Some Musings on Split Seasons on TV

I was reading the latest Leverage post-game Q&A post and was thinking about split seasons.

Now, I HATE split seasons, particularly if I know the episodes for the back half have already been recorded, and they are just sitting on them for one reason or another.

From the article:

“All the networks are struggling with ways to retain viewers in a very crowded marketplace. The theory that by spiking winter episodes you create a kind of, ah, “enthusiasm bridge” between seasons is a popular one, and actually makes a fair bit of sense. I’ll be interested to see if Walking Dead holds its audience after a ten month break, for example.”

In some cases, it might sort of make sense, like when your season airs during the summer and you have a Christmas episode. Is it possible to bridge enthusiasm and/or deal with seasonal episodes in another manner than still creating month long gaps between season halves? Discussing with my good friend Jon, we came up with the following.

What if instead of splitting a season and having to worry about fans coasting for a few months, networks  instead slowed down the updates in general. So instead of on for 3 months, off for 4, you instead aired a new episode every 2 weeks, using the extra week to generate more buzz for the next episode.

There are multiple ways you could use the off week to generate buzz. Ones we came up with:

  • Reruns! A second showing of the latest episode, preferably in a different time slot to maximize the number of people who can watch your show. Sure, lots of shows let you view episodes online, and DVRs make recording easier, but TV still has the advantage of larger resolution and zero setup. Even with internet episodes, spacing out episodes still lets you build buzz.
  • Teasers.
  • Interviews. With the actors, or the writers. On the show in general, or in a Q&A format to interact with the fans.
  • Alternate Reality Games. Like what Lost did between seasons.

Really, none of these haven’t been done before. Doing them while the show is ongoing (as opposed to on break), would possibly have more impact and generate more buzz, and drive an audience to your show WHILE it is airing. Spreading out the airing schedule potentially gives people more time to do the above (prominent example being John Rodger’s Q&A above, on which he fell behind at some point, due to being busy writing and shooting Leverage).

There are, of course, other advantages:

  • If you plan properly, you can probably time your off weeks to coincide with major holidays (like Thanksgiving and the Superbowl) when the show won’t normally be aired ANYWAY.
  • Shooting schedules wouldn’t have to change, but if you wanted to, you could space those out a little more as well, which would let a show react to fan feedback (without having to go on break).

Downsides? I suppose this would alter the way Nielsen ratings work, but the internet is making that more and more meaningless. Being less competitive over time slots? Internet making the time slot largely irrelevant (seriously, when was the last time you stayed up to watch a late night talk show as opposed to catching the highlights on the site’s page or YouTube?).

As the internet makes the time slot largely irrelevant, this might seem like breaking out lawn chairs on the deck of the Titanic as she ends her voyage, but there is nothing stopping the above from being applied to shows online.  Especially for independent shows, where obtaining viewers is done solely by buzz over the internet, rather than via traditional advertising.

Thoughts?

The Great Brewing Adventure

It is no secret that I enjoy beer. Lots of good stuff locally, and when I travel I like to sample what the local microbrews are like. For the last year or so, I have also been contemplating getting into homebrewing. In October last year, I met the local homebrew club and started hanging out with them. A few of them have offered to brew with me to show me the ropes and whatnot, and last month I finally managed to do so.

My friend Kyle had mentioned a Hefeweizen he had done earlier this year, which he had divided up into several flavors (regular, lemon, orange, blackberry). Of those, only the blackberry had been really good, but I loved hefeweizens and he was willing to give it another go, so we began brainstorming. We wanted to try out several flavors again, and we agreed on raspberry (I love raspberries) and blackberry (he loves blackberries), plus a regular one as a control. During a friday drinking session, where the IPA had some pineapple flavors, Kyle also decided we should do a pineapple version as well (more on this in a bit). On the day of, we also decided to try out blueberries.

The Recipe

We added all the wheat extract at the beginning and did a 90 minute boil, rather than a regular 60 minute boil.

After primary fermentation, we split the batch into 5 carboys. We added roughly of berries for all the berry batches. For the pineapple, we skinned and boiled a whole pineapple for ~30 minutes, and then added it to the secondary.

Gravity readings were only taken of the plain hefeweizen. Original gravity was 1.070. Final gravity was 1.014. That puts it at about 7.5% Abv. Original gravity was supposed to be 1.050, which would have put at a much mellower 4.8%

The Results

I am pretty glad with the initial results. The hefeweizen is a little strong, but has that banana flavor I enjoy. Color is a little dark, which is possibly due to the length of the boil and us putting all the extract in at the beginning.

