Editing Videos

So I’ve always been really interested in video editing. There are a lot of cool things that can be done, and I think it takes a lot of skill to master. With that said, I have never had a super awesome, very utilizable video editing software.

When I was in high school I had a couple of video projects. No it wasn’t for some art class, I wasn’t in a video editing class, it was for the classes that make the most sense for videos to be made in.

If you didn’t guess health or history then you are WRONG.

Even though these were in weird subjects I found that I really enjoyed making these videos, and a part of me ever since has been wanting to make cool videos with weird effects ever since.

Our school would host a film competition every year and every year my friend and I would look at the posters and say, “This year we are going to do it, by golly!”

O.K. we didn’t say “by golly” but you still get the point.

And every year we didn’t enter the film competition because we didn’t have time. This trend continued through college where our university has also held a film competition every year.

This year though, this year is the year I start releasing cool videos.

In High School, the videos we created were just made with Windows Movie Maker, which doesn’t have a ton of special effects or adjustments, and it kind of clunky to work with. I got through with it alright, but it left me wanting more.

When I got into college and started Xylo-A-Day I figured this might be my chance to make cool videos finally. Armed with iMovie I was… let down a little.

iMovie is great. It is simple it is intuitive and when you are uploading a video every day for your novelty xylophone channel, it is an absolute godsend. It does a whole bunch of very simple editing, very simply.

Outside of that it fights you. Chroma keying can’t be resized or moved around. You don’t have more than two lanes of editing, one lane having to be a primary lane while the other lane is the secondary lane. Surprisingly, you can’t just float text anywhere on the screen.

Don’t get me wrong, you can put text in your iMovie. You can put text in 1 of 45 (Probably less, I don’t want to count) pre-determined locations, none of which are good for anything else but titles, which granted, are their goal.

This has all led up to this moment.

Humble Bundle, which is a website that sells software and games for dirt cheap and then donates the money to charity (super awesome web site, check them out, not a sponsor), had a software sale that contained Vegas Pro.

And so I got it.

It isn’t After-Effects or Final Cut, but it is a higher end video editing software then iMovie, and it’s going to take some time to learn.

I’m up for this challenge though, over this next year I hope to put out a video at least once a month with something cool going for it. Maybe it is editing, maybe it is just a cool video.

I think it is reasonable for me to release 12 videos this year, so be on the lookout, and lets see if I can get it done.

(Xylo-A-Day will continue as usual)

Endeavor: Projector

I have been half completing most of my personal projects because of school and work duties. I have recently completed one project though, and that would be a projector screen.

To start off: I bought a projector. And to clarify, I bought two. And to be technical, my friend and I both chipped in for those two projectors.

Our school, like many other schools, organizations, and businesses had a surplus auction (I think it is a continuously ongoing auction) and they sell things on there ranging from medical equipment to desk chairs, and pretty much everything in between.

I was looking through it and although I don’t have a need for furniture or medical equipment I found the electronic stuff of interest. This included the computers that they had and some projectors.

The good computers were getting auctioned up to their reasonably standard price, and the bad computers were being sold by the tens. What in the world would I have done with 20 desktop computers that would struggle to run Excel? So I passed on the computers.

But the projectors caught my eye. Good projectors cost hundreds of dollars, to have a reasonable throw range, a reasonable brightness, clarity, and quietness (believe it or not some cheap projectors hum like motors). At this auction though, they were selling classroom grade projectors for ~$50 each. So my friend and I chipped in and got two for ~$100. And it was one of the best purchases of my life.

This bad boy can project a 110 inch screen across our living room with crystal clarity. Sure, I’ll admit it doesn’t have an HDMI port, but it has a DVI port and a great resolution (nothing an HDMI to DVI adapter can’t fix). Aside from that though, this has all sorts of inputs and adjustments, and is capable of even adjusting the screen if we projected at our wall from an angle.

We projected it onto our wall for a couple of weeks, and that turned out alright, but we knew we could do better. I started thinking about how to build a projector screen. Now, I live in university owned housing so I’m not allowed to put any holes in the wall, which means I had to build a stand to our screen as well.

