The Amazing Race

Today Mandi took our application package to the post office...

Lets tell the whole story:

Several weeks ago the Amazing Race announced the next application period for the show was open. I have been checking their website for nearly a year waiting for the next chance to apply for the show. Finally, here was our shot.

I made all kinds of plans on how we would shoot our application video, a three minute video submitted along with your applications and pictures and whatnot... I had planned on shooting part the video on a backpacking trip we were supposed to do in September but work got in the way of that and we didn't go. I had hoped to get a permit to day-hike Mt. Whitney and do some video up there but couldn't get a permit. I had hoped to shoot some video on Mt. Baldy a few weeks ago but then Southern California caught on fire and we couldn't get up there...

So with the November 27th due date looming we finally had to just shoot where we could, when we could, and go with whatever material we could come up with.

I had read the application for the previous season months ago so I had an idea what was required for the process. When the new season opened up I immediate printed out the application and rules and poured over them then put them away. I just concentrated on the video.

All the while I'm working through this stuff in my head I'm preparing for my Ecuador trip departing November 27th, just after the applications are due.

For a few weeks I found dozens of application videos on YouTube. I watched those trying to get ideas. While I watched numerous videos I really didn't get a feel for what I wanted to do. I ran a bunch of ideas through my head and either the concept was goofy or logistics got in my way.

Finally last weekend I pulled the video camera out and shot some test footage of Mandi and I. Just some simple stuff of us around the house answering some questions. Some of it was actually pretty good. I put that on the mac and played with it a little bit.

Then we had the whole weekend and I didn't do anything else. We went for a hike Sunday morning, came home and showered, then watched a pathetic Chargers game. I got fed up with the game and said Lets Go! We headed off to REI for their winter sale, then came home and played with our new things.

I then realized it had to be now and it had to be whatever we could come up with!

I filmed Mandi on the floor and filmed various things, then I got the tripod out and positioned Mandi on the LuvSac. I hit record and hopped on the LuvSac with her. We, mostly me, talked for about 10 minutes then I shut it down. I imported it to the Mac and started to try to cut it up. I created an intro title and dropped a little music track on it. I then went to bed.

The next day at work, Monday, I was feeling sick. Really sick. I went home and laid down for a couple hours. I slept pretty good actually. I was feeling better so I got up and started playing with the video some more. I quickly realized I did not want our entire video just us on the LuvSac talking, mostly me talking.

I positioned two chairs in front of a white wall, and our copper turtle, and set the camera up pointed at that. Then I wrote a quick script for us to use and we shot a little more video in a setting similar to the interviews done in the show.

I cut that video into my movie and things were looking pretty good. I edited the video from my HI8 camera at 720P HiDef. I burned that HiDef video onto a DVD. Now unfortunately The Amazing Race requires their videos to be submitted on VHS. Uh, I haven't owned a VHS machine in years. So the hunt was on to find one. It was late and the museums were closed.

While thinking about this I re-read the rules and found that we needed to submit our applications with a passport picture of each of us and one picture of us together. The together picture was easy but I didn't have a passport picture of me. Mandi happened to have one of her.

So we headed out, it was 6PM... First we went to Ritz Camera to get passport photos. While we were there we saw that they had a DVD to VHS transfer machine. I asked about it and found out it does not go the other way. Damn Heteros...

So off to Costco we went. It was at Costco, with their friendly return policy, that we hoped to find a VCR (VHS??? Are you kidding me???). We found a Sony unit that was a DVD/VCR Combo unit. To me this was a blessing and a curse. A curse because I so dislike most any Sony product anymore. A blessing because with this machine it looked like it was be a simple task to copy from the ONBOARD dvd player to the ONBOARD vhs recorder.

Home we went where I carefully unpacked this Sony device. I connected it to the TV so I could confirm what was happening and I peeked at the user manual (yes, I really did.) I didn't find the section that talked about how to copy from the DVD player to the VCR but that didn't discourage me too quickly... I tried to perform this task anyway. Guess what. Couldn't.

I re-read the instructions and found that the ONLY way to record on this piece of shit machine was to connect a video input to one of the inputs on the VCR from an external device such as another DVD player or something. I'm sorry but what's the friggin point of putting a DVD PLAYER ON THIS MACHINE?????????? Sony! You suck sweaty swollen hairy Zebra balls!

