Not far from Arcade/Knowledge Drop.

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

Apparently when you put Atlanta’s MARTA rapid rail map through the anagram-o-matic (actually, this guy did the work), hilarity ensues! Also see here. I think ‘Shaby’ is a bit of a stretch, though. Don’t really care that much about the City Too Busy To Have An Opening Day? There are also these maps of other fine cities here and here.

Way less Turner-y.

Friday, February 24th, 2006

I woke to headlines this morning from the AJC (and the WSJ, and elsewhere):

Turner Quits Time Warner Board

Time Warner Inc. announced that CNN founder Ted Turner has decided not to stand for re-election to its board.
Mr. Turner joined the board after his Turner Broadcasting was acquired by Time Warner in the mid ’90s. But his involvement with the New York media giant has declined in recent years.

Fox agrees to buy Turner South

Fox Cable Networks has agreed to buy Time Warner’s Turner South, most likely to convert the channel from being a home of Southern-tinged entertainment to a sports-heavy operation anchored by games of three Atlanta professional teams.
With Turner South, Fox will have the rights to show all Braves games that aren’t televised nationally by ESPN or TBS, which is a Turner network.
“We’ve been eyeing Turner South for a long time,” said Tony Vinciquerra, president and CEO of Fox Networks Group.
In purchasing Turner South, News Corp. has made what a deal with an unusually colorful history, given the history of animosity between News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch and Turner namesake Ted Turner. The Turner South name will be dropped, but a new one hasn’t been decided.
“It won’t be Murdoch South,” Vinciquerra joked.

* * * * *

Oh, Tony, you crack me up. There are some days I just kinda wish the media landscape—especially here in town—was more or less where I left it in the mid-1980s. Then, at least, you could be assured, with a wacky guy like Ted at the helm, that he’d be doing everything he could to make TBS and CNN and the sports teams entities that Atlanta could be proud of. I’m not sure Rupert Murdoch has that on his to-do list.

Metadata where none was.

Monday, February 20th, 2006

We went on this terrific trip to Africa in 1999, and, long ago that it was, Sammy shot some three dozen rolls of 35mm slides, which until recently have been languishing in boxes, largely unedited, but nicely sorted and labeled. And although we had a slide scanner, its cranky SCSI connection made it a less than routine operation to digitize the images. Well, borrowing our neighbor’s USB 2.0-connected Nikon scanner took care of that.

But once you have the images, what do you do? I’ve often rhapsodized about the power of metadata accumulated along with imagery in most modern digital cameras. I can, for example, tell you this about the (digital) photo at top-right…

Camera Model Name : Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL
Shutter Speed : 1/13
Aperture : 3.5
Shooting Date/Time : 2006:02:20 09:22:30
Date/Time Of Digitization : 2006:02:20 09:22:30
Components Configuration : YCbCr
Compressed Bits Per Pixel : 3
Shutter Speed Value : 1/13
Aperture Value : 3.5
Max Aperture Value : 3.5
Flash : Off
Focal Length : 18.0mm

…and so on and so on. Well, our wonderful Africa scanned images don’t contain these invisible ‘tags’ that digital photos do—but they can be added retrospectively, and if we do, that data will live on within the huge 100 MB TIFF scans and to any (much smaller) JPEG versions we create. We can search for meaningful keywords within the photos. We will know what day (if not what time) the photo was made, even if the paper notes disappear. Life will be more groovy knowing that frame 6 of roll 52288 shot with our old Pentax is a picture of the river out in front of our tent at the Mwagusi Safari Camp at Ruaha, Tanzania, shot on February 3, 1999.

How could it not?

So not only have we been winnowing—choosing maybe 30% of the total images as worthy of scanning—we’ve been carefully making notes about the content and location of each image—much of this gleaned from Sammy’s notes during our travels, and all of that goes into a spreadsheet which is then used along with a cobbled-together Applescript and Perl script thingie to embed the data and rename the TIFF file from its original scan name to a name that reflects the roll and frame number of the original.

So, scanning at archive quality (about 5 minutes per slide), metadata restoration, archiving to DVDs, and then conversion to lower-res version JPEGs we can have in our iPhoto and on our iPod. This involves a lot of squinting and using my reading glasses (not a pleasure) and it’s amazing on a certain level that an unorganized guy like me could care enough to do all of this.

But I do, so we do.

Sizzling coverage.

