Monday, March 31, 2008

Post Pourri

Many thanks to an anonymous commenter for the suggestion of using the term “post pourri”. Although… anyone who comments anonymously must be a coward. So I take it back—no thanks to you, whoever you are! I plan to claim the idea as my own.

I know that I haven’t been posting lately. I’ve been very busy, and not with things that are worth writing about. I haven’t even posted to the Bible Blog in a while, which is unusual for me—for the most part I’ve been managing to post there regularly, even if I haven’t been posting here.

My bladder problems are still ongoing, from the last time I wrote about it. I’ve stopped taking the “pee pills” that the doctor prescribed, because of a side effect which has begun to happen. He told me that it’s not a big deal if I stop taking them—it’s just a “lifestyle drug”—so I didn’t feel bad for stopping. Hopefully the side effect will go away, soon.

I’ve decided that I’m not a good cook. I’d had some good results, for some things that I made, but I think those were exceptions, rather than the rule, because everything I’ve cooked lately has turned out terribly, in one way or another. (e.g. the stew that I tried to cook recently.) We bought some lamb kebobs the other day, and I tried cooking those, but the problem is that you have to broil them, and I’ve never used the broiler feature on my oven. So they burned. (Not terribly, but a bit. They were harder than they should have been, although they still tasted okay.) I’m making waffles on a regular basis these days, and they’re turning out okay, although still not perfect. (I think I have an issue because I’m using 2% milk, instead of skim milk, which the recipe calls for; I had better results when I used skim milk.) So, because my cooking skills are somewhat lacking, I get nervous every time we have chicken because, hey, when you’re not a good cook, chicken isn’t something you want to mess around with…

I’m thinking about changing my blog template, slightly. The issue is that I have it set to take up the whole screen, in terms of width, but that’s not a good idea for people who are reading this on a widescreen monitor. (It’s hard to read text that stretches too far horizontally—which is why so many blog templates have such narrow bands of text.) So I might make it narrower, when I find the time. Unfortunately, I don’t think CSS will let me be as precise as saying “the width of the screen or X pixels wide, whichever is smaller”. So I’ll be stuck doing what every other blog template does: have a lot of wasted space.

And that’s it. The next time I think of something to write—and actually have the time to do it—I’ll do so. Until then… um… don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Google Docs. Yes, again.

I found some articles on Google Docs, that you might find interesting.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A is A

A friend dragged me out to the bar Friday night, to see a band that she likes. Actually, I’m just kidding, she didn’t have to drag me. She just caught me on a good night. But the band she brought me to see is called A is A. (I’m no expert on the band, but I think the photo currently showing on that web site is out of date. I don’t think all of the people shown are still in the band.)

I don’t really have anything to say about it, though. I had a good time, and really enjoyed seeing the band. They’re pretty durned talented, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. (If I knew how to dance, I probably would have enjoyed myself even more, but frankly, that’s why I learned to play guitar—so I wouldn’t have to dance, at such occasions. Except that my plan only works when I’m playing; when I’m watching someone else play, it doesn’t work so well. Let’s face it folks: Musicians aren’t the smartest people in the world.)

And that’s all I have to say about that. If anyone from A is A ever reads this, I hope that you’re suitably touched: A mediocre, amateur musician is impressed by your talents. What higher praise could there be?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Google Docs in use

I’ve written numerous posts lately in which I’ve raved about Google Docs, but have I ever actually used the service? I mean, is there any point, when I already have Word and Excel and PowerPoint installed on my machine? Why yes. Yes I have. Let me give you a perfect example of where the service shines:

The other day, a number of us were all working on something at the same time. We had a list of accounts that we had to populate with data, and we were working off of an Excel spreadsheet. “You work on accounts 1–12, and you do 13–24, and I’ll do 24–36…” etc. To make things more difficult, not all of the accounts we were working on needed work to be done, so one person might finish his/her list early, and then we’d have to re-shuffle the remaining accounts. But then I had a brainstorm: Isn’t this exactly where Google Docs would be perfect? We could create a spreadsheet online, and all edit it at the same time! All we had to do was list all of the accounts that hadn’t been done yet, and which ones had. Something like this:

Not Done YetFinished  
 123serna is currently working on:124
  person b is currently working on:125
  person c is currently working on:130

But the key—the really cool part about all of this—is that we were all editing it at the same time. If someone wanted to start working on item 128, they could cut and paste from that cell to another cell, and at the same time it would disappear from all of our screens, and re-appear somewhere else. No need for anyone to save the spreadsheet, and for the rest of us to refresh our screens—it all happened in real-time! There’s no need to be shouting out, “Hey, I’m going to work on number 128, nobody else work on that!” If I want to start working on one of the accounts, any of the ones in the “Not Done Yet” column were fine to work on, because if someone else had done it, I’d see it in the “Finished” column on my screen. (Or, if they were currently working on it, I’d see it to the right of the screen, beside their name.)

