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The T3sk3y Defenestrator

Minneathlon 2.0 post-mortem

Willy Wonka: Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple.
Mrs. Teevee: That’s 105 percent.

It’s always a little sad when a project goes live. On one hand, you’re thrilled to have it see the light of day – but on the other hand, it’s all over. The latest iteration of the Minneathlon was like that for me. I sort of felt like Willy Wonka on Friday, showing all the holders of the “golden tickets” the Chocolate Factory that we call the Minneathlon.

(a little background for those not in the know – the Minneathlon is an Urban Race – similar to “The Amazing Race” that my company (Logic Product Development) does a couple of times per year. As a former finalist, I got the opportunity to coordinate this race)

Willy Wonka: Little surprises around every corner, but nothing dangerous.

It was great fun planning the route. Along with the committee, I had to dream up a route and populate it with interesting challenges, puzzles, dead ends, trap doors, and other ‘points of interest’. In the end, I thought we had a doozie of a route that included everything from Diltoids to Altoids.

Willy Wonka: This little piece of gum is a three course dinner.
Mr. Salt: Bull.
Willy Wonka: No, roast beef. But I haven’t got it quite right yet.

All in all, the race went great. The 8.75-mile course ended up deciding the winners on brain rather than brawn. The real differentiator was the challenge that we had in Loring Park, where you had to spell letters in the ground by connecting unique words on the poem benches. Half the teams got it – the others didn’t.

Charlie Bucket: Mr. Wonka, they won’t really be burned in the furnace, will they?
Willy Wonka: Well, I think that furnace is only lit every other day, so they have a good sporting chance, haven’t they?

In the end, a big congratulations goes out to Team Lefty and Skinny for winning the big prize. They finished the course in 3:15, or about :15 faster than our test runs.

Oompa Loompas: / Oompa loompa doompadee doo / I’ve got another puzzle for you / Oompa loompa doompadah dee / If you are wise you’ll listen to me

As for Minneathlon 3.0? I want to run again.. 🙂

Check out the official website (as featured on Wired.com) at: Minneathlon.com

Canon 40D

Boy, does this blow the doors off of my 350D..

Canon 40D, Canon f/1.8 50mm

The Minnesota Pinball Hall of Fame

Last Sunday I had the privilege of being part of the Grand Opening for the Minnesota Pinball Hall of Fame in Cokato. In actuality, it’s my friend Jason’s collection of over 50 of the best pinball machines from the past 30 or so years.

Matt McKee can’t decide what to play next

Believe it or not, at one point most of this collection was in his house – filling just about every free inch of basement, garage, entryway, etc. Over the past year, he built a 40×80 heated outbuilding on his property to house his collection.

To celebrate the grand opening, he invited the Pinball Madness gang and several other friends for a Sunday afternoon party that started with Go-Karting and ended with hours of great pinball and lots of food.


Jason and Heidi Sheard playing on Stern Row

How do you pick favorites? It’s impossible.. but if Jason ever wants to sell his Nine Ball – I’m first in line!

See the rest of my pictures here: Link

Photo Tip of the Day

I’ve been doing a lot of photo editing lately.. and I wanted to share a few tips with all of you.

The flash is your best friend and your worst enemy. It can make a bad picture look better, and it can ruin a perfectly decent one.

For example – when in doubt, turn it on outdoors. If your subject is in any kind of shadow – including their own (i.e. when the sun is behind them) – turn on the flash. It lights them up and makes it look a lot more natural.

Indoors – it’s a bit of a given. If you are using a point-n-shoot, there isn’t much you can do about it – you’re going to get the “deer in the headlights’ overflashed look. If you’ve got a flash with any kind of bounce – like on an external flash – aim that baby at the ceiling and let the light naturally reflect down. We are, as humans, very accustomed to the light being from above rather than straight on.

Here’s a quick example to show you that I think will convince you all. It’s the same picture taken with flash and without flash – I think you’ll see the difference.

Comparison of Taking a Picture With Flash and Without Flash

Domo Arigato, Mr. Animoto..

Okay, I’ll spill the beans on how I did the “Funky Fresh Look at Eastern Europe” remix.

I ran across a website called Animoto over the weekend – I think I saw it on Digg.com or something. Animoto works like this:

Upload your pictures

Upload your song (or select one of theirs)

It detects the beat of your music and it spits out a music video that is music synced.

