I think I found a bug in Final Cut Express
Libri Septem", "De Humani Corporis Fabrica
Or I'm just missing something really obvious and am going to feel dumb.

Got a copy of FCE 4.0.1 around? Try this:
  1. select Timeline
  2. File > Export > Using Quicktime Conversion...
  3. under Format, select Quicktime Movie (if it's not already selected) and then options
  4. click to change Size (or something)
  5. click on another program, say Chrome for example.
  6. click back into FCE, set the size, click Ok.
  7. you're fucked.

Now you cannot get to the movie settings dialog, you cannot save, you cannot cancel, you have to force quit. How does one report bugs to Apple, anyhow?

shit my dad says (in SMS format)
Libri Septem", "De Humani Corporis Fabrica
Got a few text messages from my dad today:

I saw 2 guys get toasted today in Orinda. They ran their lift into a high tension line and got fried. Stupid city fireman took over an hour to get thrm

down. They were semi cocious & burning in the gondola while the jack ass firemen watched!!! If u are going to electrcute urself, pick another city. Hop

e those guys make it. I tried to get The lift dwn, but the contrls were fried.

Well, i went back and talked to the lift guys who showed up a few hrs latr & they said that there was a battery operated back up they could have used to

hve worked. But the real problem was the simple fa ct that the firemen were scared shtless of the power lines. They said they didn't want touch the rig

bring it down. I sugested that they could have just crimped one of the lines a just slowly bled the line and lowered the boom. They agreed that would

w the OFD. I can wear a hat and look dumb in any emergency and get pd $80k a yr.

for fear of getting popped even tho the line was on the ground about 30 ft away and GROUnDED. They were extrmly clueless. I think I will apply for a job

Btw, i lit into those fools on two TV interviews and the CC Times which was picked up by twenty newspapers on the west coast tonight. I will propbly be o

n the cover of the Merc News Sunday. Mom says i am already on cover of the Orange Co news and the Seattle intelgencer.

Contra Costa Times: Two men severely burned after hitting transmission line near Orinda Farmers Market

How big of a balloon would you need to suspend a kitten?
Libri Septem", "De Humani Corporis Fabrica
Maybe someone can help me out with the LaTeX on this one...

The buoyant force is equal to the mass of the volume of the fluid being displaced. In a static system, such as a kitten suspended from a balloon wherein the kitten/balloon system does not change altitude, merely floats around the room, the buoyant force would be equal to the mass of the kitten + balloon + string + kitten harness + helium.

Let's make some assumptions:

  • We will be working at room temperature (20.0C), sea level (1.01*105 Pa atmospheric pressure), etc.
  • Helium behaves like an ideal gas
  • A kitten weighs 1000g
  • Our balloon + string + kitten harness weigh 500g
  • Our balloon is spherical
  • The density of air at sea level and 20.0C is 1230g/m3
  • The balloon has no thickness such that the volume of displaced air is the same as the volume of helium

Disclaimer: I don't know if I did all of this right, it's been a while since I've had to use the ideal gas law. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

First, let's put the static system into the form of an equation

mass of air displaced = mass of helium + kitten + balloon + string + kitten harness

mass of displaced air

1230g/m3 * Vballoon


Vballoon = 4/3 pi r3

See that r term? That's what we're after, the radius of the balloon.

How do we figure out the mass of the helium? We turn to our good friend the Ideal Gas Law



p = pressure in Pa
V = volume in m3
n = number of moles of said ideal gas
R = the gas constant in this case we'll use 3 sig figs and say it's 8.31 J / mol*K
T = temperature in Kelvin

We're not really interested in the number of moles of helium, however, rather the mass of the helium, so we can replace the n term with



mtot = total mass
M = molar mass (happens to be 4.00g/mol for He)

such that

pHeVHe = mHe/MHe RT

or rearranged to find the mass of the helium

mHe = pHeVHeMHe/RT

For the pressure inside a balloon, some cursory Internet research indicates it's probably about 1.05*10^5 Pa, so we'll just go with that. Let me know if you've got better numbers. As stated earlier, room temp is 20.0C so that's 293K.

