respond to emails in a timely manner, keep my work logs up to date, and let him know immediately about any slippages. Although the word "probation" was never spoken, that's what it is.

I declined to take medical leave. Depression is not a temporary illness which can be cured with a bit of bed rest and fresh air. It's a chronic illness that you have to learn to live with. Drugs and therapy can help, but they rarely dispel it altogether. I was also concerned that without the structure that work provided, I would just sink deeper into the pit.

The fear of losing my source of income has done a damned good job of jarring me out of my despondence, but I know from past experience that the effect is temporary and that the depression will begin to reassert itself soon enough. Indeed it already has begun to do so. So I've been using this grace period to do what I can to help myself and get help from others. I've set alarms to go to bed by midnight and get up by eight, every day, even on weekends. If I can get the habit ingrained it will make it easier to keep it up when the depression swoops back in. Plus, I know that keeping a regular sleep schedule helps to lessen the effects of my depression in the first place.

I've also gotten my doctor to double my dose of paxil and refer me to Mental Health Services. I had my intake interview on Monday and will likely start with group counseling later in the month. There's also a local depression support group that I'm going to start attending next Tuesday. Hopefully the groups will provide me with some tools to better manage the disease but I know that simply being more social will help to lift the curtain a bit. And who knows, I might even make some friends. I could use some: I've lived here for 15 years now and only made two.

I know this all sounds very, well, depressing, but my mood these past three weeks has been much brighter. I've actually been managing to get my working hours in. I'm still not getting all my hours in by 5pm each day, but I am putting in a full week's worth by the end of Friday. Not only does it feel good to be getting things done again, but it feels great to hit the weekend knowing that I don't have anything work-related hanging over me.

On the sleep front, with the exception of two days when I had stomach flu, I've been keeping to my sleep schedule. However, a combination of the sudden changes and the increase in my medication has meant that most nights I don't sleep very well and still feel tired when I get up. I had similar problems when I first went on the paxil and am confident that things will settle down in another week or two. Once I'm getting a good night's sleep each night it should be easier to concentrate on work and get all my hours in by 5pm.

Right now all of my free time is spent vegetating because I have no brain left after work. Here again I am pinning my hopes on improved sleep giving me more energy to do the things that I'd like to do, like work on the 3D printer and get out geocaching. That in turn should do its bit to push back the depression.

So, it's been a difficult time for me of late, and my situation is somewhat perilous, but at last I have hope that things can get better for me.
deane: (Default)
Vincent, another of our cats, passed away tonight. He had kidney disease so it wasn't unexpected and when he stopped eating two days ago we knew the end was near. But I'm still in tears. He was a sweet cat and will be missed.

He was arguably the most feral of all the cats we've sheltered over the past 12 years. Whenever we put food out for him he would hiss at us before eating it, as if to say that he was only doing so under duress. He was missing most of one ear and weakness in his hindquarters meant that he walked unsteadily, so we named him Vincent van D'oh!

After a couple of years of hanging around our place, Vincent took up residence on the pile of plastic tarps that sit under a table just outside our front door. The paramour later added a soft blanket to the pile of cold plastic and he didn't seem to object.

As time passed Vincent would make occasional forays into the house, particularly if yummy food was on offer, but would always retreat to his nest under the table. Then last winter, the day after Cal died, he moved inside and discovered the joys of waiting out the winter rains in a warm, dry place. He found himself a few favourite locations in the house and made himself at home.

Although not deaf, Vincent was hard of hearing and thus easily startled, particularly if someone, or some other cat, came up behind him without his noticing. His instinctive reaction in those situations was to hiss at whatever alarmed him, which sometimes got him into brief tussles with the other cats. But I never saw him pester or otherwise initiate any unpleasantness with the rest of our brood. As I said, he was a sweet cat and, once he got to know us better, was appreciative of even the smallest of kindnesses.

