A tale of the one ring, six thousand days ago.

bikecampingThe weeks up to proposing to the woman of your dreams are a combination of wild anticipation and sheer terror – even if you believe to know the answer with a high degree of probability.

We were camping up in Algonquin Park when the big day arrived. I’d hidden the custom-made ring in a pair of rolled up socks since we’d left Ottawa, where it had been carefully concealed inside one of my computers (two places I could be sure Tracey wouldn’t accidentally find it).

We were camped over on site 209, Kearny Lake, just across from Pog Lake. On the morning of August 23rd, 1997 Tracey had given me a watch (which I wore every day for about fourteen years until it broke beyond repair) to celebrate our first year together.

I nearly panic-proposed, but managed to keep my suave exterior from showing the fierce inner battle that waged for nearly ten seconds. She probably thought the progress-bar expression was just my usual self getting distracted by (possibly) a real squirrel.

Our history filled with long walks. We especially loved going on long walks while camping, and to this day still do. I don’t exactly recall if it was raining when we left for our walk, but we were dressed for it – I remember sneaking the ring (and box, I think) into the pocket of by bright yellow MEC monsoon coat.

We walked in the rain through the Kearney campground, then wandered across the highway to Pog Lake, and then to Whitefish lake where it was definitely raining, and foggy. Just about everywhere along the walk, I was looking for the ideal location to propose.

I had no idea what the ideal location looked like.

Eventually, I found a spot I thought would do the trick. Sheltered somewhat from the rain by tall pines, there were two trees that had grown together. I stutter/mumbled something about being joined like the two trees and how much I loved her, and dropped to one knee.

Will you marry me?

Let’s jump backwards.. oh, about two months.

The hunt for the ideal engagement ring (a relatively modern social convention invented by the diamond industry’s marketing department) at various retailers didn’t yield any promising prospects. I looked in the Rideau Centre, in the Byward Market, and down Bank street. Nada.

A traditional prong design wouldn’t do, as Tracey works with rather expensive fabrics all day, and I wanted to give her something she could actually wear.

One day, I sat down and designed a ring – white gold (Tracey doesn’t care for yellow gold), with three channel set stones, a Canadian diamond flanked by our birthstones. I spoke to numerous jewellers and settled on Tang Jewellers who assured me that they could make the ring in time for pickup well before we left for Algonquin Park.

The call came in at work that the ring was ready. In my excitement when I picked it up, I didn’t notice a small flaw – either due to the terrible lighting, possibly that anticipation and/or terror I mentioned earlier, or the fact that I was rushed – or most likely all of the above.

tentsFast-forward back to Algonquin.

Will you marry me?

Exactly what she said next is a bit fuzzy, but was something close to “Is there a reason it’s yellow gold?

Entirely not the answer I was expecting. Or, I suppose the one I was dreading.

I didn’t have a back-up plan for this response. Confusion – yellow gold? Wait. What? I ordered white gold, I knew it! I thought it might be the light where we were. Nope, that was yellow gold, no question about it.

Somewhere in the confusion, I’m reasonably certain that she did indeed say yes, but I don’t *specifically* recall it.

Tracey told me that if she had an inkling that I’d propose she would have arranged a ceremony right then. I’m not sure how she didn’t know – somehow I’d managed to get her ring size, probably through some wildly complicated and intricate scheme.

When we got home from the trip, I checked the receipt for the ring, and yes, it did indeed specify white gold, so we took it back to the jeweller, who, after apologizing up and down, had the ring completely remade in less than a week. We were so pleased with the results, we had them make our wedding bands.

ringsEvery year since then, we try to find the spot where I proposed, and we have been unable to, leading me to suspect we’d travelled though some foggy fairy proposal vortex.

I don’t mind if fairies had their fun – we’ve lived happily every after.

Drinking to stupor by the numbers

Like many Canadians, I’ve been watching the unfolding events in Toronto with disbelief and disappointment.

I wish I could find who it was on Twitter that asked how much Rob Ford would have to drink to get into a “drunken stupor”, but it got me wondering.