So I went to Home Depot (not a sponsor), bought 8 8 foot boards, construction screws, and then stopped by Walmart and bought a single bed sheet.

The construction was simple. It was to be 8 feet high, 8 feet (plus) wide, and an about 5 foot high screen. I have a power drill, I have a staple gun, and I have a living room floor which can contain this monstrosity.

Getting to work was rather easy, mainly due to the fact that I decided to use construction screws for this project (and hopefully for all future projects). If you don’t know the difference, construction screws have a hex head, are super durable, get a ton of torque, and are almost incapable of stripping. I didn’t have to drill a single guide hole for this thing, truly just plug and play.

The first night I worked on it I built the projector screen (8×5 feet) which left 2 posts dangled downwards supporting the whole thing. It sat as the interim projector screen design until I could think up a good foot design for the stand, and had enough time to construct it… This took a couple of weeks (at least 3 or 4).

Finally school ended and I had time and energy and creativity to complete it. I went back out to Home Depot bought one more 8 foot board, and had them chop it into 1 foot boards, and then went home and assembled the rest.

Here is the final result.

While assembling the feet, I also extended the screen down another foot or so, since we knew we could fit a little more of the up/down projection on an 8 foot screen. It turned out pretty well.

The total cost for this sweet home theater setup (if you exclude the price of the tools):

  • 8 foot boards * 9 ~ $27
  • Box of construction screws ~ $5
  • Projector – $50
  • Bed Sheet – $10

Total Price: ~ $92

For a 105 inch screen and the ability to fulfill 8th grade me’s dream of playing Guitar Hero on a big projector screen, this was a pretty worthwhile and fun project to complete.

To-Do Lists and Task Management

Before I start talking about task management, I want to preface that I am by no means a productivity expert, I don’t have any training on what is truly productive in most scenarios. I’m just here to say my journey in personal productivity, and what I have learned along the way.

When I first started trying to be productive in my every day life I had a simple system. I just had a to-do list with everything on it. No organization, just a list of tasks.

Then I tried breaking up these tasks according to my classes, and that worked decently well. But overall it wasn’t the best for long term goals or anything else.

So I drew up a long term goal to do list, one that would be the goals for the entirety of a semester. With these two different sets of tasks I was able to manage long term goals as well as short term goals. But it didn’t end there. Now I wanted to start forming habits.

To do that I started with an excel spreadsheet and for a whole summer that listed every day as a box, and I marked when I completed a task every day. This was great and rewarding. So I kept adding more things to do every day. And then I got bogged down.

Then I cut down on what has to get done every day and converted some of those tasks to weeklies. Tasks that might need to get done a few times a week, but don’t have to be done every day.

By this time I had a whiteboard, and I found it pretty simple to convert my dailies from excel to a whiteboard checklist. From there I kept my weeklies as a checklist and I update my progress every day.

As far as tasks that aren’t repetitive I started using a kanban which is a fancy word that pretty much means structured to-do list. I’ve separated out all of my classes, my miscellaneous activities, and even some longer term goals on one of these kanban boards.

I’m by no means a productivity guru, but I can say everything that I have learned. First of all, it is really easy to have too may dailies. I only record things as daily tasks if and only if I can do them every day, no exceptions. If I can’t do them every day but I want to do it consistently a couple of times a week, then I make them a weekly.

Everything else can be considered a long term goal or a non-repetitive task. Out of these you have to determine what should be considered urgent and important, urgent and unimportant, not urgent and important, and unimportant and not urgent. This will determine which tasks need to be done now, and what tasks can be done later. As a rule of thumb, urgent and important should be significantly higher ranked than not urgent and not important.

For the tools I use:

  • Simple whiteboard checklist for daily activities.
  • Printed excel checklist for weekly activities.
  • Personal Trello board for non-repetitive tasks.

And that’s really I all I have to say. Good luck being productive, it is a tough goal, but a worthy one, that will definitely make life work out much smoother.


Dining Tables and Tabletop Board Games

My friends and I play a lot of board games. I have brought this up in a couple of posts throughout this blog but I haven’t talked about one of the secretly important parts of tabletop board games.

The table.

