Archive for February, 2014

Hello from cold South Bend, Indiana, and an impending radio appearance

As I write this, South Bend is well on track to reach the predicted overnight low of -10 Fahrenheit (about -22C), and the prediction is for wind chills to make the early part of the morning feel like -20F (about -28C). Thankfully it’s warm in the hotel.

Here’s a photo I took on my first day in South Bend from the window of my hotel room. There had been a bit of direct sunlight on the window so it felt warm from my side, but it definitely was not warm on the other side.
South Bend, Indiana

During the day on what has recently become yesterday I went to Hillsdale in Michigan and saw Hillsdale College, including some of the statues of great historical figures. Here’s a photo of the Margaret Thatcher statue.
Hillsdale College's Margaret Thatcher statue on Liberty Walk

And of course before South Bend I was in Fort Dodge, Iowa, which was also quite cold but not as cold as South Bend is right now.
Part of the Fort Dodge Fort Museum

This one might interest the music buffs. The Laramar Ballroom in Fort Dodge is where Buddy Holly performed just three days before his death in a plane crash. Legend has it that bad weather in the region made it difficult to drive to wherever he was next going, and caused him to take the fatal flight instead. Here I am at the front doors of the Laramar Ballroom.
Samuel at Fort Dodge's Laramar Ballroom
Photo credit: Bill Grady

As I’m sure you can imagine, I have a lot of photos to post from this trip. The forecast is for a decent bit of snow over the weekend so between that and the generally cold weather, I’d say there’s a good chance I’ll have time to upload some or most of the photos before I leave South Bend.

Radio appearance
Today, Friday, Casey Hendrickson returns to his show on News/Talk 95.3 MNC (WTRC for those of you who like callsigns) between 3pm and 6pm Eastern (12pm and 3pm Pacific/7am Saturday and 10am Saturday Canberra). At this stage the plan is that I’ll join Casey during the final hour or half-hour, and MNC’s stream is available internationally so if you want to listen in, please do.

I’ll record this like I did when I was on Alan Stock’s show on KDWN in Las Vegas, but I get better reception of MNC than I did of KDWN so I shouldn’t have any problems sharing the audio with you later.

For now, as it is nearly 1:30am, I shall bid you a good night.

Samuel

February 28th, 2014 at 05:28pm

The last time I’ll see a temperature above freezing for over a week

Kansas City has been great, even though it has only been a brief stop. Today I’ll be heading up north to Iowa, and in particular the town of Fort Dodge. I have deliberately left the trip until the middle of the day as the temperatures are a bit nippy and I’d rather when it’s only cold, not when it’s super cold…it’d be nice to have a couple hours to get used to it.

Before I leave Kansas City I’m going to take a trip down to what I’m informed is a nice little old shopping precinct rather close to my hotel. I’ll have a look around there for a bit prior to leaving town.

Before I leave the hotel, here are a few photos of the view from my hotel room.

Kansas City at dawn

I took this photo around dawn.

The next two I took a short time ago.
Kansas City at dawn

Kansas City at dawn

If I have time, I’ll try to get a few photos of some of the rather nice old houses in the area as well.

Now, the weather. It should be above freezing by the time I leave Kansas City, although only just, and so far the temperature is still a little below the hourly forecast figure (at 10:45 it was still -1).
Kansas City forecast for 23 Feb 2014

Fort Dodge forecast for 23-25 Feb 2014

Fort Dodge should be sitting at about the maximum temperature when I get there this afternoon, before rapidly plummeting to -20 tonight. Thankfully I will not still be there to experience -25 on Tuesday night.

South Bend forecast for 25 Feb - 1 Mar 2014
South Bend forecast for 2 - 3 Mar 2014

It looks like I will get my wish in South Bend of seeing snow.

(As usual, Weather data is courtesy of AccuWeather)

Oh well, time for me to get going.

Samuel

February 24th, 2014 at 04:03am

We’re off to see the Wizard, the…err, nope, just skirting the edge of Kansas

It’s time for me to pack up my hotel room and bid farewell to Las Vegas. I’m off to Kansas City which skirts the border of Kansas and Missouri. I couldn’t get a direct flight, so I’m flying via Phoenix, Arizona (flights US544 and US430 with US Airways). This will involve me going forward two hours from Pacific Time to Central Time, so by the time I get there, the day will be pretty much over.

