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## Mathematical zombies

Finally, preparing for a day off. Yay! I think I've had maybe two hours sleep since Sunday morning and to say I feel like a zombie is an understatement. I detest getting up at 3.30am! That's about an hour after my habitual bedtime! Of course, being sort-of awake to make sure the computer correctly recorded "Cherry Falls" (screenshot on the right) last night didn't help; but on the other hand there's one girl at work who is being a little bit 'strange'; it's her first week of the 5am shift and I think it is messing with her mind; two "tumbled onto the apples" yesterday (actually, I think one fell face-first into a floor covered in chocolate ook?) and I have noticed something of a number of unexplained faintings recently. Have the lights changed? New sort of chemical in the air? Or does everybody 'work' better on summer time? I don't know. That's one of the good points of menage - you're never still, so a lot less likely to "tombe sur les pommes", as they would say in French... Okay, I get home knackered and I'm feeling lifting many bags of 1292 little plastic 'glasses' (think of a cross between a medicine beaker and a shot glass), each of which weighs 12.86kg - aren't product labels useful?! The swishing water around the floor gives my abs (and lard-ass it-must-be-about-four-months-now? stomach) some exercise. Pushing the shelving units works my arms and legs, and when I get one with "three wheels and a jammed handbrake", it works my temper too!
The shelving units are sort of metal frames with slidey bits for baking sheets. Of these, the rubber-mould one contains 70 (10×7) places and the aluminium holed ones (for the "verrines") contains 88 (11×8) places. The shelves can nominally hold two rows of, I think, 18 or 21, hence a total of 36 or 42 'sheets'. If we take a big shelf full of verrines, that is 21×88 which is 1848 verrines. Now we must consider all sorts of things like production costs, packing, transportation, and everybody wanting their cut. However to the end consumer you can buy a pack of six of these dinky little things for about €5,80 so I think it is safe to guesstimate a retail of just under a euro a pop. As I left the shift, we'd half filled a freezer which must easily take 15 shelves, if not 24. So something between 14 and 22 thousand verrines; retail price 96¢ apiece.
Makes you want to do a few quick calculations in your head when the squirty machine misses and smashes some of the verrines to pieces. The whole sheet gets slung out in case any plastic bits 'contaminated' nearby product. Cost to them? That's quantative. Are we talking cost to make, in which case I'd be a bit bitchy and guess maybe a euro per sheet (mass-produced plastic goblet things, a bit of staff labour time for setup, some stuff made up in big wheeled buckets squirted in by a machine... can't cost that much per-item) or are we talking cost to sell, in which case I'd be generous and guess this company might get about half of the retail price, so the verrines are 50¢ apiece, or about €74 per sheet.

## Black dude or old bloke?

Well, "tonite's the night"; and this will be "old news" by the time you read this! So, thankfully, all this "America Votes 08" will be over with. I'm sure we'll have weeks of post-vote analysis voting - with, no doubt, a bias on "why America was too infantile to consider a black president" or "why it has taken America so long to consider a black president" (depending on the result) - but at least things will start getting back to normal.

For what it is worth, I would vote Obama. This is because I am not American so I frankly don't care whether or not he will be good for the country, I'm more concerned with who is going to be nicer to the rest of the world. And, if nothing else, it is really about time this colour issue was done and dusted. So the guy has coloured skin. And? I don't see us all going whoo-hoo over the fact that Dubyah was bright red like an old BT phone box for half of his time in office. Obviously working hard out on that ranch...

That said, I'm not sure I really care that much who America picks, and I am not entirely certain why I am supposed to care as much as the media seems to be telling me I should. Perhaps America just doesn't understand why we are all like "and?". It seems the race of no-hopers was quickly whittled down to:

• A black man with a very Muslim-sounding name (Obama Hussein, anybody?) and a vice who few people have heard of but he took his mom along as he voted, how sweet!
• An ex-POW white-haired old army guy with a rather pretty if seemingly-disturbed vice.
So the race quickly revealed itself to be old school (the army bloke being traditional Prez-fodder) versus new school (not only is he black, but he wants the hell out of Dodge, I mean Iraq). This is part of the tide of change sweeping the world, it rejected all the "old order" in France and gave us Sarko. I think Ségo might have been a better choice, personally, but the French elections take place in two rounds and the old order died in the first round. Will it happen in America? Will it radically alter its thinking to go with a liberal-minded man who is hoping to bring about change? Perhaps after being stupid enough to vote Bush in twice and then do the same with his son, it is about time for some change? Perhaps to acknowledge that as self-imposed World Police And Ruler Of Everything Except China And Those Damn Russians, it is somewhat imperative to recognise the rest of the world. And, please, America, stop acting like a spoiled child throwing a tantrum every time things don't go your way. We're all extremely fed up with that and the only reason nobody has told you so is because we were stupid enough (thanks to a war or two) to have put the dopey dollar into a position of power so you still have some influence over us. Oh, and you guys consume so damn much that it is keeping loads of people this side of the ocean employed. Apparently quite a lot of the stuff I help make is exported. So, thanks and all. But, really, Dubyah must go down as one of the low points in your country's history. The stuff he came up with, his thinking process that seemed to be highly binary (i.e. you're with us or you're with the terrorists - not accounting for the fact that various American military actions make some think America is the terrorist, or those countries who would rather not get involved in a war against an unknown enemy...). That was who you used to represent your country? Is that really the best you could do?
Now? Now we get to see old-order and the new-radicals clashing head-on. Early "Poll of polls" (yuck, pointlessly over-dramatic title) gives Obama something like 56% to McCain's 49%? Will this prove to be reasonably accurate? And, as much as it saddens me to say this, if Obama should win, what will be his life expectancy?