When my friends and I moved in together, the apartment was already furnished. In the living room it came with a couch, a loveseat, a TV shelf thing, a nightstand shelf thing, and a not particularly large coffee table.

Although this wasn’t a large coffee table, and by the merit of it being a coffee table, not a large table, we made do with it. We played hours of board games on it. We fit huge game setups on it and set our coffee cups on other surfaces. If we made dinner we would sit on the couch and eat while watching TV, and it was fun.

But it wasn’t a dinner table.

And we thought it didn’t matter.

Then we started playing Dungeons and Dragons and the desire for more table space increased with the levels of our characters.

We still weren’t fazed.

Fast forward. It is a random Saturday in Summer and one of my friends and I go get some lunch and then go shopping for random stuff. On our way back home I get a crazy idea to try to get a dining table.

We stop by a thrift shop.

We walk out of the thrift shop with a decent double-leaf dining table for $15, and somehow manage to fit it into the car.

We get back home, set it up, and then go back out to buy a tablecloth to hide any of the imperfections. The result was amazing.

The most impressive part of the dining table though wasn’t for the table space part of its namesake, but instead for the dining part.

For once we could all sit in chairs, maintain good posture, and eat while facing each other. My roommates and I aren’t blood-related, but eating around a dinner table still makes it seem like a family.

Seriously, if you haven’t eaten around a dinner table with your family or with your friends, do it. The quality of life enhancement that something as simple as a thrift shop dinner table can bring is insane. Coffee tables are nice and all but it is a completely different experience eating around a dinner table.

Board games are also enhanced by sitting around a dinner table. The increased table space means that everyone has a place to put their cards/pencils/tokens/etc. while still having plenty of space to put the board for the game.

The greater elevation from the ground means that everyone can sit around the table sitting comfortably in chairs, instead of leaning over a small table.

And everything was good.

Until we realized that the leafs were a little warped which caused the table to have an uneven surface.

So we talked about putting a piece of plywood on top of it or something like that.

And then one day I got off work and got really in the mood to do a dumb project in the middle of the afternoon like making a tabletop.

My friends and I got into the car and we headed down to Lowe’s.

There, we looked for plywood that would fit the dimensions of our table. And we kept looking in the wrong section near the lumber. Finally we asked an associate and were pointed to the thin board/MDF section, and there we had the best idea.

Why not use something other than plywood? Why not use whiteboard?

And so we did. And it’s awesome.

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There are some pros and cons games to be weighed here, and I think we won out because everything boils down to us being college students.

Pros:

  • We can study and draw stuff on the table
  • We can keep track of stuff for board games using the whiteboard table.
  • We have a near perfectly level surface to play board games on

Cons:

  • Have to clean before use because of expo gunk
  • Weird if you’re hosting a high-class dinner party
  • Some friends might think you are too cool

All-in-all would I suggest a dining table? If you can get one in your current financial and spatial situation, then yes.

Would I suggest a whiteboard table?
Are you an actual family with actual responsibilities like raising children or hosting dinner parties with top hats? Probably not.
Are you anyone else? Then you should be asking, “Why not?”

Was this story too long? All I’m saying is that dinner tables are pretty cool.

 

Long Summer, Time to Blog

So…

It’s been a long time since I blogged. I spent this whole summer working full time with an hour commute and I put blogging on the back-burner.

What I didn’t do though was completely waste my own time (I got close though).

I maintained Xylo-A-Day. In fact Xylo-A-Day is going so well that I’m getting about 40 views a day. When I first started the channel I was lucky to get 100 views a month and now I’m making that in about 3 days time.

I have a feeling that the channel is going to get significantly larger before the end of this year, and hopefully I can make it to 100 subscribers as well.

I did plenty of stuff and hopefully the next couple of weeks I can make posting a regular occasion again. There are a couple of topics that I could probably write about to kick this off.

I played plenty and plenty of Settlers of Catan, I even got the SeaFarers expansion and I would highly recommend it. A post to come about Catan strategy (like I even know how strategy works).

Image result for seafarers catansource: Catan.com

I was able to kick my coffee addiction, which is a pretty great in itself. Coffee posts are always a nice treat.