Off to the garage I go to get a spare dvd player I happen to have down there. Connect that to the POS Sony and record my HiDef video onto VfrigginHS. I gotta say, my beautiful video really looked like crap. But the hour was late and nothing could be done. We had to live with what we had. I put the tape away and repackaged the POS Sony to get it the hell outta my house!

Then Mandi and I looked at our applications and the rules again. I went and found a picture of us that we liked and printed it out on the Photo Printer. I really didn't like the penmanship of my application so I decided to re-write it. During that same time I paged through Mandi's application and found it was about 1/2 filled in. Mandi said she wanted my help finishing hers but I needed to redo mine. So she took hers into the bedroom and I redid mine in the kitchen.

We decided to try to finish hers in the morning and I confirmed that we had everything else that we needed.

This morning we got up and started talking about the unanswered questions she had. We quickly came up with several good ideas for her questions and then I had to go to work. We chatted a bit more while I was at work and came up with good stuff for the rest of her questions. She made copies of our passports, packaged everything up and headed off to UPS. She sent it off around 3PM and now we wait... Like ten thousand other couples/pairs... Plus the people who have previously sent in applications. Ugh.

Well, the whole process has been fun and exciting so far. We really do hope to at least get a call back but if not I don't think we'll be too disappointed. So many people submit to get on this show, and we really would liked to have done our video better.

No regrets, we did what we could do with the time we had. Fun fun.

Here's to waiting.



I've had some interesting things happen lately that has caused me to consider art and what makes art.

I've never considered myself very artistic. I have long been interested in various standard forms of art; Music, Painting, Sculpture and Photography, perhaps others.

I have enjoyed music on several levels for most of my life. I can remember my first few albums (yes, I'm talking about vinyl...) One was the Bay City Rollers (I won't make excuses about my early musical influences...) another was The Best of the Beach Boys (Little deuce coupe...) and still another was the score of Star Wars by John Williams. The feelings I got from listening to these were as intense and genuine as they were diverse. The point is that I have usually felt music as much as heard it.

I can remember seeing the earliest examples of paintings and sculpture. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Davinci's Mona Lisa, and ancient works such as the Colossus at Rhodes and the Pyramids of Giza. Again each of these evoked emotion as varied as the pieces.

Now I don't think anyone would argue that each of the disciplines I mentioned are truly art of some nature.

In High School I got a lot of knowledge and enjoyment from the four years I took metal shop. These classes seemed as creative to me as any painting. Perhaps forming a metal box or machining some steel to very precise dimensions doesn't seem artistic until one does it.

After I got through college, I had at this point participated in various bands, recitals, and orchestra's with various instruments. Yet I still felt myself to be limited artistically. I think in part because I was the kid that put everything in a straight line or row. When organizing furniture in my home everything was parallel or square to a wall. When making any sort of drawing generally a ruler was used and if my lines weren't necessarily at right angles they were at least straight...

After college I got my first job as a programmer and I found a new hobby, building Combat Robots competing in Battlebots. Neither of these activities seemed very artistic to me - one being the building of something that was to be destroyed and the other something based on very discrete processes and numerical structures - but I could see creativity in these things.

Because of the methods of building robots I started to feel I may have some artistic bones in me somewhere. As I got more experience in programming and became a better programmer I started to see the building of an elegant solution to a complex problem as artistic. I think my thought here was that you could take 5 programmers and give them the same problem to solve and you would likely get 5 different solutions, and quite possibly very different solutions... Consider the difference between a tedious term paper in high school or college and Homer's The Odyssey. I may be waxing dramatic but I think you get the idea.

After all these years I have finally come to the conclusion that I am an artistic person. I may not be particularly good in any discipline but I have a strong desire to create things with a pleasing aesthetic. I have given in to this realization recently and, with Mandi, bought a new camera. This camera is a Digital SLR, the Nikon D40x, you may have seen the Nikon commercials recently. Our camera is similar to the one in the commercials.

Yesterday Mandi and I went to Balboa Park with the primary goal of taking pictures. While there we walked through the Museum of Photographic Art, but we were really there to look at things in a different way than we had in past. Trying to find things to take a picture of. I have usually taken pictures of people (usually from too far away) or taken pictures of some landscape or building (again, from such a wide angle that any detail or drama was lost)

At Balboa Park we were making an effort to look for things to shoot, but it wasn't a tedious or relentless assignment. It was shear joy for me. Looking at things that I thought might look neat in a picture. We took hundreds of up close pictures of flowers and leaves. We took pictures or doors and windows and hallways. We took a few pictures of people but neither of us felt comfortable with that. We also took pictures of each other. And we took pictures of a turtle, a dog, and a fire hydrant.