Blueberry is a bit disappointing. Color is there, so is flavor, but the later is somewhat weak.

Blackberry is one of the better blackberry brews I have had. Unfortunately, not the greatest fan. Kyle really enjoys it though, so I traded mine for the..

Raspberry! I enjoy this one quite a bit. Not exactly what I was hoping for (more sweetness, less bitter), but it is a nice balance between the sweetness and the tart flavor. One of the better raspberry wheat beers I have had (the best being from Rogue’s Roost).

The pineapple ended up a bit of a surprise. The initial tasting almost had no pineapple flavoring, unless you really looked for it. After two weeks though, it has mellowed out a bit and the flavor has become clearer. Noticeable in the middle, fades out for a bit, and then returns in the end.

Maritimes JUG – First Meeting Recap

On Wednesday, I gave a talk about RESTful based web services for the local Maritimes JUG. This was the first Halifax meeting and also my first public talk since my disastrous Ruby on Rails presentation a few years back. Thankfully, I had learned from my previous experience, and while I was doing a semi-live coding demo, I also had a completed copy of my demo to fall back on, in the event of typos.

My presentation was an introduction to  JAX-RS, the Java API for RESTful web services as well as an intro to JAXB, since the JAX-RS frameworks all seem to use it for XML serialization. The frameworks for JAX-RS use simple annotations to define the web services, and if you aren’t trying to do something complicated,  it is really easy to get going.

Overall, I think things went fairly well. I had a few stumbling blocks in my demo, but made my way through. There were about a dozen developers there, who seemed to get what I was saying, and there were a few good questions, all of which I was thankfully able to answer. After my presentation, I  had a few good talks with various people, including web development, hosting challenges, and some of the limitations of JAXB. Overall, for a ‘first’ meeting, I think it went pretty well. Thanks to Sheep Dog Inc for providing a venue.

For those interested, here are the slides and demo project.

Homemade: Honey Lemon Ginger Chicken

Had a few friends over today for dinner. I’ve been experimenting with marinades a lot lately. Unlike some of my recent experiments, this one actually turned out quite well.

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce

Instructions:

Mix all the ingredients (except chicken) into a bowl. Marinade the chicken in the mixture for 3-5 hours. Bake for half an hour. And voila!

Homemade: Iced Tea

I’ve been making my own iced tea for over a year now. It happens to be easy, cheap, and awesome. A few friends have asked me about it from time to time, and I have given them the basics of my particular technique, so figured I should expand upon it a bit at some point.

I tend to make iced tea in 2 litre batches. For every 2 litres, I tend to use 8 tea bags worth of tea. Not all of these should be caffeinated. More than 5 bags of caffeinated tea tends to go from ‘good caffeine’ to ‘enough caffeine to cause your hands to shake’. Given that there are plenty of flavored decaffeinated teas around where I am, I tend to use 4 bags of caffeinated tea as a caffeine base (usually orange pekoe) and the other half as decaffeinated flavored tea as a flavoring base. If you don’t care about the caffeine, feel free to omit the orange pekoe base. It doesn’t really change the flavor.

Whichever tea bags you choose, let them steep for a few hours (I tend to do mine over night). When removing them, don’t squeeze the bags, as it tends to result in not so good flavoring in the iced tea. After steeping, I tend to add half a cup of sugar. From there, you can also add stuff like a tablespoon or two of lemon juice, lime juice, cut up fruit, or other additional flavoring. And that is it really. Simple, with plenty of varriation.

A few things I have experimented with and have NOT managed to do successfully:

  • use honey instead of sugar
  • Roobios tea for flavoring doesn’t seem to work out quite well for the ones I have tried.
  • Bluckcurrant tea as flavoring. One of the worst batches of iced tea I ever made.

My favorite recipes:

Orange Peach

  • 5 bags of mandarin orange flavored tea
  • 3 bags of ginger peach flavored tea
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of sugar

Apple Pear

  • 5 bags of apple pear flavored tea
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • (Optional) Some apple slices

Lightly Lemon

  • 4 bags of orange pekoe tea (as a caffeine base)
  • 4 bags of lemon flavored tea
  • 1/2 cup of sugar

Easy and delicious!