It’s a colder day in Las Vegas today than it has been of late.
Las Vegas hourly forecast for 21 Feb 2014

I’ll be in Kansas City until Sunday morning and it is definitely a bit colder there.
Kansas City forecast for 21-23 Feb 2014

And then to a place which is much colder…Fort Dodge, Iowa. There’s a good chance I’ll see some snow, and I’m very glad I packed some cold-weather clothing.
Fort Dodge forecast for 23-25 Feb 2014

I’m looking forward to it…and the cold weather should give me plenty of time in my hotel room in the evenings to catch up on uploading photos.

As usual, thanks go to AccuWeather for the forecasts)

Samuel

February 22nd, 2014 at 02:03am

My first time shooting

I have a lot of photos and a few stories to share about my time in Las Vegas (which comes to an end this morning) and not enough time to post them right now, but before I leave Las Vegas I would like to share this.

On Wednesday afternoon I went out to the Green Valley Range in Henderson with Rocky, Billy and Jeffrey, where Billy gave me instruction on firing his Ruger P95, a lightweight weapon which is probably a good starting point for someone as small as me.

Billy ran me through a safety briefing and introduction to the P95, and demonstrated the firing of it.
Billy demonstrates the P95
(I never noticed until this photo just how much bigger that shirt is compared to the top I had on over it)

Then it was my go, under Billy’s careful watch and mentoring, and a light holding of my right shoulder while I got used to the kick of the gun.

Samuel shoots the P95

Here are a couple short videos of me shooting the P95. You can’t really see much of what I’m firing at, but you can see enough.

And the targets. In this first one, the clump of shots which hit right on top of each other dead-centre in the target were Billy’s. The rest were mine. All good, but that shot in the arm was definitely a stray.

Samuel's first target

And the 2nd target. All of these shots were mine.

Samuel's second target

I definitely have a bias to the right (would you expect anything else from me?) but this could be corrected with practice. Still, for a first go, I was happy with the results.

A very big thanks to Rocky, Billy and Jeffrey for the outing. It was a very enjoyable experience.

Samuel

February 22nd, 2014 at 01:49am

Today’s plan

Yesterday’s show with Alan Stock went very well. Alas the audio I recorded off the air has more static than I would like and while I was able to clean it up a bit, the original audio and the cleaned audio are both not great in my view. There’s a good chance I will be able to get cleaner audio today or tomorrow so I’ll wait and see what happens and then make a decision about what to share with you.

In the meantime, today is going to be a bit of a busy day. I have a few things to do this morning, and then I’ll be heading out to Hoover Dam. The prediction is that we will have some cloud cover in Vegas from about midday, which will ironically make it easier to visit the area near a gigantic solar power plant outside Vegas on the other side of the state border…it’s about the size of a small Canberra suburb and can apparently power all of the houses in Canberra, but only when the sun is shining. Regardless, it’s something worth seeing but due to the way it is set up it’s hard to visit when the sun is shining as it reflects a large amount of light in all directions.

And after that…well I really should catch up on uploading photos and writing a bit about the days since I left Petaluma.

Samuel

February 19th, 2014 at 03:33am

I’ll be on KDWN AM 720 with Alan Stock this morning

A happy Presidents’ Day to you from Las Vegas.

I have been just a wee bit busier than I expected since I arrived in Las Vegas and as such haven’t had much time to post some photos. I intend on taking a little time to correct that later today.

In the meantime, in a little under two hours from now on this holiday Monday, I will be on KDWN 720 AM with Alan Stock from 6am to 9am local time (1am to 4am Canberra time). People in and around Las Vegas can obviously hear this on their radios, while people across the US can listen online at kdwn.com or find KDWN on TuneIn or a similar service. Unfortunately KDWN’s stream is not available outside the US unless you know how to get around the geoblock…and they have the geoblock on for a reason so I’m not going to advise anyone to get around it (in fact I wonder if recommending to do that would fall foul of the DMCA law, possibly through some sort of “circumventing digital rights management” clause?).

Alan Stock on KDWN 720 AMAlan Stock on KDWN 720 AM
A cute little bit of Las Vegas marketing. Why have a business card when you can have your own casino chip?

It looks like we’ll be discussing, in addition to the news of the day, some of the issues facing Australia and what both countries can learn from each other. There are a lot of very similar issues in both countries and a lot of the public policy battles which Australia has been through are ones which the US is currently going through, and vice-versa. I’m looking forward to it…it should be good fun.