First, I needed his weight – which was listed as 147.6 KG (313 lbs) on June 6, 2012 at the end of his weight loss challenge. It’s likely to have changed, but that’s the last data point I could find, and I doubt he’d answer that question if I asked.

Next I needed a tool to do the calculations, which it turns out, have already been written, saving me some time.

To start, we’ll define 1 drink as either one 355 ml/12 oz beer, 150 ml/5 oz of (10-12%) wine, 90 ml/3 oz of fortified wine (16-18%), or 44ml/1.5 oz of liquor (40%).

The target blood alcohol levels we’ll be looking at are 0.10 to 0.19 and .20 to 0.29.

These numbers are approximate.

0.10: Nine drinks (3.2 litres of beer / 0.396 litres of vodka)
0.19: Fifteen drinks (5.3 litres of beer / 0.66 litres of vodka)
0.24: Nineteen drinks (6.7 litres of beer / 0.836 litres of vodka)
0.29: Twenty-three drinks (8.1 litres of beer / 1.01 litres of vodka)

With a blood alcohol level of .29, he would be unfit to drive for at least sixteen hours, and over twenty hours to being sober.

Stupor shows up in the list of effects over .20, so for Rob Ford, that’s 16+ drinks (give or take).

Numerous people in the media have suggested the possibility that he’s showing signs of alcoholism (the preferred term is apparently alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence).

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, men may be at risk for alcohol-related problems if their alcohol consumption exceeds 14 standard drinks per week or 4 drinks per day, and women may be at risk if they have more than 7 standard drinks per week or 3 drinks per day.

No matter how we look at it, Mr Ford and his family are going through a difficult time, and probably have been for a number of years now. Alcohol abuse and drug use are both indicators of being in need of help, and I sincerely hope he gets it.

Converting the Firefly (the series) into an audiobook

Firefly: The complete series I am a huge Firefly fan to the point of being the platinum sponsor of the Ottawa Serenity Charity Showing for the past few years which has been held at the Mayfair Theatre on Bank Street.

Before we left for our vacation I didn’t have time to find any new audiobooks from Audible but it occurred to me that given that there are 14 episodes of Firefly that I could conceivably convert the whole thing into an audiobook and listen to that. I’ve done this to a few movies – the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Exorcist, and others. This really shines when the movies have a good audio team.

Before you ask if I’ll give you copies, no, I won’t.

But I will explain how I’ve done it (teach a person to fish and all that jazz).

This isn’t by far the only way to do this – this is the way I’ve done it, using the tools I’m most familiar with. Someone clever could probably write an app to do this very thing (or maybe already has).

1) I took my Firefly DVD box set and used Handbreak to transfer video from the DVDs into my computer as MPEG-4 files. This was actually done some time ago, but doesn’t take very long.

2) Open each episode in QuickTime to extract the audio for each episode and saving out as an AIF file.

3) Then I opened up Final Cut Pro 7, dragged all of the episodes in, and arranged them in order of the episodes into one rather long sequence.

Note: there is a limit of around twelve hours for a audio/video file in Quicktime.  So if you’re converting a longer series, you’ll have to be mindful of this, which is also why audio books form Audible are in less than twelve-ish hour chunks.

Yes, I know FCP is a video editing software. But it works really well for chopping up audio too.

4) Next, I did a bit of trimming. I removed the intro music, then the audio for the credits on all the episodes with the exception of the first episode and let the credit music roll one the last episode.

In reality, this part could have been done in Quicktime 7 pretty easily (Quicktime X, I don’t know), but I figured I’d be faster at it in FCP.

5) Next I added chapter markers for each episode, labelling each marker with the episode’s name, then exported the whole thing as an AAC file.

6) Then, I dropped the file onto iTunes, and then I used Doug’s Make Bookmarkable script to make audiobook save its place when played.

7) Edited metadata in iTunes for the file so the attributes were correct.

8) Dropped the new audiobook into my iPhone and done!
So, what was it like, listening to all the episodes of Firefly as an audio book?

Actually, it’s pretty amazing. Supervising sound editor Cindy Rabideau, production sound mixer / production sound designer David Yaffe, and their team did a fantastic job.

