September 05, 2005

Labor Day Weekend

Posted by Scott at 10:38 PM

Holiday - Ahh, it's already coming to the end of the Labor Day weekend. The unofficial end of summer. It was so nice out all three days. It made watching the television footage of the hurricane aftermath that much harder to fathom.

The Girls - On Saturday Abigail went with a classmate from last year to the Hopkinton State Fair. Sunday afternoon that friend's family came over here to play and have a cookout dinner. They also had a son roughly the age of the twins. This afternoon Claire had a friend, a new classmate from this year, spend the afternoon.

Airplanes - Besides the girls' fun, Michelle and I took the family out to run errands. We took them to Target to buy some supplies. Afterwards we had lunch at Gianni's Pizza because you can watch the airplanes land at Nashua's Boire Field while you eat. The boys got the biggest thrill every time a plane touched down. The staff also got a bit of a kick out of it. They usually see me stop in about once a week after a YMCA workout but this time they got to see "the entire crew" for the first time.

Michelle - Now that Labor Day is over the YMCA is switching to its autumn exercise schedule. Michelle will now teach one of the classes I go to: Wednesday lunch time. Ever since moving to Milford, it's been rare that I get to see her lead a step class. It'll be fun to attend her classes again. They were always real killers. She will still keep teaching her Monday morning class.

iMic - A couple of months back I bought the inexpensive Griffin iMic. It's a bit of a universal USB audio widget. It lets you capture line or microphone inputs via USB or output headphone or line level outputs via USB. This is useful because my laptop doesn't have line inputs but our piano has line outputs jacks. This afternoon I also dug up the necessary RCA audio cables. My goal was to tinker with capturing audio from our piano to encode it as MP3 files to put online. This way you can hear the songs that Claire is working on. After a couple of false starts (due to software issues), I finally got a semi-successful attempt. It's a duet that Claire is currently working on called Rustic Dance. Have a listen.

I had heard good things about a Mac MP3 recorder/encoder/player program called Audion. I had a few false starts with it because it kept resetting the levels on the iMic so that the recorded songs were rather quiet. A few times when I tried to re-adjust the recording levels, the program hung. Later I tried a little piece of software Griffin (the makers of iMic) put out called Final Vinyl. It did a decent job at capture and editting, but I used Audion to do the final MP3 encode. In the near future I plan to look into a few other related software packages such as Audio Hijack Pro ($32) and the free LAME (an acronym meaning LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder ... although it is). Supposedly Audio Hijack can do it all in one stop: capture any Mac audio and stream encode it into an MP3 or AAC format file. As it was I spent too much time tinkering around the piano on this. I didn't want to upset Michelle so I'll try Audio Hijack later. Perhaps on another nearby evening I'll record the songs Claire did at her early summer recital.

TiVo - Around Abby's birthday last spring I bought one of the newer TiVos with an integrated DVD player and recorder. (Aside: Wow! They are significantly cheaper than when I bought one!) Earlier we had moved the entertainment center and its components into the recently finished basement so that the kids could watch and play downstairs. Michelle still wanted the ability to watch recorded shows and DVDs on the main floor. She didn't want to have another large entertainment center so having the TiVo and DVD capabilities in one box helped a lot. We just plopped a modest sized LCD on top of it and had a compact and lightweight solution. You can almost see the combo in this picture (behind Daniel).

In all these months I never really tested the DVD record capabilities of the thing. I really just bought it for it's DVD playing ability. This weekend I finally got around to trying a recording. Last month PBS had re-aired a show called "People and Pianos: 300 years" and it was sitting in the TiVo with a "Do Not Delete" tag on it. It's a good show if you ever see it re-air. I'm happy to report that within 15 minutes the TiVo easily burned a DVD of the one hour broadcast. It was so easy I burned a second copy for Claire's piano teacher. The DVD menu it makes closely resembles the regular menu you see on a TiVo. The only thing that would be nice is if the software allowed you to cut any excess television broadcast cruft (commercials, promotions, trailers, etc.) from the beginning and end of the recording.

DVD - This weekend Michelle and I started on a movie I wasn't able to rent but could buy from Amazon: Entertaining Angels. It's the story of Dorothy Day (more info at PBS). Dorothy was more or less an early 20th century Mother Teresa here in the US who founded the Catholic Worker Movement and a newspaper of the same name.

One thing that's interesting about the lives of prominent noteworthy Catholics and saints is the variety in their biographies. Some small percent were holy from a young age, raised in holy families. Others had dramatic conversions from their earlier, not-so-virtuous lives. Dorothy falls into the latter. An agnostic bohemian suffragette with a few unplanned pregnancies, she found following the zeitgeist of the times empty and unfulfilling. We had to stop the DVD just as she was putting it all behind her and starting anew. Perhaps later this week we'll be able to finish it.

Ghandi - Once I get done with that DVD, I'd like to research a bit more into what Ghandi called "The Seven Deadly Social Sins":

  • Wealth without Work
  • Pleasure without Conscience
  • Science without Humanity
  • Knowledge without Character
  • Politics without Principle
  • Commerce without Morality
  • Worship without Sacrifice

It seems as relevant today as when he espoused them. I'm also hoping to get some time to see the Dietrich Bonhoeffer DVD I rented.