Thursday, February 16th, 2006

The first couple of days of the 2006 Winter Olympics, we watched scenes of Torino come in to our standard-definition analog-cable-connected Sony in dismay. Instead of pristine HDTV pictures smoothly downsampled for our old-fashioned TV pleasure, Atlanta affiliate WXIA seemed to be providing some of the worst digital images I’ve seen in some time…overenhanced, “sharp” or “sizzly” to the point of being painful to watch. The graphics were mushy, barely readable. Snowy scenes had…well, take a bright image into Photoshop and apply the ‘sharpen’ filter about 230 times…they looked like that.

Closeups of Bob Costas or, worse yet, the attending US first lady Laura Bush were uh…grotesque.

Clearly, something was messed up, and the only information I could get from a somewhat distracted master control guy at WXIA was “oh yeah, for the first day or two the weather was really bad in New York.”

So what was he saying, snow fade had caused a loss of data between NBC New York and Atlanta? Well, that is possible, and in the age of digital everything, if you lose some of the bits, the black boxes make up for it with fake, interpolated bits that can pretty much have the effect I described. And there was a large snowfall in New York, a nor’easter that blew through and paralyzed air traffic. I suppose that might well have meant the uplinks were hammered too.

But the past couple of days, things have looked pristine. In some ways, it’s amazing the pipeline works at all. And for the curious, one of NBC’s engineers is blogging from Torino [update: that blog has disappeared!] about the whole operation, and he’s doing a good job of discussing the elaborate steps behind the scenes. This same engineer points to a thread elsewhere that discusses, among other things, the amazing (to a more visual guy like me) lengths they have to go through to create and preserve the Dolby 5.1 sound tracks (along with good old stereo like we listen to) that really enhances the HD experience.

I’ve also watched some of the coverage of curling, not because I’m much of a fan…not that I even understand what the heck they’re doing, but because NBC is trying an experiment there much like CNN tried with the last political conventions. They’re backhauling all of the camera and audio feeds from the curling venue (this is in standard-definition) to CNBC/MSNBC’s operation in Fort Lee, N.J. and directing the show from there. Then, of course, they have to send their output back to Torino so that the announcers know what they’re seeing. Sounds complicated (it is!) but apparently there’s big cost savings in not having to have that many more people over there eating fine Italian cuisine.

And there’s plenty of good Italian food in New Jersey, anyway.

Turner time.

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

I went to college, first in Vermont and then in the southeast Ohio appalachians, and maybe then arguably for a third time in my first real job, at WTCG, Channel 17 Atlanta. Yes, the SuperStation, ask for it by name!

There, in the late 70s, in a beat-up old studio on West Peachtree Street, I certainly found a collegial environment to learn how to do television, and maybe as importantly, to learn how to work with others and live on $3.60 an hour (yes, I still have my first Turner paycheck stub.)

I was hired as part of a push to expand the station’s operations staff (master control operators, camera people, audio) as WTCG began to be transmitted via satellite to all of North America. It’s probably my good luck that they were desperate to expand, hiring unemployed Ohio bums like me, Steak and Ale waitresses, and passers-by to fill out the staff.

And it was definitely my good luck to be teamed with or reporting to some remarkable people in what could be described as a minimalist management structure…it wasn’t until the second year or so of CNN’s existence (several years later) that squadrons of vice-presidents, memo-writers, and org-chart-makers descended on the place. Back then, if you had an issue or an idea, you went to talk to Sid, or Jackie, or Pooch, or R.T., or even Ted, if you caught him in the hall.

It was so educational, intense, practical—that I can’t help but think of it as part of my higher education—college 3.0.

I’m happy that I still hear from some of these folks every now and again. The other day, word came about the upcoming publication of Richard Croker‘s new book of extremely historical fiction, much closer to his heart and a far cry from his work cranking out promos and herding cranky baseball announcers. And then yesterday, up pops Mary Brennan (Mary Frazier when I first met her at WTCG), one of the best writers I know, blessed with the gift of producing, which generally means patience, organization, and the ability to simultaneously see fine-grained detail and the big picture as deadlines loom. And yes, she’s blogging, or journaling, or whatever you call the act of casting words online.

That’s just wonderful.

My friend (from college 2.0) Nancy describes her weblog as “as a one-sided few minutes over coffee that we can have every morning.” Well, exactly, and it’s a treat to have that few minutes with the smart people I met as I careened through life, folks that I might have lost touch with otherwise. And when that whole network-webbiness-thing starts to work and I “meet” new people through people who read people who know people…that too is collegial, and educational, and thus maybe life online is college 4.0 for me.