Good times

I guess I should have prefaced that last post with “For all you eBayers out there”. It was largely about the scams that occur on that system. For those of you not so familiar with eBay (and for the conclusion, not in the PDF file), have a peek at this link.
Well, for what it’s worth, the weekend was good to me.
Friday night, ended up going for sushi at this tiny little hole-in-the-wall called “Wasabi”, down south near the Sarasota/Venice border. Eric J and Sonia drove me in their tiny “tin can” 2004 Ford Focus — a rental car while they find something to replace the ’95 Nissan Pathfinder Sonia totaled a few weeks back. We met Eric G and Angela, as well as a bunch of Eric J’s friends from the local Linux user group. It got pretty nerdy pretty quick. Soon the group was up to 17 people. It was weird being out-geeked. Most of the time the discussion was very detailed. Lots of talk about the different Linux variants and what mental defectives their different champions are. You must really love pain if you like Debian. Etc. Not being a Linux user, I couldn’t contribute much. Most of the time I talked with my little group. I will say that when I was introduced as a Mac OS X user to Austin — one of the Linux kru — there was a positive reaction, which was a pleasant change of pace. The rolls were okay, not anything to write home about though. In particular the Spicy Tuna was pretty tasteless. But it looked nice. And the atmosphere was very nice, I would have never guessed by looking at its outside. But as far as the actual food goes, I think I’ll stick with Kyoshi’s on Main Street. Better miso there too.
Saturday I helped Eric G help his new g/f Angela move out of her old place. She collects antique furniture, boy did she have a lot. They bought me lunch and they’re going to buy me dinner and move me entirely if I ever need to (“You won’t have to lift a finger!”); I think that’s fair. 🙂 Angela moved into a tiny little shack on Casey Key. After we unloaded we took a short stroll (try 20 meters) down to the beach, which is entirely private. The water was the most beautiful combination of blue and green. I now understand why people retire here. Wow.
Saturday night I actually ended up making dinner around midnight and then putting on The Last Samurai, which Jeff loaned me. Thanks Jeff — I thoroughly enjoyed it. I now have to go out and purchase it.
Today I popped by Cam’s to carpool for frisbee — Melissa is back after spending six weeks in Canada! That’s great news, maybe Cam will be more organized now 😉
[Warning — this paragraph discusses mild sports injuries, if this bothers you, skip down to the next clump of words] Speaking of frisbee, my left thumbnail had a wickedfast throw bounce off it today, and instead of just bruising, it actually started bleeding, which was kind of scary. At first I thought my nail had broken right off because there’s a white line where it bent back, but it turns out it was cut just under the tip. I iced it and thankfully it stopped bleeding after about 15 minutes or so. That was three hours ago; now it’s just comfortably numb. A little hot too.
Cam and Melissa are having a movie night tomorrow (that didn’t take long), so we’ll be watching School of Rock then. I hope Amy shows up, I miss hanging with her. Which reminds me — don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here yet, but just in case: Erik and Amy are four months pregnant! Crazy! Cool! So that’s why she’s been conspicuously absent from practice this year. I think she’ll make an excellent mom. 🙂
How was your weekend?

Cruel Intentions, Pics from All Faiths

I am super-happy about dinner tonight: I had whole-wheat pita and black-olive hummus, and three pieces of corn on the cob. And for dessert, fresh strawberries and tobelrone. Mmmmm!
Watched Cruel Intentions (1999) tonight. It was okay, a little empty. Started off as a soulless piece about two rich high-school kids who manipulate people for fun. I was kind of curious to see just how far it would go, but sadly our protagonist got a conscience halfway through and most of the rest of the movie was fairly predictable (although I’ll fully admit I did not expect the ending). The other movie I rented was School of Rock (2003), which I haven’t seen yet (I hear good things, though, is it true?)
In other news, remember how I was telling you about the All Faiths hat tournament and watermarking software a few days back? Well tonight I got around to getting the pics up and captioned, have a look! There are a few video clips in there too if you dig a bit. 🙂
Finally, tonight I mailed off my and Cam‘s registration/fees for the Memorial Day Hat tournament, coming up in Savannah, Georgia at the end of this month. Only one problem: as I was letting go of the envelope in the mail drop slot, I realized I had folded the lid of the envelope shut, but hadn’t sealed it. Guh… now what? I left a note by the drop box for the postal carrier, I’m hoping he/she’ll will see it and take pity on me.