Last night, emaciated and dehydrated as he was, Vincent climbed up onto the paramour's bed, cuddled up near zir face, and purred and drooled into zir ear. That tells me that for all the suffering in his life, we brought him at least some comfort, some joy. Right up to the very end. And for that I am ever so grateful right now.
deane: (Default)
I've started another series of YouTube videos which once again highlights just how slow my internet upload speeds are. With 1Mbps theoretical max and 0.5Mbps actual max (when the wind is blowing in the right direction) it took seven hours to upload the latest episode. So I decided to upgrade to something faster.

Since I was already at Telus' web-site, I decided to try their online Customer Service chat. The 'Internet 50' service that I was interested in upgrading to advertised upload speeds of "up to 10Mbps". I explained to Donald, the Customer Service rep, that I was concerned about that "up to" and wanted to know whether there was a guaranteed minimum. He quickly copy-pasted the same information that was on the web-site, telling me that I would get download speeds between 20Mbps and 50Mbps. I repeated that it was the upload speed which concerned me, particularly since my existing service with them only ever achieved at best half the advertised maximum. He responded to that by copy-pasting the "up to 10Mbps" information from the web-site. I explained yet again that it was the minimum speed that I was concerned about. Was it possible that I would upgrade my service and still end up with the same shitty 0.5Mbps that I already had? After a long pause he told me that he'd have to transfer me to Technical Support.

After about a five minute wait I got Rina from Technical Support who told me that she'd be happy to help me investigate why my internet connection was slow. I explained to her that I was more interested in finding out what the guaranteed minimum upload speed was for the 'Internet 50' service. Rina was much more efficient than Donald: she copy-pasted all of the speed information from the web-site at once, rather than doling it out a piece at a time. I pointed out to her that nowhere did it say what the minimum upload speed was. She reassured me that it would be "much faster" than my existing speed. When I asked how much faster she went away for a while then finally came back with the information that average upload speeds on the service varied between 5.12Mbps and 10Mbps. Not exactly what I was looking for, but closer. I asked if I could get 5.12Mbps guaranteed in writing as the minimum upload speed I'd get on the service, but of course she said no.

Ah well, what are ya gonna do? I decided to take the dive and get the upgrade anyway but it turned out that the 'Internet 50' service wasn't even available in my area. I had to settle instead for the 'Internet 25' service with upload speeds "up to 2.5Mbps".

I wonder how fast it will really be.

deane: (Default)
I don't know how to swim. I can float on my back and move around a bit that way, I can dog-paddle until exhaustion takes me, and I can do a crawl so long as I hold my breath. But I cannot do a proper stroke that lets me breath while swimming, and I cannot tread water. On vacations I'll sometimes put on a PFD so that I can enjoy the water with my friends and there is often an offer from someone to teach me how to tread water. The instructions are always the same: move your hands in a figure eight motion and kick your legs like you're riding a bicycle. This has never worked for me: I end up figure eighting and bicycling my way to the bottom of the lake.

One time, while receiving this sort of instruction, I had my friend tread water while I dipped my head below to see the actual movements he was making. And lo! He was NOT moving his feet like riding a bicycle, but was kicking them out diagonally from his body in a way that would quickly get you in trouble on a bicycle. The sad thing about this was that my friend was a teacher, yet the best he could do was to repeat the same, inadequate description, despite the fact that it was clearly not working for me.

Fast forward to today. The paramour and I were out looking at small used power boat that we were thinking of buying. The boat came with an old, large-ish outboard motor which you started with a pull-cord. I've never tried to start any kind of motor with a pull cord before, not even a gas lawn mower. When the owner of the boat told me to start it up I pulled the cord out about half a meter, but nothing happened.

"You have to pull it," the owner told me.

Um, okay, I was pulling it, but I pulled it a couple more times, still to no effect.

"You have to pull it," the owner repeated unhelpfully.

"I think the cord comes out further than that," the paramour ventured.

Aha! Some useful advice. I tried extending my arm further the next time and indeed, after a bit of resistance, the cord came out further. Alas, the motor still didn't start.