Upgrading my RAID array

Last weekend I bumped up the storage capacity of my workstation. Given that I had to look up several sources to upgrade (my setup isn’t exactly straightforward) and the fact that one of those sources is now inexplicably unavailable, I figured I should leave myself instructions somewhere for the future.

With the exception of hooking up the new drive, this upgrade didn’t require powering off at all. Such are the joys of a RAID5 array.

My setup is an encrypted software raid5 array on linux, which sits at /dev/md0

  1. Put in the drive and power on.
  2. Figure out what the name of the drive is (mine was /dev/sdd)
  3. Add the new dri9ve to the array as a hot spare via “mdadm –add /dev/md0 /dev/sdd”
  4. My raid array has a write intent bitmap, which prevents the array from expanding. I temporarily removed it with “mdadm –grow /dev/md0 -b none”
  5. Then I told the array to actually use the new drive. Since I was adding my 5th drive, the command was “mdadm –grow -n 5 /dev/md0″
  6. Waited for 24 hours for data to be migrated. Checked on the progress by using “watch ‘cat /proc/mdstat’
  7. Re-added that bitmap using “mdadm –grow /dev/md0 -b internal”
  8. Told LUKS to resize itself to use the new drive as well using “cryptsetup resize cr_md0″
  9. Once that was done, I had to resize the partition using “resize2fs /dev/mapper/cr_md0″

And done. The array started getting usable freespace immediately, though again it took a few hours to have access to all my new space.

Haven’t had any problems with this setup. However, given a friend’s recent drive failure, I hope to be very thankful of this setup when I finally do have problems.

Guest Blogging: East Coast By Choice

Recently, my twitter friend Kimberly, writer of EastCoastByChoice, contributor to Undeathmatch, and all around interesting person was soliciting guest posts for EastCoastByChoice. Given that people often ask me about why I came out east, I figured it would be a good tale to write and submit (it helped that I already had a draft of said story). Kim has graciously decided to publish my story. You can read it here.

Guest Blogging: Undeathmatch

Undeathmatch, a blog made up of some Canadian writers, has been pitting various supernatural beasts against each other in both literary and popularity wise over the last few months. This month, they had a call for guest posts, hoping for something that might go toe to toe with the winner of the last two rounds, werewolves.

So I wrote something. I doubt they could take on werewolves popularity wise, but I would like to introduce the latest contender in (un)deathmatch, the mighty Golem.

Let the match begin!

My Cyborg Life: Ear Upgrades

Late last year, I was reading the article “My Bionic Quest for Bolero“, which is an article in wired about a cochlear implant user who was trying to recapture the sound of an opera he loved before losing his hearing. During the article, he mentions being able to try out new software for his cochlear implant, and how eventually the software progressed to the point where the opera closely matched his last clear listening. A happy ending, to be sure.

Given that article was in 2005, I thought to myself, “Hey! I wonder if there are any software upgrade for MY cochlear implant.” 5 minutes of googling gave me an answer. Not only was there no upgrades for my implant, but my processor was going to reach end of life in early 2010. By the end of March, no more parts for it were to be manufactured.

So I contacted my audiologist for options and did some research. It turns out that there was a new processor model announced in September 2009, the Nucleus 5. Going over the product specs, I was getting a bit excited, and then I learned that it isn’t compatible with my current implant coils. Sad, but the other model, the Freedom, was also somewhat exciting. Everything behind the ear, more sensitivity, new software, all for the price of ~$8000 US. Gah.

The following day, my audiologist got back to me and told me that if I was still under the Ontario Health Plan, they would cover 75% of the cost, as Ontario has a program for medical aids like this. Sadly, I haven’t been covered by Ontario Health Care for quite a few years. My audiologist did suggest I contact the local cochlear team for options, as there may have been a similar program in Nova Scotia that she was unaware of.

Turns out there isn’t. However, the person I talked to was able to tell me that they had applied for funding to upgrade everyone they knew about. Unfortunately, I never informed them that I was in the province, so I wasn’t included and the money was all gone. She did offer to to apply for more money to cover my upgrade and to see what happened. Which obviously I agreed with, as the worst case is that they would say no.