AM radio reception is affected by nearby electrical interference, and so leaving a radio near my laptop to record the show turns out to be more difficult than I had hoped, but with a bit of trial and error I was able to find some locations in my hotel room which allow me to record KDWN without too much interference which is, in my view, preferable to recording their webstream as I would like to record it as it went to air, not with the ads replaced with a webstream promo loop. If things work as I think they will, I’ll post some or all of the show online later today. In many ways to is largely dependant on the unattended recording going to plan.

Now, to tide you over until I have some time to get some more photos online, here’s a few select photos.

On Saturday night I went to dinner and a show in downtown Las Vegas with Alan and his wife Rhoda and had a great time. I’ll go in to more details about that later. For now, here we are at the H20 Tank in the middle of the Golden Nugget.
Rhoda Stock, Samuel, and Alan Stock

The weather yesterday in Las Vegas was lovely, warm, and sunny. Here’s the view from my hotel room on the 25th floor of the Trump Hotel.

North-west view from the Trump Hotel, Las Vegas
Looking north-west

North-east view from the Trump Hotel, Las Vegas
Looking North-East towards Downtown

And finally, it occurred to me last night that I hadn’t watched any of the local television newscasts in Las Vegas since arriving in town, although I did watch a few San Francisco newscasts while I was in Petaluma, so I checked the TV guide and found the next local newscast was Fox5 News at 10pm. The weather appeared every 10 minutes it seemed…so a change from my AccuWeather screenshots…here’s the forecast for the rest of my Vegas stay and beyond (I leave on Friday morning) from Fox5.
Fox5 Weather from Fox5 News at 10pm, February 16 2014
Highs starting at 22.7 degrees Celsius and getting down to 18.3 on Thursday. Lows ranging from 8.3 to 10.
(h/t KVVU Fox5 Las Vegas)

I also watched parts of the 11pm newscasts on the local ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. The ABC bulletin (KTNV Channel 13 Action News) is by far the best of those three from what I saw, and I dare say that I thought they were all better than anything I watched in the San Francisco broadcast area.

Oh well, it’s about time for me to set sail for the studios of KDWN. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll listen in at some stage.

Samuel

February 17th, 2014 at 11:51pm

Samuel’s Musician Of The Week: Merle Haggard

While I’m in the US I intend on focussing this weekly feature on not just American artists, but music which in some way is particularly American. Also, so as to not hurt my brain too much, I’ll be running it on Sunday in the US rather than Sunday in Australia.

This week I’m going with a song by Merle Haggard for a reason. When I was driving from Petaluma to Las Vegas the other day, I drove through Bakersfield and right past a road called “Merle Haggard Drive” which pretty much settled my decision as to which artist to run this week.
Map of Merle Haggard Drive, Bakersfield

Then came the question of which song to choose. Well, that was easier than I thought it would be. Merle has a lot of great songs but in keeping with the theme of the road named after him, Bakersfield is in Kern County which contains the Kern River so the obvious choice is the song “Kern River”.

Oh I’ll never swim Kern River again.
It was there that I met her,
It was there that I lost my best friend.
Now I live in the mountains,
I drifted up here with the wind.
I may drown in still water,
But I’ll never swim Kern River again.

I grew up in an oil town,
But my gusher never came in.
And the river was a boundary,
Where my darlin’ and I used to swim.
One night in the moonlight,
The swiftness swept her life away.
Now I live on Lake Shasta,
And Lake Shasta is where I will stay.

There’s the South San Joaquin,
Where the seeds of the dust bowl are found.
There’s a place called Mount Whitney,
From where the mighty Kern River comes down.
Well, it’s not deep nor wide,
But it’s a mean piece of water, my friend.
I may cross on the highway,
But I’ll never swim Kern River again.

Oh I’ll never swim Kern River again.
It was there that I met her,
It was there that I lost my best friend.
Now I live in the mountains,
I drifted up here with the wind.
And I may drown in still water,
But I’ll never swim Kern River again.

Samuel

February 17th, 2014 at 03:23pm

Hello from Las Vegas

Good afternoon from Las Vegas.

I ended up getting in to town at about 11pm yesterday, which was much later than I had planned but had some benefits.