"You have to PULL it", the owner repeating, somehow thinking that by emphasizing the word "pull" he was providing effective feedback on my technique.

I tried again but still no luck, so I asked the owner to demonstrate. He pulled the cord faster and harder than I had, giving it an extra hard jerk right near the end of the pull. With a bang the motor roared to life.

We ended up not buying the boat, but in chatting with the owner later we found out that he was, you guessed it, a teacher.

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I don't think that my would-be teachers in these two episodes were insane, but it does seem to me that if, as a teacher, you see that the student is not understanding the subject matter from your explanation of it, it would make sense to try a different approach rather than just simply repeating the same explanation and hoping for better results.

deane: (Default)
I have an odd and unproductive relationship with obligations. The moment that I start to view something as an obligation is when I begin shying away from it, seeking excuses to avoid it. Even if it's something that I would normally enjoy doing, my joy evaporates if I feel that I'm obliged to do it.

Take this journal as an example. I've never been a very consistent diarist. I might hammer out entries three days in a row, then disappear for a couple of weeks. But the longer my absence the greater the feeling of obligation that when I do post, it should be something substantial, something worth the wait. It doesn't take long before that barrier becomes too high to surmount. In this most recent absence I've several times had interesting little tidbits that I wanted to post but did not do so because they were not significant enough to meet my perceived obligation.

Intellectually I know that it's all bullshit. Very few people read this journal to begin with and those that do are not waiting with bated breath for each entry that I make. Nor are they expecting gems of wisdom or great worldly insights from me. (If they are then clearly they've not been reading me for long enough.) But emotionally the obligation is still there.

I think a large part of my antipathy toward obligations stems from a fear of failure. An obligation implies expectations and therefore the possibility that those expectations  will not be met. Without the obligation there's no one to disappoint but myself, and while I do feel many obligations toward myself, failing to meet my own expectations is less of a barrier than failing to meet those of others. Which, when you think about it, is a complete reversal of what my priorities should be.

I know that I need to learn not to fear failure, especially when the consequences are negligible. I'm just not sure how to go about it. But if you see infrequent and inconsequential posts from me in the future, you'll know that I'm trying.


Apr. 4th, 2013 05:46 pm
deane: (Default)
I've been having odd pains in my shoulders and arms for the past few months. It almost feels as if my muscles are getting shorter. In an attempt to get to the bottom of the problem my doctor ran a bunch of tests on me. While he was at it he tossed in all the usual tests for an overweight male in his mid-fifties with a family history of heart disease.

We went over all the test results today and were both surprised to find that I'm actually in pretty good health. My blood pressure and cholesterol are both a bit high but still within the normal range. The doctor's risk analysis program gives me only an 8% chance of having a heart attack over the next 5 years. That despite being overweight and having two parents with heart problems.

I can reduce that to 6% by getting my blood pressure down a bit, or to 4% by lowering my cholesterol. (Presumably if I do both the risk drops to just 2%, but I didn't ask.) That basically just tells me what I already knew: that I need to get more exercise, since that will help lower both numbers.

Still, it's nice to see that I'm not a walking heart attack just waiting to happen. I owe at least some of that to the paramour's conversion to vegetarian cookery. While I still eat plenty of crap that I shouldn't, about 20% of my meals have been replaced with zir healthier fare.

Alas, the tests revealed nothing about the pain in my arms, so it's on to x-rays next.

It Prints!

Feb. 18th, 2013 11:55 pm
deane: (Default)
I wasn't able to get back to the RepPresent last weekend but I was finally able to get to it today. I leveled the bed, twice because I did it wrong the first time, tested out the heaters, did some hand extrusion to make sure that was all okay, then I let it rip on its maiden print. There's video of it printing here.

When I was testing the print head heater it started to give off a bit of white smoke. The instructions said to turn off the heater if that happened, which I did. But the instructions never said what to do about it. So after a bit I turned the heater back on. This time it smoked less and eventually stopped smoking at all. I'm not sure what was being burnt off, but it appears to be gone now.

