Categories
Anime Projects

Space AMV (Third Overall)

You can watch it here.

Another Anime Boston, another AMV submission. Building off my last accepted work. This time I decided my
best bet at acceptance into the finals was to be on theme. Given the theme was
space I used a lot of modern/sci-fi anime for my first multiple source AMV.
Specifically I used: – Planetes – Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Moonlight
Mile – Space Battleship Yamato 2199 – Royal Space Force: The Wings of
HonnĂȘamise – Freedom Project – Bodacious Space Pirates – Magnetic Rose

For the song I used Melody Sheep’s
Beyond the Horizon
which I edited somewhat to remove a section in the middle that was not fit for
my purposes. I would recommend giving him/her/it a subscription as they produce
a lot of interesting musical content.

I submitted this to Anime Boston 2018 and it was accepted as a finalist in
the “Other”category.
It won “Best Concept”
, my first award ever!

Scene Breakdown

00:00 – 00:04: It just cannot be an AMV without a little Legend of the
Galactic Heroes love.

00:05: This scene is unremarkable except that I had major difficulty with it
in Sony Vegas. Specifically I had issues with Vegas trying to changes its frame
rate. It was very frustrating and it would often render in a stuttering manner
until I sorted it out.

00:017: I spent a long time trying to find the right clip for this scene.
This was the best I could do.

00:18-00:19: I love this shot. It was one of the first clips I used.

00:39-00:40: Not a fan of this shot, but it had to do.

00:55-00:57: These clips are from Royal Space Force and they look gorgeous.
This movie never seemed to got the acclaim it deserves both story wise and
animation wise. A big miss with modern CG is organic looking shots like
these.

01:04-01:23: I went back and forth a lot on this section between trying to
actually find clips of Neptune and just showing planets. I think what I have
works, but it lacking. I wish I did have some Neptune shots. I also am not so
sure that section in the middle that flashes a bunch of planets (01:13-01:16)
works. It just seems choppy.

01:32-01:34: This scene is from Freedom Project and it is one of my favorite
shots in the series. The framing of the ship flying over the moon to the earth
is this AMV in a nutshell.

01:41-01:42: They say you should avoid flappy lips in AMVs, which I agree
with, but I made an exception because if it is just the button press it does
not make a whole lot of sense.

02:06-02:08: Kind of a boring shot, but I did not have anything else to
use.

02:09: This is where I cut about 30 seconds from the song. Have a listen to
those seconds here. Its the
only part of the song that would be hard to work with since its a very sudden
tonal shift and their is some straight unautotuned voice over. I am pretty
happy with my cut as it is unnoticeable to me.

02:27: It is really nice how the Yamato blinks out with the beat. That was a
happy little coincidence.

02:34-02:36: This little jump of the spaceship with the beat is about the
most clever thing I have ever done. I have a long way to go.

02:43: I went back and forth a lot if I was going to stick to just modern
ships or show some futuristic designs like this one from Bodacious Space
Pirates. In the end I wanted to show both the past and the future so I ran with
it starting with this clip. It is also hard to find anime about the space
program or even modern spaceflight. Related to that, I so wanted to include
some Nadesico somewhere, but it is in 4:3 and would look weird with all the
other widescreen clips. I think Nadesico will be my next project.

02:46: I may have overused the main characters from the Freedom Project.

03:35: The close out with the baby going for the star is great in my opinion
and I get more Legend of the Galactic Heroes in.

Summary

Overall, the final product is acceptable. Given my previous work (like my
Saikano AMV and Ran FMV) this piece lacks a fun
juxtaposition of violence and upbeat tunes that I think characterizes my work
(and my other, in this author’s opinion, better second submission which I will
write about latter). That said it is good to have an optimistic video every now
and then and I cannot say I am unhappy about taking home an award. It is just
weird that I won for a video I was probably the least enthused about.

Categories
Anime Projects

An Unfortunate Misfire

As faithful blog readers will know I have been creating a number of video projects as of late. During all
the copious free time I had while I was unemployed, I spent some of
it on this Gundam AMV. I found out I
like Gundam a lot and I like the song I used (Mecha Mechanics by Whoremoans) a
lot. But this AMV just does not work out. I am not totally sure why, but I have
a theory. This video represents the ultimate “literal interpretation” theory of
AMV creation. AMVs subscribing to this school of thought try to match the
lyrics being spoken as close as possible to clips from the series. That school
of thought worked out well for me with the Homeworld and Saikano videos, but I feel I was too
slavish to lining clips up and consequently the video lacks a coherent theme. I
also just had a hard time finding clips for everything. I spent a lot more time
than I have on other videos trying to find things that would work.

I ended up not submitting this to any contests.

Scene Breakdown I have a couple comments on
various parts of the FMV. You can think of this as a textual director’s
commentary.

00:13: Not sure how I feel about this 9/11 reference.

00:19: I really like this short clip and how it times up well with the
music.

00:21-00:22: This is what I talked about above. These are clips of Gundams,
but it is not the models mentioned in the lyrics.

