Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category

In Which I Tear Apart Technology Predictions From A 1994 School Newspaper

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

image

On a recent trip to my parents I unearthed a June 3rd, 1994 issue of our school newspaper The Quill. In this issue a young, naive technology columnist by the name of Nicolas Kral made predictions of the technology would be commonplace in the future. I contend that 2014 sufficiently counts as the future, and that we can now judge if there was any merit to this so-called sooth sayer.

New Digital Televisions: These new breed of televisions are not going to be similar at all to today’s televisions. Technology experts predict that companies will hide computers inside of televisions, and then route television cameras, telephones, scanners, and other such devices through them. Instead of just watching television, you will use it to call people, write E-mail on the Internet, and other technological tasks.

FALSE. What this joker has correctly predicted is the iPhone; minus of course the fax machines, because we do not use fax machines in the future which is how we know it is the future. However, the correct answer to televisions of the future is “the screen will be bigger and in 3D and have way better picture. And we will still refer to cable and broadcast, because they refuse to die.”

PDA (Personal Directory Assistants): Notepad sized computers that accept handwritten text, and make personal computing easy. They will be able to do everything from word processing to translating speech into a foreign language.

TRUE if you live in 1999. Way to not see the iPhone coming, buddy. Oh right, you thought you were going to carry 46” televisions around to make phone calls. Also, did you think we’d have the universal translator by now? How naive.

“Talking” To Computers: This is already a reality. The latest sound cards for IBM compatible computers allow people to communicate through a microphone. Something very close to being completed is a computer that converts what you say into a foreign language.

What is with you and  the universal translator? Did you struggle that much through Spanish class? Clearly the Star Trek technology that won was the the communicator, not the universal translator. Today in the future we talk to watches and our phones, or as you call them, “televisions”.

Interactive Movies: Many people see this as the future of movies. Instead of seeing your favorite hero blow away the bad guys, you could waste the bad guys yourself. This is an emerging technology, with a few “interactive movies” already out on CD-ROM.

OH NO HE DID NOT SAY CD-ROM INTERACTIVE MOVIES ARE THE FUTURE, DID HE?? Why not just say “In the future, all movies will be Myst and The 7th Guest?”

The correct answer to movies of the future is “the screen will be bigger and in 3D and have way better picture.” Is that what I just said about television? That is why movies don’t have much of a future.

The New Home Office: Many people see computers as the demise of the workplace. People could use computers to do all the paperwork they do in the workplace at home. Something that is being worked on is video conferencing. Video conferencing is where people can attend a meeting from another area, using a video camera and a satellite hookup. People are currently working on a program that lets two people talk to each other with a video linkup, while having a computer scratch pad to demonstrate ideas at the same time.

Okay, good job – you predicted Go To Meeting. I admit I used teleconferencing multiple times last week, and it allowed me to attend meetings while visiting my parents. However, the ‘demise of the workplace’ is way off. The truth is that teleconferencing and iPhones allows for the work to extend outside of the office and into every other area of your life. Thanks to technology you cannot escape your work place; it follows you home, to the lake, or over an ocean.

In conclusion, me from 1994 failed to foresee the technology of our future, or that there would be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in 2014. With Megan Fox no less!

What’s With All The Lawrence Recently?

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

image

I have a suspicion that my tens of followers of this blog may have either removed it from their RSS feed or are considering it after my last few posts, which all seem to be videos about Lawrence, be it about St. Patrick’s Day, or dancing cats, or Lawrence celebrating after NCAA tournament games. What’s the deal? And can’t I make compelling videos people might want to watch?

To my tiny but potential audience – hi there! – I’d say that I’ll get there eventually. I just got a Canon 7D after saving my pennies for a while, with the hopes of shooting something with plot and story in the future. It’s been a long time since I’ve shot video with something better than an inexpensive camcorder, so I’ve been taking every opportunity to shoot and cut things together for practice sake. I have been letting my subject come to me, and hence you get some boring, poorly shot videos. I have been learning as I go, like “focus in SLR mode then shoot video because you can’t focus in the LCD worth anything” or “you can get away with very low light while shooting outdoors.”

It’s not like they are totally devoid of compelling content! Every so often I’ll catch something interesting, like a little girl playing with little dogs…

image

…or a pretty girl singing “Drops of Jupiter” next to a #kuboobs tee-shirt…

image

…or a tuba player that will play for beer.

image

So please bear with me. I’ll try to post some cute cats memes or whatever the kids are doing between the videos to keep you all happy.