I will explain more shortly, but at the moment I have to get a few little things done as I have plans in about an hour from now. I will be back a bit later on with more details and photos for you.

Samuel

February 16th, 2014 at 10:38am

911, help! There’s a lady stuck…in a jacket!

An email sent to 2UE’s George and Paul shortly before I left Petaluma, and scheduled to appear here at the start of their show (9am Canberra time, 2pm California time).

Good morning George & Paul.

I realise that you’re not on-air for another four hours or so, but I’m about to embark on an approximately nine-hour drive from Petaluma (a tad north of San Francisco) to Las Vegas and thus might not have a moment to send this to you, although I will listen online, mobile reception pending.

I thought you might like this story which I heard on US radio this morning from the Portland, Oregon area about a truly bizarre 911 call.

From http://www.kgw.com/news/Man-calls-911-after-wife-cant-get-jacket-off-245255581.html

Man calls 911 after wife’s zipper gets stuck
BEAVERTON — Each week, Washington County posts bad examples of 911 calls in its “You called 911 for that?” campaign.
The campaign is designed to draw attention to the dangers of non-emergency calls that tie up 911 lines. This week’s call really lives up to the hype.
OPERATOR: 911, Police Fire and Medical.
CALLER: Yeah we got a problem here. My wife is struggling in her jacket and can’t get it off. I want 911 here immediately.
OPERATOR: Is she not breathing?
CALLER: She’s alright, she just can’t get her [expletive] jacket off.
Just in case you were wondering, the fire department responded, rescued the woman and saved the jacket.

KGW Newschannel 8 also have the audio of the 911 call on their website at the above address if you want a bit of a laugh.

Anyhoo, have a great weekend…this country will get to the weekend eventually but for now I’ll enjoy a long Friday road trip.

Regards,
Samuel
Temporarily not of Canberra

February 15th, 2014 at 09:05am

Friday Funnies: Sandy Roberts goes to Commentator Heaven

Fox Footy released a promo this week for Sandy Roberts’ return to television AFL commentary later this year, and it amused me quite a bit. I really enjoy Sandy commentating and have enjoyed having him on the radio over the last few years…I’m happy that his commentary will once again reach a wider audience on television though.

The fact that heaven in this case has AFL goal posts, and Sandy even lets out an “Oh my hat!” is brilliant. The apparent implication from the promo that Kevin Bartlett has also joined Fox as a commentator is also great news (but I hope he can still call games for SEN).

Incidentally, when Sandy left Seven last year, I wrote him a letter to express my gratitude for all he has done for sport on television and radio over the years and to wish him all the best for his next career stage at Fox Footy (I also said that I hope this doesn’t prevent him from doing some radio commentary still, as I think he works really well with both Rex Hunt and Peter Donegan). In the letter, I sent Sandy the lyrics for a song…back in the 1990s, John Laws had a jingle produced which started with the lines “Life ain’t so tough when there’s Lawsie / He’s good news to me” and he still uses it to this day. Alas I don’t have the audio on me to demonstrate the concept, but I adapted the song for Sandy.

Golf isn’t golf without Sandy
He’s on-par to me!
He can take a bogey
And turn it in to a birdie
And at the Aussie Rules
He sits next to the fat lady
She can start to croon
And “oh my hat” comes out of Sandy

He’s the voice of the golf you can trust
He’ll keep you going when you’re in the rough

I’ve got Sandy commentating
(trumpets sound)
Sandy commentating
(trumpets sound)
He’s a putter
He’s a driver
He’ll keep you out of the bunker
Ooon the front nine
(trumpets sound)
Aaand the back nine
(trumpets sound)
Sandy’s commentating!

I kind of hope that Sandy quietly let out an “oh my hat” when he read that.

Samuel

(h/t David Knox, TV Tonight for bringing my attention to the promo)

February 15th, 2014 at 04:44am

The plan for today

The fact that the Quality Inn in Petaluma does not have any on-site lunch or dinner has been a blessing in disguise as it has forced me to take a few more short car trips than I had originally thought I would, which has helped me to become much more confident on the road over here. That’s useful when today looks like this:
Map of my travel plan from Petaluma to Las Vegas

Petaluma to Las Vegas, via Bakersfield. Google estimates this as 601 miles/967 kilometres/8 hours and 51 minutes.