So, I started to stress out a bit about this. $8000 US is a lot of money, obviously, and I wanted to have options if that had to come out of my own pocket. Upgrading wouldn’t be covered by my medical insurance (it would have been if I lost my hearing for the first time though). Upgrading wouldn’t be automatically covered by he NS government. However, if I was an Ontario resident again……. I will admit I considered moving back to Ontario and working for a year to get covered by the Ontario Health Plan again. Another option was to try to get a higher paying job anywhere else in the world, and pay it out of pocket. The final option was to wait until it broke, and pay then, and also hope that the latest version was backwards compatible by then (an extra $2000, but I figured it would be worth it for the latest version, which would also be supported longer).

Thankfully, none of those options needed to exercised. A few days before Christmas, the NS hearing organization called my up and told me that funding had come through, all I needed to do was pick out the colors of my implant and they would order it. A happy ending, to be sure.

3 weeks ago it actually came in, and last Monday I went in for an appointment to pick it up. Things are…. different now. It is certainly more advanced. After a week of it, I know the following.

Pros:

  • It all fits behind the ear. No more cords getting caught, pulled by animals and small children. No more cord being just a little too short when wearing formal wear. No more cord brushing my neck during horror films and freaking me out a bit.
  • It all fits behind the ear, so I don’t have to reach into my pocket, fiddle with controls, and receive odd looks. Now I can look like I am adjusting my hair.
  • Three microphones for greater coverage and sensitivity.
  • New software to take into account the new microphones and sensitivity. Noise reduction mode on this thing is MUCH better than my old model.
  • 4 hearing modes instead of just one. Currently loaded with 2 normal programs, two sound reduction programs. Going to see if I can get it loaded with: 1) Normal mode, 2) Sound reduction mode, 3) Robot mode, and 4) Chipmunk mode. Robot mode and chipmunk mode were maps that I had at various stages when I was originally getting the implant programmed, so I know they are possible.

Cons:

  • Battery life is shorter. Much shorter. 5-6 hour lifespan instead of the 24 hours my old model can get. I don’t know about you, but I am awake for more than 12 hours at a time. Batteries can charge in 4 hours, but this means I need to stop home and charge a battery if I want to use it all day.
  • There is some electronic warble when some people talk. A sort of metallicness to the end of their sentences. Others sound somewhat cartoony. Try having a conversation with your boss after he inhales a small amount of nitrous and see if you can stop yourself from laughing.
  • It’s all behind the ear, and this makes the ear piece bigger. Ear piece + glasses = sore ear. Ear calluses forthcoming.
  • The coil is larger, and heavier, and thus falls off easier. Been trying to adjust the magnet for optimal strength, but nothing fantastic so far. This really sucks for sports, as the old coil and sometimes the headset went flying. No more cord to rein in in. About time for a headband revival anyway…
  • Everything is proprietary. Batteries are proprietary so I can’t just go out and buy AAs when one dies. Technically there is a holder for watch batteries, but they are ‘high powered’ watch batteries which I also thing I just can’t go and grab easily. The audio connector jack is also proprietary, in that iPod cable cable. No longer will a standard 3.5mm audio cable do the trick. Pretty annoying, especially since this results in jacked up prices on items ($200 for a new rechargeable battery, $130 dollars for the audio cable).

I am hopping the first two cons will be eliminated if I went in for a reprogramming of the map. I am still technically using the one from my old processor, and while it does work most of the time, I don’t think it is optimal for the new microphones and sensitivity. Going to give it another week, and then we’ll see.

Idea: Grocery Inventory

So, while down in San Francisco, I picked up a touchatag rfid reader at Java One (had a really nice conversation with the developer to boot). Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten it working as of yet (Linux support is….. yeah and that is what I am running at home these days). But, I did have a really neat idea at the time involving rfid and inventory.

Basically, if you could tag your groceries with RFID tags and turn your cupboards into an RFID reader, you could have a running inventory of what if in your cupboards. Tie that into a web app, and you could access this inventory from say… your iPhone while at the grocery store. No more accidentally buying yet ANOTHER 1L tub of peanut butter when you already have one at home. Something similar to this has already been done here, which reminded me of my original idea.

Of course, currently tagging your foodstuffs with RFID now would be somewhat expensive, but the system can still technically be done using barcodes. As any Mac users might know, the web cam can be used as a barcode reader. Obviously, other web cams can become bar code readers as well. You could take a cheap netbook , mount it under your cupboards (assuming foodstuffs are kept in overhanging cupboards) and use it to scan in/out everything in your cupboard. Same effect achieved. Bonus in that you could use the laptop for other things in the kitchen, such as displaying recipes, listening to music, etc.

Thoughts?

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