I doubt anyone would want to put any of our photo's in a gallery but we had such fun shooting them. Then again when we got home and got to look at them all on the computer, we had some of the same emotion we felt when we took the shot initially. I thought it interesting that some photo's evoked a completely different feeling afterwards.

Shooting and looking at our pictures certainly made us feel things, and I think that's what art is.


Irony or Contradiction?

Driving to work this morning I ended up behind a couple of young girls in a Rav4. I noticed on the back of the car numerous stickers that said: "Peaceaholic", OB (this is a local community, Ocean Beach, that's known for its hippy/laid back residents), "Save Something", Two turtles, and a couple of other environmentally related messages. Not that big a deal, there are many people in San Diego, and California in general, who are environmentally conscious and who like to promote activism.

Then I noticed both these girls were smoking. Okay, environmentalists can smoke, it's allowed by their creed I believe. I did notice the flicking of ash out the window though and this started my curiosity about irony or contradiction. Then I saw the butt come out the passenger window.

My guess is if anyone follows the news of the southwest, and by that I mean from Utah west to the Ocean and south to Mexico, then you may have heard of a few fires going on. Fires are pretty common in this area because it is basically a desert and we're in a multi-year drought. It was only a few years ago that I watched a hill burn from my front yard, having already packed to evacuate if that call came. This is no small issue in San Diego county and we even had three new fires spark up over the weekend. It's a topic that i'm pretty certain every San Diegan knows about.

So here was the car of a self-stated environmentally conscious person throwing cigarette butts out the window in a desert known for wildfires started by human thoughtlessness.

Irony or Contradiction?


Okay, I give...

I really enjoyed writing my own blog engine and dealing with the various security issues an app like that deals with.

I looked for canned solutions and didn't really like anything I found.

So I wrote my own engine. I really liked the features I was creating, and was working on some new features that I liked and that didn't quite exist elsewhere. These features were done and tested on my development server. When I went to push them onto my hosting service, GoDaddy, I found that their SQL Server doesn't seem to support the really nice XML Features that SQL Server has. After a mild pissing match with GoDaddy support, the result of which was this statement: "We're sorry we do not have an exhaustive list of functions supported by our shared SQL Server instances..." Without XML support that dumped a large pile of poo on my fancy schmancy Blogging Engine...

The search begins for alternatives:

I then found the publicly available API for Blogger that Google has created for developers. I played around with that quite a bit and got it working. But as I worked through implementing that API on my server I realized that I was spending a lot of time trying to replicate the functionality that was already in Blogspot (Google's public face for their Blogger application) all just to have the blog on my website.

So here we are. Below I've copied my blogs to Blogspot and will start updating this one. Also I'll be removing the Blog from www.ebertworld.com :(

This came down to having time to play with this kind of thing. I've got a lot of other project in mind that I need time for, plus family, plus there's always training for Ecuador too...

No time, No time, No time

[Originally posted: 6/14/2007]

Ugh, I don't have enough time to form coherent and cohesive thoughts. So here's what you get. Random, incoherent, cohesive thoughts thrown about like so much Crystal by wannabe rap starts...

  • New York City friggin rocks! Those people are cool living in a cool city. I don't wanna move there or anything but it's a cool place.

  • People in New York don't run into you walking on the sidewalk, they make an effort not to!
  • their seeminly chaotic methods work. The subway works, the street number system works, Their government works, their philanthropy works, their civic pride works!
  • Jet Blue is okay...
  • Friends disappoint. Absolute friends disappoint absolutely.
  • People in San Diego are either stupid, staggeringly self involved, or obscenely unaware that there are others on the planet.
  • San Diego city government is paralyzed.
  • I got a new camera, we got a new camera! A Nikon D40x. Man it's sweet! Yes, for the price it really does take better pictures.
  • I'm sitting here sweating with the fan on at 10pm. Weird.
  • I have too many interests. Photography, music, computers, cars, robots, woodworking, travel, hiking, mountaineering, cycling, camping, RV Travel etc etc etc...
  • Mandi changed her own oil and helped rotate her tires this weekend, with minor supervision. And she liked it. Looking for our next Auto project.

oops, that's all the time I have for this installment.