Scotty’s 28th Birthday Party

So last night, instead of heading out to practice like all we Ultimate players in Sarasota regularly do, we decided to celebrate Scotty’s 28th birthday. So 12 of us took over a little pizza joint on US 41 called “Rico’s Pizzeria”. When we arrived (just after 9:25pm), a John Kerry meeting was just clearing out. Though the sign said they closed at 10, one of the wait staff assured us we had plenty of time, so we all sat down to a few beer (Bud Light or Mic Ultra, ack) and a medium pizza.
[picture: Scotty's 28th Birthday Party]
Cam, Bud Light (aka fizzy juice), Alec
[picture: Scotty's 28th Birthday Party]
Wayne, Eric J on the phone to Eric G
[picture: Scotty's 28th Birthday Party]
Kay, Capt. Tom, Cam
[picture: Scotty's 28th Birthday Party]
Thomas, Scotty (Birthday boy)
[picture: Scotty's 28th Birthday Party]
Scotty, Mitra
After we finished up at Rico’s, we went a couple blocks south on US41 to the Sarasota landmark, the “Bahi Hut” Cocktail Lounge. This place is from a different era, let me tell you. Dimly lit, smokey, and the drinks are strong as all hell.
[picture: Scotty's 28th Birthday Party]
It’s a classic
[picture: Scotty's 28th Birthday Party]
Three of the hut’s signature “Mai Tais”.
[picture: Scotty's 28th Birthday Party]
[picture: Scotty's 28th Birthday Party]
[picture: Scotty's 28th Birthday Party]
Cam, Thomas, Alec.
[picture: Scotty's 28th Birthday Party]
Mitra, me.
[picture: Scotty's 28th Birthday Party]
Cam shows us how it’s done.
[picture: Scotty's 28th Birthday Party]
The damage.

Update and Watermark Software Shootout

Hey folks,
Well it feels like it’s been just about forever since I’ve posted much. That’s kind of because, well it has. So, quickly, things I’ve been meaning to let you all know about:

  • Took the Altima into the shop last week to sort out the bumper situation.
  • I got a rental car, paid for by insurance. Due to a lack of availability at Enterprise’s rental agency, I ended up driving around a 2004 Cadillac Deville! It’s a boat on land, let me tell you. But the quietest boat you’ll ever set foot in. How I wish my Altima were so quiet. The lowered road noise also helped me hear the stereo more clearly (which was also much better than the Altima’s).
  • Watched the surreal Spirited Away on Wed; near the end a little slow but highly creative and well worth the watch… like a Japanese “Alice in Wonderland” but a unique and interesting story all unto itself.
  • Watched the comedy Old School Thu, ended up enjoying it much more than I thought I was going to. Don’t be thrown by the blowup doll on the cover, which ends up playing a very minor role. Will Ferrell carries the movie without question. “We’re streaking!”
  • Got the Altima back Friday — all shiny and new again!

  • Saturday morning, Cam, Darren, Alec and I all piled into the Altima and headed an hour north for a big day of disc at the 12th Annual All-Faiths Hat Tournament. Cam’s done a great writeup of the day; I’ll be posting a few more pics from it soon.

Which brings me to today’s little bit. With the rise of, I’m probably going to start contributing photos. However, if I’m not hosting the images myself, how can I maintain at least some notion of copyright? How about stamping them somehow? Yeah, that sounds good.
After staring at VersionTracker‘s search field for a few minutes this morning trying to figure out what to look for, I finally punched in “watermark” and voila. About a half-dozen hits. I looked at the two top-rated programs, PictureTheBatch and EasyBatchPhoto.
Both programs offer the ability to resize, rotate, and add watermarks to photos, and both process large batches of files with relative ease. Although PictureTheBatch has a nicer user interface (EasyBatchPhoto is all brushed metal, yecch!) and allows one to enter plain text as a watermark (handy if you need many different watermarks), EasyBatchPhoto facilitates my workflow better, prompting me for the name of a new folder to hold the watermarked images soon as I drop a group of files onto it. By default EasyBatchPhoto creates said folder on my Desktop (modifiable and stored in an easily selectable “recent places” pulldown menu). In contrast, although it allows you to choose a different destination folder, PictureTheBatch assumes you’ll be placing the watermarked pictures in the same folder as the originals:

But don’t forget to check one of the “Options for New Files”, or you’ll see this:

How annoying! Why allow this to occur in the first place?
In terms of output file formats, PictureTheBatch wins the sheer numbers game:

…but EasyBatchPhoto has all the important ones:

In addition, unlike PictureTheBatch, EasyBatchPhoto is not a brand new product, so it’s more likely to be mature (it’s had 23 releases since the first version of it came out in June last year, versus two releases for PictureTheBatch since April 29th 2004). When comparing the reviews of both products (PictureTheBatch, EasyBatchPhoto), EasyBatchPhoto has several user comments to the effect that the developer is responsive. By contrast, the only user comment about PictureTheBatch looks like it was written by the developer. To be fair, PictureTheBatch has only been out a couple weeks, so we’ll see how things go shortly.
Whereas EasyBatchPhoto is a fully functional download, PictureTheBatch stamps an advertisement watermark for itself on your pictures until you register. At $18, EasyBatchPhoto is slightly cheaper than PictureTheBatch, which weighs in at $20 even.
The winner, for better workflow integration, product maturity, and demonstrated developer responsiveness: EasyBatchPhoto. I’m going to be using it to process the photos from Saturday’s frisbee tournament, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Yep I’m alive

I know it’s been kinda crazy around here; I don’t update for four days, then the site goes down for a day. Trust me, I’m here. Lots more to say too. Talk to you soon.

New Orleans Jazz Festival 2004

Whew… New Orleans was a real whirlwind tour. I can’t believe we were only there for three days: Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
Here are those photos I promised! Click the link and follow along with the entry (will open in new window):