The weather is looking a little cloudy at the starting end, but sunny and warmer for the rest of the drive, with my week in Vegas looking like it’s going to have some very nice weather.

Petaluma
Petaluma AccuWeather forecast

Bakersfield
Bakersfield AccuWeather forecast

Las Vegas
Las Vegas AccuWeather forecast
Las Vegas AccuWeather forecast
(h/t AccuWeather for all forecast data. Temperatures listed in degrees Celsius)

Radio listening shouldn’t be a problem either. Rush Limbaugh’s show is on many different stations through the state from 9am-noon, so he should always be in range on multiple frequencies. Around San Francisco he is on AM 960 The Patriot (KNEW) as is Sean Hannity from noon-3pm, although by that stage I should be getting closer to Bakersfield and should begin to be able to hear these shows through KNZR 1560 AM and 97.7 FM where, after 3pm, the great Inga Barks has her own show which I should be able to hear a decent chunk of.

Apparently around Barstow (near the California/Nevada border) I should be able to hear KTIE AM 590 The Answer and Hugh Hewitt, and then as I get closer to Vegas, KDWN AM 720 and KXNT AM 840 and FM 100.5.

Of course streaming radio on my phone is also an option and may be employed at some stage. As it’s a Saturday in Australia, George & Paul are on 2UE Sydney (AM 954) from 2pm California time, so I may have to tune in to them for a little while as well.

I’d better hop to it. With all going well I should be in Vegas in the early evening.

Samuel

1 comment February 15th, 2014 at 03:35am

Sightseeing in Petaluma

One of the things I had planned to do prior to my visit to the US was get a photo gallery up and running again. My old photo gallery was running on old and discontinued software which was starting to not work properly with modern server software, and so some time ago I archived the whole thing, turning it in to a basic website which doesn’t require ancient and insecure versions of PHP. Unfortunately that meant I can not add to that gallery and had to start a new one. There are times on this blog (this holiday being one of them) where I will want to share a lot of photos with you, but posting a gazillion photos in a blog post on a regular basis is time consuming and ultimately an inefficient way to publish photos…and I don’t think you should be forced to scroll through every photo I ever take. The benefit of the photo gallery is that I can upload all of the photos I would like to share, and present you with the highlights here so that if you are interested, you can see the rest on the photo gallery. It also saves me a bit of time as I don’t have to go through and manually make resized versions of photos etc. If you’ve ever visited the /wp-content folder of this blog, you’ll know just how much manual work I do to get photos online.

So, I am pleased to present my new photo gallery at http://samuelgordonstewart.com/photogallery/. It’s a work in progress at the moment with a few empty galleries as placeholders which I will soon fill, as I really just needed to get it up and running for this blog post.

With that out of the way, on with the Petaluma sightseeing.

I took a couple hours this afternoon to go for a wander around the older downtown section of Petaluma and found quite a few nice grand old buildings, with two churches being particular standouts.

St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church:
St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church of Petaluma

And the Open Door Church on Fifth St which you might recognise from the movie Flubber:
The Open Door Church of Petaluma

TWiT.tv’s former headquarters (the TWiT Cottage) at 8 Keller St is only a couple blocks away from TWiT’s new headquarters. It has reverted to its old name of “Cavanagh Cottage” after John W. Cavanagh who built it in 1912.
Old TWiT Cottage (aka Cavanagh Cottage) at 8 Keller St, Petaluma

The building is almost completely surrounded by car parking, which would have been useful when TWiT grew to the point that it needed a larger space down the street.

This lovely old wooden bridge (The John Balshaw River Walk Bridge) crosses the Petaluma River at a bend in the river in the downtown district
John Balshaw River Crossing Bridge, Petaluma

And has some nice views of Downtown
Downtown Petaluma as seen from the Balshaw Bridge

The traffic lights of Petaluma are also all wizz-bang-and-fancy. Some of them talk to you; many of them count down how long you have left to cross the road; most acknowledge when you press the button which helps to discourage one of the things I really dislike, and that is people who stand at the traffic lights and press the button a thousand times thinking it will make the lights change sooner; and they even have pedestrian crossings with button-activated flashing lights along the sides of the pedestrian crossing so as to make it easier for drivers to work out if somebody intends to cross the road.
Pedestrian crossing in Petaluma counting down the remaining time to cross the road

I had six seconds left to cross the road there…thankfully I was already done.

