Portal Sign 2

A few years ago when I made my first Portal sign, I made a lot of mental notes about improving the project. I never really planned to do it again, but I knew what I would do differently if I did.

Well, a couple weeks ago I found a fluorescent light fixture at a thrift store for $5 and I knew it was time to try again.

BacklightThe light was about 13 inches across and 26 inches tall. I figured I would make the sign to match those dimensions.

The light came with an ugly rounded plastic diffuser, which I discarded, and I had to supply my own power cable, but for $5, you can’t beat this type of deal.

I “had to” play some Portal… for “research” and actually to get some screenshots. Unlike my last sign, I wanted to base this one completely off an actual in game sign. I decided to go with Chamber 14. Continue reading

Social Networks and Email

Social Network, (noun). A service designed to email you updates about things you and your friends do on the social network.

It’s crazy to me why social networks think I need to be emailed about activity that takes place on the social network. The whole reason I signed up for the social network is so that I had a place to go to see that activity, if/when I wanted to see it. Not because I wanted to fill my inbox with notifications about things that happened on social networks.

My “favorite” message from this week was a notification from Twitter telling me about my activity on Twitter this week: I posted a single tweet.

“People really liked this photo.” (5 views.)

Now, I will admit, sometimes email notifications can be useful, like if someone sends you a message that you might need to respond to. Maybe you want to have control over what photos you are tagged in and would like to be notified about that.

But why on earth do I need to be emailed about my own activity?

“Also send me emails when: I subscribe to new channels.” – YouTube notification settings.

I’m not advocating that these options need to go away. By all means, if you want to offer email notifications for your social network, you’re free to add them. It’s (apparently) trivial to do, and I’m all for giving people options and control. I am, however, advocating that these not all be ON by default.

Signing up for any website these days tends to be an open invitation to your inbox. Social networks inundate users with email reminders, no doubt causing the overloaded users to even further disregard their already full inboxes for longer periods of time.

If you need to email your users to remind them they signed up for your service… you’re doing it wrong.

In the past two months I have even begun to receive emails from companies trying to remind me that I unsubscribed from their email notifications… I kid you not.

Ford, asking me to verify my email (multiple times), though I didn’t give it to them.Microsoft, asking me to re-subscribe:

Finally, I decided to take a quick look at some of the social networks I subscribe to, just to get an idea of their notification settings.

I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but Facebook (currently) has 39 different notifications which can come to you via email. Google+ has 32, Twitter has 21, and LinkedIn has 18. I have none of these boxes checked, but I’m pretty sure they still send me email anyway.

Here’s my full list:

I can’t help but wonder how many people simply mark these emails as spam, possibly the easiest and most inefficient way to make sure you never have to see them again. The geek inside me cringes to think of the wasted internet traffic, the spam filters learning from bad data sets, and countless hard drives at Google filled with nothing but messages from Facebook.

Ultimately, this is nothing but a cranky geek lamenting the difficulties of maintaining Inbox Zero. But, like many annoyed and irritated people before me, I have a dream. A dream that some day we can put this petty promotional pestering behind us. We aren’t going to create a utopia based on email notifications. Believe me, that timeline does not end well.

So maybe this is a plea to all future endeavors. When the current regime of networks crumbles under their overloaded SMTP servers to make way for new and glorious methods of sharing and collaborating, maybe… just maybe email notifications won’t be on by default.

Film Festival Technologies

Speechless AvatarThe past two years I have been a part of the team which has been putting on the Speechless Film Festival in Mankato, Minnesota. My main job was to take care of the tech side of things which included everything from renting projectors to finding a playback solution to play films in the three viewing rooms inside the theater.

