Sophie’s here!

Exactly one week ago at this very hour, our daughter Sophie was born into this great big world of ours. We’re so thrilled to have her. She’s a joy to behold and a joy to be with: peaceful and lovely, an enchanting little angel. We were a couple before and now we’re a family. And I’m a daddy, which is a notion that still floors me.

The best part is that Ligia and I both wanted a daughter. To make it even more interesting, we kept the gender a secret from ourselves till the very climactic end, when the midwife set the freshly born Sophie on Ligia’s chest and we learned that our wish had been granted.

A folding, fully electric city car

Hiriko is the name of this new foldable ultra-compact car, which is great for cramped city driving (and parking). It can turn sideways and fold upwards, reducing its wheelbase and allowing it to squeeze into spots where normal cars just can’t go. And it’s also 100% electric. From the videos (posted below) I can see a solar panel on the roof, meaning it’ll be able to charge at least partially while you’re on the go. Other details are hard to come by on their website (can’t find the specs), but I do know that it’ll go on sale next year for 12,700 Euro.

Via MediaFax

YouTube and WordPress update oEmbed player to include CC button

This is big news for those of us providing captions or subtitles for the videos published on YouTube. I noticed today that the oEmbed video player for YouTube videos, the one used for all WordPress blogs, has been updated to include the CC button. It didn’t have it the last time I checked, which was yesterday. My site subscribers would always ask me where the CC button was, and how to see the subtitles, and I had to tell them to go see the video directly on YouTube if they wanted subtitles, which was a bit of a chore, and it certainly didn’t make things obvious and easy for folks who were using that feature for the first time.

Well, I’m glad to announce that from now on, you’ll be able to turn video subtitles on or off right here, on my website, and for those videos of mine where I’m providing two separate subtitles tracks, you’ll be able to switch between them as well.

I can’t tell you enough how pleased I am about this. For someone like me, who produces video shows for international audiences, YouTube’s CC feature is key, and the ability to control subtitles from within the oEmbed player used on my websites is key as well. So I’d like to thank both WordPress and YouTube for updating the video player and for making my life easier!

Romania Through Their Eyes featured on TVR International (again)

My show, Romania Through Their Eyes, was featured a second time on TVR International this past weekend, on a news program hosted by Horia Grusca, called “Romania in Vazul Lumii” (March 19th, 2011 edition). You can watch the archived show online. The segment where my show is presented starts at minute 13:14 and ends at minute 22:23.

If you haven’t yet seen the first two episodes in full length, you may do so as well, on my YouTube channel, in HD, with English or Romanian subtitles (click on the CC button to select your language).

A friendly reminder that I created a Facebook page for the show, so head on over and give it a Like if you want to be kept up to date with what’s going on.

Many thanks to Mr. Horia Grusca!

Romania Through Their Eyes featured on TVR International

My show, Romania Through Their Eyes, was featured on TVR International this morning, on a news program hosted by Horia Grusca, called “Romania in Vazul Lumii” (March 12th, 2011 edition). You can watch the archived show online. The segment where my show is presented starts at minute 14:05 and ends at minute 21:02.

And, if you haven’t yet seen the first two episodes in full length, you may do so as well, on my YouTube channel, in HD, with English or Romanian subtitles (click on the CC button to select your language).

This week’s edition of “Romania in Vazul Lumii” will be aired again on TVRi, tomorrow (Sunday) at 7:30 pm, and Monday at 6:30 am. If I understood Mr. Grusca correctly, segments from my second episode of Romania Through Their Eyes will be shown during next week’s edition of “Romania in Vazul Lumii”, so stay tuned for that as well.

Many thanks to Mr. Horia Grusca, and to the incredibly nice person who made him aware of my show!

By the way, I created a Facebook page for the show, so head on over and give it a Like if you want to be kept up to date with what’s going on.

Romania in Vazul Lumii cu Horia Grusca

 

My thoughts on the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan

We’ve all seen photos and videos of the 8.9 earthquake and tsunamis that have devastated Japan. My heart goes out to them. I hope as few people as possible died, and they recover as quickly as possible from this tragedy.

What bothers me more than the event itself is the unfeeling coverage of the event, exemplified by this video from CNN, which I can’t even embed here, because of their crass commercialism during a disaster.

There were people clearly dying under their very eyes, their cars engulfed by the tsunami wave, yet the two reporters covering it were blabbering on about how difficult it is to escape the wave, and what its speed might have been. This, more than anything, exemplifies what I hate about today’s news coverage, and why I seldom watch news on TV.

