Paul Geromini

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Friday 17 May 2019

Two Years At NetNumber

As tradition dictates, once another year passes I must write up my thoughts.

What Did I Learn This Year?

1. My gun affair is not abating. If anything my collecting has increased in scope, complexity, and intensity. This has been unhelpful in terms of my long stated and long running goal of retiring early. That said there have been some nice unexpected benefits. I enjoy the atmosphere at the local club and this hobby is a good excuse to get outside on occasion. I am hoping to cool things down a bit this year as my collection rounds out, but I remain vigilant for new pieces. Right now this happens to be French rifles. I cannot imagine why.

2. Metallic cartridge reloading. Riffing off the above, I was able to reload small batches of cartridges this year (~200 or so total) in a few differing calibers. I considered taking a class on this, but instead I got a book and watched a lot of videos on the subject. This was sufficient to get me going, but I am still considering a class so I can clarify some of the finer points. This will be a skill I need to curate as my collecting habits lead me to pieces with no commercially available ammo. As a collector who shoots everything he has I will need to be able to "roll my own" as they say.

3. Adobe Premiere and Adobe After Effects. I used both of these applications extensively for my April 15th project. After Effects was definitely required, given all the rotoscoping I had to do, but I probably could have gotten away with using my old standby, Sony Vegas. I just wanted to branch out and try some other editing suites to see what they offered. What I found was I still prefer Sony Vegas, but it was a fun diversion to see how other applications handle similar tasks. I do like how Premiere manages effects on video clips though. Luckily, I tend not require a lot of that so it is no huge loss.

4. I am not a huge racing fan. After dabbling with a Lemons racing team for over a year I decided that the racing life was not for me and retired. We did have some success, taking home an Organizer's Choice award at our first race, but I decided that it was just too much of a time and money sink and I did not have the passion to needed continue. I do however still follow the team's progress and some parts of the car mysteriously keep finding their way to me.

5. Corn tortillas are weak. Flour is the ultimate tortilla. I tried corn again this year, just in case my taste buds have changed, but I can report they remain loyal to the one true tortilla.

What Am I Looking To Explore This Year?

1. Civil war reenacting. I mentioned this last year, but I feel more serious about it this year. That has not translated into any tangible actions yet, but with the money from the racing team freed up I think the stars are starting to align. This also lines up nicely with me wanting to go to more reenactments in general. There are a couple groups in MA I will investigate.

2. Convention Panel Running. Last year I ran a panel at Connecticon on firearm history and federal law. I think it went well (people showed up) and I am planning on running it again this year. I am hoping to spread out and bring it to other conventions, but I accept it can be a hard sell.

3. A new convention somewhere out west (we must go west young beans!). I think right now we have a good distribution and mix of conventions we go to, but I would like to rotate in a new one to try. Maybe Gen Con or Anime North in 2020.

4. Podcasting. I had so much fun doing this video about my April 15th project that I would like to do it again. I am not sure about what though or with whom. More research will be required.

What did I Fail at This Year?

1. Saving money. It is the same refrain as last year. I did increase my savings rate, but I will need to do better if I want to retire early. So long as I keep my hobbies though, this is looking doubtful.

2. Cooking. I have felt in a bit of a recipe rut as of late. The problem is I am too comfortable with my normal standbys so it is hard to branch out. Oftentimes I will find some new interesting recipe, but I will be intimidated by the steps or the new ingredients. I think I need to find simpler recipes.

3. Lawn care. That said, is it really failing if you do not care about the outcome? I do occasionally wish the grass looked a little nicer.

4. Home improvement. Last year I said I would work on the downstairs bathroom. The downstairs bathroom has not been worked on. The mission continues...

Friday 28 August 2015

Lets Get NASty

I want to talk a bit today about my storage setup, specifically my NAS or Network Attached Storage. I have been running my system for a little over a year now and have had no issues so it is a good time to give a brief half review, half description of setup. I started considering a longer term storage setup when the available space on my desktop began to dwindle. I am a bit of "digital hoarder" if you will, constantly butting up against my limit. When space is so cheap and ubiquitous why throw anything out? The problem with this is you always need to be increasing your capacity. At the time I was getting my NAS my several year old external drive had failed, another drive in my desktop was faltering, and the rest of the case was already filled up with other drives. I did not want to get rid of my existing drives and I also wanted a better solution than continuing to lock data to my desktop. Enter the ReadyNAS 104.

The first thing you need to know about NASs (NASes?) is that there are a ton of models on the market featuring wildly different prices and sets of features. You will need to determine what you want out of your NAS before you consider purchasing one. For me I had just two requirements:

1. Four drive slots. This allows for a ton of storage and is very flexible when it comes to determining your RAID setup. 2. Minimum computational performance, I do not need my NAS to be a file server or another computer. I need to put files on it and get files off, that is all.

With those requirements you can pretty much be satisfied with things at the low end of the market, hence the ReadyNAS 104. Your real cost on the low end here is going to be in drives. I went with four of these drives for a total capacity of 16 terabytes. Total (including the NAS) this ran me $1045.94. You could cheap out here and go for smaller drives or slower drives. From what I read 5600RPM drives work just as well, albeit slower. I went max size and max speed because I wanted a long term solution. There were at the time some rebates, but I do not remember how much they were for. As far as quality of drives this particular brand came recommended, but other brands are just as well regarded.

For setup I configured the drives in RAID 5 (~10TBs of space). Take a moment to read up on the different RAID options here. In my opinion RAID 5 gives you the best space efficiency (you lose about 1/4 of the capacity compared to 1/2 in some other configurations) and reasonable fault tolerance (you can lose one drive and not lose any data). I do not want to lose data, but then again it is not exactly mission critical. Actually formatting and configuring the drives takes about a full day so sit tight. After that there is not much other configuration to be done. Plug it into your router and it should assign itself a local IP address automatically. It would be wise to configure a static address in your router's control panel so its not always changing on you, but this is not required. You can access your system via its IP and (at least on Windows) it will appear like one giant network drive.

Of course since your NAS is basically a low powered computer you can run any number of programs on it. The ReadyNAS people helpfully have a site with some options. I myself jun run qbittorent for my torrenting needs, but there are some useful apps to be found. If you are handy with the command line you can SSH into your NAS and do whatever you want since it runs Linux.

For daily use a NAS is pretty helpful. Transfer times can be slow since I connect through mine wirelessly, but its not terribly slow. Think a few minutes for a couple GBs. It is certainly quick enough to stream video from itself to your computer which is what I primarily use it for. Although when initially transferring all your files to it I suggest hooking up an external drive. There are a few USB ports on the back so it can mount drives, but I could not figure how to connect it physically to my desktop.

In regards to configuration you can mostly roll with stock settings. I suggest disabling file snap shots, which can be a bit of a pain, but will save you a lot of space. I also recommend enabling SSH access (so you can fiddle with things yourself) and enabling "Disk Spin Down" to both conserve power and the life of your drives.

Overall a NAS is a little pricey, but it is a convenient way to get a lot of storage you can access from anywhere in the house. It also allows you to sleep safe knowing your files are backed up. Granted its not off site, but if your house burns down you probably have bigger things to concern yourself with.

Monday 4 August 2014

Review:Real Love

Real Love is a six episode romantic comedy weighing in at about 2.5 hours, about a bunch of friends living in a Boston apartment a few years out of college. It is not my usual fare, but it was actually kickstarted by some people I know so I had to watch it. As such, I am not sure I can be totally unbiased (honest) with my review, but I will do my best. Some minor spoilers abound so if you want a pure viewing experience skip to the summary.

Plot/Script

Real love is a story about trying to find out whats next. In that sense it captures the feel of TV shows like Freak and Geeks and Undeclared. Without spoiling too much of the plot, we spend most of our time watching the interaction between Dylan and Beth. The back and forth play between them and the other characters is funny, but still manages to be poignant at times. There is a real good sense of characters just trying figure things out which especially appeals to me. Some of the plot beats I found a little jarring, such as the early marriage proposal between two characters and the strange closeness already apparent between Dylan and Beth. I did not know the characters well enough to understand why they were acting this way early on. Speaking more to the script there is quite a lot of humor to be found here. A number of jokes keep reoccurring and seemed to only get funnier the more they happened. I was a little concerned things would get a bit cheesy, but the writing smartly avoids these pitfalls and kept things feeling real. The plot moves along briskly, there are no wasted scenes, and the dialogue is believable and not loaded down with exposition.

Characters/Actors

There are four main characters, and three side characters. Of the main characters my favorite would have to be Dylan. The actor, Patrick Skeyhill, always manages to capture an otherworldly physicality that is really quite humorous. He elevates normal scenes to funny scenes with just his comic actions. Beth, played by Courtland Jones, is the emotional strength of the series. She brings the gravitas and is a good foil to the general silliness of Dylan. The other two main characters (played well by Richard Nickerson as Liam and Jess Corey as Emma) provide a good compliment to each other and push the plot forward. Jess generally plays it pretty straight, but her husband to be, Richard, always has a non-sequitur to mix things up.

The side characters play effective roles in support of the plot. Eddie, played by, Nick Wakely has a deep thundering accent and his strange thought trains always keep the scenes he is in light. Adam, Beth's boyfriend for most of the film, is perhaps a bit too earnest, but that makes his deadpan line delivery all the more funny. Finally Cara, portrayed by Katie O'Connor, is perfect in her role as the crazy ex-girlfriend of Dylan. Her manic delivery and borderline crazy voice provides a real believable edge to her character which she uses to good effect.

Technical/Music

You can see the indie roots most clearly in the technical aspects of the film. The film quality is generally good, but scenes with a lot of light suffer. Windows and doors to the outside are often bathed in high intensity light. It looks odd and it was distracting. In addition I think some of the characters lines were overdubbed in post and it did not sound good. It was not super noticeable, but I did notice it.

In general I liked the score, I am not much of a musical fan so it is kind of hard to judge this aspect of it, but I thought it complimented the emotional feel of the scenes nicely. That said sometimes it felt like the music was too overwhelming. Some scenes would have been better if the music was less obvious or quieter. Shot selection was pretty standard, nothing too creative. One of the few times Real Love gets clever is the pan from midday to a night time party scene. It is smartly used and makes the transition slick. I would have liked to see some smoother cuts, as most of time the camera just seemed to bounce from character to character.

Extras

If you buy the special edition DVD (which I did), you get all six episodes, the prologue, the soundtrack, and two audio commentary tracks. I have listened to some of both commentary tracks and they provide good insight and more laughs. I wish the DVD had included the deleted scenes and shorts they mention in the commentary, but that might have required another DVD so it is not a big deal. The case insert is good quality and its simple design looks nice on the shelf.

Summary

I liked this film, It had important things to say about life after college and it was funny enough to not take itself so serious all the time. You can buy it via their store.

Back of the box quote: "Real good, real funny, worth your money."

Saturday 5 July 2014

Review: Knights of Sidonia (Season 1)

The very first review on the blog! This show just completed its run so here are some thoughts on it in the form of a review. Be prepared for some light spoilage.

Knights of Sidonia is a 12 episode space mecha following the pursuits of Nagate Tanikaze as he and others try and defend their massive colony/seed ship the Sidonia from the inscrutable Gauna. As such this is mostly an action anime in the same vein as Attack on Titan or The Pilot's Love Song. Let us get to the breakdown.

Plot

A lively show, the plot starts fast and the pace is pretty steady throughout. This is a show about people struggling to survive in a harsh environment against an implacable enemy and as such very little time is spent on fluff. Viewers of Attack on Titan will find much they are already familiar with. This season does not have an overarching plot, but instead has a few mini arcs throughout. Overall things are hard to predict and the suspense is high enough to keep you looking forward to the next episode.

Setting and Characters

As far as anime goes, the settings is farm fresh. Not many animes are set in space these days and furthermore not many pay service to the realities of operating in a vacuum. Sidonia does and in a big way. Major plot points revolve around the physics of acceleration and the difficulties in regards to resources of running a society in a closed environment. Characters are probably Sidonia's weakest point. Our main antagonist is a bit plain both emotionally and back story wise. The supporting characters (other pilots, officers) are a little better, but some fulfill your standard anime tropes : rival to the main protagonist, bubbly girl classmate, etc.

Animation Quality

The animation quality is high, but viewers may be put off by the heavy use of CGI for characters and the mecha themselves. I do not mind, but if you found Arpeggio of Blue Steel hard to watch because of this, you should probably give this show a pass. If this does not bother you then enjoy the high quality visuals on display here. The Sidonia looks fantastic, clearly this ship has been an evolving home for a desperate people for many hundreds of years. The mechs themselves are well thought out and their cockpits are the most sensible I have ever seen. Battle scenes are lush, dynamic, and well choreographed.

Audio

High marks in this category. The OP is a nice mix between orchestral military theme and high energy JPop. The ED is restrained and brooding and always a good finish to an episode. Music throughout the series complements the action or the drama well, but nothing ever stood out for me. Sound effects wise Knights of Sidonia has a knack for capturing just the right mechanical effects. Consequently all the mechs, ships, machines sound great. Voice work is pretty standard, no one seemed off their game. I do award high marks to the voice actor of the captain who just seemed a bit better than everybody else.

Overall

This is a well done show. If you like mechs, SciFi, or Attack on Titan give it a watch. If you do not like it by episode four you can probably drop it. I award it 18 lead bricks out of five oddly situated bear characters.