Monday, December 14, 2015

Merry Christmas from Santa and Rose (part 9)

(from the Is that Rose?  She's so big! department)

Hi everyone,

Happy Holidays!  Here's our new Santa photo for 2015:

We took three photos - and all were great!  This one was the most fun, though. 

Rose was very comfortable with Santa - just a bit shy at first - but she gave him hugs and whispered her Christmas wish to him.  Part of the festive mood may have been due to the Fran's hot chocolate I bought while we were waiting in line.  (Dad may have had a little caffeine in his... ^_^;)  There's nothing like hot chocolate on a cold evening to kindle the holiday spirit!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Pietromonaco family!


P.S.  Yeah - I know it's the same shirt as last year.  I need to get more Holiday Appropriate® festive shirts.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Supermoon Lunar Eclipse - near Snoqualmie, WA Sept. 27, 2015

(from the Under a Blood Red Moon department)

Hi everyone,

There was a lunar eclipse on Sunday, September 27, 2015.  In addition, it was a supermoon - which means that the moon was at its closest approach to the earth and appeared roughly 14% larger. 

We had arranged to meet with some of Rose's school friends at a park near Snoqualmie, WA.  At the last minute, I dug my telescope out, and hastily hand calibrated it, eyeballing the finer adjustments.  (Traditional reflecting telescopes need this from time to time, and mine was overdue.)  We jumped in the car, and headed out.

By the time we got to the park - around 7:30 PM or so - the eclipse was just about entering totality.  The park was jammed - we were very lucky to find parking just inside the park gate.  We were also very lucky to find Rose's schoolmates and their parents in the darkness.  While Dana and Rose chatted with their friends, I aligned my telescope's equatorial mount to true north by locating Polaris and dialed in the lunar eclipse.

We all took turns looking through the eyepiece.  It was gorgeous.  Also - there wasn't much light pollution at the park, so the Milky Way was clearly visible overhead.  We saw satellites and shooting stars.  The kids ran around - then looked through the telescope.  I chatted about astronomy, and kept the telescope targeted on the moon.  Folks wandered by and chatted - I shared moon views with them.  It was a lot of fun.

Then, I had a weird idea.

I wondered if I could just hold my cellphone up to the telescope eyepiece and take a picture.  Well - the results are below:

(Shh - don't tell the others, but this one is my favorite)

Just to be clear - these aren't professional - it was a weird juggling trick to get the cellphone lens to stay straight enough against the telescope eyepiece.  Also - because of my telescope - they're upside down.  Still - they came out a lot better than I expected.

As the eclipse ended, you could see the moon emerge from the earth's shadow:

At that point, it was too bright for my poor Nokia Lumia 920 camera sensor to deal with.  In fact, the supermoon was so bright after the eclipse, it lit up the valley.  You couldn't see the Milky Way any more, and only a few of the brighter stars were visible.  Here's a shot after the eclipse, showing the valley below the park:

The good news is that we didn't need a flashlight to get back to our car.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Huge Tree Stump - Our House - Sept. 13, 2015

(from the Lorax Speaks For The Trees department)

Hi everyone,

We had a maple tree fall in our back yard during a huge storm a couple of weeks ago.  Luckily - it fell between our lot and our neighbors' lots, and didn't take out our house.  This was especially lucky, because we were on vacation in North Carolina, and didn't get home until a few days later.

This morning, the arborist came by to remove the tree trunk, but they couldn't take it all. Here's a picture of the stump next to Dana for scale:

Here's some close ups of the inner rings and colors:

The top of the trunk section was interesting as well:

Here's the lovely Dana, again providing some scale:

UPDATE:  A few days later, the arborists returned and carted off the trunks.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

If Video DownloadHelper in Ubuntu fails with a "Failed Aggregating" error message

(from the I Love Linux department)

Hi everyone,

I use Video DownloadHelper for Firefox in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.

Sometimes, when trying to aggregate video, it fails with a "Failed Aggregating" message.

Specifically, you see this error:

ffmpeg version 0.8.17-4:0.8.17-0ubuntu0.12.04.1, Copyright (c) 2000-2014 the Libav developers
  built on Mar 16 2015 13:26:50 with gcc 4.6.3
The ffmpeg program is only provided for script compatibility and will be removed
in a future release. It has been deprecated in the Libav project to allow for
incompatible command line syntax improvements in its replacement called avconv
(see Changelog for details). Please use avconv instead.
Input #0, mov,mp4,m4a,3gp,3g2,mj2, from '/tmp/media.tmp':
    major_brand     : dash
    minor_version   : 0
    compatible_brands: iso6mp41
    creation_time   : 2015-04-22 12:53:09
  Duration: 00:07:02.96, start: 211.487256, bitrate: 64 kb/s
    Stream #0.0(und): Audio: aac, 44100 Hz, stereo, s16
      creation_time   : 2015-04-22 12:53:09
Input #1, mov,mp4,m4a,3gp,3g2,mj2, from '/tmp/media.mp4':
    major_brand     : dash
    minor_version   : 0
    compatible_brands: iso6avc1mp41
    creation_time   : 2015-04-22 13:13:56
  Duration: 00:07:02.83, start: 211.419544, bitrate: 1147 kb/s
    Stream #1.0(und): Video: h264 (High), yuv420p, 1920x1080 [PAR 1:1 DAR 16:9], 23.98 tbr, 90k tbn, 47.95 tbc
      creation_time   : 2015-04-22 13:13:56
Unrecognized option 'c:v'
Failed to set value 'libx264' for option 'c:v'

So - what happened?  Well - by default, Video DownloadHelper is installed to work with avconv.  But - if you reset Video DownloadHelper's settings, it falls back to an older conversion method based on ffmpeg.

This normally wouldn't be a problem, except that in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, there is no ffmpeg.  It's actually a script front-end for avconv, and doesn't take ffmpeg's arguments.  This is the error you're seeing.

The fix is simple.  Go into Video DownloadHelper's settings, and go to the Conversion setting:

Note the Converter path - it's most likely set to /usr/bin/ffmpeg.  Change this to the location of avconv, usually /usr/bin/avconv:

Now - try your file again.  It should work.  Hope this helps!


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Connect The Dots With Wire!

(from the Yeah - this is how my mind works department)

So - this is probably of interest to hard core Wire fans only, but here's the link between the songs on Change Becomes Us and Document & Eyewitness / Turns & Strokes.

If you don't know what this means - this blog post is not for you.  Move along - nothing to see here. (^_^)

The list is arranged according to the track order of Change Becomes Us.  The arrows indicate my best guess as to the original song used to create the new song.  The title in brackets is the album that contains the original.

  1. Doubles & Trebles <--> Ally In Exile [Document & Eyewitness]
  2. Keep Exhaling <--> Relationship [Document & Eyewitness]
  3. Adore Your Island <--> The Spare One [Turns & Strokes]
  4. Re-Invent Your Second Wheel <--> ZEGK HOQP [Document & Eyewitness]
  5. Stealth of a Stork <--> Witness To The Fact [Document & Eyewitness]
  6. B/W Silence <--> Lorries [Turns & Strokes]
  7. Time Lock Fog <--> 5/10 [Document & Eyewitness]
  8. Magic Bullet <--> Over My Head [Turns & Strokes]
  9. Eels Sang <--> Eels Sang Lino [Document & Eyewitness]
  10. Love Bends <--> Piano Tuner (Keep Strumming Those Guitars) [Document & Eyewitness]
  11. As We Go <--> Part of Our History [Turns & Strokes]
  12. & Much Besides <--> Eastern Standard [Document & Eyewitness]
  13. Attractive Space <--> Underwater Experiences [Document & Eyewitness]

NOTE:  Although Attractive Space is based on Underwater Experiences, it is arranged much closer to the original demo version on Behind The Curtain, instead of the two (!) versions on Document & Eyewitness.  However - for the purposes of this list, I decided to only use Document & Eyewitness and Turns & Strokes, as originally issued.  This means that the bonus disc of demos on the new version of Document & Eyewitness, which includes alternate versions of a couple of the songs on Turns & Strokes, is also not listed here.

If I have any of these wrong, let me know.  This is a tricky exercise.  Fun - but tricky.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Rose formed a band - back in 2012!

(from the Way Way Back Machine department)

Hi everyone,

I was doing a little cleaning of my Personal OneDrive, and I found this note I'd taken in January 2012, when Rose was about 4.  She'd had started describing this band she was going to form - she had the name, the lineup and everything.

The name?

Fight Band!

Here's what she'd envisioned:

Doesn't that sound awesome?  I'm ready to start conducting anytime!  Get ready for Fight Band, Minnesota!


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Flashback Friday Live: Swervedriver @ Neumos, Seattle, 2015-03-08

Okay - I can finally talk about this. 

The reunited Swervedriver played a blistering set at Neumos last Sunday in support of their first new album in 17 years:  "I Wasn't Born To Lose You". 

I used the HAAC High Dynamic Recording feature of my Nokia 920 smartphone to record a few songs - the sound at Neumos can be *very* *very* loud, and the Nokia can really uncover the true sound in an overbearing PA system.  Plus - Swervedriver plays loud anyway.

