Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Barterbee Update

Well it has been almost 2 weeks since I sent out my first Barterbee movie and have not gotten my points for it yet. Also, the game I requested was never sent, so I had to cancel my request in order to get my points back for it. I gotta say, that so far, I have not been too impressed with how this thing works. I emailed Bbarterbee last Friday, but have not heard anything from them. If you have had better Barterbee experiences, let me know.


Of course, the day I write this, I get my points for my movie :)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

getCals 0.21 Released

This update to getCals adds the feature of inserting the calendar name into the iCal file. This effects your downloads so that they will not all end up in an "other" calendar on your iPod, but instead will create different named calendars. This has been requested many times and so here you go!


Monday, May 15, 2006


While listening to Diggnation, I heard their ad for BarterBee.com. So I decided to check it out. It is a service where you list your DVDs, CDs and Video games for 'points' which are then spendable on other items listed on BarterBee (each 'buy' also has a $1 fee). Now if you listen to Diggnation, listen to the sponsor section for a coupon code for BarterBee. When you sign up, you usually get 5 points and $1, but with the coupon code, you get 10 points and $1. Since most movies/games are in the 10 point range, you basically get a free movie, cd or game just for signing up. Then if you sell 5 games a month you get additional points to spend on top of your point price for your item. I've listed a couple of movies to see how it goes, and have already spent my 10 free points (my wife wanted DDR for Xbox, that should be fun)

So, check it out http://revision3.com/diggnation and listen to Diggnation for their coupon code, and then check out http://www.barterbee.com and trade some stuff!


About 12 hours ago I posted 2 movies. X Files and Blade Runner, I have already had a request for X Files.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Flow of Juggling

I first heard of Flow from a boss I had while working at Greenville College, I was a programmer there for several years in the IT department. At the time of his arrival, everyone in the department pretty much did their jobs and did tech support for anyone who walked into their office and asked for help. One of the first things that this new boss did was make a separate support team and left the programmers and network admins to their specific task. Even so, the non support folks would still get interrupted if people thought the support team was too busy and would just walk back to their office and interrupt them. To fix this, a lock was installed on the department door and no one was allowed to come back unless they were authorized. There was a lot of fuss about this, but Will (my boss) explained it this way; People like programmers get into a state of Flow. In this state they get their whole project into their head and have access to any of it. Everything else is zoned out and they work extremely efficiently. The problem is that it takes 10-15 minutes to enter this state and any interruption can break the state and the person will have to re-enter it. This seemed to be a good explanation and we liked not being interrupted so much.

Now it was about the same time that I started to juggle. I find it very enjoyable, but most people are either impressed that I can do it, then move on, or they sit and ask "why are you doing that" or they just laugh. I have tried to explain how calming and stress relieving juggling can be and they say "I would be more stressed if I juggled". I can't seem to get anyone to "get it".

I was reading some blogs and came across this article at toddstrong.com on how juggling relates to flow: http://www.toddstrong.com/page16.htm

It makes a lot of sense. I recently taped a short practice of mine and watched it back 10 minutes later. I thought "Oh, here I do about 5 attempts at a 5 ball cascade". Then I watched as I did about 25-30 attempts on the tape. The same thing held true though the whole tape. I had no perception of time while I was juggling.

Also the state of flow makes things slow down. I have noticed this as I have been working on my 5 ball cascade. At first a 5 ball flash is so fast. But then as you go along, it seems to slow down. The times I have gotten runs between 10-15 catches (hey I'm still learning) the pattern seems to slow down even more.

Read the article, it may shed some light on your enjoyment of juggling or someone you know's enjoyment of juggling.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Practice Journal and PocketMod

I tried really hard a few years ago to be a good Palm Pilot user. Well, it didn't work. I was terrible at the Jot script and it took too long to take a simple note. The organizational idea works, but the execution doesn't (at least for me) .

Well I was working on my practice journal for juggling and was given a tip on rec.juggling by "Little Paul" for a nifty little app. It is called PocketMod. It is based off a folding pattern for paper that creates a little 8 paged booklet. The program lets you choose from a variety of page templates (shopping lists, checkbook registers, contacts, games, reference, etc) and place them into the pages of the booklet and then you print, fold (and make one cut) and you have your PocketMod booklet. Perfect size for slipping into your back pocket or wallet. As of this moment, it looks like you need to have flash to create pages for PocketMod, so if you want to customize it beyond the pages they provide, you need their other program PDFtoPocketMod.

PDFtoPocketMod takes an 8 page PDF file and creates a PocketMod out of it. So I grabbed my practice journal page, made the cells a little bigger and made a PDF of it. Here is the result.

