AJ Henderson AJ's Blog

January 9, 2013

Traveling with Kitties

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 11:53 pm

So Cole (one of our cats) had an eye infection just before we were going down to visit my parents for the holidays.  Since it would have cost us over $300 to board the cats together and have him be able to get the treatments he needed, we decided to take them with us on a plane.  While it wasn’t exactly cheap (Southwest charges $75 per carrier per direction), it was actually far less painful than we expected.  Neither cat has ever been particular fond of their carriers.  When taking them to the vet, we have a chorus of dissonant meows the entire way there and back.  Following the recommendations of a number of online sites, we got two new soft carriers for traveling with so that they wouldn’t associate the vet and other unpleasant experiences with them.

While the trip started out a little worrisome with non-stop meows on the way to the airport, as soon as we got there and got out and started to walk around with them at our side, the meowing stopped almost completely.  We had put their harnesses on before putting them in the carrier so we could leash them up for going through security (they have to x-ray the carriers and you carry the cat through) it turned out to be completely unnecessary as neither cat even tried to get out of our arms, even when one of the carriers got stuck on the other side of the x-ray machine for a few minutes.  After we were through security and the cats were back in the carriers, we had a pleasant time talking with other travelers about Cole and Shadow and being able to pet them while waiting for the plane.  (While they were not allowed out of the carriers, the carriers we got have a little slot specifically designed so you can reach in and pet them.)  The only unfortunate event on the trip down was that we hit a delay on our second flight and it made it so Cole didn’t quite make it to the final airport before he had to go to the bathroom.  In retrospect, I wish I had thought to take a photo because I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look so ashamed and timid in my life.  While I feel bad for the little guy, it was incredibly cute in its own way.

After getting the cats to my parents house, the fun really began.  They spent about 45 minutes to an hour just exploring all the nooks and crannies of the garage before we finally decided to pick them up and bring them inside.  I’ve got a few great photos of Shadow covered in dirt and dust and cobwebs from exploring that I’ll be posting after getting them transferred off the laptop.  After that, they actually both surprised us by being very shy.  We brought them to our bedroom and they both promptly hid under the bed for a few hours unless we came in, closed the doors and coaxed them out.  By later that night however, they were starting to get braver.  They were roaming the bedroom itself pretty freely unless someone else came in and Cole was starting to venture out a little to see if people were safe to meet.  Shadow started creeping to the edge of the room a little bit later and I was able to take her around the house by petting her and moving a few feet at a time, though as soon as she saw anyone else, she ran back towards the bedroom.

Their hesitation went on for about two days, but by the end of the third day, they were both moving around the house and interacting with people pretty freely.  Cole really enjoyed being around so many people like we expected, and while Shadow did come around people some for attention, she really enjoyed having a big house to run around and play in.  We did keep them locked in the bedroom when we were out of the house just to make sure that there wasn’t any trouble and keeping them locked in the bedroom with us at night lead to a little stress since Shadow loves to misbehave to get a reaction and then run away which made it hard for Danielle to sleep for the first few nights.  But then between some inventive use of a spray bottle and realizing that Shadow wasn’t doing any damage, Danielle was able to sleep well.  It was really nice to be able to sleep with the cats since we normally can’t allow them in our room at night since they like to jump from the window sill above our bed down on to us, which is rather unpleasant when you are in a dead sleep when they do it.

When it came time to leave, the cats didn’t want to go and it was just as hard to get them in there carriers as it had been coming down, and once we did, the meowing began again, but it stopped about half way to the airport (it was an hour drive from my parents’ house).  And again, they mostly just slept and/or checked out people walking by from the safety of their carriers on the way back home.  The trip back was entirely uneventful as far as the cats were concerned and they flew amazingly well.  I guess the advice we read that if your cat can sleep, your cat can fly really is accurate.

Oh, one last important note if you are considering traveling with your cat.  One thing we found pretty clearly when we were researching is to not use any sedatives.  Apparently they interact weirdly with cat physiology and altitude and it can be a very bad combination for the cat.  I’d definitely recommend a soft carrier that you can sling over your shoulder so that your cat knows you are there and has the comfort of being up against you.  Having a slot to be able to reach in and check on them is also a huge plus for both the cat and your comfort.  While it wasn’t a problem going through security either time, I’d still recommend harnesses and leashes as a precaution.  It’s better safe than sorry and you never know what might startle them in to a panic.  Also, as a nice little side perk, when traveling with a cat, since you have to carry them through security, you seem to always get the metal detector line instead of going through the worthless and invasive body scanners.  They actually opened up the metal detector specifically for us in Raleigh and then closed it after we went through.  I’d be willing to travel with our cats in the future (including the $75 fee) just for that.

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An A/V Christmas

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Photos,Technology — AJ @ 11:30 pm

Picked up a Speedlite 600EX-RT for Christmas and have been using it with the older one as a secondary flash.  It’s been working pretty well so far.  I notice that there are sometimes exposure issues that I have to deal with by taking a few photos and sometimes the optical transmission mode is a little bit flaky for the dual flash, but still overall a very nice setup.  I am particularly liking doing 75 degree bump flashes with the white card extended when shooting close ups with the 17-40mm lens.

