Pat's Log
Sat, 28 Mar 2009

Boat Day!
20090328 On the Friday leading up to my birthday weekend, I decided to take the day off and catch up on hobbies. I got loads done on my 1:12 scale Trojan cruiser, to the point that the end is in sight.

After twelve hours at the shop, cutting and epoxying the individual teak planks, then sanding old paint off the superstructure, I came home, only to put myself through another arduous task: creating railing joints. After a fair bit of work, I got one of them done. Not to be outdone by the urge to sleep, I decided to do the other thirteen as well. The railing is 1/16" rod, so the joints are really quite small.

And that's how the eve of my birthday went.

[] | posted @ 05:58 | link
Tue, 24 Mar 2009

RIP Battlestar Galactica
20090323 A bittersweet ending to the best TV series ever created. This past weekend marked the series finale of Battlestar Galactica.

BSG is known for taking a TV series to new limits; to push the threshold beyond what the audience has come to expect from episodic storytelling. It's the kind of writing Ron Moore was great at on Deep Space Nine, and it was expected of him and shared by a broader audience on this show.

The finale was not what I anticipated. It was probably not what anyone expected. But it did tie most of the loose ends. I don't think it could have been done better, as a matter of fact. Nonetheless, I would have liked to have seen Apollo back in a Viper cockpit. I would like to know just what happened to Starbuck at the end, who she actually was. I was surprised that they decided to destroy the fleet rather than use it to build new homes on Earth. The effect of the Galactica's last jump was very nice. The tie-in with modern-day New York was clever, but the ending for our favourite characters felt a little out of place. Maybe this is, again, because the show works differently than others; the finale certainly felt more final than on any other series.

All in all, the show had a great run. It took guts to end it sooner rather than later. I'm saddened to have the show done, to know that the sets have been destroyed, all of the props auctioned off, etcetera. This is another end of a little era for me. Hats off to all of the people who made it possible.

[] | posted @ 00:01 | link
Sun, 22 Mar 2009

Roland MT-32
20090322 The search is over! I finally found a Roland MT-32 in decent condition for a decent price.

The MT-32 is a MIDI module from the late eighties, predating General MIDI. Why would anyone want one? That's a good question. In basically every way, modern General MIDI is superior. My new Roland piano plays MIDI with almost surreal realism. However, being a nostalgic guy, I play a lot of old games I grew up with, like the Sierra and Lucasarts classics. They predate GM. They also use a feature of MIDI calles SysEx, with MT-32-specific commands to program instrument information. In other words, those games only sound right on an MT-32.

By "sound right" I mean that they sound fantastic. I hooked up the MT-32 to my laptop via a Midisport USB MIDI dongle and pointed DosBox at MIDI port 20:0. Just like that Space Quest III came to life. It never sounded at all decent on a GM card, so it was fantastic to hear. Next, after fooling around with more of the Space Quest series, I tried a couple of titles from the Kings Quest series, and they sounded fantastic as well. From the Lucasarts side, the Monkey Island games sounded better than ever. I will try some of the Indiana Jones titles later. Of course, games such as Tyrian which are designed for General MIDI sound much better through the piano.

It's also really cool to be exposed to classic Sierra shenanigans I've never seen before. The attached photo shows the MT-32 while Space Quest III is starting. Someone at Sierra decided that the MT-32 display should read "INSERT BUCKAZOID" while the game is starting. Cute.

The closest I've ever heard to these old games sounding right is on my trusty old AudioTrix Pro card. It has a Yamaha chip that fits in quite well with the older Roland sound. However, it's locked into an ancient ISA bus (in my 486), and is therefore not quite "future-proof". I think it's great that I can painlessly use this MT-32 from twenty years ago with modern hardware. This one's a keeper.

[] | posted @ 17:11 | link
Tue, 03 Mar 2009

Beer Bottled
20090302 Yesterday was a perfect day of outside activity. It was spent at Mont Tremblant. I couldn't have asked for a nicer day for my one and only ski outing of the season.

The result was pain today. As such, I opted to avoid going to the gym and set about bottling my first batch of beer ever. It took a good long time, and involved about the same effort as my normal workout with entail. The results are good: 61 bottles of a tasty-looking red ale.

At the moment it doesn't actually taste great. The beer is very flat. Having added the dextrose tonight, it will be some time before the yeast does its magic and turns it into carbon dioxide. It will not be long.

For such a slow process, this really is quite exciting.

[] | posted @ 06:32 | link

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