When I finished listening to it, I began to wonder how hard it would be to get the cast together to record a series of audio-episodes – certainly less than another TV series – and possibly easier to schedule the cast.

How to back up your iPhone

With iOS 7 coming out tomorrow (September 18th, 2013), I thought it might be handy to take a minute and make a video on how to back up an iPhone. As readers of this blog (should) know by now, I’m uncomfortable doing anything without a backup (you should be too).

Backing up an iPhone is pretty simple – connect the iPhone to your computer, open iTunes, click the phone, and select back up.

You’ll notice that my iPhone backups are encrypted – if someone got their hands on my MacPro, I don’t need them getting all the info from my iPhone as well. Additionally, selecting an encrypted backup includes nearly all of your passwords, so you won’t have to spend a tonne of time re-entering them all.

If you’re wondering why I don’t just back up to iCloud, it’s easy; my iPhone is 64GB, and iCloud doesn’t remotely cover that.


Vacation Reading 2013

Day 15: HammocktimeThis year’s vacation reading material was quite different from last year, which was largely audiobooks. This year, with one exception (which itself is notable), I read honest-to-goodness dead-tree books.

The Stats:
Over the twenty days I was camping, I read 4,150 pages, with a low of 45 pages, a high of 654 pages, averaging 207 pages per day.

Red Storm Rising (1986) by Tom Clancy
One of my favourite stand-alone war stories. My paperback, which I think I picked up in the late 1980s has finally died, splitting into two or three chunks by the time I sailed through it.

This is, in my opinion, Clancy’s best individual work, and is probably the most human and approachable telling of what a war stemming from the Cold War days would be like, as opposed to the highly technical The Third World War: The Untold Story by Sir John Hackett.

I would absolutely love to see this turned into a mini-series, covering.. oh, twenty or thirty hours.

The Dying God and other stories by S.M. Carrière
This book I picked up at the 2013 Ottawa ComicCon directly from the author who had a booth right beside the Ottawa BrownCoats booth. The book sat patiently waiting for me to go on vacation to read it.

I don’t have the book in front of me now to go through the table of contents but, overall, it was quite enjoyable.The final (and title) story of the book stuck with me, as did River Woman. I’d love to see her revisit these down the road. I’ll certainly pick up another one of her books.  Now I have to convince her to do audiobooks.

Sum of all Fears (1991) & Debt of Honor (1994) by Tom Clancy
Two books in the Jack Ryan arc, which I quite enjoyed re-reading.

Penguin History of Canada (1988 or so) by Kenneth McNaught
I picked this book up to feed my fascination with Canadian history, and was by far the slowest read of the trip. The writing is so… dry as to make history uninteresting. I start/stopped the book quite a few times, putting it down to read *anything* else.

Area 51 (2011) by Annie Jacobsen
I love me a good conspiracy theory or two, and this book is wrapped in a doozy, but most of the meat of the book is actually about aviation history (the development and deployment of the U-2 and A-12, particularly). I don’t think the author is an aviation enthusiast, so there are some errors and inaccuracies, but there are dozens of pages of notes, and when I have some time to revisit this, I’ll follow up on a few that caught my eye.

Flight of the Old Dog (1987) by Dale Brown
All my friends know I love the B-52 bomber. Give me a book about a tricked-out, modernized B-52 and I’m there. Not a particularly plausible scenario, even back when it was written, but fun none the less.

2600 (issues 30.1 & 30.2, Spring and Summer 2013)
This is the only magazine subscription I currently have, and the two issues I “saved up” for the trip have been a tradition for me for oh, … forever now.

True Canadian UFO Stories (2004) by John Robert Colombo
I think the work true should be quotes. Mixed feelings about the book.

The “audiobook”: Firefly, the series.
Yes, I took the DVD boxed set and converted it into an audiobook. I loved listening to the show this way, usually listening to one episode per night. Consuming the show this way certainly reminded me the importance of good audio designers. Yes, I have a blog post started on the how – it’s not too complicated, so stay tuned. I wrote a blog post detailing how to create an audiobook from the DVDs.