It’s a very simple use of the technology, and yet it saved us a lot of time and aggravation.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Home Studio Software

I don’t know if we’ll ever do it, but Andrea and I sort of have a dream of starting our own home studio, once we get the basement finished and soundproofed. Not for professional use, I don’t think, just for our own use. Recording the choir, and that kind of thing.

And I got to thinking: There is an open-source image editing program, called GIMP, which is an alternative to Photoshop, so I wondered if there was a similar open-source product as an alternative to Cubase. And it turns out that there are some. My quick research turned up the following:

  • There is a program called Rosegarden, which runs on Linux, and is directly comparable to Cubase. (When I say “directly comparable” to Cubase, I don’t mean that it can do everything that Cubase can do; I just mean that that’s what they’re aiming for. I’d imagine that Cubase still has a lot of features that Rosegardoen doesn’t have.)
  • There is another program called Ardour, which also runs on Linux. I don’t think—based on very quick research—that it’s directly comparable to Cubase; I think they might have a different approach to some things. But it may or may not be more stable than Rosegarden. (Again, based on very little research.)
  • There is actually a version of Ubuntu, called Ubuntu Studio, which is specifically geared toward—and tuned for—people who create multimedia content, such as audio and video. As mentioned, it’s specifically tuned for this type of activity, but it also comes with appropriate software. (For example, it comes with Ardour.)
Not that I’ll need any of these tools any time soon, but it’s interesting to know that they exist. And if I ever wanted to throw together a quick song, I could download some software and get to work, without having to spend thousands of dollars. Actually, that’s not true; I’d still need things like microphones, and maybe a mixer board. Just the software would be free.

Nothing to say, nothing to write

It’s one of those days when I have some free time, and feel like writing in my blog, but have nothing to say. (These days, having nothing to say actually prevents me from writing here—which didn’t use to be the case!)

My bladder problems are ongoing… sort of. The doctor has put me on some kind of pills that are supposed to relax the bladder, or something. (I know what you’re thinking and no, I haven’t peed my pants. Yet.) After a bit of confusion, they seem to be working. (He put me on the pills because my bladder doesn’t completely empty, when I go—but when I looked at the instructions with the pills, the first thing that was stated is that you shouldn’t take these pills if your bladder doesn’t empty properly! But he confirmed that yes, these really are the pills he wants me to take.)

I’m pretty tired, because I had an all-nighter last Wednesday, as well as an all-nighter on Saturday night, because of a deployment. Plus the fact that last week was pretty lousy, which always tires a person out. But yesterday was pretty quiet, and I’m hoping that means that this entire week will be, too. (I have nothing to base that on, except for hopefulness.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Please use your imagination to come up with a clever title for this post, because serna doesn’t have the energy

I know, I know, I haven’t posted lately. If I had any readers, they’d be annoyed with me. (Or maybe they’d just miss me.) (Wow, déjà vu! I’m sure I’ve written that—or something very similar—before. Actually, it’s not déjà vu; I’m just not very creative, so I keep writing the same things over and over…)

Let me just say that it was a long, lousy, frustrating week last week. And I’m really hoping and praying that this week won’t be more of the same. But I can’t tell you why, because it’s all work-related, and I’m trying to maintain my policy of not writing about work.

But I do have one piece of good news: I haven’t yet been sued, for my Maya Rudolph post. I did get one instant message, from someone telling me that it was weird, but no lawyers have sent “cease and desist” letters yet.

Oh, actually, one more piece of good news: I got Ubuntu up and running on my new work laptop. And it’s working very well.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Maya Rudolph

Note: If you don’t watch SNL, you might as well skip this post. It’s probably going to feel too inside-joke-ish to you.

Remember way back in March of 2005, when I wrote that I very much admired Maya Rudolph, but that I was too lazy to write a long post about her? No? You didn’t read my blog back then? Oh. Well, that’s unders— What’s that? You say nobody read my blog back then? Now that’s just cruel. You don’t have to be such a jerk about it.

Anyway, it appears that Maya has left Saturday Night Live, which is too bad, because she was my favourite player on the show, by far. I have a feeling she may have been under-rated, because she didn’t steal the show—at least, not when it wasn’t called for—but she is an incredibly talented woman.

But I’m also sad that she’s gone because I had a secret hope that I’d get a chance to host SNL—but host it the week after she’d left. I had some ideas for skits (and some jokes that people might consider meta-jokes) that I could have used. For example, pretend that Beyoncé Knowles was the musical guest; my opening monologue might go something like this:

  • If you’ve seen SNL, you know the drill. As the opening credits are finishing, the camera cuts to the studio stage. The band finishes playing the theme music, and serna comes out, to no applause whatsoever.
  • serna
  • Thank you! Thank you! Thank you very much! Thank you! You’re too kind! Thank you!
  • Cut to the audience, who are exceptionally still and quiet. (Not to mention seated.)
  • serna
  • (continuing)
  • No really, thank you! Thank you very much!
  • (starting to clue in)
  • I… uh… I still have three or four more cue cards of this. Hank, can we skip through this part?
  • Cut to cue card guy, who starts quickly discarding cue cards that say things like “Thank you! Thank you very much!” etc. Cut back to serna.
  • serna
  • It’s great to be here, hosting Saturday Night Live! I know that I’m not famous or anything, so there’s no real reason I should be hosting the show. In fact, you guys must be pretty disappointed, eh?
  • Cut to audience, still completely still, and then back to serna
  • serna
  • Ahem. But anyway, it’s always been a dream of mine to host a mediocre variety show, which is deeply in denial of its own imminent demise.
  • (embarrassed)
  • Wait… sorry. Hank, my mistake, that line was from my earlier draft of the monologue. I’d meant to take it out before I actually went on the air. Our cue card guy, Hank, everybody.
  • Cut to cue card guy again.
  • Cue Card Guy
  • My name is Steve.
  • Cut back to serna.
  • serna
  • Oh sorry! Steve.
  • Anyway, it really is a thrill to be hosting the show. I’ve wanted to host the show for years, and all because I wanted to meet one very special, very talented woman. Come on out here!
  • Beyoncé comes on stage, to much applause.
  • serna
  • (as applause dies down)
  • Maya Rudolph, everyone! Maya Rudolph!
  • Beyoncé is surprised; she isn’t quite sure how to handle this.
  • Beyoncé
  • I’m not Maya, I’m Beyoncé Knowles.
  • serna
  • (pleased as punch)
  • I know! You look just like her!
  • Beyoncé
  • No, I really am Beyoncé.
  • serna
  • (disappointed)
  • Oh.
  • (trying to pull it together / fake enthusiasm)
  • Well… Beyoncé Knowles, everyone! The inspiration for one of Maya’s best imitations! But, um…
  • (aside, to Beyoncé)
  • Where’s Maya?
  • Beyoncé
  • (breaking it to him gently)
  • I’m sorry, serna, but Maya has left the show.
  • serna
  • (trying to take it as a joke, but afraid that she might not be joking)
  • Haha! Ha! Good one Beyoncé Knowles. No, but really, can you bring Maya out?
  • (getting more desperate)
  • Beyoncé? Lorne? Hank?
  • Offstage voice: “It’s Steve!” (Note to self: This joke would probably be cut, to make the script tighter. Maybe the whole cue card guy thing would be cut altogether.)
  • Various SNL cast members come on stage, to comfort serna. And maybe, just maybe, to find some peace themselves, in this troubled time.
  • Fred Armison
  • We’re all going to miss her, serna. Our cast is like a family; losing Maya is like losing a sister. A really hot sister. A sister that I wouldn’t have, you know, minded, if she’d come into my dressing room and started kissing me.
  • serna
  • Isn’t she married?
  • Fred Armison
  • Look, the point is, we’re going to miss her.
  • Amy Poehler
  • That’s right, serna. We really will.
  • (aside, to Fred)
  • And sometimes she did come into my dressing room, and start kissing me.
  • Fred looks surprised, and Seth Meyers looks like he wants to hear more. (I don’t know how one looks like one wants to hear more, but he’ll have to try…)
  • Amy
  • But even though Maya is gone, we still have many good shows ahead of us! There’s all kinds of talented people on the staff!
  • serna
  • Really? Name one.
  • Amy
  • (a bit taken aback)
  • Oh! Uh… well, there’s the other female cast members. Some of whom used to work with Maya on a regular basis, and whom the audience might find attractive. (flicks hair) Cute, one might say. Or perky. What about them?
  • serna
  • (still dejected)
  • No. They’re not nearly as good as Maya.
  • Amy
  • (as only Amy Poehler could deliver a line like this (in fact, she’d probably rewrite it))
  • Oh. Yes. I see. No, we’re not as good, are we?
  • serna
  • (forlorn. or maybe despondent. yeah, despondent is better.)
  • It’s hopeless! Maya’s gone, and the show is ruined! How can we possibly go on now?!?
  • To great applause, a big celebrity (and friend of the show) comes on stage. I’m guessing Steve Martin. Or Mike Myers? Or maybe Chevy Chase…
  • Celebrity Guest
  • Now serna, don’t be like that!
  • serna
  • Steve Martin! (Or Mike Myers, or Chevy Chase, or whoever) What are you doing here?
  • Celebrity Guest
  • I’m here to tell you that the show can go on, even when it loses a valuable cast member. For you see…
  • Large musical number here, which serna would need help writing, because he’s not much of a one for writing large musical numbers. Actually, someone else should probably write it.
  • Celebrity Host
  • So do you see serna?
  • serna
  • Yeah [celebrity host]! I do see!
  • Celebrity Host
  • And do you think we can do a great show, even without Maya Rudolph?
  • serna
  • Well… No, not really. But we’re all here, so we have to so something, right gang?
  • Rest of the Cast
  • (all together)
  • Yeah! Right! You bet! Jerkass! We can do it!
  • serna
  • (to audience/camera)
  • We have a great… ish… show, everyone! Beyoncé Knowles is here! (large applause) Stick around, we’ll be right back!
  • Cut to… oh, let’s say a commercial parody.
I don’t know if anyone uses the phrase “pleased as punch” in the 21st Century, but it doesn’t matter, it’s just a stage direction.

Obviously, in order to do a sketch like this, the rest of the cast would have to buy into it, and be cool about it. It’s very cruel to them, even though they’re all very talented. But we’d have to play it like I think they’re lousy, in comparison to Maya.

But once we’d opened the show like that, it would open us up to other possibilities for sketches, that could build on the theme. For example…
  • INT: A college dormitory common area. serna, Seth Meyers, and Kenan Thompson are sitting around.
  • Seth
  • Dude, can you believe that game? You played terribly!
  • He and serna laugh.
  • Kenan
  • Maybe so, but you cheerleaders weren’t exactly on your game, either!
  • Seth
  • (defensive)
  • We were breaking in some new girls! Sometimes it takes a few weeks for them to feel comfortable…
  • Voice from the Control Room
  • serna, can you come to the control room for a minute?
  • serna
  • Uh… but we’re in the middle of a sketch.
  • Voice from the Control Room
  • We have a surprise for you.
  • serna’s eyes light up
  • serna
  • Maya!
  • serna runs off stage, presumably toward the control room.
  • Seth and Kenan are at a loss; now what are they supposed to do?
  • Seth
  • Can you believe that?
  • Kenan
  • What are you going to do. He’s not a real actor; you can’t expect professionalism from him.
  • They sit around for a few more moments.
  • Kenan
  • So… you wanna get drunk?
  • Seth
  • I already am.
  • Cut to serna, making his way into the control room. Lorne Michaels is there, and so is someone with her back to the camera. (We’d have to figure out how to stage this, so that it wouldn’t look silly…)
  • serna
  • Hey Lorne! What’s up?
  • Lorne
  • It’s “Mr. Michaels.” I wish you’d remember that.
  • serna
  • Sorry! Mr. Michaels. What’s going on?
  • Lorne
  • I have someone here that you might like to meet.
  • Woman turns around; it’s Oprah Winfrey.
  • Oprah
  • (waits for applause to die down)
  • Hi serna.
  • serna
  • Maya! It’s you!
  • Oprah
  • (annoyed)
  • No, serna, it’s me. Oprah Winfrey. Lorne thought I could talk with you about your Maya issues, and maybe help you continue with the show.
  • serna
  • (disappointed)
  • Oh. Well… thanks, Oprah, but that’s okay. I’ll be alright.
  • Mr. Michaels, I’m just going to go to my dressing room, and get ready for my next sketch.
  • Lorne
  • We didn’t give you a dressing room. You’re not a celebrity.
  • serna
  • Right, sorry, I mean the men’s room on the third floor.
  • (as he heads out the door)
  • I hope nobody stole my wallet. I’ll need bus fare to get home after the show…
  • Scene ends with some kind of awkward dialogue between Lorne and Oprah, which serna hasn’t written yet, because he doesn’t have a team of writers helping him with this.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But serna, that’s just the same premise that you used in the opening monologue! What, do you only have one joke that you recycle in every sketch?” But having done the joke twice, it sets us up for this sketch…
  • INT: Wherever it is in the NBC studio where the cast and union members might grab a quick snack, between sketches. serna is grabbing something off of the snack table, and Maya Rudolph approaches.
  • Maya
  • (waiting for applause to die down)
  • Hi serna. How’s the show going so far?
  • serna
  • (barely registering her presence)
  • Oh, hi Whitney. It’s alright, I guess.
  • Maya
  • Whitney?!? It’s me, Maya!
  • serna
  • (still not overly interested in the conversation)
  • Look, Ms. Houston, I appreciate you coming here to try and cheer me up, but I can tell it’s you. You don’t even look like her! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get dressed for the next sketch.
  • serna leaves the scene, leaving Maya dumbfounded.
Surely you can see the potential for comedy gold! (I’m also foreseeing a sketch when I suddenly seem to have forgotten my lines, and I call out “line!” To which Steve the cue card guy says, “Not until you remember my name!” But it would have to be worked into a sketch that could have its flow interrupted like that, which isn’t really likely.)

But now it’s too late. (Even if they called me today, and asked me to host the March 16th show, it would be too late; TV audiences are fickle, and they’d have forgotten Maya by then.)

Incidentally, this post is just me goofing off. I’m not secretly hoping that SNL will be impressed with me, and ask me to host the show. (Neither do I think that I have amazing talent as a comedy writer.) I am, however, not-so-secretly hoping that I won’t get sued for this. I don’t know what in this post would be actionable, but I’m betting that the lawyers could find some reason…

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Try to contain your surprise: serna is writing about Wikipedia again. (Even though I just obsessively mentioned them, again, in my post on Wikinomics on the Book Blog.) Except that this time it’s not about the site itself; it almost feels more like gossip. I read this post on Wired today, and wasn’t sure how to take it. Does this add fuel to the fire, in my negative feelings about Wikipedia? Or—as I’m sort of leaning toward—does it have nothing to do with it? Definitely, the personal problems of the guy who leads the company have nothing to do with my problems with Wikipedia, although the way that Marsden got her entry changed might.

But one ray of hope is that if Wales leaves—although there is no indication that he would—then maybe Wikipedia might start to change their direction a bit. Why would they possibly want to alter their methodology, a wee bit? If you haven’t been keeping track, here are some issues that Wikipedia has—which may or may not outweigh the advantages that Wikipedia has:

Wait a minute… I’m writing a post about something that I write about on a regular basis, and quoting my post about Wikinomics on the Book Blog? Why do I have a sense of déjà vu?

“Dear Hollywood Studios: Let My Video Go”

Recently I wrote a rant about how NBC just doesn’t “get it’’ when it comes to distributing content online. And then, in my Book Blog, when I wrote about the book Wikinomics, I mentioned the fact that record companies don’t “get it’’ when it comes to distributing content either.

Today I read an opinion piece on Wired along the same lines: Dear Hollywood Studios: Let My Video Go.

Monday, March 03, 2008


This is another pot pourri post. Sorry for that, but I can’t focus my brain well enough to concentrate on putting together a coherent post.

We had a deployment Saturday night/Sunday morning. It failed. So we got a couple of hours of sleep, had a conference call to discuss it, and decided to try again Sunday night. Which we did. So right now, I’m very tired.

I went to the doctor today, to discuss my recent health issues. He no longer thinks the issue is with my prostate, so he’s taken me off of the pills. He’s given me a new set of pills, which are supposed to relax the bladder, and if that doesn’t work, then we’ll just give up. It’s not a huge issue anyway; if my bladder isn’t completely emptying, it’s not going to cause any great harm. (Except an increased risk of future bladder infections—which is what started this all in the first place.)

Incidentally, I know you’ve all missed reading about my bladder, for the last month or so. So now that I’ve written about it again, let me just say, from the bottom of my heart: You’re welcome.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but I love the new Amy Winehouse CD, Back to Black. (Well, it’s probably not considered “new” anymore, but I’ll keep calling it “new” until I have a newer one.) She’s a great singer, and the album was also put together very well. I spent a few minutes on YouTube today, watching some of the videos.

Speaking of time I spent today on excellent media, I also spent some time on the Jehovah Shalom website, listening to some of our music. (And it’s great, let me tell you.) I’m thinking—since Andrea and I maintain that site—that it might be a good idea to upload our MP3 files to the Internet Archive, and just linking to it from the JS website, instead of taking up our own web server storage space with the files.

This was prompted by the work I’m doing on my church’s website, since I’ll probably be putting our sermons online, too. (Not that I’ve started the web site, yet; I’ve just given my pastor some samples that he can look at, to provide feedback.) I think I’ll be using Wordpress for the site, but there’s one thing about Wordpress that really annoys me: It won’t let me use certain HTML elements. That means that I can’t do things like put a Google map on the site, or embed audio from the Internet Archive, etc.