Sunday, July 30, 2006

A little knowledge is dangerous

My family and any college friends who are reading me remember the time when I was up to owning three bicycles - my Dad's resurrected Sport-touring bike from the early '80's, a mountain bike, and my LeMond. I did almost all of my own maintenance and repair, and between the overhaul I gave the old Trek and the beatings and upgrades I gave my mountainbike, that came to a lot of maintenance and repair.

I brought the LeMond with me when I came up to Albany for this show. I was riding it to commute some, and started having trouble shifting. So I looked over the drivetrain and it was filthy. Really filthy. Filthtastic, even. So I bought some tupperware and a can of degreaser, unmounted the chain and soaked it for a couple days, cleaned the drivetrain components, remounted the chain, lubricated everything, and gave everything a tune. Then I went riding, and all seemed good. Until the drivetrain started skipping. Stopped, looked things over, couldn't find a problem. Rode some more, and fell. I was popping out of the saddle to accelerate and I broke the chain. Dammit.

Anyway, I remounted it and then went to the local bike shop because the link was a little stiff where I reconnected it. They couldn't find a problem, even after cleaning everything even more, but they didn't charge me.

So I went riding again a couple days later. The chain starts skipping again. Still can't find the problem. Chain broke again. I remounted it again and went home (shop was closed.) Since then, I've re-found where I reconnected the chain so I can find it again at the shop when I get it fixed. But I thought that this was probably too much of a pain in the ass for such a common procedure, so I did some research.

It turns out that when you separate a Shimano narrow or super-narrow chain, the pin that holds the links together is destroyed. It's destroyed in a way that can't be detected without a really high level of magnification, but if you don't throw it out it will fail sooner or later. This isn't a huge problem because Shimano manufactures special replacement pins, but while I knew about those at one time, I'd forgotten. And I certainly don't carry any right now.

The other problem with reinserting the old pin is that it warps one of the links in the pair it holds together. The special pin comes on the tail end of a guide thingy that (I think) prevents this problem.

Other brands of chain have a breakable link that allows them to be removed and installed without messing around with tools. But apparently that's too simple. So it's time to get some special replacement parts. Yay.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Reverse advertising

So we all know that now and then commercials have one message upfront and another one that they're really trying to drive home. Anti-smoking ads funded by Phillip Morris, for example - they list a lot of good reasons to smoke while they say that you shouldn't do it.

I just saw a commercial for a hand sanitizer. The explicit message in the commercial is that with their hand sanitizer, the world is a clean, touchable place. The imagery shows various public places - I remember a toilet in a train and a gas station - through the "lense" of the bottle of sanitizer. Outside the frame created by the bottle, the places are seen to be covered in dirt. The train is old, grey, and graffitied, and the toilet has no seat. Seen through the bottle, the train is clean and new, and the toilet has clean, new residential fixtures. The gas station is similarly dirty and there's a man fueling a pickup truck. The man has a beard and a belly and he and the truck are both covered in dirt. There's assorted building supplies in the back of the truck. Seen through the bottle, the truck has pristine red paint and nothing in the bed, the man's stomach is flat and his face clean shaven, and he's wearing a polo or a short-sleeved dress shirt.

I think that the target demographic for this commercial is the middle class. It's on at 9:30 on a Saturday night, during a number of Law & Order episodes back-to-back. The world that they experience would be the one seen through the "lense." So to me, the way this commercial works is to sell not the idea of cleanliness, but a fearful perspective of the world in which everything is suspect without that bottle.

A health teacher of mine once said that when a drug addict does drugs, it's not to get high, but because it brings them back up to the level that most of us exist on on a daily basis. This commercial is trying to create a similar effect - that in order to exist at the level of cleanliness most of us exist at in reality, it's necessary to use hand sanitizer.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Another teaser shot.

So last night I shot with a higher resolution. You can see faces, from 100' away. I really like this shot, because I think that it's a defining moment in the telling of the main story in this show. So come and see the rest.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

I made the photo editor work


But I'm not going to upload many pictures. Come and see the show. And don't give me any "I live in Texas/Rhode Island/California/The Netherlands" lines either.

Alternatively, you can remind me at the end of August that I said I'd upload pictures later.

GNU stands for

GNot easy to Use. Or GNUse. Or something.

So last night I took some pictures of the production and I wanted to edit them down to nice, usable proportions and see what I can pull out of them. Sounds like a job for Photoshop. But I'm too poor and too honest to have it, so I have this other thing, the GIMP, which is the GNU version. I'm working on the first picture, which I took freehand (and crooked) and I want to add a layer, draw a guideline on it to help me rotate to a horizontal based on a good visual reference, then remove the layer and save the resulting JPEG. I can't get the layers to rotate simultaneously, so I decide to check the help. Apparently I didn't install it. Turns out it doesn't auto-install.

OK. Whatever. I'll download it. So I open up my browser and go to the GIMP site, where I find the GIMP help package easily enough. .tar.gz. I spent another two hours finding Win32 gzip and tar programs, get the package extracted, and discover that it includes a Makefile. Yay.

For those who are slightly less on the bleeding edge of computer wizardry, a Makefile is kind of like a batch file that directs a program assembling another program. Very useful for programs distributed as source, or in components that need to be assembled differently on different platforms. Different UNIX/Linux platforms. Microsoft, of course, doesn't acknowledge the .tar and .gz methods of archiving, so let's stop talking about Makefiles right now.

I figured, "Andrew, you're badass at computers. I bet you can just do this manually." Nope. Can't even open the .xml file that should be the index, and I don't have enough information to know where the directory structure needs to go within the GIMP's many folders.

So now it's time to go back to the 'net. I actually managed to find a Win32-oriented distribution of the help system, which I'm downloading as we speak and will hopefully be able to install without incident. Now that I've found that, there's still 50 megs of crap on my hard drive - gzip, BSDtar, and the UNIX distribution version of the help install package for the GIMP. For whatever reason, various files thought they were in use and resisted deletion. So I had to reboot.

And all this so that I can access a "help" file. Seems to defeat the purpose a little bit. Anyway, it's no wonder that Photoshop can sell for $700. Even if the GIMP duplicates all of its functionality, if only someone like me can install it, that raises the cost to a minimum of the $100 I'd charge a client for showing up, let alone my hourly if I couldn't make everything work in half a day.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Opening a show tomorrow (ok, technically today)

So the show that you all (all half dozen or so, I think) have been following me building is finally opening tomorrow. Check out Beauty and the Beast.

It's looking very good. See it.

Friday, July 07, 2006

900 amps of fine art

Well, it's a musical. But the City Electrician just did his load test and my three legs test at 250, 270, and 360 amps. So that comes to 880. Whatever. That's still about eight houses, or about fifteen of my apartment in Manhattan.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Almost sorry to focus them


This is what it looked like when I turned on all the lights that worked earlier tonight. I thought it was really pretty, and I'm a little sorry that I had to focus them.