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.


I’ve never personally known someone who had been murdered, until the end of July.

I know a heck of lot of people – it comes with the nature of my job, and all the various communities that I’m a member of or connected to.

So, this was bound to happen eventually, I guess.

We’d heard about Melissa Richmond’s disappearance, the flyering, the searches, the locating of her car, and we were planning going to go help with the search on that Sunday, when we learned that (if memory serves), police asked the searchers to take the day off.

To me, once the car was located, they should have organized a large search of the entire area that it had been located in, which they were keeping under wraps.

I can understand that at this point, it wasn’t a murder investigation, but the police probably were thinking it would be, and that police probably wouldn’t want untrained civilians stumbling around the (potential) crime scene.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know Melissa well – we’re both pretty sure we’d never met her husband, but I’d talked to her numerous times at dance events over the years. She was exactly as described – nice, funny and friendly. She was close friends with many of our close friends, and the whole thing shook me harder than I’d have expected.

I know a few people who have been victims of violence – heck one night back in the early 90s I was attacked by a drunk guy (that was over with in about a minute with his face pressed into the pavement, my knee in his back, and his arm twisted up behind him – and then the three hour adrenaline rush).

At least one person I know has been the victim of spousal abuse/violence. Even today when we discuss it, it makes no sense to either of us.

But never murder.

The week leading up to our departure to Algonquin park had my mind seriously preoccupied with this. It felt like every tangent my brain (trust me, that’s a lot) took led me to murder and the possibility of a husband killing his wife.

I sought comfort in numbers, computing the approximate size of of the various sets of people I know, the murder rate over the years, fairly sure that it was a statistical certainty by now, but found no consolation.

It’s a good thing that murder actually is a statistical anomaly, but still.

On the day we left Ottawa, our first stop was Melissa’s wake in Pembroke, which is somewhat on the way to Algonquin Park.

When we arrived, the media was camped out, waiting for that perfect moment to show on TV.

We went in, paid our respects, and prepared to leave. As we stepped outdoors, we ran into one of our friends who had just arrived from Ottawa.

Tracey and I caught on camera at Melissa's wake in Pembroke.

Tracey and I caught on camera at Melissa’s wake in Pembroke.

The three of us hugged, discussed the breaking news (that her husband had been arrested), and could feel the cameras had zoomed in for their moment. Tracey even said “There, we’ve made the news.” Sure enough, we did.

As Tracey and I walked to the car – which was no doubt looked quite out of place, with the canoe, trailer and stuffed with camping gear (and Sprocket), a reporter from 1310 (an AM radio station in Ottawa) crossed the street and approached Tracey looking for a juicy, sorrowful soundbite, which she didn’t get.

As we drove away, I ranted quite extensively about my opinions of the media’s intrusion on the wake, and while I suppose her death was a news-worthy event due to it’s horrible nature, I think it was appropriate.

It’s been a bit over a month since the events detailed above, and it still bothers me.  A few times a day, I still find myself considering what happened and trying to make sense of it.

I know my brain is wired differently than most people, and I’m fine with that, but it doesn’t help me understand how one spouse could harm or kill the other.

Speaking hypothetically, if Howard Richmond did do this (remember, he’s only been charged, not convicted, and in Canada, you’re still innocent until proven guilty), it makes absolutely no sense at all to me.

To me, your spouse is the person you love the most in the world – so why would anyone want to harm them, much less kill them? Yes, I’m leaving out the factor of children – I don’t have any, so I can’t speak to that.

Rationalizing suicide is easy. It’s your life, if you have thought it through and want to end it, that’s your choice – I can respect that. I can envision plenty of scenarios where one wouldn’t want to live beyond. We’ll see more thorough discussions about euthanasia as the population ages and decide it’s an option they want.

I can’t figure out how murdering the person you love the most in the world could in any conceivable way make your life better.

It just doesn’t compute.