00:33-00:34: I love this joke

01:31-01:33: These clips do not work that great. I ran the first one in
reverse to look like it was going back into the water, but it looks
awkward.

01:35: I think the next couple clips with the blue Zaku are the best
executed in the AMV.

02:01: I was not sure what to put here and this is the best I could come up
with.

Overall, it is a bit disappointing spending a lot of time to produce
something that is not that great, but I learned a bit so it was not all a
loss.

Categories
Musings

Thoughts on being unemployed

I am a few months back to being employed and I have some thoughts on the two
or so months I spent unemployed.

1. I am not ready to retire yet. The one nice thing about being unemployed
is all the free time you have. While this was nice originally, I mostly did the
same thing I always do with my free hours: watch TV, play video games, and read
books. It was awesome for a while, but after a month or so of gorging it begins
to become unstimulating. While it is true I did work on some side projects,
like an AMV or two and a Chex Quest
cosplay
, I mostly have little to show for my long break. This does not bode
well for my early retirement
plans
. Consuming media is fun, but not rest of your life fun.

2. Job Hunting is hard. Even for a field in-demand like software
engineering, job hunting was not an easy task. I applied to 50 places, had 10
phone screens, and three in person interviews. Part of the problem was
geography, since a lot of work is in and around the city of Boston and I did
not want to work there, but I feel the main issue was a disconnect between me
and the applications I was viewing. While it is true not all the jobs I applied
to were perfect fits for my experience and skillset, I felt most of the
applications I submitted were good matches. Given the 20% contact rate the
employers disagreed. This leads me to think their job postings were not
accurate to what they wanted.

3. Youtube is awesome I started really using Youtube and subscribing to
channels and there is quite a lot of good content to be found there. Some of my
new favorites are: 1. Forgotten
Weapons
2. LGR 3. Tank Museam 4.
The Examined
Life (of Gaming)
5. Spacedock

4. Baldur’s Gate is awesome I had beat Baldur’s Gate 1 (along with Tales of
the Sword Coast) before I was “budget actioned”, but all this new free time
begged for long, involving RPGs. Thus began epic quest to rid the world of evil
in Baldur’s Gate Siege of Dragonspear, Baldur’s Gate 2, and Baldur’s Gate 2
Throne of Bhaal. Ultimately that is 100+ hours of classic D&D gaming.
Overall I would say it was time well spent. The isometric graphics hold up
well, the voice acting is solid (Irenicus portrayed by David Warner being the
highlight), and the story being pretty compelling. I will say, I am still
rubbish at the combat.

5. Gundam is awesome Surprising no one I started watching Gundam and it is
as good as everyone always told me it was. I do get to cheat a little and watch
just the good series though. That turned out to be Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War
in the Pocket, Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, Mobile Suit Gundam: The
Origin, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (just the first two cours),
and Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt. I would recommend those series if you are
in the market for a mecha anime.

6. Unemployment Services are a pain I got my first taste of the MA safety
net when I started to collect unemployment. What I did not know was I had to
prove to the state that I was looking for work every week I wanted benefits.
That was not a huge issue, even if the site for reporting what you did that
week was slow and poorly formatted, but it does highlight an unfortunate gap.
Specifically, if you have signed an offer, but have not started work yet you
still have to be looking for work to get benefits. That seems rather
disingenuous so I did not do that, but I missed out on two weeks worth of
benefits. I also had to go to a unemployment class which was a huge waste of my
time. I did not need a class to tell me MA offers a site to do job searches
on.

7. Being unemployed hurts the ego Its pretty deflating to be unemployed. I
very much enjoyed being a software engineer and having that title. Lacking it,
is was a big bummer. It is strange, because I was still the same person, but it
was harder to prove I was who I said I was without some sort of outside
validation (like being employed).

8. The MA healthcare bureaucracy is vast I almost had to switch to MA
healthcare and it was a huge pain. They wanted forms faxed (no online upload or
emailing) and it took forever to hear back from them. One day I got two letters
in the mail. One saying I had been denied health care and the other saying I
had been accepted into the plan. It was all very confusing and I am glad to not
have to deal with it now that I am back to work.

And that is my unemployment nutshell. I hung around the house for a bit,
played some games, watched some anime, and then went back to work.

Categories
Convention Projects

My Second FMV

I have finally gotten around to releasing my second FMV (Fan Music Video).
You can watch it here. It was a
first for me in that the source material is a video game. Specifically,

Homeworld: Remastered
(a remaster of the 1999 classic) and briefly Homeworld:
Deserts of Kharak
(A 2016 prequel).