Image result for folgerssource: Target.com

Plenty of manga was read and by that I mean most of the Naruto series. It’s possible I could write a blog post about manga itself and also possible I just write an entire one about Naruto.

There are also a couple of projects that I have completed and that are going to be completed soon that I can blog about here, which I can guarantee are going to be at least a solid moderately interesting.

There isn’t much I want to say right now except that I’m ready to be back in action. Stay tuned for the weekly content to start churning out again.

 

 

Blogging and Botting

I enjoy blogging and releasing content and this site is the perfect platform for that.

So I post here weekly (or at least try!) and I have been noticing a couple of things.

  1. Practically nobody comes to this website other than people who click the link that is on my Twitter.
  2. There are a lot of people who like my posts and follow this blog after I do post.

So I started looking into it, and I’m holistically convinced that the people who are doing so are bots.

Sure there might be one or two of them just trying to do mass marketing through mass following and liking (which is an actual marketing strategy),  but I think the majority of them are bots.

Some are more straightforward than others.

Some of them will just be called “GreatMarketingTips”, “SuperSportsNews”, “TravelDestinationFun” or something equally blatant.

Some of them will try to be more sneaky.

Bill Josephson, but then you look at the first posts and its “5 great marketing strategies” and “Great ways to improve business”

I love blogging and although you might expect my next few words to be of hate they are not.

The bots are funny to me, the idea that this website doesn’t have any users but rather only bots talking about marketing is hilarious to me.

I’m not upset. This is has been a great experience.

Disc Golfing in the Summer Sun

It’s hot outside for those of us in the northern hemisphere (sorry New Zealand). Know what that means?

Time to go outside and have fun baking in the Summer sun.

For real though, there is plenty of activities to do out in the summer sun, and I’m here to suggest one of them for you.

Have you ever thrown a Frisbee?

Have you ever thought that you wanted to get really good at throwing a disc in a particular direction.

Did you participate in discus in high school? Neither did I.

If you have done any of these things then you might enjoy… drum-roll please… disc golfing.

Disc golf is almost exactly like normal golf except for a few factors:

  • It is usually hosted in local parks rather than managed golf courses.
  • It is relatively cheap to start playing, and then to keep playing.
  • You use a disc (fancy Frisbee if we want to be technical) instead of a golf ball, and you throw into a basket instead of into a hole.

To start playing disc golf you really only need one disc: A driver.
A driver allows you to throw really far distances granted that your technique and strength (mostly technique though) are good. Look this stuff up on YouTube, or just go out into an open field and practice.

If you want to get fancier you can also get a putter.
A putter allows you to make shorter distanced throws with more control than a driver.

If you want to be even fancier you can also get a mid-range disc.
A mid-range disc is exactly what it sounds like, a disc that is somewhere in between those two throws.

You could get a driver for $10-15 and as long as you don’t lose it you won’t buy another one.

A putter is about another $5-10.

A reusable water bottle, which I would recommend bringing with you, is also only $10 if you want to get an ultra durable Nalgene (not a sponsor).

I used to play disc golf in high school, and then when I got into college I slowed down. Just recently I got into it and I’ve been going every week and I thought I would just share some of the cool perks of the matter.

 

 

 

Googlin’… It is so Darn Fun!

Before I begin this blog post I would like to link to a Guadalajara Joe song named Segwayin’ and Googling. It is exactly what it sounds like.

Now for the real blog post.

I am a computer science major in college, and for most of the population that means that I’m a computer wizard. But I don’t believe I am. I don’t even believe most of the people who I think are tech savvy are computer wizards.

I believe we are just good at Googling.

Now I’m not trying to demean any of the skills of myself or my classmates by saying that. For one, it is definitely a heavy exaggeration. For two, there is definitely some inherent truth to it.

I believe that this generation is capable of accessing more information than the past generation could even imagine. Following that belief I believe that the next generation is going to access more information than we could imagine, even more efficiently.

Most of the past generation don’t inherently understand computers. They weren’t born with them. To understand how google works, and how the web works, and how your web browser works, and how your keyboard and mouse work you have to learn. They aren’t naturally intuitive.