You can get a 15-second short for free – or it’s $3 (with unlimited remixes) for a longer format video like the Eastern Europe video that I did. It’ll even suck pictures directly from all the popular photo hosting sites (like Smugmug!) saving all the upload time.

The video couldn’t have been easier to make. All in all, I had maybe 10 minutes of work preparing the Eastern Europe video – and that was mostly picking the songs. So far, they only have the small format embedded videos – but they claim that larger format downloadable videos are coming. I can’t wait!

A funky fresh look at Eastern Europe

Here’s a video remix of our trip to Eastern Europe last year. I’ll ‘splain the technology in an upcoming post..

The Wicked Mr. Pickett

Check this guy out.. it’s a clip of Lenny Pickett sitting in with Tower of Power on sax. For those not “in the know” – he was their sax player for all of the 70’s and most of the 80’s until he left for the SNL band.

He’s always been my favorite sax player, but he reminds the rest of us how we are mere mortals as he commands several scales ABOVE the normal range of the saxophone (that’s the altissimo range we’re talking about here – it’s pretty much controlled squeaks).

Check him out:

Yet another one of my ideas – stolen.

Apparently, somebody has been granted a patent for a small phone that docks inside a PDA. It’s a great idea – except that it would have been really useful about five years ago. Now that Smartphones are out, this is sort of past it’s prime. Still, it would be really nice to have a very small phone when all I want is a phone – and the entire enchilada when I’m in power user mode.

Here’s the catch. The reason I think it’s a great idea is that I’m going to throw modesty to the wind and take full credit for this one. I thought of this in about 2000 and failed to act on it back then.

This isn’t the first. Let’s recap the list of “million dollar ideas” that later turned out to be real products:

  1. Caffeinated water – Thought of this in ’91 – by ’93, Water Joe was on the shelves
  2. Movie theaters that have double wide ‘cuddle seats’ (also useful for people that enjoy a bit too many jumbo popcorns with extra butter). Check – most stadium style theaters have some of these.
  3. Docking cell phone / PDAs. Check!

Ah, I just need to act on some of my ideas. Here is the link to the full story: Link

Daddy wants.

Wow, I want one of these. $600 for a point-n-shoot is a little much, but wow.

Ricoh Caplio GX100

The specs are over at Gizmodo: Link

Miscellaneous Raves – March ’07 Edition

After about a month of nearly non-stop travel with stops in Orlando, Tampa, Dallas, Seattle, and Whistler – I’m finally home for a little bit of time. In the midst of all that travel, I’ve had the chance to enjoy a few things along the way. Here is a collection (in no particular order) of some of my recent favorite things..

1) Survivor – Fiji

Yes, I’ve got lowbrow tastes in entertainment. I’m amazed how after fourteen seasons they have avoided ‘jumping the shark’. It’s an interesting study in human sociology – and this season is investigating the haves vs. the have-nots. BTW: I’m about two episodes behind – so DON’T RUIN IT FOR ME!

2) Evanescence

Sort of “Poe crossed with Nine Inch Nails”, but not. Anyway – Amy Lee can sing her brains out. I picked up “Anywhere but Here” – their live concert recently – kudos to them for including a DVD of the show for free!

3) Pinball Webcasts & Podcasts

There are currently two out there – TOPCast and Talk Pinball. TOPCast – led by Shaggy (aka Clay Harrell) is the more tech-heavy, Talk Pinball – led by our own local Lloyd Olsen – is less frequent but still good. Both are chock full of technical tips and interviews with industry insiders. Just like how you have to drink beer while homebrewing – you have to listen to these while restoring pinball machines.

4) PPC Geeks custom HTC Apache ROMs

I wrote about the necessity to hack this device in a prior post (Link). Now, enterprising hackers at PPC Geeks have taken it a step further and have made roll-your-own firmware images for this smartphone that include newer software as well as lots of hacks and speedups. More on this soon…

5) Kokanee Beer

Kokanee

It’s “The Beer Up Here” for British Columbia – and it’s manditory fare for skiing at Whistler. Yum.

5) Company of Heroes

When the business manager of EA Sports tells you over dinner that this is the game that he plays all the time – you listen to the guy. It’s a WWII themed real-time strategy (RTS) game that uses the 3D accelerator to allow you to zoom and move around the action at will. The graphics are spectacular, the game is deep, and the world is realistic – and destrucable. Your squads will seek cover in newly made artillery craters or behind buildings you just shelled.

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