Why Excel Sucks # 255

“The sheet you are copying has cells that contain more than 255
characters.  When you copy the entire sheet, only the first 255 characters in
each cell are copied.  To copy all of the characters, copy the cells to a new
sheet instead of copying the entire sheet.”

On what planet is this desirable behavior?!  Fucking Microsoft laziness.  I’d like to meet the Microsoft engineer who can tell me to my face that this is acceptable user experience, so I can punch him straight in the mouth.

Updike Dead

John Updike died two days ago. I was hearing some archived Terry Gross interview from the mid 1980s in the car yesterday.

I suddenly realized that this must have been the reason I saw “The Widows of Eastwick,” which was the sequel to “The Witches of Eastwick,” prominently displayed in the bookstore in LAX. It stood out at the time because until then I hadn’t even realized there WAS a sequel to that book.

But wait… I was in LAX on Sunday, Jan 25th. That was 2 days BEFORE he died. Does this mean I had an opportunity to predict the future?! If only I had read the signs!!

Shaving Product Notes

I wrote up some notes for my friend about shaving paraphenalia. So here they are.

Do you have a good brush? I think that’s one of the most important parts. Get yourself a Super Badger. I got mine from Taylor’s of Old Bond St in Mayfair, but note they have an online store.

This lets you get away from alcohol-based creams. They also sell a variety of soaps– I use the Shaving Cream Bowl, which has concentrated soap in it. You use seriously a tiny dab of soap to lather your whole face with the brush. I’m still on my original bowl and we visited London something like a year ago.

I have a straight edge razor, but it’s a pain to keep sharp. To keep one of these suckers sharp you need a leather strop AND a whetstone. Not for the timid. Plus getting your skin taut enough for the blade to find purchase is very tricky. I learned (and am still learning) about this off of YouTube.

For day-to-day, I’d like to upgrade to a Feather double-edge. Samurai steel! How can you go wrong with that! Shaving specialty stores usually stock the whole line of these.

But in the meantime, I have been using the Gillette Power Fusion, a 4-blade with a single blade on the back for detail. It also vibrates, although I’ve had varying success with that.

When I’m in a big hurry, and only then, I use shaving gel, Jack Black Beard Lube.

A little goes a long way, and it has oils in it to not dry out your face. I bought this in Chicago at this wacky barber place where hot girls shave you while you drink martinis and watch sports TV and stock tickers. Seriously.

I’m almost out of this stuff, so I may experiment with something else. I’ve been looking for more mentholated shave gel (like I used when in Brazil) but still no luck.

One last lie

So at this point does anyone seriously believe Cheney was in a wheelchair because he was moving boxes?

I think the common assumption is that it’s a lie and that Cheney’s been in a wheelchair for months. Whether that says more about the last administration or the public’s general lack of faith in the administration, I cannot say.

Feminist Commercial hunt

Okay, so now that we’re back after 8 years,

I remember in the mid 1990s there were a ton of female-targetted ads. Stronger, aggressive women. Not lesbians, but not defined by a male identity.

I’m trying to find two in particular; eventually YouTube will find them. They both had remixes of old songs done in a new style. Compare to the Grand Theft Auto coke commercial where he “puts everything back again,” with a remix/cover of Paul Williams’ “You Give a Little Love.”

  • A remix of “This little light of mine,” done in a overproduced singer-songwriter style, set to animation. I think it was for jeans.
  • A remix of “I am woman,” done in a riot grrl style, like L7 or something. The commercial was for Nike or possibly for Gatorade.

Inauguration notes

Okay I’ll buy in now.

There was some booing when dubya walked up, which I thought was awesome. The crowd was polite to Carter and the real George Bush, and went buck-wild for the Clintons.

“Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.” — technically untrue, Mr. President. There now have been 44 presidents, including Obama, but only 43 of them were different people. The 22nd and 24th presidents were both Grover Cleveland, and arguably he was two different presidents, but he was definitely only a single American.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

THREATEN OUR PLANET. Looks like Climate Change is now officially recognized. I have a recommendation to Climate Change deniers: fuck off. Go move to the desert and hoard guns or something.

We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost.

Yay! Science! Maybe we can live in reality again!

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

I think this is awesome. Maybe all the debate shows on TV can be canceled now, since they are based on politics rather than solving problems. I can dream anyway.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill.

I like that too. Money has no moral alignment.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Finally! someone call Bruce Schneier.

CAT scan

I was thrashing around putting a too-late lunch together yesterday (Monday) and I hit my head REALLY hard on the kitchen counter.

Over the next few hours I got really sleepy and sort of flaky– it was difficult to articulate thoughts in words. Diane took me to the ER.

After waiting about 4 hours I got a CAT scan which showed I was not concussed and had no permanent damage. However I still (Tuesday morning) have a slight headache and I’m still sleepy.

I woke up several times last night in a panic: what if I couldn’t clear my head? Would I still be able to program? Would I still be able to write? What if I am in a fog forever? A lot of it was because I was just waking up, and not due to head trauma.

This morning I feel much better, if a little headachey. I got mom to drive me to work.

New editing policies

Dude. I just saw the “final cut” of a music video I worked on, which let’s just say I will not be adding to my portfolio.

NEW RULES (mostly for unpaid projects):

  1. listen to the song before agreeing to edit a music video. Editing a song  you wouldn’t normally listen to is painful.
  2. do not edit work which will be re-edited afterwards. I just finished a music video, at one point working 26 hours on a week where I was also working my 40-hour-a-week day job.
    • When I was done, the DP got to it and put some stupid shit in the beginning, basically because it looked pretty. If he had asked me to do it, I could have at least sync’d it to the music
    • the DP also added a bunch of crossfades which make my cuts look messy and no longer sync to beats in the music. This is fucking bullshit. Now I look like a sloppy editor!
    • Many of my cuts are replaced with alternate clips, for what I can only assume are aesthetic decisions.  I have no idea.  I have the feeling they happened at the last minute, but at this point it was out of my hands.  The result is now my emphases on close-ups of the singer MOUTHING THE WORDS PERFECTLY IN SYNC THANK YOU are now gone!

What’s jacked is I complained to the director about these issues when I saw the new cut.  I even offered to cut it back to the more precise version.  The director said no, this is the way I want it.  He did, however, give me the option of removing my name from the video.  But this is a free gig.  So now I’ve put in something like 40 hours for no money, and now no credit.  That is lame.  I supposedly can’t even use it for my portfolio, since my cut is not the “official” cut.

Now what’s especially jacked is people warned me in advance against working with this DP for exactly these reasons.  Some of the local filmmakers I really respect actually refuse to work with him. I could deal with his attitude, but if it means he also messes with my work, that’s where I have to draw the line.  It’s not really personal, it’s self-preservation.

This is like when I directed a flailing short project with a producer everyone told me was insane. Her director had quit in preproduction. I figured it was just him being flaky. How bad could crazy producer be?

That turned out to be a major mistake.  A couple people on the crew ended up thinking I was not fun to work with because of that shoot.  The producer, whose name you will note I am not mentioning, slagged me to all her friends.  I ended up working with all of them later on other projects and made friends, even the crazy producer, but she is still crazy and I obviously won’t be working with her again.

I’m used to dealing with borderline personalities, so I guess I don’t really take people too seriously when they tell me to not work with certain people. Maybe I should listen up.

Then again maybe I should still rely on my personal judgement and experience.  I’m still building my network of filmmakers; I can’t really afford to decide not to work with people based on hearsay.  And most of the especially dysfunctional film crews end up self-destructing before the work is finished, so it’s not like there is much I’ve worked on out there that really, really sucks.