It’s that, and the endless pundit parade that goes on for days after something like this. All the old bags start foaming at the mouth thinking about appearance fees, dust off their suits, powder their rotten faces, and instruct their agents to start booking them anywhere they can go. Once on camera, they’ll spout off about anything, trying to look caring, slowly killing the viewers’ brain cells, one by one, with tripe and nonsense about what might happen or could happen. Meanwhile, the news stations will re-run the same clips, over and over, hour after hour, milking every second of coverage until it’s bone dry. It’s disgusting.

Want to read something worthwhile about the Japanese during this time of crisis? Don’t bother with the TV. Read this article by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, then imagine them at work, rebuilding their communities. It’ll be a far better image than what you’ll find on TV.

For example, you can see their “gaman” at work in this video. Even during the earthquake’s aftershocks are threatening to topple store shelves somewhere in Japan, they’re busy propping them up and have already started to clean up the store.

I’d like to wish them a heartfelt “ganbatte kudasai”!

Ligia’s Kitchen: Avocado and Red Cabbage Salad

My wife and I are raw vegans. We eat a 60-75% raw vegan diet, supplemented with some cooked foods. The recommended ratio is 75% raw / 25% cooked.

We’ve been planning these past several months to put together a raw vegan cooking show, which will show people how to change their diets and lifestyles so they can live longer, healthier, more peaceful lives. Today, I’m happy to say it’s become a reality. Ligia’s new show, entitled “Ligia’s Kitchen“, is live!

This summer, we renovated the spaces where we film the show, I built the new kitchen furniture (more on that later), and last week, we were finally able to start filming. Here’s the first episode, just released today.

We’re filming and releasing in HD, which should really help you see what Ligia’s doing as she prepares each recipe. Even though the show’s in Romanian, we’re providing English subtitles for everyone who speaks it (which should be a LOT of people). If there’s enough demand for another language, we’ll do our best to provide subtitles for it as well.

Enjoy!

LK-001-RO-HD
Released 12/15/10

Now I can upload longer videos to YouTube

On Friday, as I visited the Upload page at YouTube to put up another video, I noticed this announcement.

It says I’m now allowed to upload videos longer than 15 minutes. I checked the official YouTube blog, just to make sure, and it’s true. This past Thursday, they started to allow selected users to upload longer videos. According to the blog post, there are no limits on the video’s duration, though there’s still a 2 GB limit per video file size.

This is wonderful. Thank you, YouTube!

Green IT Week: June 1-7, 2010

ComputersOFF.org is hosting a virtual Green IT Week from June 1-7. This is an issue that’s of particular importance to me. Having been an IT director, I know how much power the combined laptops, desktops and servers of an organization can consume, and how much pollution is generated by the disposal of computer hardware (see this post, and this one as well).

I’ve written about this topic since 2004. Here are three of my articles that deal with saving energy in IT:

Green IT deals with two things:

  1. Electronic Waste: Minimizing the negative impact of information technology use on the environment, and
  2. Energy Efficiency: Using information technology to help solve environmental issues

They’ve put together a few facts that help to drive home their message, so I’m going to quote them below.

By turning off your computer each night or when not in use (i.e. lunch times, weekends, when in meetings at night) for a year you save as much energy as it takes:

  • to run a clock radio for 1,392 weeks
  • to make 9,280 bags of microwave popcorn
  • to wash 464 loads of washing
  • to use your blow dryer for 5,568 hours
  • to vacuum for 464 hours
  • to produce 3,480 plastic bags
  • to run your microwave 24 hours a day for a week
  • to boil your kettle for 24 hours a day for 268 days

By turning off your computer tonight when you leave work you will save as much energy as it takes:

  • to run a clock radio for over 3 weeks
  • to make over 20 bags of microwave popcorn
  • to wash over 1 load of washing
  • to blow dry your hair over 12 times
  • to vacuum for over 1 hour
  • to light a 100 watt light bulb for over 10 hours

For both companies and individuals, there are some really easy actions they can take to reduce their energy use, including:

  • Turning off computers, games consoles and TVs when they are not in use
  • Setting your computer to “sleep” after 15 minutes of inactivity (this reduces the power it uses because “sleep” mode is a lower-energy use mode for the computer to operate in)
  • Turning devices off at the power point (because even in standby mode your appliances are using electricity)
  • Buy green energy (to help push electricity suppliers to convert from coal based production – which creates greenhouse gases and requires mining – to sustainable technologies like wind power)
  • Buy and use a laptop instead of a desktop computer. Laptops only use 190kW (average) of electricity per year.