And finally, I had to take a photo of this. I think there is no doubt who is in change of the household from which this truck hails.

Cute little dog protects large truck in Petaluma

Clicking on any of the photos in the post will take you to that photo’s page in the photo gallery, from which you are able to view a larger version of the photo if you wish. Alternatively, to browse through all of the photos, you can get to the “Some of the sights of Petaluma” gallery by clicking here.

Samuel

2 comments February 14th, 2014 at 09:24pm

Fridge Magnets Of The Day: February 13, 2014 from Petaluma

This afternoon while I was wandering around downtown Petaluma and enjoying the sight of some really lovely old buildings, I stumbled across a great little antique shop which has a lot of general antiques, but specialises in military antiques, called The Petaluma Collective, located at 300 Petaluma Blvd North.

The Petaluma Collective military antique store

There were some really awesome things in there including an old field technician’s telephone network test phone, and old microphone, a Beatles 8-track tape (which I almost bought but then didn’t because I’m worried I’d accidentally wipe it in-transit) among other great 8-track tapes and vinyl records, and some World War II currency. There were also a bunch of things which I would have liked to buy but know I would never be able to get through Customs such as some really nice knives and a replica of an old Ruger pistol with moving parts (there is no way I would ever get that through Customs).

The store also had fridge magnets…none from Petaluma, but that’s to be expected in an antiques and collectables store. I ended up buying three of them.
Fridge magnets: Atlanta 1996 Olympics; Grand Ole Opry; NYPD car
Atlanta 1996 Olympics; Grand Ole Opry; NYPD car

I loved the Grand Ole Opry magnet as soon as I saw it; The Atlanta Olympics was the first one that I really noticed as a kid; and I have a bit of a collection of NYPD merchandise…although I was a tad hesitant to buy the NYPD magnet while they shopkeeper and a customer were discussing recent speeding fines for doing less than 5 MPH over the limit until they started discussing how one of them had been let off for doing a burnout in an empty carpark because the officer liked the car, and he stood around and pretended to write out a ticket while chatting with the guy in the car so as to prevent another nearby cop from coming over and writing a ticket…and besides that, the NYPD magnet is pseudo-3D with a painted back of the light unit and shaped bonnet.

Side view of NYPD car fridge magnet

I’m going to have to decide what to do about that magnet…I might want to keep it for myself. I’ll probably still post it anyway as I’m sure my friend in Canberra will appreciate it, even if he only gets to keep it for a little while.

Samuel

February 14th, 2014 at 01:50pm

The need to explain your reason for wanting a gun quashed in California

See, I turn up in the US and almost immediately the place has more freedom.

SAN FRANCISCO — A divided federal appeals court on Thursday struck down California’s concealed weapons rules, saying they violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

By a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said California was wrong to require applicants to show good cause to receive a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
[..]
Awarding concealed weapon permits is the responsibility of each of California’s 58 counties. Officials are required to follow the state rules requiring applicants to show good cause and moral character.

The San Francisco-based appeals court said those requirements were too strict and ran afoul of a 5-4 landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2008 that struck down a Washington, D.C., handgun ban and said law-abiding citizens are allowed to have handguns in their home for self-defense.

(h/t Paul Elias, AP, via the Sacrememto Bee)

I expect this one will end up in the Supreme Court, but as it’s in line with previous Supreme Court decision I expect the ruling will stand…and so it should. Being a law-abiding citizen is a reasonable prerequisite for a concealed carry permit, but having to explain yourself to a bureaucrat who can make an arbitrary decision as to whether or not they like your reason…that’s just nuts.

Samuel

February 14th, 2014 at 09:37am

My visit to TWiT; how Leo Laporte uses Tim Tams; and how to download a small portion of a Justin.tv video

I had great fun visiting the studios of TWiT.tv (known as the TWiT Brick House) yesterday. I had all the photos ready to go for this blog post yesterday afternoon, but ironically ran in to a technical hurdle when I realised that there was some video as well. I’ll get to that shortly…but first…

The TWiT Brick House as seen from the other side of Keller St, Petaluma
The TWiT Brick House as seen from the other side of Keller St, Petaluma

The studios are located at 140 Keller St, Petaluma. TWiT’s wiki provides helpful directions, but it was easier to find than I expected. The building is quite distinctive on this street and the recommended parking garage which is listed on the site is about half a minute’s walk from the studios. I took a little longer than that to walk from my car to TWiT though as I took a detour to the other side of the road to take that photo.