How to rerender for file size in editing

What that means is unlike tape where you have the laborious process of figuring out where all the takes are, and separately sampling them onto the editing system hard drive, you have all the footage already in files. The downside is, you have ALL the footage, even the bad takes. The rough footage for “Devious, Inc.” takes nearly 500GB.

Editing HD is painful on my dual 2GHz pre-Intel G5. Rendering about 20 seconds, with color correction, takes around 15 minutes. Editing this way is next to impossible.

So! There’s a workaround process that I’ve patched together. In summary:

  • import all XDCAM footage
  • convert all footage into your Final Cut Pro project
  • render all the footage down to a smaller size; this creates a new project
  • do all your editing in the new project with the smaller size
  • when you are done, disconnect all the media… and reconnect them to their original, hi-res counterparts

Import the footage

Importing XDCAM EX data is easy– the card looks like a drive. You just copy the entire file structure over.

You can view the files in the utility provided from Sony. The utility as well as the FCP plugins for importing only work on Intel processors, however. Bummer.

Make your FCP project convert the footage to Quicktime

In FCP, import the footage. Unlike tape, which is what I’m used to, you no longer use “Log and Capture.” Instead, you use the file-based “Log and Transfer.” If you don’t see this, your FCP is misconfigured. I actually had to reinstall FCP as well as my entire operating system (Leopard) so be prepared.

In Log and Transfer, you can view the clips. Because I need all the footage, I just selected EVERYTHING. I did this in smallish batches (about 40GB each) because occasionally when I added a huge list of files to the queue, the entire application crashed!

The transfer process actually doesn’t take long– once I figured it out, importing everything took me the daylight hours of a single Saturday. The reason for this is there is no rendering happening: all that is going on is the XDCAM EX files are being wrapped in a Quicktime file. BUT this means that the resultant files are going to be roughly the size of your original files! Better have a large hard drive handy; I’m using a 1TB.

Now you’ve imported everything. Make sure there are no folders when you import everything. The reason for this is you want to be able to see every single file, in order. The XDCAM files are numbered sequentially, and if you had good on-set file naming discipline, they will all be unique… However, we had a couple software engineers and a guy who actually does professional radio, all people who are known for being pretty precise and anal-retentive, but we STILL had clips with the identical file names.

When imported into FCP, this means that the file names will end in things like “_001” and “_002.” Why is that bad? Well, if you import in a certain order, those files will be named in one order… if someone else imports in a different order, their files will be named differently. Also, your reel information may get messed up, which will kill you when returning to hi-res from low-res.

Move all your files

This part is very important. Quick Final Cut Pro.

When you import files into Final Cut Pro, generally they end up in a folder called “Capture Scratch.” We need to find that folder in Finder, and move all your imported files for this project into a new one we’ll call “hi-res clips” or something evocative like that. Since I edit a bunch of things in parallel, I have a whole bunch of folders for a whole bunch of projects… obviously, the hi-res clips will be in the proper project.

Start FCP again and make sure the clips still play. If not, find and reconnect them with Reconnect Media: Select all the clips, and right-click (hold control key down while clicking on a clip), and choose Reconnect media from the menu. Find your clip! Do it!

Rerender to a small size

Now we’re ready for the first scary part: converting all the footage to low-res.

  • Select all the clips. All of them. Use “Select All.”
  • Right-click (hold down the control key and click on any highlighted clip)
  • . Choose the Media Manager from the menu that appears

  • Here we are in the Media Manager. Isn’t it pretty.
  • We want to rerender to something SMALL. Make sure it’s at least roughly analogous to your original footage. Since my original footage was shot at 24 frames per second, or technically 23.98, I’m choosing “Recompress” media at “Offline RT JPEG” at 23.98. This will look crummy but will be real small
  • Base media on file names. This will let you play with the files on your file system without getting confused.
  • Also select “duplicate clips and place into a new project”
  • BEFORE YOU START, look at how much space the new renders will take. Is it what you expected? Do you have enough space? Mine was a savings of something like 90%.