Here's the finished part:

It's one of the frame brackets for the printer itself. There are some obvious problems. Notice that lip around the bottom of it? That's not supposed to be there. I had the print head too close to the bed and it dragged a bit, leaving the first layer offset from the rest of the part. I moved it up a smidgen and the next part printed nicely.

You can also see some waviness along the lower right edge. I think that's due to the Y belt rubbing up against the motor sprocket. That will be tougher to fix, but I'm sure I'll manage. But compared to some of the first prints that I've seen out there this is pretty damned good and I'm quite pleased. Despite its flaws that part is actually usable.

While I was aligning the bed I over-tightened the clamp for the Z-axis limit switch and part of it broke off. Fortunately the screw I'd been tightening still had enough of a grip on the broken bit to wedge it in place. That left the limit switch a bit loose but still firmly enough mounted for the test build. The second part that I built was a replacement clamp. :-)

Before doing many more prints I need to come up with some kind of roller to allow the PLA filament to unspool without getting tangled. For these first few prints I've been unrolling the filament by hand and I can see that getting old fast. Once that's taken care of I want to try designing a mount for my Nexus tablet to go on the exercise cycle, so that I can use it to watch videos while I pedal.
deane: (Default)
After melting the heater block in December I started avoiding the RepPresent, fearing that I might break something else. I make six figures a year but the thought of frying a $10 component is enough to neuter me. *sigh*

Click for the long-winded details, plus peectures! )
deane: (Default)
With eight cats I knew that this day was bound to come sooner rather than later, but it's still hit me harder than I thought it would.

When the Vet opened Cal up to fix the herniated abdomen he found a golf-ball mass of pancreatic cancer which had spread to other parts of her body. Apparently pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive ones. It's also quite painful. The tumour was, of course, inoperable and the Vet's recommendation was that we not bring Cal out of anaesthesia but have her put down while she was still asleep. We agreed.

In good weather Cal liked to pick up a stone from the driveway, toss it in the air and then try to keep it suspended by batting at it with her paws. She was surprisingly good at it. In bad weather her preference was to chase plastic bottle caps around the kitchen floor until they skittered too deep under one of the appliances for her to reach. It always brought a smile to my face to see her lying on her side, one paw stretched under the fridge in an attempt to retrieve the escaped cap for one more go around.

She will be missed.
deane: (Default)
Having learned my lesson from previous posts, I'll state up front that none of our cats have died. So you can now read on without that mounting sense of dread.

A couple of weeks ago Cal disappeared for a couple of days. I spotted her hanging around the woods near the bottom of the drive but she moved away when I tried to approach her. Pretty typical "going to ground" behaviour, indicating that something was wrong. Shadow, Bacchus and Persis will all go to ground inside the house when they're not feeling well, but the other five tend to head for the trees, forcing us to just grit our teeth and hope that they can get through it on their own.

Cal returned to the house a few days later, was a bit listless for the first couple of days but then perked up. She'd lost quite a bit of weight but was eating again and didn't seem in any discomfort, so I assumed that she'd gotten over whatever it was.

When Cal was spayed she was left with two flaps of furred skin hanging below her belly. I guess all cats get that when spayed but with Cal the flaps were much bigger than with our other cats and their swaying back and forth as she moved gave her a very distinctive walk. A few days ago I was petting her belly and I noticed that the formerly empty flaps now seemed to have something fleshy inside of them. Up closer to her spine there was almost nothing. I'd previously taken that to be an indication of heavy weight loss but I began to suspect instead that some of her internal organs had dropped out of her abdominal cavity and into her belly flaps.