To understand something intuitively you can’t just know certain inputs lead to certain outputs, you have to know why certain inputs lead to certain outputs. You can learn to intuitively understand computers but nothing beats using a computer as a child, the best time to learn intuition.

This brings me to my next point.

My parents weren’t born with computers.

I was born with decent desktop and laptop computing.

My children will probably be born holding smartphones that will out-compute the computers I had as a child (maybe even the bulk of the computers nowadays).

For example:

My parents’ generation access Google to look up a popular site name that they already know, instead of using the url.

My generation types in sentences to Google that are halfway incomprehensible in order to find better results.

My children’s generation will probably be using our gibberish with fancy search filter terms.

I don’t know if my thoughts came across as complete, but all I’m trying to say is that the ability to Google could be considered a defining distinction between my generation and the last.

The Beginning of Summer

Before this summer began I made a list of all the things that I want to do.

I also started a full-time job this summer and so I didn’t really know what to expect when it comes to time management.

After a week of work, I can say undoubtedly that I should be able to do some cool things this summer. Although it will probably take place mostly on the weekend.

Things this blog might be able to look forward to:

  • Posts about cool Xylophone marimba videos
  • Neat video game streaming content
  • Posts about app development
  • Posts about food
  • Posts about posting for about a year (I really need to look when I started this blog)
  • Posts about math
  • Weekly posts

Sure, this post might be a cop-out but I’m hoping to make a weekly blog post this summer to maintain some consistency.

I’m looking forward to this summer, and I’m looking forward to documenting a lot of the cool stuff from it on this blog.

 

 

Space Capitalism

My friends and I play plenty of board games and we come across some really fun and unique ones.

Some of my recommendations consist of:

Settlers of Catan, it’s a classic game of trading resources.

catan.png

Splendor, a deck building game involving become the best jeweler around.

splendor.png

Betrayal at House on the Hill, a world building game where all of the players explore a haunted house.

Betrayal_gallery_1_0.jpg

 

All of these games are super fun because they take really simple elements and stack them on top of each other to create a complex strategy environment. The learning curve on these games aren’t steep. You can pick them up really fast.

Catan is probably the hardest one to understand the first time you play, but that’s mostly due to the freedom given to the players, and the edge cases that don’t appear in the general rules.


Today though, we aren’t talking about any of these popular, well thought out games. We’re talking about a game that my friends and I found in a Half-Price Books one time.

It’s called Trailblazer.

trail.jpg

Trailblazer was a part of a series of games that came out in the 80’s by a company called Metagaming.

What Metagaming would do is release a rule book and board (which was mainly a grid) and then have the players be in charge of maintaining the board and game conditions.

From what I’ve gathered Trailblazer was one of the less popular ones.

Trailblazer defines itself as “A game of space exploration and economic exploitation based on supply and demand.”

On the back of the box, they state “Libertarians will love it.”

If those two sentences don’t have you sold I don’t know what will.

The crazy part is that the rules are actually really good at making a game that simulates free market economics. If that were the only part of the game, it would have me pretty well entertained.

The tough part is that free market economics isn’t exactly easy to simulate.

The game requires that the players fly around the galaxy looking for more planets to exploit and trade with. These planets aren’t on the map in the beginning and when the players find them they have to:

  1. Draw what planet class it is.
  2. Roll for every resource it produces. (3-5ish)
  3. Roll for every resource it consumes. (3-5ish)
  4. Roll for all of the demand modifiers of those resources that it consumes. (3-5ish)
  5. Keep track of all of these stats.

That’s just to find a planet.

During the buy phase every player has the opportunity to bid for any resource that is available on any planet they have a ship or a factor at. Which means there could be tens of planets all with 3-5ish resources each, all of which have to be bid on individually.

Everybody has a ship log for every ship they have, a warehouse log for every factor they have. The game has a board that has to be managed, a star chart has to be logged for all the stats of all of the planets that are found. Anytime goods are sold on a planet, the demand modifier has to be altered for that good.

None of this is automated.

And so after reading the rules, my friends and I have decided not to play.

Free market economics makes for a fun game, but I have no desire to manage multiple spreadsheets for a game that could take “4 hours to days per game.”