Random Thoughts Monday...

[Originally posted: 5/14/2007]


  • Uh, shopping at outdoor malls on sunny days is nice.........
  • People who drive 65 in the fast lane then give me a dirty look when I pass them are stupid.
  • I don't like stupid people.
  • People who pounce on a new check out lane when it opens even though you are in front of them in line then when the checker points to you and says you were in front of them and then mumble under their breath that 'well they should pay attention' are fucking assholes.
  • I hate fucking assholes.
  • Making your own ringtones is cool.
  • I want a Mac.
  • I'm going to the driving range today.
  • The survivor finale was predictable and kinda boring even though this was one of the BEST suvivor season ever.
  • When my office mate leaves next week I'm going to steal his monitor and have 2 on my machine and that makes me cool.
  • That is all for now.

Driving... Again....

[Originally Posted: 5/10/2007]

Is it really so hard to just drive while driving?

Is driving not complex enough for people that they absolutely MUST find something else to do with their spare time while driving? Makeup, phones, reading, getting high, yelling at kids, futzing around the car are all things I've seen people do while trying to kill me on the roads this week.

I just don't get it.

Horse Races

[Originally posted 8/10/2005]

Went to the horse races yesterday. I picked 7 of 9 winners. But I only won on two bets because I was playing exclusively exactas and trifectas and a couple of doubles. The only time I didn't pick the winner of the race was the two times I played doubles.

Stupid horses! :P

Nose Hair

[Originally posted 8/7/2005]

Sometimes I have a nose hair grow out of my nose and tickle me on the edge of my nostril. That really bugs me and I have to pull that nose hair out. Sometimes if don't pull fast enough it can really make my eyes water.

I hate that.

Mt. Whitney tried to kick my ass.... Pfftttttttt

[Originally posted 8/4/2005]

So no shit, there I was, hurtling down the eastern flanks of a frozen Mt. Whitney in the southern Sierra Range. Possibly exceeding 10, perhaps even 20, miles per hour ever urged onward and downward by Newton himself. The bowels of mother earth rumbling her unforgiving and unrelenting guffaws and smite. The very thing I came to conquer was turning this obliquely tilted table against me and she was preparing to call out check mate. I parried with my feet, I countered with my elbows, and I gave a Herculean effort to dig the hilt of my axe into this bulletproof ice. It was having none of it. The acceleration wasn’t lessened by any measure and my slide had more than a thousand vertical feet left with a disastrous ending in the offing if not curbed in some manner. It was at this moment that I chose to intervene in my fate and become a factor in this wholly terrifying event. I ended the efforts to punch the hilt of my axe into this impenetrable material. Slowly I brought the head of my tool to the opposite shoulder from the hand that grasped it. I began a controlled roll to my right. As I faced my nemesis I thrust the business end of my tool into it. Glancing blows at first, parried away by the ice like so much flotsam. But three or four good thrusts finally resulted in penetration. A full, deep, and satisfying penetration that instantly began to slow my descent from the crescendo it was nearing. I grasped my tool with all the strength left in my weakening hands and ever so slowly did I finally come to a stop. I was lying there breathing deep and hard, light headed from my efforts. Satisfaction filled me. I was alive and I was winning! I was beating this ice bitch at her own game! She attempted to flick me off of her skirts and I held fast to her frozen undergarments. This day was not my day to die, and the mountain came to realize that. So she did the only thing left to her. In my fight to stop my fall into the abyss, she had struck me several times hard on the hand that was trying to slow me. Struck me with her evil and frozen solid talons. She struck me with the only weapon she wielded that day. Stone hard, bulletproof ice. I absorbed her blows but not without a structural failure of my own. The fourth metacarpal in my right hand was fractured. But if this is the best she can do then I say HA! Double HA! In fact! A broken hand couldn’t stop me from using my tool to foil her plans and I was victorious!

All hail me! Mighty conqueror of frozen dihydrogen oxide!

80's Music

[Originally posted 8/3/2005]

The worst thing about listening to Dave, Shelley and Chainsaw is you have to listen to the music sometimes.

Journey? Sorry, no can do.

Cube Mates

[Originally posted: 8/2/2005]

Ah shit... The guy on the other side of my cube wall is using his speaker phone to check his voice mail again.

God that pisses me off.



My first post.

This will probably get thrown away...