I took her in to the vet today (how many times must I suffer scratches to my face and arms before I learn to pick cats up by the scruff of the neck??) and he confirmed that her abdominal wall had herniated and some of her intestines had dropped. He said that it must have been the result of being hit or crushed, though there were no contusions or broken bones or other signs of trauma. She likes to hang out at the bottom of the driveway a lot, so the most likely cause is that she got hit by a car or truck. The driveway is steep and curves sharply so the speed would have been low. That might explain the lack of other injuries. I just hope it wasn't me that hit her. I know it shouldn't make any difference, but it does.

She's been prepped for surgery, which will take place either tonight or tomorrow. I assume we'll then have to keep her in the dog cage for a couple of weeks while she heals. I'm guessing she'll handle that better than Timid did, but you never know.

Cal is a sweet cat. Whenever I lie down on the bed she comes in and curls up next to me, often even getting there ahead of Shadow, which is quite a trick. She had a difficult kittenhood thanks to Bacchus continually terrorizing her and Bang. That's why we originally got the dog cage. We used to put Bacchus in it whenever he went after one of the other cats. It worked remarkably well.

After that tempestuous start to her life, Cal deserves a nice, quiet adulthood, with lots of scritching and yummy food. I hope she comes through this okay.
deane: (Default)
Today I used a blowtorch for the first time. It did not go well.

The RepPresent has a small aluminium block which holds the print nozzle and the resistor which heats the nozzle up enough to melt the plastic being fed into it. Since the nozzle is made of brass it expands less than does the aluminium block when heated. So to make sure that the nozzle doesn't come loose when the block heats up, the build instructions say to heat the block up with a blowtorch and then tighten the nozzle with a wrench while everything is still hot.

I did this and ended up melting the block.

Click to see an image of the devastation... )

In my defense, the instructions were frustratingly short on detail:

Use the blowtorch to heat the block. You need to heat the block enough for it to expand by at least the amount it will expand during printing.

That's all it has to say about this particular step. No mention of the temperatures involved. No warnings about the possibility of destroying the heart of your machine.

It's a pretty weak defense on my part, though. I'd had some misgivings beforehand, but did I bother to follow up on them before ploughing ahead? Nooooo! Given that this was my first time using a blowtorch, did I think to perhaps experiment a bit first with less valuable scraps of material? Nooooo!


I don't have the tools necessary to build the block myself, but P may so I've sent him email. If that doesn't pan out then I'll just have to wait a week or so for a replacement to arrive.

deane: (Default)
I spent my Xmas eve putting together the extruder (the bit that takes a strand of plastic from a spool and feeds it into the hot end) for the RepPresent. When I finally hit the sack it was raining fairly heavily so I was surprised to wake up this morning to find that it had turned to snow at some point. It seems that mother nature managed to wrangle us a white xmas this year after all.

I was planning on spending today working on the RepPresent's "hot end" (the bit that melts the plastic filament and squirts it out as a fine thread) but it turns out I need thermal paste and we don't have any around the house. So instead I've been browsing the web, eating, snoozing and playing games. I just built a fire to take a bit of the chill off and now I think I'll fire up Minecraft and do a bit more work on the upgrades to the Great Northern Road.

I hope all of you are enjoying at least as pleasant of a day as I am.
deane: (Default)
I figured I should record some of the problems that I've run into while building the RepPresent and how I've solved them, just in case some other RepRapper finds the information helpful. So if you're not interested in the minutiae of building a RepRap machine then you should bail now.

Read more... )
deane: (Default)
Several years ago I got interested in 3D printers - machines which build physical objects by laying down thin layers of a material, like plastic or metal, and binding them together. In particular I was keen on the RepRap project as their machines were the cheapest to build and I liked their goal of trying to create a machine which was capable of duplicating itself. So I began salvaging stepper motors and other components from old floppy drives and 2D printers, with the idea of maybe, someday, getting around to building my own machine.

About a month ago the paramour caught the 3D printing bug. Having observed my glacial progress zie decided to speed things up by ordering a kit containing all the necessary parts. The kit arrived on the 14th. We're considering this to be our christmas present to each other and have tentatively named it the RepPresent.