Also got Magic Lantern Alpha 3 loaded up and running.  No record continuation yet, but the clean HDMI output is nice and the focus indicators make it FAR more usable as a video camera.  Looking forward to getting a chance to give it a try at Excel next weekend.  The one minor issue I’ve noticed with the clean output is that when you go to adjust the ISO, it still displays the overlay on screen instead of being able to just work off the LCD panel.  Shutter and aperture work fine though without anything on screen.  Still looking forward to getting a lens in the 30 – 70ish range, but haven’t decided when or which one to get yet.  I’ve definitely been feeling the pain of missing anything in-between 40 and 70mm.

Taken with the 5DMiii with the 600EX with the 75 degree bump and reflector extended.

Taken with the 5DMiii with the 600EX with the 75 degree bump and reflector extended.

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October 13, 2012

Terra Nova 2012 Men’s Retreat Photos

Filed under: Church,Cool Stuff,Personal,Photos — Tags: , , — AJ @ 8:21 pm

I’ve gotten through touch up on the first batch of photos from the Men’s Retreat and am in the process of posting them to the site. Right now, it just has the photos that I flagged as 5/5 stars.  The gallery is a Flash gallery export from Lightroom, so it might not be possible to save the images directly from it, but if you see one you’d like a personal copy of, drop me an e-mail and I’ll be happy to provide you with a high quality version of whatever photos you want.  I’ll also probably be posting some of the photos directly to Terra Nova’s Facebook page in the near future after Phil gets me access to do so.  Hopefully I’ll have time to go through the three and four star photos some time in the next week or two, but it’ll take some time with nearly 350 photos to go through in those two categories.

Terra Nova 2012 Men’s Retreat Gallery (5 Star)

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September 20, 2012

A/V Upgrades

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Photos,Technology — AJ @ 5:27 pm

Well, it has been past time to replace the GL2 for a while now and I finally got around to upgrading.  The latest addition is a Canon EOS 5D Mark iii.  I also picked up the battery grip, a Speedlite 320ex flash, two 64gb memory cards and a 70-300mm image stabilizing EF lens to supplement the 17-40 L series lens I already have.  For audio capture I also picked up a Zoom h4n digital recorder.  For mobile processing I updated to a top end Lenovo Y580 with Adobe Master Collection CS6.

All in all, with the solid low light performance of the 5D, this rig should keep me going for quite some time and means I finally have up to date video capability again and this time at a higher quality than ever before.  Since I do this as a professional hobby, I’m open to helping with most non profit projects or very reasonable rates for commercial projects to help cover equipment costs.

I’ll eventually be updating to an underwater enclosure and strobe, a shotgun mic for distance audio and a master capable Speedlite for studio purposes (the 320 is slave capable).  I might also look in to some additional rigging for the camera, but I’ll need to see how I fair freehand first (which hasn’t been an issue in the past.)

I uploaded some quick free hand, raw camera shots from my toying around last night at http://www.ajhenderson.com/5d/.  There are also a quick rack focus test and a sample video of my cat, Shadow.  They are all using the existing lighting and iso settings up to 25k.  Focal ranges go up to 300mm with image stabilization on for the shots of the side of one of the apartment buildings in our complex.

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December 21, 2011

Ice Cream Sandwich and the Galaxy Nexus

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Technology,Work — Tags: , , , — AJ @ 8:27 pm

Well, I got myself a gnex on release day.  The best part has to be the ease of grouping apps and the dual core speed.  Following shortly after that is the recent apps button to allow easy transitions between apps when multitasking.  The 4g speed is also wonderful since I got to keep my unlimited data.  I also tried out google wallet tonight at Rite Aid and it worked perfectly.

On the downside, sound quality is not as good as my fascinate was, but this may be an issue with my phone as others are reporting good sound.  Swype isn’t available yet, though the keyboard isn’t too bad.  The new location of the menu button takes some getting used to and I still occasionally am deleting emails when I mean to mark them as read.  There also is not yet a car dock that includes audio and power quick connects.  Rumor is it should be available soon though.

I had a bit of exciting time rooting.  Actually a week before getting the gnex, my fascinate bricked off a ota update and I had to rebuild it.  Well, it was a good week for bricking because I did the same to my nexus within four hours of getting it when trying to root.  Two tense hours later I managed to find a stock image and was able to adapt a shell script to get the steps for reflashing my phone to stock from fast boot.  It is now running quite happily rooted though.

The one last thing to figure out now is if the sound is actually bad on my particular phone and if it is a problem in general, I’ll need to decide between a Bluetooth DAC from Sony or Samsung or waiting for USB host support so I can use a higher quality USB DAC.

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July 11, 2011

Travel Woes / Finally Actually On My Way To Peoria

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Work — AJ @ 6:16 pm

So apparently Mitch (Pearl Companies’ CTO) and I have something in common.  We both apparently have horribly bad luck when traveling.  This winter he must have tried three or more times to get to the Latham office only to have it snowed out each time.  Now I’ve had similar luck.  The first time I tried flying out in June I got a 103 fever the night before I was supposed to fly out and we had to cancel at the last minute.  This time around I was supposed to be flying out with 3 other coworkers but someone put in their notice and they had to cancel all but me for the trip because there were things that needed to be done with that.  Finally, this morning at 4am while I was on my way to the airport, I managed to get a flat tire on my car.