Juggling Practice Record PocketMod

If you don't know how to fold it, go here click on "Create a PocketMod" and there is a link for the instructions in the online version of the app.

So anyway, check it out, you might find it useful. I'm certainly going to give it a go.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

WJF Juggling Balls and My Practice Journal

I was pleased to find a package today from the WJF with my 7 new white juggling balls. At first pickup, they have a balloon filled with sand sort of feel. They are a little bigger than I am used to, so it will take a little time to be comfortable catching 3 of them in one hand. They have a nice heft to them. 5 feels good with them although since they are a bigger size then I am used to, I have to work on my pattern. Having matching props makes a huge difference. If you are trying 5 with mismatched props, stop! I thought my throws were extremely inconsistent and now it seems that part of the problem was the props I was using. Apparently I wiped out the WJF store's supply of large white balls, cause they are now out of stock on the website. I like the white, they have a good look to them.

Part of Jason Garfields Theory and Practice talks about keeping track of your progress and such, so I have started working on a PDF file to use as a practice journal, to keep track of progress. You can get a copy of it here. It has places for you to enter the # of balls, the # of catches (or time if you are doing long runs), the number of completions at that catch level and any notes you might have. It also has blank lines for you to keep track of any other tricks you may be working on. Let me know what you think, or if you have other suggestions for basic tricks that should be pre-printed on the sheet.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Movie Review: MI:3

On the rare occasions that my wife and I get a chance to go see a movie, we try very hard to go see something good. We have made the mistake of using our date night on movies like "The Day After Tomorrow" which was terrible. So in planning on seeing MI:3 we had high hopes.

We saw the movie at the Orpheum Theater in Hillsboro, IL. If you have not seen a movie here, you should. The price is right at $5 a ticket and with that ticket you not only get your movie, but you also get a soda and a bag of popcorn. They even have a wide selection of flavor powder to add your popcorn (this stuff) mmmmm. To add to the viewing enjoyment, the back row of the theater is a row of nice comfy couches. I gotta say, a great place to see a movie! Now as a bit of disclosure, I am friends with the owners of the place and have to say they are some of the nicest people you will meet and they know how to run a theater.

So on to the movie. There were 4 previews beforehand
  • XMen 3
  • Superman Returns
  • The Pirates of the Caribbean 2
  • Nacho Libre
The first 3 are on my to-see list and would like to at least see the first 2 in the theater. Nacho Libre might be better suited for a rental on Blockbuster Online when my queue is empty.

Now MI:3... I had not seen many previews of this one, I only knew it was coming out. I really liked the first one and the second one was good, but a little over-the-top (John Woo-wise),but I still like them both and would watch either of the first 2 any time. When my wife told me that this was a JJ Abrams movie, I was very happy. We are both big Alias and Lost fans, so I was interested to see what he could do in a movie. Now I got to say after seeing most of Alias and All of Lost, There were lots of times in MI:3 that I saw JJ's touch. Especially with the whole "see a later part of the movie early on" technique. Very Effective. The movie starts off high intensity and really doesn't let up much. There are a few breaths, but they are short. You can tell that JJ has been writing and directing for a time limited format for a while, because he is always pushing the story forward with every frame of this film. You never feel like "ok, enough of this scene already" it is just, bam bam bam. As for Tom Cruise, I would say his acting is good as usual in this film and the supporting roles are a good compliment to his. As always I enjoyed Ving Rhames return as Luther Strickell. There is enough playful banter between him and Cruise to keep things light and make it seem that these 2 guys know each other well. Philip Seymour Hoffman was freaky, he creeped me out in this one. Very well done. Also Laurence Fishburne's part was small but well played. Of course anymore I expect him to say something about Kung Fu, and "The One", but I digress. Of course it is enjoyable to see some JJ Abrams usuals like Keri Russell (Felicity) and Greg Grunberg (Alias, Lost (he was the pilot of the plane who gets killed by the monster in the pilot episode)). The storyline is well written and relatively simple with enough mystery to keep you guessing, but not as twisted as the first one.

So, overall a great night out at the movies. I would recommend it if you liked the other MI movies or are a fan of JJ Abrams.

Also, if you are within driving distance (to see a movie) of Hillsboro, Illinois, check out the Orpheum Theater, it will be worth your while.