Want more of these neat factlets? They also have 100 Green IT Tips. They’ve put together a video as well, where various celebrities endorse the cause.

Make sure to check their website from June 1 to June 7 for more good info about Green IT.

Changes in TV viewing habits

The BBC reported recently on how TV viewing is becoming a more social experience. When I read through that article, I said, hang on a minute, I had an idea back in October of 2005 along the same lines… I called it audience-inclusive advertising, but the thoughts I wrote in there can be applied to other content on TV, like shows, which is what’s currently happening.

It’s fun to read through my original article and see how much of the stuff has already come to fruition. Here’s one:

A site can be set up and maintained by a consortium of advertising agencies and brand owners or a neutral body, that would either track viewer product preferences through data mining and random surveys, or would actively encourage users to register and provide product preferences. Alternately, existing user data could be compiled from various databases.

Now we have Facebook and Twitter, and advertisers love to mine their data sets for user product preferences, to give them surveys (think of all the annoying quizzes on Facebook), and collect data on them every time an app is authorized. So this has already happened.

Through the medium of the website, brand owners can also take a cue from the users about the kind of products they need to advertise, this time in a more direct way, through hard data. Even more, they can more easily survey the users about the kind of new products they want to see.

Think of all the fan pages set up on Facebook by companies and brands. You can become a fan, learn more about the company, and be surveyed, live, about your preferences. Beautiful.

Another way to keep the audience is to offer prizes for watching the ads and picking through clues that are weaved through both the ads and the shows. Entries can then be registered on the show’s site or at this main site for a chance to win something, perhaps even products featured on the show, or something as banal as an actor’s coat, or the actual bottle of perfume used by an actress on the show. These aren’t things that cost much but mean a lot to the audience.

Do you notice how many product giveaways there are on Facebook and Twitter? Companies are giving away not just stuff that doesn’t cost a lot, like an actor’s wardrobe, but they’re giving fans cars, computers, cameras, TVs and other things that cost a fair bit of money. And it’s all done for the purpose of keeping users (fans, if you will) tuned into the company’s platform and brand.

It’s also fun to see what stuff didn’t get implemented (yet?), but I’ll let you do that by reading through my original article.

Storage drops below 7 cents per gigabyte

In January of 2009, I mentioned the price of storage had just dropped below 9 cents per gigabyte. I see now that 2 TB drives are selling below $150 (they’re $140), so it’s time to update my figures. At $139.99 for a 2 TB (2,000 GB) SATA hard drive, that comes out to less than 7 cents per GB. That’s a great deal, and it goes without saying that it’s the lowest price for data storage consumers have ever seen.

Updated 4/19/10: Micro Center is selling 2 TB Seagate SATA drives for $119.99. It’s an in-store special, with a one drive per household limit, but still, that makes it 6 cents per gigabyte. What can I say — expect the price to keep dropping…

On the downside, it seems hard drive manufacturers have hit a ceiling with 2 TB drives. I haven’t heard talk of 3 or 4 TB drives, or anything larger than that. Perhaps I haven’t been keeping up with storage news properly, so if you’ve heard some good news, do let me know!

SmugMug now supports oEmbed

According to this GetSatisfaction discussion, SmugMug have implemented support for oEmbed. When I first tried it a few weeks ago, putting a one-line URL in a WP.com post didn’t show the video, but it worked on WP self-installs. Still, you had to hack the URL by prefacing the video URL from the address bar with the SmugMug oEmbed API URL (http://www.smugmug.com/services/oembed/?url=), so that was a hassle. I have found out since that the folks at SmugMug are working with WP on simple video embeds (like the ones at YouTube or Vimeo or blip.tv) — see the GS discussion for the details.

Tonight, I decided to try the old hack URL on my blog (hosted at WP.com) to see how things are coming along. Surprise, surprise, videos play nicely! Have a look below. It’s a video of my tom cat, Felix, sleeping in my arms. The direct URL to the video, in case the embed stops working at some point, is this.

http://www.smugmug.com/services/oembed/?url=http%3A//www.raoulpopphotography.com/Other/My-Videos/8635949_WoFHs#741544973_ZdwRZ