Where I’ve Been: The Parade of Awesomeness

Howdy, y’all! I know it’s been a long, long time, but I haven’t been idle. In fact, I’ve been posting every weekday on my new blog, The Parade of Awesomeness.

Each weekday I post something that I think is awesome. Sometimes its a product, like the Logitech VX Nano or Super Smash Brothers: Brawl. Sometimes its a DIY or art project. I’ve mentioned a couple of podcasts, and even recorded a couple of podcast episodes of my own.

I’m running the site through Tumblr, which I means I don’t have to categorize posts or clean up comment spam. It’s clean and simple and I *love* it. I do sort of miss the direct feedback you can get from comments, but on the other hand, I’m wasn’t getting a ton of comments on posts here either. There’s always email if you want to leave feedback. (And believe me, I love to get feedback.)

Anyways, take a look at the new site. I’ll still post here from time to time–some of my more personal stuff, and sometimes the things that aren’t awesome or things that don’t fit the vibe I’m going for at the Parade–but if you want more from me, you’ll want to check out ParadeOfAwesomeness.com.

Family Photo Editing

Late in 2007, some of my relatives from Texas came up to visit with a huge tub of old family photos. I took a number of those photos, cleaned them up in Photoshop, and made picture CD’s that we sent back to our relatives with their Christmas gifts. (The reception from my extended family has been great, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.)

I’ve uploaded a few of the photos that I think were most improved to Flickr, both before and after shots. If you hover over the word “notes” in the slideshow below, I describe how I used Photoshop to improve the photos.

I may not be the best photo editor out there, but I think these came out pretty well.

Picture CD

I burned them onto LightScribe CD’s using my old LightScribe DVD burner. It took each of these about 40 minutes to burn, but they look really good. (By the way, this is first time I’ve ever used Lightscribe since getting the DVD burner several years ago. Sharpies are just faster.)

I’m just glad everyone in my family likes them! Let me know what you think.

Where I’ve Been This Time: Starcraft

I’ve recently discovered an old classic RTS game, StarCraft. I had never played this before I saw the trailers for StarCraft II. Once I saw the trailer, I headed to the video game shop in the mall and bought the StarCraft Battlechest. I’m playing through the first game’s campaign now.

I had heard of people getting addicted to this game and dropping out of college back when it was first released. (Now that title has been passed to World of WarCraft, made by the same publisher, Blizzard.) I know that StarCraft is a huge part of the Korean professional video gaming scene. And I can see why, on both counts. This is an amazingly good game.

Of course, since this is an old game, the graphics are nothing special. But the core of the game is spectacular: the three races look and feel entirely different from each other, but they’re evenly balanced.

And the plus side of it being an old game is that I can play it on my tablet PC, which can’t handle modern games at all.

My only complaint: I can’t zoom in and out. I really want to be able to get a birds-eye view of the battlefield.

The other cool thing is that there’s now a StarCraft board game, which is as good as the video game. A friend of mine has bought it, and so my brother and I have gotten to play the game. Like the video game, it’s well-balanced and challenging. (And I’ve actually managed to win this game a couple of times, unlike most of our previous games.)

Blizzard Entertainment must have made a deal with the devil: everything they touch turns to crack cocaine. And I’m going to enjoy it while I can, the little junkie that I am.

DIY USB Wii Sensor Bar

I just finished playing with the new USB Wii Sensor Bar that I made.

Wii Sensor Bar

It’s not very pretty, but it works. I just plug it into my USB port, and the infrared LED’s light up. From there, the Wii remote (connected to my computer over Bluetooth), figures out where to put the mouse using a GlovePIE script.

I made it from an old USB cable, four IR LED’s, two wires, a bit of perf board, and a wad of sticky tack.

Wii Sensor Bar (reverse)

If you want to make your own sensor bar, there are some great instructions for a much better looking finished product that I followed to wire this up.

Presidential Candidates on Flickr

I was on Flickr today, looking at the map of photos around my home town, and discovered that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama both visited recently. They both have regularly updated Flickr accounts and geotagged their photos from their recent visits.

This lead me to searching around for other candidates with Flickr accounts, such as Ron Paul and Sam Brownback.

I discovered some interesting stuff, which I’ve summarized into this table. (It won’t fit in this blog’s template, so I’ve given it its own page).

Let me know what you think!

Creepiest Thing I’ve Seen All Day

CARNIVOROUS BEES, originally uploaded by J. D. Harper.

I always thought that bees flew around, pollinating flowers and making honey. Sure, they might sting the occasional foolish school child, but bees were generally friendly bugs, if you left them alone.

But apparently, this one likes the taste of raw hamburger. And how long will it be until it tries man-flesh?

Perhaps bees will eventually figure out how to tell which people are allergic to them, and they’ll send in single assassin bees to kill them. Then the hive will dine on the flesh of their gigantic prey.

If Steven King writes this into a novel, I’m suing him for plagiarism.

Weight Loss Update

I mentioned previously that I’m trying to lose some weight using the Couch-to-5K program. I want to point out that this program is really working well for me. I’ve been gradually increasing my endurance, losing weight, and generally feeling pretty good about myself. This morning I went just under two miles in about a half hour, which is the best I’ve done in a long time.

Stuff Reduction and College Note Scanning

I have noticed a trend of people wanting to reduce the amount of “stuff” in your life. While the goal of simplicity is older than Thoreau, lately the need for an uncomplicated life has become far more acute. There are now highly-trafficed blogs devoted to reducing clutter and blogs devoted to getting things done.

The problem of clutter results from an overvaluation of stuff. (As a side note, this essay by Paul Graham is an excellent article on the subject of “stuff.” You ought to read it.)

On a related note, I’ve been going through boxes of old papers in my room, sorting out the trash from the treasure. Old homework assignments and the collection of old Collegians I saved for some reason—gone. Notes that might actually prove useful some day, I’m saving.

Now that I’ve finished sorting out the remaining papers by subject, I’m going to go through all of my notes and put them into my computer. My goal is to get this all in an indexable form, so that I can search for stuff with Windows Vista (or Google Desktop on an XP machine). If you can’t search for data and find it really, really quickly, it might as well not exist. Theoretically, I’ll be able to search my entire college career in seconds.

Some of these notes are easy to index, because I was storing print outs of typed notes or powerpoints that I already have in my computer. I just dump those into my new School Stuff folder from my archive on an external hard drive.

Some of it is a little harder, because they’re print outs with hand-written notes on them or handouts from class that I don’t already have electronically. These I’m planning on scanning into my computer as PDF files. Since I’m using Adobe Acrobat, I can run an OCR scan and make PDF searchable.

The really hard stuff is the pages and pages of hand-written notes. This stuff I can’t just scan, because there’s no way that Acrobat can read my handwriting. So I’m going to have to type up all of my old notes into text files.

While this will probably take a couple of days, I don’t think that that’s necessarily a bad thing. I’m thinking of this as a sort of comprehensive college review, a way of remembering all of the stuff that I learned. And once it gets into an indexable form, I’ll be able to find stuff as quickly as I can think of it—and it won’t take up physical space anymore.