The machine is currently a little over half complete, but the pace is picking up now that the holidays are here and I'm able to devote more time to it.

Behind the cut is a picture of the machine in its current state, with all the main bits labelled, and a description of how it will work.
Read more... )

deane: (Default)
I'm a little late this year in offering you all my best wishes for the Winter Solstice. The days here in the northern hemisphere are now getting longer again, and while the effects won't be noticeable for another month, at least its headed in the right direction.

For those of your in the southern hemisphere, any dismay you may feel at the thought or your days now getting shorter may be tempered by the fact that at least you've still got warm weather.

Speaking of weather, we've been doing fairly well this year. Normally we get an early snowfall near the end of November, a couple of light dustings in December, then another dump in January. This year we didn't get that first snowfall until mid-December and it's now been washed away by the winter rains. The skies are leaden grey about three out of every four days. but I consider that a price worth paying not to have to shovel out my driveway twice a week and spend three months driving on black ice. :-)
deane: (Default)
I just got back from Las Vegas, where I was giving a talk at a conference. I had forgotten what a noisy city it is, particularly if you have to spend most of your time in a casino/hotel/conference center complex. In the conference center there is the expected hubbub of thousands of attendees chatting excitedly among themselves about the latest developments in their respective fields. In the hallways of the hotel and conference center there is always music playing. Since I was staying in the Hard Rock Hotel the music was particularly loud, but at least it was a decent selection of classic rock.

Then there are the casinos, where the music is cranked up to a volume insufficient to stop you from dropping quarters in the slots, but sufficient to drown out the sounds of your better angels telling you to stop doing so. Meanwhile, the gambling machines themselves try to beguile you with their own chorus of electronic beeps and bells, chirps and chatter. And there's no way to avoid it, for all paths lead through the casino. You want to get from the front door to the hotel lobby? You must pass through the casino. Indeed, in the Hard Rock Hotel the registration desk is in the casino, right between the horse race betting and the keno. You want to grab lunch after morning full of technical meetings? Through the casino you must go.

You might think that fleeing the entire complex is the answer, but you'd be wrong. All along The Strip the casinos, and those other businesses which have managed to gain a foothold between them, blare their signature sounds into the street, hoping to hijack your dazed motor neurons and have them steer you into their parent establishment.

Even my room was never really quiet. The fan on the air conditioner ran continuously. I tried upping the thermostat but then the heater came on and the fan continued to run. There seemed to be no setting in which the fan would not run. (Other than that, it was a nice room.)

Las Vegas can be an amazing, entertaining place, in a gauche sort of way. But it is nice to be back on my island. My quiet island.
deane: (Default)
Episode 10 of my series of Minecraft videos is now up on YouTube.

It's been almost a full two months since episode 9. In part that was due to being busy with work, but it was also because I'd gotten into a bit of a funk about the videos.

As I've mentioned before, YouTube compresses the hell out of videos. Even if you upload fairly high quality it can end up looking like crap once YT is done with it. I spent quite a bit of time researching the settings others had used and doing test uploads to find the best recipe for getting YouTube to leave my video quality more or less intact and by episode 8 it seemed like I'd gotten it figured out. But then I uploaded episode 9 and it looked like crap again. The thought of having to spend yet more time probing the internals of YouTube put quite a damper on my enthusiasm for making videos.

This weekend I finally set myself down to start the investigation and very quickly noticed something rather odd: the quality of episode 9 was not nearly as bad as I'd remembered it. To be sure, there was some blurring of details not to be found in my original, but it wasn't all that noticeable.

I received a further surprise when I compared my videos against those of other Minecrafters whose video quality I admired and found, with one exception, that they were of similar quality to mine, displaying similar blurring of details.

Pleased by these discoveries, I recorded episode 10 (and re-recorded, then re-recorded again), edited it and uploaded it. But once that was done I was still left with the question of why my impression of my video quality had been so dramatically out of synch with reality. Had my internal critic really gotten that far out of hand?

As it turned out, there were three factors involved.