Friday, May 05, 2006

6 Ball Flash

My wife went to scrapbook with her friends tonight, so after I put the kids to bed, I hooked up the iPod to a pair of old computer speakers in the garage and did a little practicing. After some focused work on 5 ball cascade (which averages 7-10 throws clean these days) I decided to try my hand at 6. Now I do not have my new beanbags in yet so I had to use 5 12 panel bags and 1 4 panel bag. After a few attempts, I caught 5 out of 6 pretty clean. With a few more attempts, I flashed all 6 pretty clean (only 1 foot stepped forward) I managed to pull off about 4 more 6 ball flashes after that too (all Asynchronous Fountain pattern). After that I stepped back to 5 balls (which seems slower after 6) and managed to pull of a pretty clean run of 15 catches. Now I am really anxious to get my new bags in.

I also did a little bit of 3 club work (since I only have 3 nice clubs) and that is a workout in and of itself. I'm not so good at clubs. I'm working on adding in an occasional double spin in my regular pattern but height and spin don't always go as planned :) Also if you are thinking about clubs, remember that they have a woden dowel core, so if you manage to catch them with your fingers between the handles...ouch. Once I can get a good continuous double spin cascade and flashes going, I'll probably order 2 more of the clubs that I already have. I already have 3 95 MM Renegade Clubs, so at $25 each I can at least have a set of 5 for only $50 rather than shelling out $37 a club to start a set of Px3s. After shipping 5 Px3's would be about $200. A little rich for me at the moment. I like my Renegade clubs, but then again the only thing I have to compare them to is a set of Empire clubs that I was given as a gift when I first started juggling. The empires are shorter and do not have a center rod, so they are very light. Actually through a comdey of errors I was given 3 sets of Empire clubs, so I had nine. I gave 3 to my brother-in-law and still have 6 of them. I've been temped to cut them open, chop up a dowel rod and make them into something worth throwing. A little tape and work, and they just might work out...

I also have 3 rings. I guess I just don't get rings. I picked them up and threw them a little, but they are just not quite as fun for me.

All in all, a good night for juggling. Now I am tired and want to surf the web and maybe catch some TV before bed.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Placed My Order for 7

I placed my order for 7 white juggling balls today at the WJF store. So hopefully within a week I can retire my homemade, non-matched set of 5. I emailed Jason Garfield about these balls as far as finish and size. He responded that they seem to be pretty resistant to dirt buildup (my concern with buying white) and that for him they are the perfect size for juggling 7.

I guess that the only problem with this order is that it removes yet another excuse why I am not a great juggler. I can't blame it on bad equipment any more :)

I'll let you know how they are when they get here and I get a chance to use them for a practice or 2.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Filling your iPod with Video

So you bought an iPod with video and are getting tired of buying $2 shows off of iTunes. You want to move some of your videos from VHS or the internet to your iPod for viewing? Well look no further. Here is a little post on how you can fill up those 30 or 60 gigabytes with whatever you like (within reason).

Before I begin, make sure that all video that you copy for your iPod is legal for you to be copying and that your use of it falls under fair usage. It is in your best interest to not share any video that you have converted that you did not create or that you do not have explicit permission to distribute from the original creator of the content.
There are several sources for video content that you can tap into.

from iTunes

Of course you can buy premium video from iTunes, but there are an increasing number of video podcasts that might be interesting to you and the nice part is that podcasts are free!

from Google Video

Google is amassing quite a collection of video on their site http://video.google.com. Now there are 2 types of videos on their site, free and premium. When you pull up a video, you will see a price if it is premium. If it is not, it should have a download button. Now I have noticed that not all videos have a iPod video choice for download, but a lot of them do. So all you need to do is select download for iPod video and press download. Then save it to your hard drive, then import the file into iTunes and sync it to your iPod. You can do this in a couple ways: Drag it from a folder into an iTunes playlist or go to the File menu and choose Add File (or Folder) to Library. This is the process to add any video to iTunes. But make sure the video is in iPod compatible format or you wont be able to sync it to your iPod.

from VHS

So you have a video on VHS and you want to transfer it to your iPod. You will need a little bit of hardware to make this work. You will need the following
  • A VCR
  • RCA Cables
  • A Capture Device
So you probably have the vcr and the cables, but what is a capture device? Well it is something that can take the analog signal from your VCR (coming over the RCA cables) and convert it to a digial format. I use my Sony Handycam DV camera for this task. I plug the av cables into the output of my VCR and then hook it up to my computer via firewire. Other devices that work are like this which take an analog signal and convert it to firewire. You can then capture the video using Windows movie maker or whatever software came with your device. After it is captured, edit it if need be and save it to your computer. It is at this point that it is ready to be converted to iPod format (unless your video software has an iPod setting, which mine does not). iPod video is a form of mpeg4, so your iPod will not play any wmv or avi files that windows movie maker spits out. See the section "Other Online Videos" below for how to transcode your movie files into something iPod friendly.