Homeworld has always been very special to me. It is an excellently
constructed game, with unique gameplay mechanics (full 3d unit movement),
excellent graphics, strong art direction (see Peter Elson, the Terran Trade Authority
Books
, and this fan site). I have
played it and its sequels many times and I have always wanted to pay tribute to
it in some form

Here is what the finished project looks like:

This FMV was a huge technical challenge for me. I would have to capture
almost all the video clips I needed (minus some cinematics) and work with three
different styles (Homeworld Remastered, its black and white cinematics, and
Deserts of Kharak). I did a lot of research and testing on various capture
solutions, eventually settling on the excellent and open source OBS
(https://obsproject.com/). While testing this tool, I found only recording at
the highest quality (lossless) captures the vibrant color of the ships and
backgrounds of Homeworld which is critical to the end product. This resulted in
huge video files, about 100MB for every 5 seconds compared to 61GBs compared to
my average size ~5GBs. Thankfully, Sony Vegas had no problems handling these
large files. Painful as it was to work with all these large clips, it did allow
me full freedom in selecting the shots I wanted as all I had to do was move the
camera and record. This was made easy since both Homeworld games have a
cinematic mode which hides the UI except for the pointer which can be hidden by
holding the right mouse button down. All this freedom can be a challenge
however as you get to decide what you want, instead of working from a set
palette of clips. More freedom, but more indecision. It was a new experience in
that regard as I had to have more of a director’s eye rather than being given
everything to start with. This does help cut down on all the time trawling
though episodes to find what you need, but It is replaced by lots of recording
and lots of thinking you are recording only to realize you forgot. For the
story, I wanted to present the full journey through the first game so I took
highlights from most missions, skipping missions that did not contribute to the
main story. It was tough to get a few shots given a game is going on, but
judicious saving made it easy to get most of the clips I wanted. Finally of
note, the end product is letterboxed a bit. I did this because the cinematics
from the first game are letterboxed and it was distracting to see the bars
appear and disappear as the video went on.

I submitted this FMV to Connecticon 2017, but it was not accepted as a
finalist. I was a bit bummed by that as I thought it was pretty good (biased
though I am). I will take it as a challenge to submit a better one next
year.

Scene Breakdown I have a couple comments on
various parts of the FMV. You can think of this as a textual director’s
commentary.

0:00-0:03: I love using voices from the source material and having a cold
(music-less) open. This clip is actually frozen until the hyperspace window
appears at 0:04. It was too hard to capture the mothership (the banana ship)
and Kharak (the planet behind the mothership) standing still and then
hyperspacing in one shot. You can see a tiny bit of the hyperspace window, but
it is hard to spot (IMHO).

0:29: This shot comes from Deserts of Kharak. It actually has a bit more of
a letterbox than the clips from Remastered, but it is not that noticeable
(IMHO).

0:44: The next few clips are from an in game captured log of the attack on
Kharak so it intentionally has static and a timer in the upper right. There is
nothing I can do about it so I left it as is.

0:55-0:56: I love the explosion of the space station blending into the
cinematic explosion. It works really well.

1:04-1:13: One of the weaker parts of the video if I am being critical. I
had to introduce this ship (as it is very important latter), but it is not very
interesting otherwise.

1:16: This clip is stretched a tiny bit since some of the UI actually crept
in on the edge and I had to hide it. At long distances in Homeworld: Remastered
ships get a border that cannot be hidden.

1:24: This is a cool shot of a lot of ships, but I have no idea how that ion
frigate got so out of formation at the bottom.

1:35-1:36: I think the abrupt song transition from fast paced to slow is
very well complimented by the shot selection here.

1:44: These are cryostasis pods which might not be apparent if you have not
played the game.

1:54: This shot of the hyperspace inhibitor is actually not from the
cinematic montage of enemy structures used in the previous clip. It will become
important latter on so I wanted to set it up here.

1:58: We can start to see some of the great color usage in the game as it
goes from a black background to a vibrant red here to orange and yellow as we
go on. You can really see this gradual color change in the project picture.

2:13-2:17: Really cool shot of some bombers making a run on the Kadeshi
needle. I setup to record just the bombers and got lucky one was destroyed
during the filming.

2:17-2:20: This ship is an important story piece so I set it up by including
it here.

2:23-2:29: Again, I got lucky here as the camera automatically zooms out to
prevent clipping into a ship. It gave this great shot that goes from being
tight on the fighters to wide as they break off showing all the capital ships
in play.

2:31: Those are actually captured enemy destroyers in the background (there
is an ingame capture mechanic). It would be confusing for someone not familiar
with the game to see them up close, but it is far enough away and well obscured
so I thought it was ok to cheat just this once. This was some of the first
footage I recorded and I had forgot about that mechanic. Gamewise, capturing
everything is always the correct strategy which is why it was heavily nerfed in
the sequels.

3:43: I probably overdid it with carrier explosions as here is a second
one.

3:47: This is captain Elson in his black destroyer. He is very important to
the game, but hard to explain without words. I do not think I succeed in
conveying that to people who are not fans of the game.

3:59: I love the strange angle the multigun corvette is taking as it comes
into the shot in the lower left.

4:03: A great shot, but for this mission the head on approach is very
costly. Two cloak generators in the middle of a tight ship formation is far
more effective.

4:04: You can see the turrets on this heavy cruiser moving, but not firing.
I am not sure if that was a bug, but I let it be.

4:10-4:12 Probably the hardest shot to get. I had to get both the homeworld
and the mothership in frame. It took a number of reloads to get it just
right.