We just finished up the 2014 Festival and I thought it might be nice to publish some of my ideas and discoveries. Over the past two years I have searched the internet in search of solutions for these problems and I have yet to find exactly the type of information I was looking for.1

First I’ll provide a little background about the venue. Next I’ll talk about our highly detailed list of expectations and requirements. Then I’ll describe the technical setup which we used, the things we liked, some problems we encountered, and some tricks to utilize some nuances to your advantage. Finally, I’ll share some ideas about my ideal setup and some exploration I’ve done in that regard. Continue reading


  1. If anyone knows of some good user groups or forums for this type of discussion, let me know. 

The Glory Days – Album Review

One of my favorite artists is Jimmy Hinson, better known online as Big Giant Circles. His latest album, The Glory Days, goes on sale February 14, but as a kickstarter backer, I’ve been listening to it for a few days already.

Let me begin by saying this: The album is fantastic. 5 Stars. Amazing. Wonderful listen. Two thumbs up. “It’s better than good, it’s better.”

Now let’s talk specifics.

As an artist, BGC has a unique style and a number of specific go-to techniques. If you are familiar with his work, you’ll hear songs reminiscent of Impostor Nostalgia, the Extreme Road Trip 2 OST, the Pocket Mine OST, and Contingency.

If you’re not familiar with his work, he’s most often described as a chiptune-style artist, though his music is a lot more than 8-bit beeps and chirps. At first listen you might find some of his music noisy and chaotic, but it’s actually quite deliberate and amazingly layered. Think Hans Zimmer, but with techno drums and replace the horns and strings with more synths. Driving beats, soaring melodies, a wonderful mix of feel-good tunes.

One thing I like about BGCs work is that rather than remix video game songs (though he does that too) his music is original, but he weaves famous game melodies into them. The song pays homage to Hinson’s musical roots rather than a straight remix or re-imagining of the old tune.

As my good friend Bob Martens put it: “I liked how they were woven into the chaos around them.”

If you are familiar with the games and genres, you’ll no doubt be able to pick up hints of Mario, Zelda, Mega Man, Final Fantasy, and probably a few others I haven’t been able to piece together yet.

Track 4, A Rose in a Field, has a hat tip to Zelda’s Lullaby, after a beautifully mellow lead up that lasts for a couple of minutes.

The Glory Days, and The Chiptune Legacy tracks pull a few tricks out of the Mario playbook, both melodically and with a few sound effects.

Unlike Impostor Nostalgia, The Glory Days features a number of slower paced songs, much more along the lines of Mass Effect, or BGCs Max Effect and Legacy albums. Right now I can’t stop listening to Snowcones, which is a bit less frantic than, say, Vindicate Me.

Occasionally I have heard people say that BGCs music is a bit repetitive or many of his songs sound similar. I don’t think this is an unfair assessment, but I also don’t think it’s bad. It’s true, if you’re not paying full attention some of the songs can blend together though that also speaks to his consistency of style and the unity of his albums. Also, the same could be said for a lot of music.

Which brings me to my favorite feature of the album, the last 8 tracks are loop-able versions of the earlier songs. You can put them on repeat and listen to your favorite melodies for hours on end, without ever hearing them stop.

Personally, I find both Glory Days and Impostor Nostalgia to be perfect albums to crank the volume on, lean back, relax, close your eyes, and let the music wash over you. A means of musical meditation, if you will.

The Glory Days is a worthy successor to Impostor Nostalgia. Hinson continues to grow and improve as a musician. The new album sounds a bit more mature, compositionally, to me than some of his earlier work. Which only goes to make me more excited for his future endeavors.

I’m admittedly quite the BGC fanboy, but and so it will be no surprise that I highly recommend the album. Right now you can pre-order it on bandcamp, where you can listen to a few select tracks to whet your appetite for the upcoming release. After it is released I’m sure it will also be available on iTunes, Amazon, and wherever else he likes to sell his music.

Pet Food

I don’t know about you, but I’m always a little leery about buying snacks at Pet-Expo.

What happens if you grab the wrong bag?

The second you pop a few crunchy pieces of kibble into your mouth you know you made a mistake. All your friends are looking at you with odd expressions and now you just have to save face, so you eat a few more pieces and force them down.

You’re all like “Oh, yeah. I do this all the time. They taste great! I’m not weird at all. Want some?”