A note about Macrovision:
Macrovision is a technology that protects video content. If you are trying to capture a copyrighted movie from VHS, you will probably see it get really dark then light. This is copy protection. This probably means you are copying something that you shouldn't be copying.

from DVD

I am not going to tell you how to rip a DVD and put it on a iPod since one step in the process (the actual ripping part) has to decrypt the DVD. Decrypting the DVD is a violation of the Digital Mellenium Copyright Act (DMCA) and therefore not something I would recommend. Although there is good news on the horizon that Apple has been in talks with movie studios about including iPod versions of movies on Blu-ray discs when they become available. So you may get your movie on the iPod fix legally...eventually.

Other Online Videos

There is lots of video on the web, and it is in lots of different formats. avi, wmv, mov, mpg, etc. How can you take one and make it play on your iPod? Well there is a great little program called Videora iPod Converter that does just that. It takes the movie file (it handles many formats) and 'transcodes' it to iPod format, ready to be imported into iTunes and synced with your iPod. This is what you will need to do to any videos that you capture or create on your computer as well, since it is likely that they will be in a non mpeg4 format such as wmv.

If you know of other places to get quality content that is easily converted to iPod format, please let me know. Leave a comment here and share with others how to fill up their favorite little media device!

If you liked this article, Digg It!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

So you want to Learn to Juggle?

I get a range of responses when I tell people I juggle. From the dismissive "um..ok Johnny" to the somewhat interested "cool, I never learned to do that", most people's interest perks up a bit when I mention I am working on 5 balls, then they comment on how they would not be able to juggle if they tried.

Well for those out there who never learned and think it you can't, I have a little video clip for you. This is the most simple, straight forward, 3 ball juggling tutorial I have seen. It is done by the World Juggling Federation president Jason Garfield. It is actually part of the "Theory and Practice of Juggling" DVD that I reviewed in an earlier post.

Here is the link to the video http://www.thewjf.com/learn.htm

you will need quicktime installed to view it, so if you don't you can watch it here in lower quality


So go ahead and try it. I would suggest getting 3 balls that are not too large and not too bouncy Don't use foam balls, because they are too light. For best results, use actual juggling balls which are either beanbags or "stage balls". Stage balls are hollow plastic balls that don't bounce. But I would recommend getting beanbags. As you may have read in this post my first beanbags were hand made, but I am about to get a full set (7) of high quality bags from http://www.thewjf.com and I'll let you know how those work out after I get them. These of course are only for if you want to lay out some $$$ since they are $5.50 a beanbag. So for my set of 7, I'm looking at $45 after shipping.

But I gotta tell you, it is an addictive pastime. Its one of those things that there is always something harder to try. No matter what pattern, trick or amount of balls you can juggle, there is always more. That is why I am getting 7 balls this time. I'm only working on 5, but I know in the next couple of months, 6 balls will be on my mind, and probably 7 will be taunting me too.

So what can I say. I like to juggle, I like to think about juggling and I like to talk about it too. Most people do not, because they don't get it. Thats ok, I don't get a lot of things that other people can't get enough of (NASCAR, Baseball, Fishing, Working on their car, etc). Does it make me abnormal to be really into a solo sport that takes concentration, determination, skill, patience , precision and endurance? Rather than someone who likes to watch Baseball or Football with a beer in one hand and a bag of chips in the other? I guess I am just abnormal.

Monday, May 01, 2006

2 Crazy Weeks

Well I gotta tell you what, the last 2 weeks have been crazy. I have gotten more traffic on my blog and website in the last 12 days than all my other web stuff in the past combined. Adsense is my major tracking key, so it is a rough number, but it looks like in the past 12 days I have gotten somewhere around 7500 hits. Now before you say that is not a lot of hits (cause I would agree) I must admit that for something I have done, it is pretty cool. I peaked the day I released getCals, but since then have been getting a steady 300 to 500 hits a day. Thank you all who are coming here and 'supporting' my blog and the little bits of software I have been writing.

Now I did have something cool happen today. I had a user of getCals email me with a problem. I helped him out and got it working. He responded by taking me up on the part of my readme file that indicates you can use the software for free, but are welcome to send donations to my paypal account. So if you are a smalltime developer like me, know that some people are willing to compensate you for your time without being forced to do so by some sort of crippleware. But instead by making it free and open and giving them the opportunity to respond in a manner appropriate to how well they like your software, you can feel really good about what you are doing for people.

For those of you who would like to make a similar donation, you can check the readme file that came with getCals, getFolks or getFeeds and it will tell you how, or you can always send me an iTunes gift certificate via email. I like those kind of surprises. :)