Friday, December 31, 2010

The year two thousand eleven

It is almost 2011, which, according to the progressive rock band, Rush, means that we are only 101 years away from assuming control over the planets of the Solar Federation.

It is also the year of the run-on sentence, as evidenced by the previous lines.

At the end of January I christened 2010 "the year of new adventures," and I believe that it lived up to its name.

Here's a quick view of the major happenings from the year gone by:
  • Learned to rock climb
  • Bought a car
  • Took a trip to New York
  • Completed my first Triathlon
  • Quit my job
  • Started the Bomber Betties Longboarding Club
  • Longboarded 40 miles from Spokane to Cd'A
  • Had my first solo art show
  • Wrote a novel
  • Began teaching at ITT
2011 will have its fair share of adventures, to be sure. But I'd like to take a different approach to the coming year than I have in the past. I'd like to actually make some long term plans...and possibly even follow through on those plans...

2010 was a bit like running into traffic after anything that looked shiny.

This is an actual picture of me. I look good in black, don't you think?

2011 will be the year of goals and goal attainment. I will make a list of major things I'd like to accomplish over the next 12 months and work through them like a kind of list-checking-off professional of some sort. Yeah.

For the most part, these goals should be things that will be difficult for me, but I'm going to throw a few easy ones in there too just to keep my spirits up. There will be more to add, but this is my starting list:
  • Run another half marathon
  • Take a cross country road trip
  • Complete an Olympic distance triathlon (my first was a sprint distance)
  • Pay off my car (early)
  • Run the Spokane Marathon in October (the full marathon)
  • Get published
  • Read at least 10 books from the banned books list
  • Dine out once a week or less (unless someone else is paying, haha)
  • Make a will (I've been talking about this for years but have yet to do it)
I realize that setting lofty goals is a common activity for anyone celebrating New Years. But to be perfectly honest, I've never been one to make resolutions. I've never said, "this is the year I lose 20 pounds," or "this is the year I quit smoking," or eating chocolate, or slacking off, or whatever.

And that's not because I think resolutions are a waste of time, because I don't. Any effort you take to step back and look at what you're doing is not a waste. It's just that I don't normally wait for the calendar to roll over to decide that something needs to happen. I'm impatient like that.

This year is different. It just so happens that the traditional time of reflection has arrived at the station at the exact same time as my mental train. Things are in flux, whether that's for good or bad is beside the point. The point is that now is the time to take stock and move forward in the direction of my choosing.

I know where I've been, and hopefully, through setting goals, I'll also have a general idea of where I'm headed.

Looking back and looking forward at the same time is what January is all about. "The Romans named the first month of the year after Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances. He was always depicted with two faces, one on the front of his head and one on the back. Thus he could look backward and forward at the same time. At midnight on December 31, the Romans imagined Janus looking back at the old year and forward to the new."

Less than 24 hours are left til the commencement of my goal attainment efforts, better eat all the chocolate and smoke all the cigarettes that I can right now! :-D

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Enhance That

I was tagging photos after a recent birthday party and got a kick out of how hard Facebook's facial recognition feature tries to find people. It asked me to tag the beyond-distorted wine glass reflection of something that may or may not actually be a face. The best part is that there were two real people in this photo and Facebook only grabbed the one in the wine glass.

Who is that?! Great question, let's enhance.

I had to laugh because it reminded me of the mash-up video of television crime dramas where they "enhance" photos beyond the realm of possibility to get information that would never be there in real life.

Surprise: A low res screenshot from a surveillance video doesn't suddenly become high quality just because you zoomed in really tight. Also surprise: a 2-D image doesn't jump into the 3rd dimension just because Gil Grisom requests that we rotate on the z-axis.

For those who aren't familiar with how image resolution works, the idea that you can just zoom in to get more pixel information is the same as thinking you can make more dogs by squeezing yours really hard. It just doesn't work that way.

As one commenter says:
BS! When a computer or a security camera takes a picture it has by definition only a limited amount of pixels given to you and that is it. Computer enhancement it's very unsafe and vulnerable to commit a mistake because it means that information has been ADDED to the picture thereby altering the real and only information that existed. This would not stand in a court case because artificial information was added by the computer. - ThoughtGazeCarlos

For my students if they are reading this: Adding pixels to an image is called "interpollation." This is done in Photoshop by leaving the "Resample Image" box checked in the Image Size dialog box when you increase the dimensions of your image.

Here's the video. It makes me chuckle every time I watch:

On another note, I've leapt into the Photoshop War going on through Facebook. The only real rule of engagement for this war is that you must use at least one photo taken from your opponents' Facebook page in your composite image. After each person has submitted a challenge, Facebook friends vote for the winner.

I chose to challenge Devon for this round. Here are the images I started with, along with the final composite. I grafted Dev's face onto Jane Fonda, removed the background using the pen tool, used brushes to create the trees, and cut out the ball to float in a few random spots. The whole process took a little under an hour.