Music and Context

Monday, July 5th, 2010

I use my video camera a lot. I shoot video on vacation, and sporting events, and all sorts of other places, and editing it down for upload to Facebook or YouTube. Often I’ll put some music underneath it; it serves as the glue that connects things together. The process goes something like this:

  1. Throw all clips that seem interesting onto the time line.
  2. Put all the clips in some sort of order. Sometimes this is chronological, other times I’ll try and make something more cohesive.
  3. Trim all the fat from each clip.
  4. Now that I know roughly how long the video will be, find a song that’s around that length and fits the mood of the piece.
  5. Throw the song into the time line, and futz with the video to make everything line up with the music.

It’s definitely not scientific, and it leads to some interesting choices at time. I was working on a video from a swim meet where I had edited 30 minutes of races down to around 6 minutes of video. I wanted some peppy music to go with, but there are very few six minute high energy songs in my collection. The song that does work: Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

The high energy parts are awesome, and the ballad parts go well with the beauty of swimming. Did not see that coming.

Music doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and often the context of the song is taken advantage of. For example songs can be used to evoke the memory of the era when they were popular. Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth has been used in movies from Panther to Forrest Gump to evoke the unrest of the late sixties and early seventies. However, the song was never about the chaos of the era, but instead about the closing of the Pandora’s Box club on Sunset Strip. It’s new context has made the song almost mythic, but it’s purely coincidence.

For filmmakers, it’s really easy to ride the coattails of a song’s context to improve the film. Romantic comedies can safely break out popular love songs, practically bashing the song’s context over the audience’s head in an attempt to create emotions.

More skillful filmmakers will play against the context, putting a song in a new light. Quentin Tarantino’s use of Blue Suede’s Hooked on a Feeling was just the beginning of masterful use of song, context, and cinema.

When I’m working, I try very hard to not choose a song ahead of time, because I like being surprised at how well music alters the work. Often I will specifically use songs by friend’s bands because I won’t have to worry about the context of the song altering my intent (or YouTube’s copyright detection). I’m often looking less at context and more at rhythm, feeling, and cohesiveness with the rest of the piece. What really surprises me is when including a song alters my context of it. The strongest example for me is Purple Balloon by The Roseline. It’s a song that I really love, and it’s wonderful to see the band play it live (they are a fantastic live act), but whenever I hear it I can only think of the two weeks I spent scanning photos for a video for my Grandfather’s funeral. My grandfather was a modest man, and I learned more about him in the two weeks after his death than I did in the 31 years prior. Like a song that reminds you of a breakup, I can’t listen to it anymore.

Talking Head’s Once in a Lifetime has been used to evoke the go-go eighties, but I associate it with Dallas in the early 2000′s, when I had their CD in my car. The only song I can think of that has no context would be Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’.

No matter what this song is played against, it will always be awesome.

Context is a powerful thing, and in many ways it’s something record companies fight to protect. Often a song’s context is based off the time it was popular, so it will be interesting to see what happens in the future. With the fall of radio, iTunes, Pandora, and everything else, is there really a way to connect a song to an era anymore? Do we even have a collective pop-culture consciousness?

I guess I hated the RIAA in 2002

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

I wrote this as some sort of email rant back in 2002. As it never made it onto a livejournal page, It can finally have it’s blog debut. Sad thing is I still agree with… me.

Isn’t it ironic that the Recording Industry of America is claiming people are unfairly stealing from them? I mean, isn’t that like Pinochet claiming that some guy on the street is unfairly killing people he hadn’t gotten around to yet? “Oh, I’m sorry for stealing – we as the music listening public forgot that that’s *your* job.” Lets face it – between enslaving artists and over-inflating music prices, the recording industry doesn’t exactly have an exemplary ethics record to begin with.

Ok, this is a topic that in the grand scheme of the world falls under “Hair color of Gwen Stephani” in the importance-o-meter, but many people are paying lots of money to blow it out of proportion, so I figure I can throw my two cents in, since everyone else already has.

Here’s the thing – the largest percentage of people who download music are 18-25 year olds. These are not a group of organized terrorists, having secret meetings plotting the end of the RIAA. It’s easier than that – they’re just POOR! They’re either in college and living off ramen noodles, or not in college and have the incredible income available to those with a High School education. Face it, 18-25 year olds do not make incredible amounts of money – unless, of course, they’re singing with 4 other white guys on stage.

