Topics may include programming, classic console games, comic books, kung fu flicks, spaghetti westerns, or giant cartoon robots.
Grant Birchmeier is from West Michigan but currently lives in Chicagoland.

Older Posts

2007-12-07 3:28pm to 2007-04-11 3:53pm

Pictures from WizardWorld 2007

WizardWorld Chicago 2007 was in August this year, and again I took pictures of all the crazy costumes. And now, 4 months later, I'm finally putting them up!

As an aside, I've been playing with the Python Imaging Library, which is a really handy way to edit images once you figure it out. I wrote a couple scripts that will resize, make thumbnails, and copywrite-stamp the images really quickly. I'll post the scripts soon, after I've had a chance to clean them up a bit.

Anyway, back to the pics. Unfortunately, I went on Friday, not Saturday, which is much busier and probably had many more costumes to snap. But hey, I got what I got.

I only got one celebrity, Michael Madsen, who you might have seen in Kill Bill 1 & 2. There were other celebs, but for some reason or another, I didn't get them.

I think there was a Fett family reunion nearby or something, because damn were a lot of Mandalorian Armor costumes. As usual, the Star Wars contingent was well represented and of a high quality that implies too much money was spent. But then again, that's what makes the pictures not suck.

The other highlights for me were Dr. Weird (Aqua Teen Hunger Force) and Wario. Those are bold choices gentlemen, and you've executed well.

Anyway, enough exposition. Here's the pics:

Star-13 Demo - "I'm Afraid of Americans"

A exclusive! (I think)

Jeff Scheel, lead singer of somewhat-defunct industrial rock band Gravity Kills, has a new project coming up soon, to be dubbed Star13. And I have a demo!

It's a cover of David Bowie's I'm Afraid of Americans (from Earthling, one of my favorite albums).

This is (in his words) "only a very rough demo". Jeff says that it is not finished. A final version will "go to radio in about 2 months".

Download this track here!

Late to the Social Networking Party

Now that I have an unsolicited abundance of free time, I'm finally diving into the social networking thing. Check those links on the left to see my profiles on MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

MySpace deserves special mention. (Any web programmers reading this?) Have you looked at the source for those pages? It's a nightmare! It's like Tom's accidentally successful garage project. The ability to create a theme looks to be not by design, but rather only possible because browsers are really tolerant towards erroneous usage of CSS. The most impressive aspect of MySpace is that News Corp paid so much for it.

Also note the new links for my sub-pages. I expect I'll be steadily adding more to that as time goes on.

The National Unemployment Rate Is About To Go Up

Last week, Motorola announced their latest round of layoffs, and I turned out to be an unwitting participant. If you take a look at the market, Motorola's share price has dropped $3 since the news of my layoff broke; the long-term effects of my layoff on the company are still hazy. No doubt Motorola will feel the effects of my absence for months (perhaps years) to come.

I was already starting to look around, and expected to leave (or at least switch departments) within the next 6-12 months. Frankly, I was getting a little bored by the work which was not often that satisfying. Embedded software is just not all that exciting. For my next trick, I'd like to move into applications (or at least something object-oriented). If you know of anything cool in downtown Chicago or the north suburbs, I'm all ears.

But if you're gonna leave a job, being laid off is definitely the way to go. Sure, it sucks when you're first notified, but since I was already looking to leave, I got over it quickly. The severance is pretty good, and I'm enjoying the free time.

(A special shout-out to my DVD player, which decided to break a few days ago. I finally have all the time in the world to watch the DVDs I've acquired in the past few months, and then you crap out. Have fun in the dumpster, asshole.)

In other news, didn't that black-on-green color scheme from the last update suck? I was going for kind of an old-school green-screen computer terminal look, but I sure failed. This black/white/blue scheme I just hacked up looks surprisingly good, though.

A Long Overdue Mini-Facelift

As you can see, I've given the site a change of clothes. I just thought it was time for something new. (And you thought my colors sucked before.)

In addition, I've just installed new back-end code. Glad to finally be done with it. You shouldn't notice a difference, but it'll be easier for me to maintain, expecially if/when I add some more features.

Next post: Wizard World 2007 pics. Whenever I get around it to it (hopefully within 2 weeks).

I Am A Victim of Credit Card Fraud

Luckily, it got caught quick and I'm not out anything.

Somebody cloned my damn credit card and started using on Wednesday. Thanks to Discover for catching it so quickly; they called me within 6 hours. I guess their NASA supercomputers realized that I would never buy (and have never bought) gas and McDonald's in the post-lunch-hour afternoon of a workday in the middle of the week.

I've got no idea how my info got loose, but Discover's cool about it. I'm not liable, and they're expressing me a new card.

Now I just need to know which merchant has crap security.

These guys are still around?

The House of Blues Chicago just sent me a mail with this subject line:

Due to overwhelming demand, second HANSON show added!

Uh... what?

Bay's Transformers Sucks Less Than It Should

The title of this post is a bitter way of expressing that I actually kinda liked the new Transformers movie. I'm shocked, really. I went to it expecting to be pissed off at how badly it was botched. I expected so little of it (aside from solid robot violence) that I think I wanted it to suck. But it didn't.

Was it perfect? No. It was about as good as your average summer blockbuster: enjoyable, but with a merely-adequate plot with fairly ignorable plot holes between the completely awesome effects. For us old nerds, the Autobot characters were surprisingly true to the original personalities (though the Decepticons... not so much).

I did cringe at the 6th-grade level humor at some points. Did Bumblebee really need to "pee" auto-fluid on a dude? Did we need the lame slapstick of the Autobots accidentally breaking stuff while hiding in a suburban backyard? And then there's Frenzy (the small boombox robot)... Mr. Bay, didn't you learn anything from JarJar?

Those quibbles aside, I guess I'd actually recommend checking it out.

More importantly, is Michael Bay still a tool? Yes. From this Wired article:

But other alterations were simply Bay's prerogative. Optimus Prime now boasts bright orange cholo flames and — much to fans' horror — lips. "I'm the director. I make my own decisions. I like to paint the house green, even when everyone says it's got to be white."

I don't understand why that quote and the following quote are so far apart in the same story:

"At best, it will be a fun summer movie with explosions," one 35-year-old Transformers devotee conjectured at a recent WonderCon. "But it seems like guys in Hollywood... Unless they're really reined in, they have to pee all over something to make it theirs, like big cats."

So, hopefully another director will take the reins for the sequel and fix Prime's paint job. The leader of the Autobots is not a f***ing gangbanger.

I found Clue

Today I found "Deduction", an elegantly simple implementation of Clue (or Cluedo, as it's known outside North America). Good interface and solid AI. Bravo, Mr. Russell.

I've always loved Clue. Unfortunately, when you're older than 12, it's not so easy to find 2 or more other players.

A couple years ago I started coding my own version of Clue, in Java. I fell away from it for awhile, and then some other projects convinced me that Java is a pain. So there you go.

Now if only someone would do Clue Master Detective.

Upcoming Reunion for Fruitport Class of 1997

I just got an email from Angie (Tjapkes) McPherson about our 10-year reunion. Guess what? She's looking for contact information of people in our class.

Send a mail to me and I'll pass her mail onto you. Or I can pass your info onto her. Whatever works.

Ignore this block if you somehow can see it. It's a hack to force the 'yieldbox' div to be as wide as the viewport allows, even if the content isn't wide.