4:13: This attack in Remastered is actually very different from the original
as it is far more aggressive and reckless. Thus the Remastered version has a
big difficulty spike here.

4:23-4:25: A very Michael Bay-esque
shot
here with multiple ships moving at multiple distances from the
camera.

4:29-4:30: I got lucky with this shot as the missile strike destroys the
fighter right on a music beat.

4:41: I think I should have held this end shot a bit longer. The song ends
pretty quickly, but we need some time to decompress.

Conclusion Overall, I really like how this came
out. I think it struggles a bit with some boring shots that do not make sense
if you are not a fan or familiar with the game, but it was fun to make and a
interesting technical challenge. Look for something more familiar for my next
project.

Categories
Anime Projects

My Second AMV

After much effort I have completed a second AMV which can be seen here. I am very happy with
how it turned out as it was accepted as a finalist at Anime Boston
2017
in the other category. This is the most success any of my video projects have had. Just like those
two other projects I want to give a brief overview of why I used the anime and
music I did along with a couple comments on particular scenes.

Music and Anime I found the music first. During
the time between Christmas and New Years I worked from home for a week and I
was listening to a bunch of music. I started listening to The DoubleClicks as I had head them at
Pax East 2016. When I heard the song I ended up using: Can’t You See
the World is Ending
, I knew right away this was going to work with an
actiony anime. At first I thought I might make another Legend of the Galactic
Heroes (LOGH) AMV like I did with my first one. Reinhard would be the focus and
there would be a lot more action. I scrapped that idea because this song has
more of a high school/young adult vibe and as much as I want LOGH to become
more popular, I am not sure I alone can carry that torch. Then I thought of
using Nadesico since
that has more of a lighter vibe benefiting this song and I want more people to
watch this show too. I was not sold on the idea though and I did a brief search
to see if another anime fit the bill better. Then I remembered Saikano and it just fit right away.
It was just a nice bonus that the show is not in vogue anymore.

Editing Before I started editing I had a lot of
difficulty getting quality source material. Saikano has never had a blu-ray
release and the actual animation quality is just ok. That did not stop me from
spending a lot of time with conversion tools (mostly handbrake) trying to get the best I could. The end
result is functional, but certainly not as good as I would like. A big take
away for me in the future is to secure better source material before becoming
married to an idea.

For the editing process I used Sony Vegas. Here is what the finished project
looks like:

When I start I lay the music track down first, then I put notes (those
orange flags) around lyrics I want to get specific clips for. For example when
the song reaches “try to stop the bombs” I want to put a clip of bombs falling.
It is pretty basic, but it helps me keep things organized. Then I have a couple
video tracks. 1. The main “AMV” track which will be the final video 2. A track
above that for “Clips” so I can easily swap clips in and out that I want to
try. You can think of this as alternative cuts. 3. A number of “Effect” tracks
which holds things like text I want to overlay. I had a lot of more of these
effects than any video I have done before. I am sure there is a more clever of
way instead of using multiple tracks, but this is easy to do and what I was
doing was not super complicated so I ran with it.

Once that is all setup I just trolled through the episodes to find clips I
wanted to use. I would bring the whole episode into Vegas and I would scan it
quickly (say 2x-3x speed). I had a good sense of what I wanted to see, so when
I saw a clip I liked I would cut it from the episode and place it roughly where
I wanted. I did this with all 13 episodes (ignoring the OVAs). After I went
through all the episodes I had a lot of clips in rough position. I refined
things from there, going back to get more clips when I needed. After that I
added a few effects with some text and I was finished.

To render I create a new template with the technical specifications Anime
Boston wants and I make an RC or release candidate. From there I send the video
out to a select review group for comments (Mr. Skehill of the inimitable
Quixotic United and my sister). I get
comments from them and make various RCs until I am happy. That final RC becomes
a release and I submit that video. This is a rough imitation of the software release
life cycle
.

Scene Breakdown I have a couple comments on
various parts of the AMV . You can think of this as a textual director’s
commentary.

00:00-00:08: This is the part of the AMV I am least happy about. I was never
sure what to put here and this just ends up feeling like wasted space.
Originally I had put a bunch of establishing shots of buildings and
countryside, but that was pretty boring. At least opening with a bunch of
crying shots gets your attention.

00:17-00:00:20: These are flashbacks in the anime so they have a hazy
border. It has the effect of making the animation quality look even worse, but
I really wanted to use these scenes so I figured it was worth it.

00:26: It took me forever to find a clip that worked here.

00:32-00:34: I like the dichotomy of these two clips a lot and that vibe is
what I try to hit throughout the AMV. The main drive of the song is everyone is
acting normal in an abnormal situation so I wanted to highlight that wherever I
could. The one drawback here is it spoils a bit of the surprise later on when
we see her with the Gatling gun (0:53).

0:53-0:55: I think this scene works particularly well. It lines up with the
song, it is pretty snappy with all the cuts, and the contrast between the
destruction in the background and her being the hero is just right.

0:55-0:56: There is actually not a lot of action scenes in this series, with
most of them coming from episode 1. Lucky there are enough clips for this AMV,
but most of the actiony shots come from this episode and episode 13.

1:00: I went back and forth on actually showing people eating food when the
song mentions it. I did not have anything better to use, but I wish I did.
Mostly it just seems lazy to show food when the song mentions it.

1:06. This is the first effect I used. It is just text, but I had to cover
up what is actually shown on the pager with a block of color. It is basic, but
it gets the message across. Looking at it now, I think the text should be more
digital.

1:15-1:16: Best part of the AMV in my opinion. Happy trumpets with a sad
violent clip.

1:29-1:30: This is a subtle effect. Chise (the standing character) actually
talks in this scene, but it was distracting to see. I effectively froze part of
this clip so we could see the animation around the exclamation points, but not
her talking.

1:42-1:43: Those familiar with the series will see Chise shopping here which
is not congruent with the song. In the song Chise is effectively the singer so
she would not be shopping, but her friends would be. That said it goes by quick
so I do not think it would upset many people. There was also no other shopping
clip to use.

1:56: I do not know what the Japanese says here.

2:01-2:02: The most complicated part of the AMV. Basically I repeated the
effect from 1:06, but I had to animate both the text and the color block to
move with the pager. It took a long time, but I think it syncs up quite well. I
also like the humor of mentioning the AMV title here. Interestingly, I came up
with this hashtag first and then I liked it so much I used it as the title.

2:25- 2:26: Ok, this might be more complicated than before. Effectively, I
had to cut out part of the clip with the TV, and then overlay the hamster dance
video where the cut out is. The tricky part is a character is moving right next
to the TV so with each movement I had to change the part I cut out (the mask)
so it would look consistent. On close inspection it does not look amazing, but
perfect is the enemy of good so I moved on.

2:33: This is the second part of the scene from 1:15.

2:49-2:50: I actually uploaded the clip I wanted to show here to youtube and then screen recorded it to get
the youtube controls. I then inserted that clip on top of a TV from the anime.
The effect is nice and it is a bit of an inside joke if you can see the title
and are familiar with the anime. On reflection I think I should have filled the
screen with the youtube clip and not bothered putting it on a TV.

3:00-3:04: Originally I had a clip where Shuji (the guy at 0:09) was crushed
by a giant wave, but I got feedback that a scene like this would work better
and I agreed.

Conclusion Overall, I like how things turned
out, but there are a few scenes I would tweak. Big picture, I think this AMV
was hobbled by the source quality. I should be a bit more sure about what I
have available to work with before I get too involved. Interestingly, the next
project I am working on I have just about absolute control over. Look for that
around July when Connecticon happens.

Categories
Confessions Musings Work

Four Years Later

It generally takes three times for the normal mind to understand something.
The first sign I got was seeing my senior coworker having part of his cube in
boxes, the second sign was having another coworker come by and shake my hand
saying, “it had been great to work together”, and the third sign was my new,
one on one meeting at 10:15. This is what it is liked to be laid off (although
I prefer the more humorous “budget actioned”). That was March 7, 2016 for me.
It was the end of a (just about) four year period of employment, my first
post-school job. I want to take the time, now a week or so later, to describe
what I actually did for four years. I want to give the highlights, the
lowlights, what I thought we did wrong and what I thought we did right. I will
preface this all by saying I harbor no ill will towards anyone I worked with or
Oracle itself. Oracle always treated me fairly, I am just sad it never worked
out for them.

May 28 2013 My first day of work. The week immediately
after Anime Boston. It was going to be the 27th, but that was a holiday
(Memorial Day). I was horribly late, the latest I ever was in my four years
there. I left early, but spent ages in bumper to bumper traffic. I called in to
let them know I was going to be late, but I was still majorly embarrassed.
After getting in late I was rapidly given a bunch of documents and a cube. As I
was getting setup in my cube, I remember opening the bottom drawer of my filing
cabinet and finding three liquor bottles in it. It was nice liquor too. I told
my coworker and he secreted it away never to be seen again. The rest of the day
I sat in a HR conference call. I would be the last legacy TEKELEC hire before
the company was completely Oraclized.

July 2013 My first real assignment. Before then I had been
familiarizing myself with the code, trying things out, going to meetings to
learn our process. Now I had my first real piece of work to do: S9. You can
read more about S9
here
. I was responsible for everything: GUI and backend. I would work on
this for the next few months. It would never ship as the customer who wanted it
never actually wanted it. Company wise, everyone was stoked that Oracle was
going to keep our office in Marlborough and not have us commute to
Burlington.

November 2013 I am a bit hazy about this point, but at some
point I finished S9 and moved to building the “Subscriber Activity Log”. A
feature that allowed a customer to track a subscriber as the subscriber’s calls
flowed through the system. You can read about this in the 11.5 release notes
as it actually shipped.

December 2013 My first company Christmas party. We go and
watch: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at the IMAX in Jordan’s furniture.
It was good, but my boss was mad it ended on a cliffhanger, so we went back
next year to see the final film. I remember spending a long time in traffic
trying to leave that area.

January 2014 Again, I am bit unsure when this happened, but
at some point I finished up “Subscriber Activity Log” and was moved to a new
project: MPG. The Mobile Policy Gateway (MPG) was a project to develop a device
that would deploy policies to a customers phone. One of the big use cases was a
provider could offload certain customers onto wifi if the load in an area was
too great. I would work on this for nine months, but it would never ship and it
would ultimately be cancelled. Company wise, things are going great. We are
making good money and selling a lot of product.

September 2014 NGCMP, our replacement for our current
configuration management platform (CMP) begins. I am project lead and I start
investigating new technologies. My first challenge is to pick between OJET and
LUX, two competing JS GUI libraries. I end up picking OJET, which
you can use today if you want. Weekly Wednesday calls with the offsite groups
(Bangalore and Nanjing) start. I went to JavaOne at the end of the month and
got this great photo:

I wrote more about that trip here.

November 2014 My first raise and bonus! I live the good
life. The NGCMP is starting to grow as other people finish up the projects they
are working on and get assigned to it. NGCMP starts driving major reforms
around how we do work. Code reviews are formalized, code quality tools like
SonarQube start to come into play, and we get serious about unit and robot
testing.

December 2014 Second company holiday party! We see the last
Hobbit film in IMAX. It is ok, but not worth sticking through the traffic in
that area.

February 2015 I miss most of the super bowl (I hear about
the Patriots winning during the flight) as I travel to India to meet the team
in Bangalore. I stay for a few days. I
wrote about this trip back then
.

March 2015-May 2016 Nothing of real note happens during
this period. I do get a raise, and we continued to make a lot of progress on
NGCMP. Customer demos are being planned at this point. NGCMP itself is in an ok
place. It has a lot of functionality, but a number of bugs. I produce the
greatest Star Trek TNG parody video during this time. It was a demo
highlight.

June 2016 Things are not going well for our business unit.
We have our first layoff. Management talks about pivoting to a cloud based
deployment. NGCMP gets “paused”. We no longer want to build a product that does
exactly what our legacy product did, we want to build something for a cloud
based customer. TREC is born and we pivot to new use cases.

October 14 2016 I close on my first house as more people get laid off
the same day. This would start a gradual local attrition of talent.

March 7 2016 Judgement day. I along with 90% of the office
get budget actioned. Layoffs are around 200 for my business unit. The Bangalore
team gets assigned to different projects and the Nanjing team gets reassigned
back to the legacy CMP product. TREC presumably dies as there is no one
assigned to work on it. The show ends.

That is the whole story. I really think things started to go wrong when
Oracle panicked and moved us to the “cloud”. It never made sense how we were
going to make money in that area and we certainly could not produce a viable
product for another year at least. In the end, I think Oracle could not take
the losses it was taking so it bailed. Ultimately it was a pretty good ride. I
had a lot of fun, made money, and learned a lot. It is just a shame it never
worked out.

Categories
Home

Finally!

It may have taken some time, but I finally have my own tiny slice of middle
class pie in the form of a house. And not just a house, but land, and trees,
and a strip of asphalt as a driveway. This is the end result of a long,
frustrating, vexing, and stressful process that began all the way back in 2014. A process resulting in 50
private house tours and open houses, thousands of real estate listings, and
countless sleepless nights. After all that hard work I ended up paying more
than I thought I would. I estimated it would cost me
$260,000 (with interest after the down payment), but in actually it will cost
me $310,000 (+ interest). A difference of $50,000 + interest. I also
underestimated my yearly houses costs by about $3,000 (estimated $5,500 with an
actual more around $20,000). The good news is I got exactly what I wanted
(garage, close to work, decent square footage, gas heat, quiet neighbor hood)
with only one draw back (an above ground pool).

Some Thoughts on the Process

1. The time of no financial obligations is over. I now have a very large
obligation (a mortgage for 30 years) and monthly bills of various forms. While
I hope to pay the mortgage off as quick as I can, monthly bills and quarterly
property tax payments are going to be no fun and will reduce the aggressive
savings plan I have had up to this point.

2. Dangerous financial waters ahead. While I do have some cushion to an
unexpected income loss (read job loss) I will be exposed for a bit to this
possibility. This will lesson with each paycheck, but it will always be a
possibility until the mortgage is paid and my investments start generating
enough money to live off of. That will be some time. A quick review of what
can happen if you do not pay
is enough to keep me saving for those bills
and mortgage payments.

3. There are a lot of hungry mouths to feed when buying a home. Everyone
wants a cut of the action. The bank will add on a bunch of fees so you can take
out a mortgage, your lawyer has a fee to look over the agreements, the home
inspector wants a few dollars for every square foot he or she inspects. It can
be a little frustrating to see your hard earned green backs flowing out just so
you can buy a house, but they are providing a service, so it was not all a
waste.

4. A sense of melancholy. I had thought I would be very happy buying a
house, but for a few weeks or so I have felt pretty melancholy about the whole
affair. It is nice living very close work to work, and my friends and family
are only a 30 minute drive away, but something about living alone with all the
responsibilities that comes with that seems to be getting me down. I also have
very quickly changed my relationship with my parents. I am less child and more
family relation now. With time I think I will feel better, but it will take
some adjustment.

5. Heightened cost awareness. I am now very aware that I have to pay for
everything: food, electricity, heat. As such I have become hyper aware of
limiting when I can these costs. This is good for my bottom line, but perhaps
being so serious about turning lights on or off is of little importance in the
long term.

Ultimately, I am glad this has all been taken care of, but after exerting so
much time and effort what do I do now?

Categories
Convention Projects

Another Video Project

Just like last year I have
created another video for Connecticon.
This time, instead of an AMV, I made an FMV (fan music video). This translates
to using a live action video source instead of an anime one. Go on and give it
a gander. It may not
have won any awards, but I like it.

I approached this piece differently than my last one. At first I was
planning on making a far more simple video than before. The last one was very
drama/story focused and I wanted something a little less involved and easier to
grok. Something more actiony and less reliant on knowing the story of a
particular series. I already knew I wanted to use the song I went with after
remembering its use in Metropolis. As far as the
video source, I was not quite sure. I knew I needed something with a lot of
action, but I did not want to do something very well known (e.g. Attack on
Titan or Black Lagoon). I want my videos to not only be entertaining, but also
to highlight less known works. That is when I remembered Ran. This is not the most
obscure film, but it is not super well known or talked about either. Based on
the Shakespeare play, King Lear, it is about a Japanese warlord who divides his
kingdom amongst his three sons. Two of the sons betray the father who goes mad,
only to be rescued by his third son. It is an engaging film, with vibrant
colors, devastating battle scenes, and masterful direction by one of Japan’s
great filmmakers: Akira
Kurosawa
.

Initially, I was thinking that just setting the battle scenes to music would
make a pretty good action entry. In preparation for making FMV, I printed out a
copy of the lyrics and rewatched the film, taking notes and marking time stamps
of scenes I wanted to use. As I started to string clips together I naturally
progressed to a more story focused video, like my last one. The actions scenes
did work well set to the music, but If I had used just those scenes for the
whole thing, I would be stretched thin clip-wise. Kurosawa is a skilled
director which means he is not one to linger for too long, so there is not a
whole lot to work with. That is when I started going for more of a storytelling
piece.

+Comments on Particular Scenes+

The cold opening (0:00-0:0:15): I really like the opening. Most AMVs/FMVs do
not do that. They just go straight into the music and video. I toyed with
making this part SUPER long because I like the idea of people sitting there
wondering what is going on, but I did not want people getting too bored. It is
a real fantastic scene from the movie and I just had to put it somewhere.

Start of the music (0:16) The dichotomy of the violent murder of the King’s
entourage and the feel good lyrics of the song is a really dissonant in a good
way, IMHO. It sets the tone early on that this is going to be a weird piece of
work, with the song and images constantly at odds.

Flashbacks(0:29-0:0:38) I wanted to put more in here, but there is very
little time in the song to allow for that. This does an acceptable job of
providing some back story, but it was a concern of mine that this would not be
enough. It is hard to judge how understandable the story is since the audience
is probably unfamiliar with the film, but I am intimately familiar.

King’s guard bleeding out(0:55) Again, the song and pictures should be at
war with each other. This is a scene I really like which highlights the
dichotomy at plan.

King picks flowers(2:41) I love this cut. The King is really happy (in a mad
way) in this scene, but it is totally at odds with the scene that came
before.

Son comes to king’s aid(2:59) It is a bit on the nose, since “Blue” in the
context of the song is really about the singer’s emotional state and less about
the color, but as Bob Ross would say, it is a “happy little accident” that this
scene lines up.

Son’s death(4:07) This is a tough one since it is not immediately obvious
what happened. In the movie all you hear is a gunshot from the distance,
context which is lost given all you hear is the music. I left it in since it
sets up the next two scenes, but I am not a huge fan of it. This is the real
struggle of making these videos: trying to convey meaning with the scenes you
have.

King’s death(4:10-4:12) A big peccadillo of mine is flapping lips or any
speech you cannot hear during an AMV or FMV. Unfortunately there is just no way
to cut this scene to avoid that. Yet, if I leave this scene out the funeral
procession next scene makes no sense.

That is it. It took about ~10 hours to do with minimal changes after I made
a first draft. This was a lot quicker than the last one, but I had a lot less
footage to work with and a much stronger theme. I hope you like it. I will try
again next year and see if I can get an award this time around.

Categories
Uncategorized

Three Years at Oracle

Today is the third year of my full time employment by Oracle. And with that
I say hello to Oracle’s one and only longevity perk: five more days of paid
time off a year. Jokes on them though because I rarely take it. Long time
readers of the blog will remember last year’s post on the subject and even longer
readers will remember my first
post about this

Let us review the year.

What Did I Learn This Year?

1. I am addicted to process. I hope to write more about this, but the short
of it is I find myself getting mired in why something happened and how we can
prevent it. Which is helpful in a small way, but in conflict with the guiding
principle of all workers
: getting things done.

2. My patience is growing shorter along with my temper. It may just be a
function of the quantity of work we have left on the project I contribute to,
but I find myself with a shorter and shorter amount of patience each day. The
end result is terser conversations, less guiding hands, and more links to the
development guide.

3. I have a better, if still incomplete, sense of how large scale
applications are built. Before I understood only pieces of the whole. Now, with
another year of experience, I have a much broader and holistic view of the app.
The benefit here is knowing where to put code, not just what to put.

4. The money is in management, but the passion is in engineering. This is
the second year I have split my engineering time with management time.
Management is a lot harder. In some ways, this is frustrating as I much prefer
to be programming compared to making slide decks or charts. On the other hand,
helping keep three sites supplied with relevant work and pushing a project
forward is an interesting challenge. I am not ready to hang up my still shiny
programming spurs just yet, but I understand now why managers make more money
than the people they manage.

What Am I Looking To Explore This Year?

1. Different conventions. Last year we went to DragonCon for this first time
and it was awesome. I want to broaden our horizons and check out some other,
perhaps further away conventions.

2. My investments. I made steady progress this year increasing my
investments. I continue to work with Betterment and I have happily broken the five
figure mark. It is that sixth figure that will be my next challenge. It is hard
to say how much this is helping my ultimate plan, but it certainly
is the right path.

3. Small film projects. Last year I
made my first AMV
which was quite fun, but simplistic. I want to try and
make a few more things this year, AMV or otherwise.

4. Improve my technical skills. Like every year, and like every programmer,
I must continue to improve my technical skills. This year, I am less interested
in the technology and more interested in the design or architecture. To be
sure, I must continue to learn the tools I have at my disposal, but using tools
without purpose is inefficient. I must concentrate on learning how to build
large scale apps so that I can be judicious about the code I write (or need to
write at this point).

Things I Failed at This Year

1. Buying a house. For a second year I remain houseless. This is causing me
increasing consternation, but I remain committed to this campaign. It just may
be I will not find the house that meets my exacting specifications so I must
learn to compromise on some parts or be without home for a very long time.

2. Car maintenance. My car runs fine, and I do change the oil when I should,
but I cannot dodge the feeling that I should be doing more. Everything is still
working, but I feel like I am missing something and it will all fall apart on
me. For sure, the brakes will need to be replaced soon, but how soon is the
part that is vexing me.

3. Writing more for the blog. There are a number of topics I want to
pontificate on, I just need to settle down and get writing.

Categories
Uncategorized

The Little Death

I have been growing the neck beard out lately, much to the chagrin of people
who know me. I must confess it does look awful, all scraggly and unkempt. Some
people grow nice full beards, but all mine ever seems to do is grow down, not
out. Still, I have got to make out for my losses up top somehow. I do this
about once a year, partly to see if it looks better (it never does), but mostly
just to prove a point to myself: that I still am myself and not what others
want me to be.

To be a part of a society is to conform to that society. To uphold a common
set of rules and standards. In many ways this is a good thing, you probably
would not like to live next to someone who thought arson was ok. This gives
rise to the good side of society: our laws. There is an inverse side though, an
insidious side: the drive to create automata. Automata (singular automaton), as
Wikipedia defines, is “a
self-operating machine, or a machine or control mechanism designed to follow
automatically a predetermined sequence of operations, or respond to
predetermined instructions”. What is an automaton as it relates to a person
though? It is a person who has lost their identity, who has become what society
expects of them. It is a person who gets married, has 2.5 kids while working 60
hours a week. It is a person who works 40 years and retires at 67, who owns a
house, likes football, and vacations once a year. Yet, despite how negative I
have made this all sound, there is nothing wrong with this if that is what you
want. Not surprisingly, If you were to look at the things I like (football),
and the the things I want (a house), you would see the automaton reflected in
me. Is that what I want or am I just playing along because that is what
everyone wants for me?

This is the the little death. It is the slow subjugation of yourself as you
integrate into a society. Each time you think to yourself, “Well, it is just
what people do.” or “That is what everyone else is doing.” a little part of
yourself dies. A unique piece of the multifaceted color of you goes gray. Make
no mistake, this is what some people who know you want. They want you to be
like them, they want you to like the things they like, to have the same goals,
the same aspirations. They are not evil for trying to do this, it is just their
nature. If that is what you to want, great, but if not, do not suffer that
little death.

So too do I often wonder if the things I like and want our my own wishes or
simply my desire to be part of society. How can I prove otherwise? How can I
prove I am my own man. Simple, do the things society shuns, do those things
that are frowned upon, relish the embarrassed laugh you get when you surprise a
person. Cherish that look of disgust and disappointment. This is not an excuse
to be a bad person, but an excuse to be you. So yes, my neck beard is awful,
but it proves I am me.