On the upside, I was able to get the donut on pretty quick (15 minutes or so) and still got to the airport with plenty of time, but still…  Apparently they now have electronic boarding passes at Albany International Airport.  They just send you an e-mail with a link to a boarding pass page that gives a QR code style barcode that they read at the checkpoint.  It’s pretty slick though only supported by the left most check-in lane at the moment.  I was pleased to find that most of the useless “security” stuff wasn’t at ALB yet, though I was actually pleasently surprised to notice a few actual good ideas on their part for security proceedures that could actually make a bit of difference and were fairly non-intrusive.  Too bad we couldn’t do that before wasting billions on useless backscatter machienes, but then again, lobbyists and government contractors need to be able to put nice food on their solid gold tables and make people feel safe regardless of any actual impact on security.

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March 4, 2011

WordPress 3.1 Test

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Technology — AJ @ 1:53 pm

Just testing mod integration with wp 3.1

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February 28, 2011

Shadow asleep on Danielle’s lap

Filed under: Personal — Pipeline @ 2:24 pm
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January 28, 2011

New Servers, IIS7 PHP/Perl Fun and Massive VMWare Images

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Technology,Work — AJ @ 7:45 am

So over the last few weeks I have been working on transitioning the Wiicafe.com server to a new home on a new, cheaper, more powerful dedicated server than the aging, ailing 2k3 box it had been on.  We’re now in the final stage of the move to a new 2k8 box and it has been an adventure in learning the new abilities and quirks of IIS7.

Overall, I have actually found the entire migration progress to be very easy.  After zipping up all the data for the server I was able to simply unzip it on the new server and setup IIS sites for each.  The Web Platform Installer was great in terms of simplifying installation of most services and IIS7 had a much more streamlined flow for building out the sites and sub domains.

The only really challenging part was getting Perl working for a few legacy Perl bits on the Wiicafe site.  The key turned out to be the fact that ActiveState’s 64 bit builds do not include the ISAPI filter version of Perl and the CGI based ones are not very good and are prone to crashing on code that works under any other situation.  After figuring this out from lots of research and gathering scattered bits of information from around the net (and wasting more than a few hours) it turned out to be as simple as downloading the 32 bit version, installing it on the system, creating an app pool for the portion of the site requiring Perl support, altering the app pool’s advanced settings to set the “Enable 32 bit Applications” flag and then setting up the mapping for the scripting engine as normal.

There was also an issue I ran in to after everything was set up.  I’m not sure what caused it exactly but for some reason the PHP Manager ( a really nice plugin for IIS7 that manages PHP settings for multiple versions of PHP running on the same server) decided to start erroring out and one of my php.ini files mysteriously disappeared.  I pulled the php.ini from shadow copy, but was still getting a “IIS7 File monitoring is enabled for a file which could not be found” error being returned by PHP’s FastCGI handler.  After searching the web and finding nothing useful, I tried simply using the Web Platform Installer to install a newer version of PHP and that fixed the issue on both the non-working PHP version as well as the new version.

The last bit of fun was simply trying to back up the old server.  I’m by nature a pack rat and can’t stand getting rid of a system for fear of missing something or misplacing some data.  (I have numerous terabytes of external hard drives to prove this.)  To avoid any possible loss of data, I set out to make my largest VMWare image ever.  I loaded up VMWare Converter (a wonderful free utility from VMWare for converting a physical computer in to a virtual one) on the old server but had a problem that I didn’t have enough space on the old server to make an image.  (The old server only had 120GB of HD space and over 110GB of that was in use.)  To get around that particular problem I ended up setting up a remote desktop from the new server (with it’s shiny almost empty 250GB drive) to the old server and setup a drive mapping over the tsclient share that I could direct VMWare Converter to save it’s image to.  About 4 and a half hours later I had a beautiful 103 GB virtual machine of the old server (broken in to 2GB chunks thankfully) and started the 17 hour process of downloading it all to my home workstation. (I don’t think my cable company will like me much this month.)  After the download finished, everything booted great in VMWare Player (also free).  Though I did double the RAM available to the server to make it run a little smoother.

So yeah, overall a bit of an exciting time in new server land and time to bid a fond farewell to the old wiicafe.com server that has served wiicafe and myself so well for the last 6 or so years.

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November 15, 2010

3D TVs and Crazy Deals

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Technology — AJ @ 7:14 pm

So I ended up getting a new Sony KDL-55HX800.  I had been looking for a new TV for a while and Best Buy had a really good deal for a beautiful 3d Sony TV with a free PS3 and two pair of 3D glasses for basically half off. Got it all hooked up and calibrated and the quality is crazy.  I’d compare it to the difference between my really old crt and an lcd hdtv.  Great color and contrast.  3d is solid too. It does use polarized glasses to avoid a flicker but limits 3d to horizontal viewing.  Overall I like it a lot better than comparable Samsung.

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