Three Starting Images

Composite Image

I'm up for a friendly fight if anyone out there wants to challenge me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'm a driver, I'm a winner. Things are gonna change, I can feel it.

There's something about delivering pizzas that makes me want to rip pens of out people's hands and run away screaming with them. You can never have too many pens.

Somewhere over the past few months, I've become someone who is prepared to ride out an accounting apocalypse /slash/ beauty emergency in my vehicle. I've got flashlights, chargers for electronics, paper, a calculator, five separate containers for change, an industrial-sized ice scraper, hair supplies, six kinds of lip gloss, MREs and a blowtorch (for realsies), and pens, did I mention pens? I have so many.

Does all of this preparedness and guerrilla style run-around, just-take-your-pizza-and-let-me-keep-the-GD-change stuff make me good at math? Why, no. But thanks for asking.

If you're starting to think that maybe I've lost my mind just a wee bit, let me assure you that I'm not even half as nutters as some of the people I get to visit.

Here's a few examples:

A couple weeks ago I pulled up to a place that had no house number, but it was in the logical spot for the address I needed, so I took a guess on it being right. This house was way out in the way outs ('way over yonder' for those in the south) with no other houses around. As I drove up the driveway my eyes caught on something hanging from a maple tree in the front yard: A severed mannequin head, screaming and dripping bright red blood from the mouth and neck, with a sign that said 'No Trespassing.'

Oh...ha? I laughed to myself, thinking...maybe Halloween?

Then I saw the other signs. Everywhere. 'Keep out or I'll shoot.' 'You are now in firing range.' 'Stay the fuck off my property.'

I sat in the driveway for a minute or two, thinking about my life and how much I like it. Wondering if I should abandon the car that's probably now on surveillance tape, run off into the woods with this pizza, pick the meat off and eat it myself to survive.

Finally, I got out of the car and started to walk up to the door, pizza in hand. The door burst open and a man stepped out onto the porch, stopping and staring me down like it was noon at the OK Corrall. "Can I help you?" he asked, eying me with suspicion.

"Um..." I took a step back, "did you order a pizza?"

And he comes hopping down the stairs, and goes, "Oh yeah! Hey, here's twenty bucks, you can keep the change, have a great day!"

Just like that.

Seriously, dude? What's not giving me away here? Is it the ridonkulous green hat? Is it the bag I'm holding that says 'pizza'?! Is it the fact that a tiny blond girl drove right up to your palace of insanity with no regard to the signs??? omg, the signs.

Good times.

I'd like you all to pool your money and buy me this for Christmas so I can be prepared.

Here's another one about delivering, this one might be amusing or might be creepy, I haven't decided:

On the first day of our epic snowstorm, I took a delivery to a house over on the west side of town. When the guy opened the door, standing right behind him in front of the fireplace was a little girl, not wearing a shirt, stuffing her face from a giant bag of pretzels. I kind of did a double-take and she waved at me, so I waved back, and she shouts out, "My name is Teagan and I like to dance!"

"Wow, that's great," I said, freezing to death while her dad or whatever wandered off and took 15 minutes to find change (real safe, right?). "What kind of dancing do you do?"

She looked at me like I was the one not wearing a shirt in a snowstorm and she said, "No, it's not time for dancing now."

Then she started waving at me again.

Twilight Zone.

My last story for today involves being indoors (which you might consider 'safe' if you never worked at the Tacoma Taco Bell like I did):

Dude walks into the store and comes up to the counter to order a pizza. He's a big guy, maybe 6' 4," 250 lbs, but he looks friendly enough. I start taking his order and suddenly he reaches over the counter and grabs my wrist.

"What are these?!" he demands, pointing at the black jelly bracelets I've been wearing all summer without drawing attention from anyone else.

"Er...they're bracelets...?" I respond with that almost sarcastic, upward inflected question statement voice that I perfected as a teenager.

He kinda tilts his head and gives me the forward-leaning vulture face, still holding my wrist, and he says, "How old are you?"

I'm a little weirded out (no...wait...a lot), so I ask him to repeat; and yes, that is what he asked me.

And I say, "26..." you do

And he just let's go of my wrist and is like, "Oh, I thought you were 16 or 17."

Then he goes and sits down in the lobby. Like he's not the slightest bit psycho. Just a guy who wants a pizza.

The good news about this job is that I get lots of time to drive (which I love), and lots of time to listen to music (which I love love).

Here are my current top 5 favorite songs to listen to while driving (in no particular order):

Bombs Over Baghdad - Outkast
The Black Swan - Story of the Year
Shut Me Up - Mindless Self Indulgence
Far - Coheed and Cambria
LSD = Truth - Lords of Acid

Has working with public always been this weird? I have vague memories of my high school experiences working retail and fast food, but I don't remember it being 10 shades of bizarre every single day.

Does anyone else have some good stories about interacting with the world at large? Please share them with me. I'd like us all to have a customer service pity party.