I like Big Screens and I cannot lie

Ok, excuse that bad Sir Mix-A-Lot pun in the title. Anyway, today I’ve upgraded my Monitor. