Sunday, December 13, 2009

Trends - python web frameworks

Once in a wile, I need to gauge the popularity of different competing development technologies, and most of the internet tends to be really unhelpful. (i.e. it tends to be over-saturated with 1-sided arguments.) However, the tool that never fails me is Google Trends.

I'm currently looking into python development frameworks. I needed to know which one people are gravitating to. The best thing the rest of the internet is going to have is a page like this. At best the author(s) might shed an opinion on their favorite. But armed with a list, Trends makes things a little more obvious.

Apparently goodbye Zope, hello Django.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

ColStr Update - A Few Good Movies

I've been making steady "progress" on my colorstream sound visualization project. Its algorithm for colorizing speech now has two parallel strips. A larger, upper strip represents the "whispering" range. (Even in a whisper, the ear can distinguish most sounds & words, so there's lots of data in there.) And a thinner, lower strip represents the vocal range - a rainbow, from the lowest bass note to the highest soprano note. (With this strip, one could tell apart "z" and "s" sounds for example, as one is voiced and the other is not.)

Here are some example movie clips I've been experimenting with.

The opening sounds & narration from the Transformers movie (2007) from this video can be seen colorized here. [Update: source video has been taken off-line. Audio-only is cached here, for purposes of this demo.]

And here's a colorized view of the "You can't handle the Truth!" scene from A Few Good Men. Enjoy!

Here is something of a phonetic color key for how different sounds match up with colors.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Size comparison

I've been meaning to get a grip on the scale of the places I've been traveling. Here is an image I made to compare some places I know with places I've been lately. Each box is a constant 50 miles square. Overall, no big surprises.

One surprise for me though, was the latitude of these places. Tokyo is about the same latitude as southern California, and Guam is just "south of" the southern border of Mexico.

Monday, May 04, 2009


A few misc. updates...

Today I watched a man wielding a brief case walk straight into a lamp post.

We've been in a new hotel in Atsugi (Loisir Hotel, near Hon-Atsugi station) because our previous hotel in Ebina was booked for Golden Week. Even though Atsugi is just a few train stops away, it has a very different feel from Ebina. Hon-Atsugi is older, perhaps dirtier but bigger and more established than Ebina. There's more going on here. We'll probably be here until we find an apartment, probably back in Ebina.

I've been taking the train to work the last few days. 10-minite walk to the station on either end, my commutes have been about 50-minutes door-to-door. But with better planning, I could probably shave that down to 40. Also, there's a connection I have to make at Atsugi station, which there won't be once we're back in Ebina.

We were taken on a trip to the Mount Fuji area Yesterday. It was a blast, and I hope to be able to take future visitors there.

This is all probably better documented in photos (mine here), though I missed the guy walking into the lamp post.

Lisa has been updating her albums incrementally. So those not getting picasa emails are probably missing out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Elusive things

Well, I finally hit the big time. My image finally landed in the hands of engineers and business people all over Japan. I'm told a grainy photocopy of this newspaper article even made its way back home. The article basically explains that we're starting up in Japan, and that we make plastic parts, etc. I mean, that a crazed American is on the run reconfiguring mills for his own unexplained purposes.

Mt. Fuji:
There's a line-of-sight from where I live and work to Mt. Fuji. But unfortunately it is usually shrouded in fog or clouds, and only reveals itself after a day of rain. I had a nice view of its snowy peak the other morning, but didn't have my camera handy. So you'll have to believe me that this is an image of Mount Fuji. It's the thing in the background with a cloud hang to the side.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Trains to Minami-Machida

Today, we took the trains in Japan, a first time for me. (Lisa had already, with her "new friend".) We went to Minami-Machida or as I'm told, "south" Machida. This is complicated enough to warrant a little documentation:

We first went from Ebina station to Machida station, over the Odakyū Odawara line. Then from Machida to Nagatsuta station over the JR East Yokohama line, and finally, the Tōkyū Den-en-toshi line to Minami-Machida, home of a Cold Stone which has become famous to us in pictures.

For those keeping track, that's three different rail companies. Trains seem to be really organized and documented here, but you won't find a map that's got connection info of more than one train company at a time. A print-out (or, a saved photo in my camera of a laptop screen, as it were) of google maps screenshots were the best guide I could find to bring along.

On the way back, we took a different route. We took the Tōkyū Den-en-toshi to its end-point, Chūō-Rinkan station, then the Odakyū Enoshima to Sagami-Ōno station, and finally the Odakyū Odawara line back "home" to Ebina. [Correction: we purposely went past Ebina a few stops to Hon-Atsugi station, where our next hotel will be. Then back to Ebina.]

Tomorrow, we plan to take a simpler ride: the Sagami Railway Main Line all the way to Yokohama station.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Way to Ebina, JP

Left home in greater Minneapolis 3 days ago, and now in Ebina, Japan. Our adventure so far...

The flight - direct from Minneapolis to Narita JP - was uneventful, except for the uncomfortable 1 1/2 year old sitting next to me. I guess Mirah does not like 12 hour plane rides. Who would have thought?

There were a lot of forms to fill out getting ourselves and our things here. That was expected, and it payed off. (Entering the country was smooth.) Since being here, there have been some more forms, notably, a form to exchange cash (get Yen from Dollars), where I was asked my hotel and its phone number. I think perhaps the more info is on a form, the less language-barrier-type-mistakes might be made, but still it feels a little like big brother is following my paper trail.

Speaking of language barrier, the airport was relatively easily navigable, but in large part because there are people standing around ready to tell you what to do next in English. I imagined the rest of Japan to be just like the airport, but without those helpful people. It turned out our hotel, Nikko Narita, was very English friendly, and convenient. There's a small convenience store where I got some snacks before bed, and - while the thought never crossed my mind - the cashier put a few plastic spoons in my bag with my snacks. They must have done this before.

The next morning, we had an arranged ride from the airport to our next hotel in Ebina. Our chief concern about Ebina was that where the airport hotel was international/multilingual (read western), Ebina (being farther out from Tokyo) would be hard to navigate by unpracticed newbies like us. The car ride of about 2 hours took us from the sparser NE outskirts of Tokyo center, into the sea of massive architecture in Tokyo proper, and out into more local streets starting around Machida. From there, the streets got smaller, tighter, and (what seemed) busier, through a few more neighborhoods (probably more properly, cities). And we finally landed in Ebina, our next unknown home.

Priority 1: internet. It turns out there's not a lot of English spoken here, but somehow, it's still possible to communicate. Wireless was showing up at the hotel, but encrypted, and no documentation about the WEP key in the room. Went to the front desk armed with the SSID written on paper. "intaneto?", I asked. "intaneto akusessu?", he replied. I pointed to the SSID, then the space below it. Bingo. The guy had the 10 digits memorized.

Priority 2: food. If we were to survive this place, we would need to eat supper. Looked up how to get to the mall with the fruits of priority 1, and we were off with the stroller. Walked around, found a food court, and ordered some Italian food by pointing and trying to pronounce our orders. (They were labeled in katakana: na-po-ri-ta-n, and ma-ru-ge-ri-ta. The examples were in view to us, but not to the order taker, so pointing wasn't really effective at this restaurant.) We got our food, but had a little trouble with what we were supposed to do with our garbage after. [It's 2 days later and I still don't know that one.]

And with that, we had a home base we could live in for a while. More adventures to come.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Firefox discovery

Something I frequently talk about wanting in Firefox 3:

View > Zoom > Zoom Text Only

It's been there this whole time. (For the record, I see uses for both zooming methods.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Adventures with Customer Service

I just called the number on the back of my Wells Fargo credit card to inform them I'll be traveling to Japan. You know, so they don't lock my account when I try to use it there. Since my attempts at blogging about Customer Service seemed to go well last time, I thought I'd try it again.

First, I typed my complete credit card number into the phone, then the last 4 of my social. I've come to expect this as basically standard. (Though for a second I wondered if I could possibly have accidentally dialed some CC # harvesting operation. I guess I'm paranoid, but isn't that because they drilled it into me?)

I navigated my way to a person, and of course, the first thing she asks for are the things I just typed, and my address for verification. Oddly, everyone knows this is relatively standard too. No big surprise. Maybe they'll make the note on my account now. Not so fast! How do they know I'm really me, and not someone who just knows my social security and credit card numbers who wants to go to Japan?

Do you have the expiration date on your card handy?

I give it to her.

What's the 3-digit code on the back?

I give it to her.

What's you're checking account number?

**Alarm Bells** Why are they asking for my checking account number? I told her I wasn't aware that my card was tied to my checking account. She said it's "just another way to verify who you are." It sure is. I happened to have it handy, though.

What's you're mother's middle name? [not the more standard Maiden Name]

My mother's middle name? I think at this point I laughed. Then I told her. I think it took me an extra second to recall it. In my defense, my mom doesn't like her middle name, and I'm sure she wishes we'd all forget it.

Spell it for me.

Crap. I actually wasn't positive how to spell it, and I told her that. I guessed, and I got it wrong. (Shame!)

It won't take that spelling.

I tried again, and this time I got it right. (Whew!) Maybe now they'll finally believe that I'm me, and not some impostor who knows my address, credit card number, social, bank account number, and my mother's middle name.

What's your birth date?

The crucial datum. They will at last inform their terminal that the man on the other end of the line will soon be traveling. Hooray.

Friday, January 23, 2009