My hope - that he does indeed win, and turns out to be a blindingly good president...

What is it with Mrs. Palin's comments of "I'm a hockey mom!" You mean you are a mother and your kids play (ice) hockey. Whoo. You don't hear people shouting "I'm a baseball mom" or "I'm a figure skating mom" or even just "I'm a mom!" (unless they've just popped out one for the first time and don't quite realise how much their lives are going to change!), perhaps that reporter was correct when he quipped "yes, she should be frozen and hit with a big stick!".

## XviD

I tried putting my old DVD-ROM into the faster machine, as a slave on the primary IDE. Didn't want to do it like that, but couldn't find my spare IDE cable. As it happens, the drive appears to return corrupted data; EXEs loaded from disc crashed with obscure errors, and DVD media randomly crashes the host viewer. I will look into it. Damaged drive, or dirty lens? Isn't there some sort of CRC checking that is supposed to ensure reliable data is returned, or is this one of those obscure "it doesn't like hanging off a harddisc" type clashes?
I fitted a 4-slot USB 2.0 card, and whenever I plug anything in to it, Windows reports "This device could run faster"... gee, thanks. The system 'knows' I have a USB 2.0 host, but it treats everything as USB 1.1. What, is PCI into a 200MHz FSB on a 1.1GHz CPU not enough for USB 2.0? Can't we compromise, like react as 2.0 and run more slowly? To downgrade to 1.1 is a hell of a kick in the teeth! Never mind, the machine is bristling with USB ports now, instead of just the two on the back (and apparently two inside if you wonk together your own lead?).

So I can use Aiko for productive stuff, recorded video is copied to the faster computer via ethernet (actually a cross-over 10baseT cable and a forced 100baseT link which runs about twice as fast as 10baseT); and while the copy is taking place I would load the same file into VirtualDub (version 1.5.3, I prefer the older 'cleaner' interface) to edit it - knock out adverts, sponsorship links, etc; tweak the brightness and such. Then the parameters would be set up. Audio is 128kbit constant, I learned the hard way that video and VBR audio don't work well together. The video is encoded to XviD (not DivX) as I felt it was visually better looking. This may be a criticism of my encoder or its settings rather than DivX itself. Anyway, XviD wins hands-down with its inclusion of a bitrate calculator. My encodes are around 460kbit for "okay stuff", run-of-the-mill horror flicks, and such; going up to around 920kbit for stuff I want more attention paid to, like "Cherry Falls" which is a film I really like. Typically, I pick a size that I wish to aim for, and the calculator suggests an appropriate bitrate. This was useful for getting "5ive Girls" onto a CD-R. Aim for around 690Mb, so you will not be wasting much, but you won't overrun. Actually I was cheeky/daring and went for the exact size of a 700Mb disc. The converted film came to 702Mb, leaving about 600K free! I was impressed!
Anyway, oodles of memory and a twice-as-fast processor means that which new machine can't do real-time, it does convert a lot faster. And there's a benefit to tossing off lengthy stuff to some other machine. I plan to record "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" in half an hour, while the other machine is working though other bits and pieces.
So, even if I never get the new machine as a reliable desktop machine (that's not to say it is unreliable, I just haven't had time to assess it and transfer all the kit across and install things and ensure it all works...) it has proven itself valuable for doing the grunt-work. If only I could get the DVD-reader working! I'm not working Monday or Tuesday (11th is a holiday, they're taking the 10th off too) so I'll have a long weekend. Might look into sorting this.

I used to 'save' the VirtualDub jobs list and open it in Metapad, edit it by hand, then run it as a 'script' on the other machine. This was necessary because of the different paths and the XviD codecs were different so the saved data was not compatible. On the other machine, run the script, set up the codec, and let it roll.
I have now installed the same (latest) XviD codec in both machines, so I only need to tweak the paths and then I can load it in as a jobs list with multiple things to do. Might cobble together a little VB program to tweak the paths automatically. Using shared folders and VNC, it is all coming together nicely.

HINT: I just wish I had some sort of helpfile or documentation that explained what these GOPs and VOPs were, and what effect all the options have, especially those with numbers, like the quant. settings... Anyone?

PS: I love that I can use VNC to put the other computer into hibernate mode and it turns itself off and all. ☺

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