I got there a little earlier than I had expected, a tad before 10am.

When I got inside, staff were discussing a lighting issue with some contractors, and accidentally turned off a bunch of lights in the studio in the process. Staff were busy, so I filled out the mandatory waiver and waited a few moments until they were less busy and could take me through. The studio portion of the building takes up a tad over half of the floor space, with other rooms taking up the other side of the building in an upside-down L shape with studio entrances behind reception next to the roundtable set, and another around the back near Leo’s office/set, and a kitchen and toilets. The place actually looks bigger to me in real life than it does on screen. It is quite an impressive setup.

Tech News Today with Mike Elgan was about to start when I took a seat.

Tech News Today with Mike Elgan being filmed on February 12, 2014
Tech News Today with Mike Elgan being filmed on February 12, 2014

One thing which was impressed me was how little of this news program was scripted. Story introductions and some questions were scripted, but most of Mike’s questions were not scripted. I might just be a bit too used to Australian news formats where questions are generally scripted, so it was nice to see proof of an anchor who truly understands the subject matter.

Just off to the right of the set from the perspective of where I was seated is another set which is used for The Giz Wiz among other shows. The program feed which was going out for broadcast was visible on the main screen on this set.
Tech News Today with Mike Elgan being filmed on February 12, 2014

And if I walked a little way down the Giz Wiz set and looked across where Mike Elgan was seated, Leo’s office/set can be seen through the window, and on this side of that glass is where his weekend show’s call screener Heather Hamann sits. At the far-left of the photo a large analog clock can be seen. This is on the back wall of the studio portion of the building, and is quite an attractive feature of that wall, but is sadly obscured by other objects in the wide shot of the studio used between shows on the live stream.
Tech News Today with Mike Elgan being filmed on February 12, 2014

Throughout the filming of Tech News Today, I had wanted to get my digital SLR camera out, but alas I could not as opening the velcro pouch would make too much noise and I did not want to interrupt or interfere with the broadcast. So I waited until after the show finished, only to discover that it was a waste of time as it could not handle the large variations in light levels of different bits of the room and was either giving me good images of peripheral bits of the set with bright white people and random bright white objects, or it was giving me great images of the main focal points of the show, with almost black everywhere else. This might be fixable if I spent enough time playing with the camera’s settings, but I didn’t go to TWiT to play with my camera.

It was also interesting to note that for this show, the remote side of the conversation can be heard aloud without the need for headphones.

Shortly after this I proceeded to Leo’s office/set where he was preparing for Windows Weekly #349 with Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley. Leo’s set is awesome to be a visitor in, as the guest seating is extremely comfortable and the wireless headphones are also very comfortable (even for someone like me for whom many headphones cause the frame of my glasses to dig in to my head).
Leo Laporte, Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley prepare to film Windows Weekly #349 on February 12, 2014

I’ve never noticed the monitor on the front of Leo’s desk before (it’s never really in shot, presumably so as to avoid a visual loop effect) which makes it easy as a visitor to see how what is happening in front of you is being packaged for broadcast.

Leo Laporte, Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley prepare to film Windows Weekly #349 on February 12, 2014

Over this side of the room, behind the visitor chairs, is a monitor following the TWiT.TV IRC chat session, and the line and preview monitors of the Tricaster vision switcher which is important as Leo switches his own shows when they are being produced from his office/set, whereas other shows are switched from a central control centre in the middle of the TWiT set. Two of the cameras are visible here (one for Leo’s solo shot, and the other for the “Leo plus Skype monitor” shot. On the other side of the glass is where Heather Hamman screens calls for Leo’s weekend radio show and also is the location of the set used by Tech News Today, and then on the far wall, a collection of hats which I was very happy to see for a reason I’ll explain in just a moment.

Leo Laporte, Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley prepare to film Windows Weekly #349 on February 12, 2014

On this side of the set you can see another camera (the one which faces the window so that Heather Hamman can be on-camera) and at the top right of the bookcase is a dropcam producing a live feed on the internet at most hours.