I thought the results came out great - and after checking with Swervedriver's webmaster, I got permission to post the songs on-line:

And - yes - that's Micky Quinn of Supergrass filling in on bass.  Their regular bassist, Steve George, was unable to make the US tour.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.  I can also post the set-list if folks are interested. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Family Trip to Maui - Feb. 19th to Feb. 27th - Part 2 of 2

(from the What - you're still not in the islands? department)

NOTE:  This is part 2 of 2 parts.  The first part is here:  The Ideal Copy: Family Trip to Maui - Feb. 19th to Feb. 27th - Part 1 of 2

Hi everyone,

The day after the trip to Hana, we decided to give my nerves a rest and visit some botanical gardens instead.  We started off by heading to a small town called Makawao, which had a real Hawaiian feel - as opposed to a touristy feel.  Sure - there were shops and galleries, but this was fairly off the beaten path and the crowds were not as large as in Lahaina or Paia.

For instance - chickens were just strolling down the sidewalk.  Here's a chicken walking on the sidewalk next to our car:

(Sorry - you'll have to wait to see my other photos of Makawao - they're on the main camera.  All of these photos - in this post and the previous Maui post - are from my phone's camera.)

Interestingly, Makawao has a large cowboy feel.  Much of the surrounding countryside was ranch land, and there's a very cool museum that details the life of the paniolo - or Hawaiian cowboy.

After grabbing a little lunch, we headed up to Kula and the Kula Botanical Gardens.  Since Kula is on the side of the big Haleakala volcano, it has a great view of Kihei and the beach:

Once inside the gardens, we saw waterfalls, koi ponds, and in a bird sanctuary, two rare Nene birds.  Can you see the Nene in the photo below?

 Relaxing by the waterfall:

Rose feeds the koi:

It turns out the Botanical Garden grows its own coffee.  I bought some (see P.S. below) - but I haven't cracked it open yet.  Should be amazing.

Driving back from the garden, we stopped by an amazing landmark - the Holy Ghost Catholic Church.  The viewpoint was striking:

The interior was equally as impressive:

A historical marker outside:

Finally heading back to Kihei, we finished the night at the Paia Fish Market, which is actually a restaurant.  Based on a recommendation from the staff, I got the Mahi served Cajun style:

That's also a local beer - the Wailua Wheat from the Kona Brewing Co., if my memory serves me correctly.  It definitely was local and it was a passion fruit brew.  Perfect with the fish.

The next to last day we went to the Maui Ocean Center aquarium.  Rose had a playdate with the child of a co-worker of mine from Seattle who had independently planned an almost identical Maui trip.  We found out we were both going just before we left Seattle. I didn't get many pics on my phone's camera - but you can see the sea turtle feeding below:

Based on my co-worker's recommendation, we ended up in Kimo's in Lahaina, where we all got foo-foo beverages.  (And - yes - Rose's is a non-alcoholic strawberry smoothie.)

The view was tremendous.  That's the island of Lanai behind the patio, over the ocean.

 And - what would a trip be without trying the Hula Pie?  Oddly enough - no one but me liked it.  Bummer. (^_-)

Lahaina was sort of touristy.  We saw Mick Fleetwood's restaurant there.  There was a Hard Rock and a Bubba Gump Shrimp as well.  We took a photo on the Forrest Gump bench.  Rose remained unconvinced:

Driving back to Kihei from Lahaina, we found a viewpoint, and took a couple of final photos.  Here we're looking back at Lanai:

And here - we're looking at uninhabited Kahoolawe at the far right, and the small atoll of Molokini in the center.  Kihei is on the coastline to the left:

And that's our trip.  The next morning, we said goodbye to the view from the patio of where we were staying:

and headed back home with 2 pounds of Hawaiian coffee (see P.S. below) and a week's worth of amazing memories.


P.S. About the coffee.  Since the coffee is grown on the islands in volcanic soil, it tends to be low acidity, which gives it a very earthy taste.  I ended up buying four bags.  Since coffee is expensive in the islands, you end up buying half pound bags.  All of them are excellent.  I got:
  • A Kona from Starbucks.  This is unavailable anywhere outside of the islands - you have to buy it there. Quick pic of it - if anyone knows how to find this stateside, let me know:
  • A Maui from Maui Coffee Company. It was the 100% Maui roast.  Interestingly, it comes with a spring-loaded metal clip, instead of the standard fold-tabs you see stateside.
  • A Kauai estate grown from Kauai Coffee.  It was the Koloa Estate.  This was sharper in flavor than any of the others - almost like a Latin American in brightness, as opposed to the earthy tones of the Maui or Kona.   It turns out that our local Safeway sometimes carries this.  I bought a spare bag.  They appear to be identical, except the local Kauai had the spring-loaded clip, and the export had the folding tabs.
  • A Maui from the Kula Botanical Gardens.  This is the Kula 3600 Estate Coffee - I got the light/dark blend.  This is the only one I haven't opened yet - but it should be amazing.  Super small batch.