1230g/m3 * 4/3 pi r3 = (1.05*105 Pa*(4/3)*pi*r3*4.00g/mol)/(8.31J/mol*K*293K)+1000g+500g

I forget why joules cancel, but they do.

You can do the algebra at home, or have Wolfram Alpha do it for you, which is what I did considering this is kittens and the internet.

The answer is you'd need a 0.697m (radius) balloon to suspend a 1kg kitten given your balloon and hardware weigh 0.5kg. This number seems reasonable given what I know about balloons and kittens.

EDIT: I forgot He is diatomic, so the molar mass should probably be 8.00g/mol, not 4.00g/mol. This increases the diameter slightly.

fuck you, china.
Libri Septem", "De Humani Corporis Fabrica
made it to kazakhstan.

as you may know, xinjiang province is under pretty severe lockdown. the government shutdown the internet, sms, and international calling. i didn't find this out until i got to urumqi, which was quite the unplesant surprise. troops in full combat gear march the streets with batons in hand or sub-machine guns, bayonettes fixed. it was a little unnerving.

leaving xinjiang for kazakhstan wasn't exactly easy or fun.

border crossing was a little rough. the chinese military/customs guys wanted to go through all of my baggage. i didn't have anything to hide, so i let them. they made me take out my book bag and started leafing through lonely planet china. oh, that's cute, i thought, he's seeing what the westerners think of china. he then gives me the tut-tut-tut and finger wave. "this, no good. taiwan, different color on map. taiwan is part of china."

"you're kidding."
"no, this book bad, we take it."
"what? i bought that book in shanghai?! it cost me 260 yuan!"
"too bad, taiwan is part of china"
"i think i have a green pen around here somewhere, maybe we can just color it in," i joked.
no response.
"can we just tear the map out?"
"i purchased that book /in china/."
"doesn't matter."

ugh. i let it go. i didn't want to end up in chinese custody in xinjiang.

next they took out my laptop and had me turn it on.
"why?" i asked.
oh. shit. i had over 1800 (+20 GB) photos of china on my laptop and hadn't backed up since the last two card dumps or so. i didn't really feel like i had a choice at this point, so i turned it on and logged them in. i lied and said i didn't have any photos. fortunately, they didn't really know how to use ubuntu so they didn't find any.

i had my camera wrapped up in a black felt protective wrap, so they didn't really pay attention to it, i'm not sure they noticed it. i popped the memory card out when they weren't looking and slipped it into my pocket.

they also wanted to know what was on my external hard drive. told them movies/music/tv shows, which is partially true, but there was also a backup of my photos (about 7 days old). they said that i would have to go with the military guy to an office somewhere, but he wandered off and never came back for me.

i spent a good hour and a half shitting my pants, secretly backing up my photos and pretending to watch flight of the conchords. i didn't have enough CPU time to encrypt everything, but I think i'm going to have to do that on my way back through.

i saw the military guys outside the train with a point and shoot camera, iphone, and other electronic bits. i don't know if the people got their stuff back.

kazakh customs was a breeze. i had a nice time chatting with a soldier who called himself mike about his dream of going to west point.

the common language of haggling
Libri Septem", "De Humani Corporis Fabrica
Today was my first day off in Shanghai and I spent the day with Dave, Evan, and Mora exploring the city. My goal for the day was to buy a used bicycle, but for the most part I was along for the ride.

We originally intended to walk from our apartment to The Bund and then maybe check out the bird, animal, insect market. On our way to the river, we happened upon the most amazing hardware store on the planet. It wasn't really a single hardware store as much as it was hundreds of tiny stores lumped together into mini-malls, spanning several blocks.

These places had everything: needle bearings, roller bearings, ball transfers, linear bearings, linear guides and rails, thrust bearings, sleeve bearings, cutting tools, process control equipment, hundreds of types of measuring and sensing equipment including refrigerant detectors, flammable gas detectors, anemometer, infrared pyrometers, digital multimeters, analog multimeters, sound meters, massive blocks of delrin, pipes, mesh, perf-metal, every imaginable type of control switch, relays, limit switches, proximity sensors, photosensors, hoses, valves and fittings, x-y (and sometimes z) joystick knobs, lights, sirens, actuators, manifolds, rigging, linear drive equipment, adhesives, lubricants, clips, latches, clamps, clasps, shackles, clevises, bolts, screws, nuts, hand tools, mag drills, drill presses, mill and lathe tooling including micro tooling and CNC stuff, coolant feed lines, laboratory glass ware, transformers, variacs, saws, abrasives and polishing consumables and tools, TIG torches, plasma torches, and on and on and on for block and blocks.