After Windows Weekly finished, I presented Leo with some gifts. One was an Australia hat (Leo’s collection of hats pleased me as I knew then that I was giving a hat to a connoisseur of hats. I also gave Leo some Tim Tams, which led to Leo demonstrating his favourite way of eating a Tim Tam…biting off the ends and then drinking his coffee or tea through the Tim Tam as if it was a straw. I thought by this stage the live stream had switched to the next set (I had stopped paying attention to the monitors by this stage) and only later, to my pleasant surprise, realised that Leo’s Tim Tam demonstration, our little chat, and a quick photo shoot, had been broadcast.


(h/t TWiT.tv. Video distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 US) licence)

We chatted about a few things including the time I had Leo on Samuel’s Persiflage, the top I was wearing (seeing as Leo has had some fun with the stories about the NSA spying on everyone and everything, I wore a hoodie with the message “The NSA: the only part of government that actually listens”…I also wore my Linux.Conf.Au 2005 t-shirt as it has a staged IRC session on the back of it which I thought Leo would enjoy, but I was having so much fun that I forgot to show him), and how interesting and mind-bending it is to get used driving on the other side of the road. The conversation was picked up to some degree at first by Leo’s studio microphone, and then later by an open mic in another part of the building. I left it all in the above video for posterity.

Now, for what is now a treasured item:
Samuel Gordon-Stewart with Leo Laporte on February 12, 2014

It was an honour and lots of fun to meet Leo and spend some time in the TWiT Brick House. As always, Leo went out of his way to make sure it was fun…while we had our photo taken he put on an Australian accent…I was too amused to remember exactly what he said but it certainly amused me.
Samuel Gordon-Stewart with Leo Laporte on February 12, 2014

One other mystery which was solved yesterday is the purpose of the symbol on Leo’s clock next to the top half of the final digit of the minutes. I’ve never watched in high definition so couldn’t identify it, but now I know it indicates the Pacific timezone, with the other US timezones not being illuminated.
The clock in Leo Laporte's office

I had a blast. A very big thank you to Leo and all of the TWiT.tv staff.

If you’re ever in the area, may I recommend Halli’s diner opposite the parking garage about half a minute’s walk away from the TWiT Brick House. Absolutely fantastic lunch and lovely staff. I will probably pop in to the diner again today as I would like to do some sightseeing around Petaluma today, and the old TWiT studio (TWiT Cottage) is a short distance from the current studio, and I would like to see it while remaining respectful of the privacy of the new occupants.

Now, that technical challenge I mentioned at the top.

How to download a particular portion of a long video from Justin.tv
One of the video streaming providers for TWiT, Justin.tv, temporarily keeps an archive of everything they stream (the archived video lasts a few days). While it is preferable to record the live video as it is a much simpler process, TWiT’s wiki also details how to download from Justin.tv’s archive.

The basic idea is that, using Firefox and an extension called Downloadhelper, you go to the Justin.tv video you want to watch and then tell Downloadhelper to download that file. The problem though is two-fold:
1) TWiT’s videos on Justin.tv run for many hours as they cover an entire day’s broadcasts and sometimes more (my clip, for example, was 52 hours in to the video).
2) This method only downloads the first half hour of the video.

The solution, until recently, was to mark a section of the video as a highlight, which gave it its own unique URL which Downloadhelper could use to download just that portion of the video. Alas the highlighting function was removed from Justin.tv about a week ago, meaning that downloading the first half hour of the video seemed to be the only option…so how do you make Downloadhelper download a half hour starting at a time of your choosing rather than the start of the video?

A clue comes in the way Justin.tv handles a request to move playout from the existing window to another separate window. It adds a string to the end of the URL to tell the new window at what point in the video to start (although the Downloadhelper plugin is not easily accessible from such a window, so simply opening a popout window at your chosen starting point is not going to work for this purpose).

Instead, open the video as normal and figure out what point you want to start downloading from. Then, work out how many seconds that is (in my case it was a little short of 186,960 seconds) and then add the following string to the end of the URL in the address bar:
/popout?playback_time=SECONDS
where “SECONDS” is replaced by the number of seconds.

So, for example, in my case the address of the video went from
http://www.justin.tv/twit/b/502307186
to
http://www.justin.tv/twit/b/502307186/popout?playback_time=186960
which allowed me to make Downloadhelper download 30 minutes of video from a starting point of my choice, and I was then able to edit the video to my required duration.

Samuel

1 comment February 14th, 2014 at 01:25am

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