The first factor was that I was, in part, comparing apples to oranges. Note how I said that my video quality was similar to that of other Minecrafters, "with one exception"? That exception was KirrokCraft, whose video quality was still noticeably superior. No blurring of details for him! However, what I'd neglected to take into account was that KirrokCraft uses a stationary camera, separate from his in-game character, while I, like most other Minecrafters, use the default in-game camera which looks out through my character's eyes. As a result, my field of view is pretty much continually in motion. Even if my character is standing still I'm still looking around which means that the camera view is continually changing. Video compression works by just storing the differences between frames and it is the compression of those changes which leads to the blurring and other artifacts which impair video quality. Since the camera view in my videos is continually changing, there are lots of differences between frames, which meant lots of opportunities for compression artifacts to creep in. With KirrokCraft's stationary camera, the camera's view remains static. Any character or creature moving around in the field of view might generate some compression artifacts immediately around it, but the rest of view is unchanging, resulting in overall crisper images. If I used a stationary camera I would get equally crisp images.

The second factor had to do with way in which YouTube processes a newly uploaded video. YouTube generates separate copies of the video for each of the different resolutions that it supports: 240p and 320p (low quality), 480p (standard quality), 720p and 1080p (high definition). As soon as at least one resolution is available, YouTube makes the video available for public viewing. Since it's faster to generate the lower quality copies, those inevitably show up first. When I saw that episode 9 was available I immediately brought it up to check it out. I have my YouTube defaults set to display videos in 480p by default, so it brought up the 480p player. But the 480p version wasn't ready yet, so instead I ended up with the 320p version, scaled up to fit the 480p player. No wonder it looked like crap! Had I checked again 10 minutes later I would have seen the higher quality version. That also explains why the paramour didn't think the video quality was as bad as I did: zie'd viewed it later, after the higher-quality versions were available.

The third factor was that I was more sensitive to degradation in the quality of my own videos because I'd seen them in their original form. When watching other Minecrafters' videos I didn't have their source footage to compare against, so I judged them solely on their own merits.

Hopefully this marks the end of my obsession with the visual quality of my videos. Perhaps now I can turn some of that energy to improving the quality of their content. :-)

deane: (Default)
I've often seen this quote used as a defense of gun liberalisation. It comes from the Robert Heinlein novel Beyond This Horizon and goes like this:
An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.

The apparent reasoning is that people won't be civil to each other without the threat of violent death. It sounds like there should at least be some grain of truth there. After all, if someone were to shove a loaded gun in my face I would certainly choose my words quite carefully. But let's try to back it up with some numbers.

In 2007 the US was the most heavily armed society on the planet, by a wide margin, with 88.8 guns per 100 residents. That should make Americans the most polite people in the world, don't you think?

Googling for "polite american" gives me 26,700 hits while "rude american" garners 40,800 hits. Oops.

Well, there's a lot of negativism on the net. Maybe a polite/rude ratio of 0.65 is as high as it gets. Let's look at another country and see.

At 30.8 guns per resident Canada is less than half as heavily armed as the US, so it should be more than twice as rude, right?

"polite canadian" = 19,900 hits, "rude canadian" = 14,400, for a polite/rude ratio of 1.38. Oops again. Mind you, Canadians are famous for being polite. They practically wear it as a badge of honour. Maybe they're just an outlier. The exception which proves the rule. (Another great saying, that.)

The second and third most heavily-armed polities in the world are Serbia (58.2 guns per 100 people) and Yemen (54.8), both countries which are renowned for their astonishingly good manners.

At the other end of the scale we have the brutish Japanese (0.6) and the notoriously rude Singaporeans (0.5).

Now of course I'm cherry picking here. I could almost as easily have picked out heavily armed countries which most of us think of as polite and lightly armed ones which we consider relatively rude. The point is that when you look at the data there is simply no correlation between how heavily armed a society is and how polite its people are.

I'm calling this myth busted.


deane: (Default)

April 2014

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