A major point of confusion seems to be the difference between “using digital music” and “stealing digital music”. There’s a reason people use MP3′s – they are a convenient medium. The players are small, the playlists are large. Now, here’s where I’m lost. In 9th grade economics we learned this simple concept called “Supply and Demand”. You see, when demand is high for something, you increase supply. The RIAA’s approach is the complete opposite though – customers want it, so it *must* be a bad thing and be destroyed. And look at the alternatives they give us? If people want cheap, convenient music, they can join a record club! 10 CD’s for 4 cents, and then you get inundated with paying full price for albums no one else wanted for the rest of your life. Wow, Chumbawumba’s latest? Gee, thanks.

Why doesn’t the recording industry encourage MP3 swapping anyways? Kids giving their friends tracks from their favorite album isn’t stealing – it’s FREE ADVERTISING. Maybe they’ll become fans and buy the t-shirts, posters, and other krappy paraphernalia sold with a group.

So, to summarize – yes, people steal music, but the recording industry stole from us first. If they had some common sense, they would realize the marketing potential rather than focusing on 18-25 year olds who can’t afford to pay outrageous prices anyways.

Chrome OS

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Conversation my brother and I had this afternoon over twitter:

nicreationsOMG! Google is going to fuse the browser and the OS together! That’s so… Windows 98?

ChrisKral@nicreations I with you there. Didn’t uSoft get in some legal trouble for doing exactly that?

nicreations@ChrisKral Yes, but this is Google! We all love Google (Just like we all loved uSoft in 1985 when IBM was the bad guy).

ChrisKral@nicreations In 1985, I was 10 years old. I was too busy playing on the C64 to care one way or the other about either uSoft or IBM.

nicreations@ChrisKral He who forgets computer history is destine to repeat it. Too bad computer history is made by 20 year-olds.

ChrisKral@nicreations True, and it looks like it is repeating.

Linux Snobs

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

I think it was only two years ago when the web told me I had to give up on CVS for personal source code control because Subversion was so superior. Now the web tells me that Subversion is old and busted and git is the new hotness. I wonder when the web has time for writing any code if it’s constantly changing its tool chain.

Apparently I’m webcomic-ing now. It’s mostly coming as a creative release as I’m working on software upgrades. I think for most of you it’s a webcomic you would never subscribe to, so hopefully sooner than later I’ll move it to a sub-section of the site.

Naming Technology

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

There is a Facebook meme going around called “25 Random Things About Me”, where people list 25 random things about themselves and then ask 25 of their friends to respond. Because of the social networking aspect, you can see whenever somebody takes the time/self analysis to fill it out. I have to admit I found it facinating in a creepy/voyuristic way, so I did one about myself. Since I never have anything to blog about otherwise, here’s what I put:

1) I tend to break everything into a series of accomplish-able sub-tasks, and then iterate through each one until the job is complete. For example, I’ve broken this list down by high school, college, and work life. Scary, huh?

2) The reason I do a lot of sports now is because I was always too intimidated to play them growing up. Now I regret not starting sooner, because I’m at such a disadvantage on the soccer field when I’m playing against guys who have been playing since they were 6. You think it’s easy to learn those moves? It’s hard!

3) Each year I was in high school I made a video for the state Spanish video competition. The videos were “A Day in the Life of Robin Hood”, “Zorro, the Man in Black”, “Batman”, and “Dracula”. They are about the quality you’d find on YouTube today, but I was proud of them then and I still think they’re pretty nifty. Someday I’ll post them online.

4) I was in All-District choir growing up, but I stopped singing in high school because I had enough music credit from Orchestra. I wish I had kept it up – there is ample video proof that I have no singing voice – http://www.nicreations.com/movies/player/show/38

5) Orchestra was my favorite class in High School, not because I was any good (I wasn’t) but because it was the only place where everyone was okay with me being a weirdo.

6) I filtered colleges by an elaborate system of throwing away all the ones that spelled my name wrong.

7) The day I went to visit KU it was a beautiful spring day with the trees in bloom, and I decided to go to KU off that visit. No one told me that Kansas spring only lasts a week and a half, and the Kansas summer is mostly 105 and humid.

8) I was a double major in college – I have a B.A. in Film and a B.S. in Computer Science. I never thought I ever really fit in with either department – I was too goofy for CS and too nerdy for Film.

9) I didn’t have a car in college. I also didn’t have a drivers license. I didn’t get a drivers license until I was 24 and about to move to Dallas (funny story – the guy at the Minnesota DMV thought my Kansas permit was a license, and never made me do the driving test).

10) I was president of the student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) in college, but I never joined the organization.

11) I don’t idle well, and I tend to pace a lot. I had a college roommate complain about my “walking.” I lived on the upper floor and he lived on the lower one. Also, he was a dick. (See #25 on how I feel about that)

12) I didn’t drink in college, or well after. I didn’t start drinking socially until I was 29, and it was mostly because I figured there wasn’t a good reason I didn’t drink.