This step could potentially take a long time. Rendering the 450GB+ (close to 500GB, I forget exactly) on my 2.4GHz Intel Core Duo MacBookPro took over three days. Which is a marked improvement from my initial attempt to render on my pre-Intel G5 tower… that estimate was over six days! Imagine what happens if the computer crashes! You get to start over!


Archive your old project somewhere safe. You may need it later.

Now archive all your lo-res clips somewhere logical. I have mine in “lo-res clips” right next to “hi-res clips.”

So now you’re in your new project, which is an exact duplicate of your other one, except now all the clips are in low-res. Now you can start organizing your thousands of clips of footage into bins so you don’t lose your mind trying to grapple with dozens of hours of footage…

Make your sequence. While having the sequence selected, make sure the sequence settings are set to your original footage. Even though the clips in the sequence are your low-res format.

Now do some editing or whatever.

Print lo-res

For previewing: making a low-res preview file. This is for posting to servers so the Director, and Producers etc can see your work.

Choose Export to Quicktime File. However, the settings are important: your sequence is a hi-res sequence. So if you used Current Settings, it will re-render all your lo-res footage as HD. That would be dumb. Select your compression type from the pulldown (in my case Offline JPEG 23.98).

Print hi-res

At some point someone will want to see your edit at high-res. Who knows why! Producers and Directors, what do they know!

I usually copy the entire project at this point. Disconnecting and reconnecting repeatedly seems to me a recipe for clips with misset configurations.

You don’t disconnect ALL your clips, oh no no no. Just the ones in the sequence to be rendered. One (of many) ways to do this is to make a new bin, Select All the clips in the sequence itself, and drag them into the new bin. You now have a bin of just the clips you used in your edit! Ta daaa.

Now select all of them in that bin, do Reconnect Media again, as described above. There’s actually the ability to reconnect the media to a different file here, which is what we’re doing. Reconnect to the hi-res originals!

Watch your sequence. Isn’t it pretty?

Occaisionally you will see a weirdly scaled-and-cropped clip, or all of them. Like you’ll see just the actor’s eye, the scale is so huge. The way to fix this is to select all the clips and choose “Conform to Sequence” or something.

Now render, if necessary, and output. I always use Export to Quicktime File, carefully choosing the proper settings, which are generally the Current Settings.

And, since you copied your project beforehand, you can continue editing in low-res.


TOBY: you know we still find random items with your old labels on them here
BRAIN: oh wow, like what?
TOBY: can’t remember exactly but like some of the old KVMs that you labeled with random ass stuff
TOBY: recently sent most of it off to an e-cycler
BRAIN: excellent
BRAIN: for a few years at pruneyard we had a freak gummi collection
BRAIN: malformed gummy bears
TOBY: i remember
BRAIN: one of my first purchases as QA lead at my previous job (that I just left last month) was a labeller
BRAIN: we labelled all the phones
BRAIN: then we labelled the computers
BRAIN: then we labelled things that really didn’t need labelling
BRAIN: like scissors (“scissors”)
BRAIN: and the labeller itself
TOBY: lmao
BRAIN: initially it was labelled “yes this is a labeller”
BRAIN: because people kept on asking if it was a labeller
BRAIN: then someone eventually put another label over the word “labeller” so it read “yes this is a hamburger”
BRAIN: so then people would ask for the hamburger
TOBY: you should have stored it somewhere and wherever you stored it you should have put a label called hamburglar
BRAIN: robble robble
BRAIN: actually it did have a check-out label
BRAIN: see all the phones were in a cabinet
BRAIN: and they were labelled with their phone number, and their ESN
BRAIN: (a signature)
BRAIN: and also a velcro label
BRAIN: which you’d grab and stick by your name to check out a phone
BRAIN: so the labeller’s tag actually read “hamburger”