Awhile later when we were in a more touristy area, leaving the foreign language book store, and we passed a large store on the corner that sold analytical chemistry instruments (new) and reagents. Sure. Why not.

There was a guy in the street selling loupes and magnifying glasses. Mora and Evan wanted to buy loupes and started haggling with the guy. He didn't speak any English, so haggling involves our limited command of Shanghaiese, a notebook, and pen going back and forth. We were essentially haggling over a few dollars, and by the end of it, a crowd had gathered and an old Chinese dude was giving us the thumbs up. Haggling and arguments are spectator sports here in Shanghai.

After spending two or three hours wandering through hardware stores, we made it to the Bund which was largely under construction for the big Expo 2010. Also very touristy. It seems like the Expo is ruling most life in Shanghai right now. I'm not exactly sure what it is, some sort of Worlds Fair revival from what I can tell. There's a Gumby knock-off mascot everywhere.

We had a disgusting lunch at a Chinese fast-food place and I asked a bike mechanic (bike mechanics work in the street usually) where I could buy a bicycle. He was illiterate, but had the guy running the DVD cart next to him to write out directions for me in Chinese and put a dot on my map. It was on the way to the cricket market, so we thought we'd just hit that up first.

The cricket market was in Old Town, so we didn't mind wandering around lost for a while. Some guy tired to sell us turtles (he had a big mesh bag full of them), but we never found the promised land of bountiful animals and insects.

The bike shop ended up being a Trek bike shop. No one seemed to be able to tell us where to get a second-hand bicycle. As it turns out, that's illegal as they are all stolen. Shen (our intern, translator, and savior) looked up some places where I might be able to buy a stolen bike, but I opted to spend the big bucks ($30-50USD) and buy a new bike. I didn't get quite the bargain I should have here. We paid about $55 each for two shitty Chinese (made in/near Shanghai, I think) bicycles with locks, racks, and baskets. Evan's breaks kept breaking as we were trying to leave, and the guy spoke no english. Every time we'd give him the pen and notebook he'd write it out in Chinese. A phone call with Shen sorted everything out and we're going back tomorrow to get our baskets.

I've been taking a lot of photos, but the x31/Ubuntu thing ain't great for Nikon RAW files. I'll try and steal the shop MacBook tonight and do some processing.

Things the Chinese like:
  • watching people argue/haggle
  • tasteless beer ($0.60USD)
  • horrible cigarettes ($1.50USD)
  • novelty items
  • food that freaks out westerners
  • moon cakes (I think it's for the festival of the Hungry Ghost which is nowish)
  • fried things

Things the Chinese don't like:
  • hugs
  • obnoxious people
  • cheese
I'm going to go get some hangars to dry my clothes and breakfast and after that I'ma ride my new bicycle to work. Aw hell yeah. Breakfast is coffee (brewed in our apartment), and some street food--usually a crepe thing with egg, garlic, bean paste, green onion, parsley, and a fried thing folded into a rectangle. It's a Chinese breakfast burrito!

State of things
Libri Septem", "De Humani Corporis Fabrica
Hey Gonzalo,

Remember that time I bet you $100 I'd play a clarinet on the moon before I died? I'm still going to win that bet. Just sayin'.


Singapore: Part 1
Libri Septem", "De Humani Corporis Fabrica
For the most part, Singapore is what I thought it would be and then some. Reading the Lonely Planet book (thanks Sarah, I owe you a Flying Pigeon bicycle) on the plane really helped with the background, history, culture and neighborhoods.

I wanted to upload some photos, but I seem to have locked my camera in a tool crate on the job site, so you'll have to wait. Sorry.