13) The thing I am most proud of from college was the animated short film I did as a summer project. I spent an entire summer working on it, but I only got one credit hour of credit. You can watch it here: http://www.nicreations.com/movies/player/show/11

14) My biggest regret in college – not having more fun. I was a tool.

15) I was able to move all of my possessions from college to my first job in Dallas in my parent’s minivan. When we unloaded all of my stuff it formed a sad little pile in the middle of the apartment kitchen.

16) In Dallas I learned that if I live close to work I’ll just spend all my time at work. I’m unfortunately a bit too focused.

17) I worked out a LOT in Dallas because I had nothing else to do. I did start playing indoor soccer and Racquetball, the latter I still play today..

18) I left my first job after 2.5 years to be a software contractor. I wrote a media research tool called “Orion” that I am still proud of.

19) After a year and a half of contracting, I discovered I really liked health insurance, so I gave it up and took a job at Garmin. I may have given it up so soon, but I don’t think I had the contacts and the know-how to really be a good contractor. (For those doing the math, I had 3 jobs in the first 5 years of my career).

20) I didn’t want to buy a house – if I had stuck to my guns I would rent my entire life (and looked like a genius considering the current economic climate). My house has a lot of “character”, which I’m currently spending lots of $$$ to repair.

21) I live my filmmaker dreams by making animated shorts and posting them on my website at http://www.nicreations.com (plug plug). I don’t make any money, but I have gotten some recognition: the Movie Monkey is on the Dr. Horrible DVD as one of the 10 “Evil League of Evil.” I love making videos and movies, but I find I don’t really love watching them. As my spare time is short I find I much prefer DVD’s of television (30 Rock, Reaper, yay!) to watching films. If you’re going to take 2 hours of my time, you better be worth watching!

22) I do triathlons – mostly sprint, but hopefully more Olympic distance. I think of Triathlons as a great sport for the indecisive (I want to swim! I want to ride bikes! I want to run!). The “accomplish-able sub-tasks” rule applies here too.

23) I do a lot of things, but I think computer programming is the only thing I do well. Everything else I just haven’t given up on yet.

24) I always envy “music guys” because I consider music so much harder to keep up with than film. I always wanted to be the guy who had to get the 60 GB iPod because 16 just wasn’t enough for all my tunes, but my entire music collection fits in 5 GB (and there are an embarrassing number of Wheezer, BNL, and Cake tunes on there padding that). I use the rest of my space for “30 Rock” episodes.

25) I didn’t actively pursue being a professional filmmaker because I came to the conclusion that to be a really great filmmaker, you eventually had to be a dick. If I had a life philosophy, it would be “don’t be a dick.” This can be prefixed or suffixed with “dude” (“dude, don’t be a dick”) but not prefixed AND suffixed with dude – it is not a dude sandwich.

Brand New Day

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I didn’t vote in 2000 – not for President, not for student senate, not even for what burrito chain should survive on Massachusetts St. in Lawrence (Chipotle won). In fact I never really paid attention to politics in college. I double majored in Film and Computer Science which kept me extremely busy. Everyone I knew who was politically active in College never seemed to do anything; they just wanted to talk about it. Who had time for that?

I didn’t start paying attention to politics until I graduated in 2001, so for all intents and purposes all I’ve known is the past 8 years and everything that went along – 9/11, Unilateralism, WMD’s (or lack thereof), failure on two fronts, Supreme Court appointees and the Nuclear Option, economic collapse, and on and on. In most of these cases it seemed to me like no one really cared about what was best for the country or the people who elected them. Winning at all cost seemed to be the only goal, as if decisions that affect nations could always be simplified down between two opposing viewpoints, between right and wrong. Leadership from both sides seem guilty of this single mindedness, leading to an endless blame game of whose fault

I did vote in 2008 as I care more about politics now – you could say I’m a latte drinking NPR junkie filmmaker if you need a label. I know many people who see Obama as sunshine breaking through storm clouds, as if one man can transform our entire political system. Even though what I’ve seen so far has been promising I’m not ready to drop my cynicism. Throughout his campaign the word “hope” was used as a mantra, so here is what I am hopeful for. I know the problems we face will require difficult, unpopular decisions, and can only hope the men and women we elected to make them will make those hard calls instead of devolving into partisan bickering. As a country I hope we stop fighting about who is right and instead start agreeing on what is right. Mostly, I’m just hoping for a better tomorrow. These are things we can all agree on.