After arriving Thursday and checking into our hotel (The Hilton downtown, earned by points on EricG’s credit card), EricG and Angela ran off for lunch reservations and Sonia, EricJ and I took a walking tour around the French Quarter. This is one seriously old place. The streets are cobblestone, the buildings are colourful, tall, have high ceilings, balconies on every floor, are squished together — sometimes only three feet apart and connected by false walls.
And cafes everywhere! Nifty. We went for breakfast. A common dessert in the cafes was the “beignet” — something like a fritter, with a half-pound of icing sugar on top. Mmmm good. After poking around for some postcards (we saw a very cool antique shop) we walked back to the hotel along the Mississippi River waterfront, met up with EricG and Angela. We discussed dinner — EricG and Ang had just eaten and were still stuffed, so the rest of us took an adventure on a streetcar while they dozed. For $1.25 we traveled by rail deep into the Garden District and arrived at Audubon Park beside Tulane University. It’s a beautiful place; 100-year old oaks, green grass and jogging trails abound (with a special lane for bikers and rollerbladers). There’s a pond in the middle, too. We only had a couple hours, so we hopped back on the train and came back. On the way back, we went by Delmonico Restaurant & Bar, owned by noted master chef Emeril Lagasse.
After getting back to the hotel, we all headed out for dinner. Rock ‘n Sake Sushi — or “Rock’em Sock’em Sushi”, as EricJ and I were calling it — was an old haunt of EricG’s from a couple years back when he used to live in New Orleans. This place was a load of fun. Fun music, funky design (everything was painted a bold colour), a hip atmosphere (they had a Kill Bill roll) and excellent sushi… not a combination you see too often*.
After that stuffing session it was off to see if we could find an air mattress for me to sleep on. An air mattress? Yeah — on this trip I was in the company of two couples, so guess who gets the floor? After visiting a bunch of “mini marts” (all of which sold luggage for some reason) we found one and met up with EricG and Ang, who were at a piano bar off Bourbon Street named Pat O’Brien’s. There were loads of people there… standing room only, so EricJ and I hung across the hall where it was a little quieter. Note to self: a double margarita on the rocks is $2.75 — no wonder everyone on Bourbon Street is drunk. Wonder if alcohol is subsidized by the city.. hehe
It burst out raining shortly after we left Pat O’Brien’s; we took shelter in a nearby bar playing live music. In fact, it was a live act covering Def Leppard’s “Pour some sugar on me”. Man did that singer have energy. (Though not as much as Ang!!) I know it’s sacrilege in some circles, but I’d wager that it was actually better than the original. I know.
Anyhow that place got packed mighty quick; EricJ and I stepped outside to avoid the mad crush inside, while Ang used her persuasive powers to lure EricG into staying longer. Around 2am EricJ and I headed back to our hotel and didn’t awake until 4am when EricG and Ang came home. The air mattress turned out to be okay, though repositioning yourself sucks. Sonia’s working out the details still, but the cost of the room won’t be split evenly: I’ll be paying less since I wasn’t in a bed.
Friday morning we lazily woke around 9:30am; it was pouring hard outside. Jazzfest was cancelled that day, the first time a day had been cancelled in the 35-year history of the festival. Crazy. So we made reservations and took the car down to Commander’s Palace restaurant, a high-end southern eatery. Turns out this was the same place EricG and Ang went yesterday. They didn’t mind going again though! The food was great — we all ordered our dessert at the same time as our entrees as the menu actually said “Please let your server know ahead of time if you intend to order the dessert. Desserts take between 20-25 minutes to prepare.” So of course I ordered dessert with my meal. I had a seafood gumbo as an entree, with 3 half-cups of different soups (soup 1-1-1) for an appetizer and bread pudding soufflé as dessert. It was excellent, and the service was really something else. Plates cleared immediately, waters refilled as soon as they emptied. Like a swarm of helpful people.
Afterwards we took dinner at a restaurant in the Warehouse/Arts district, “Lucy’s”. Lucy’s is a “retired surfer’s bar”, the only one in the Southern US. They had an item on the menu — a jerk chicken appetizer — it was good, but nothing close to the jerk chicken we get down here in Sarasota. Then it was off to the Ween/Medeski, Martin and Wood concert at the State Palace Theatre.
What a big, old, creaky place it is. It was a great show, apart from what seemed like a constant stream of people in front of me getting up and sitting down. But when Medeski, Martin and Wood came out that settled things down a bit. They’re more like modern jazz based, whereas Ween is all about 3 power-distorted guitars.
Saturday morning marked the first day where we actually made it to Jazzfest. Admission? $25. We headed straight for the food, EricG helping us locate the Crawfish Monica — spicy mac ‘n cheese with crawfish. I’m not a big seafood fan, but boy did I like this! Shortly thereafter we established a base camp on the main field and we split up. EricJ, Sonia and I went over to the heritage center and watched flamenco dancers dance while getting oysters shucked on the half shell. I had six! Mmmm, oystery.
Then it was off to watch Shaggy perform at one of the nearby stages. He’s quite the lady’s man. Shaggy to crowd: “All y’all raise your hand if you a strong independent woman, don’t need any man (except me!)” The whole show was a lot of fun.. he and his sidekick Rik Rok (the one who sang in “It wasn’t me”) battled it out about which side of the audience was where the party was at.. lots of crowd participation. After Shaggy show was over, I made my way back to base camp where there were ten times as many people as when I left it. Santana was on, performing “Smooth”. He got political during his performance, saying that he’d (and I’m paraphrasing here) like peace and harmony in the world, and the ability to work together with other nations to build a better place for our kids. This was met with applause — and then he said (and this isn’t a paraphrase) — “This is the opposite of Bush.”, and pleaded the audience not vote him back into power in this fall. This is always a gutsy move for a performer of any sort, knowing you could be alienating your audience, but I think it’s admirable too. Doing anything less would be being dishonest to your fans. Though all of a sudden it felt like a political rally — which turned me off a bit. But the music was good, and that feeling disappeared shortly.
Sonia drove us to “The House” — an old-style mansion a photographer friend of EricJ and Sonia’s was renting out as a base camp during the festival — had some wine and chatted a bit. And finally it was back to the Renaissance Arts Hotel — an art gallery and a hotel in one — where we got cleaned up, went for dinner at the hotel restaurant, and took a swim in the hotel pool (which was just spectacular — the hot tub was hot and the view of downtown splendid). Sadly, I was out of space on my backup memory card, so aren’t any shots of it.
Sunday morning we got up early (EricG and Ang… the party animals… never actually went to sleep) and transferred the rental car over to Ang and EricG, who were staying until 9pm. Our flight was at 9am, so we busted it out of there early and we were back in Sarasota by 2pm.
Would I do it again next year? Hells yes! 🙂
* Sushi Zushi managed this combination in San Antonio, but it was because an employee there was playing his/her own CD-R.