The most important thing, of course, is food. The key is finding where the good hawker centers are. A hawker center is the government sanctioned version of street food. The hawkers rent out stalls and "hawk" their wears, although technically "touting" is illegal. The type of food and cost depends on where you go. There is lots of Chinese food where we are, but also Thai, Maylay, Indonesian, Indian, Peranakan (the descendants of Chinese immigrants who married Maylay women), and the rare Japanese food and something else I am forgetting. Keep in mind China is a very big country and the cuisine varies widely by region.

There's also plenty of American chain restaurants. McDonalds delivers via motor scooter and offers Internet access in their restaurants, Long John Silvers seems to be popular here. There are also a number of whimsically named Singaporean restaurants (Breadtalk, Mr. Bean, to name a few). These options tend to be rather expensive. You can find middle ground inside the malls where you have the commercialized version of a hawker center in massive food courts, leaning toward asian foods catering to a western pallet.

I think one of the weirdest things about this trip is the lack of a major language barrier. I am currently farther away from home than I've ever been and everyone speaks at least a little english. Getting around is too easy. One of the guys I'm working with, Raffi, has a house in Indonesia and is going there this weekend. His boss said if I wanted to go, Raffi would be happy to have me. I need to figure out some way to pull this off. Our client representative said I should go to Malaysia. That'll be another good weekend trip.

Singapore is a land of contrast. Mostly in the old world meets new sense, but also in terms of social and government issues. This has been one of the most fascinating things for me, and I don't really want to write about it until I've really dug deeper.

Also, there is really good, cheap public transportation but most of the time we take taxis because we've got heavy tools and such. Taxi fare schedule is very complicated based on time of day, where you get picked up, whether or not you called the cab, how you pay, etc.

Almost forgot coffee in a bag. For a mere S$0.70, you can get yourself some kopi tarik (sp?) in a bag. Basically, it's coffee and sweetened condensed milk poured in a pot, and then poured into a bag. I got Teh tarik (guess what that is) once and the guy did about a four foot pour from the pot in one hand to my cup in the other. Didn't spill a drop.

Project Idea #235
Libri Septem", "De Humani Corporis Fabrica
I've always liked the idea of taking a bunch of white LEDs and wiring them all up to make something that is way too bright to look at. Originally, I wanted it to be a cowboy hat, but wiring that up would be tricky.

One of my coworkers found a very nice looking old school, leather, Samsonite suitcase on the street today and I thought it would be a good candidate.

Some quick thoughts.

Inside dimensions: 18" x 23". Depth goes from 3.5" at the top to 4" at the base. Total planar area on the inside is 828 in^2. If you used 1000 LEDs (a pricebreak!) you'd have a little more than 1LED/in^2, which seems like a reasonable density.

Mouser has 7000mcd white LEDs for $0.20 each if you order 1000 of them. I think this is a good price, I should do some more searching before actually buying anything. These babies draw a lot of juice: 30A @ 3.5V (105W). This seems high, but 7000mcd is awfuly bright. One of these LEDs hurts to look at. I can't imagine 1000 of them.

I'd need $200 for the LEDs, some $ for the PCBs (or however I decide is the best way to mount/wire these puppies), and batteries.

After a cusory search of AllElectronics (one of my favorite surplus websites), and a quick spreadsheet it looks like lead acid is the way to go, despite the weight. The best Bang for the Buck is a 12V, 7.5AH battery for $22. A lithium ion setup would cost about 5x more for the same amount of juice. I can't really afford that kind of $$ for something this silly unless I get investors. Ha! Investors...

If the LEDs really do pull 30mA, one of these puppies will run the suitcase for about 50 mins assuming no voltage drop (do lead acid batteries have this problem?) and 100% effiency (not actually possible). Seeing as the suitcase will probably overheat within 90 seconds or so, putting two of these batteries in the case will definitely be enough.

Basically, you'd have the Suitcase of the Covenant. As soon as you opened it, your face would melt.

Picnic Day
Libri Septem", "De Humani Corporis Fabrica
Who's going? Can I sleep on your couch?

Libri Septem", "De Humani Corporis Fabrica
I'm going to Pie this week and there's nothing you can do to stop me.


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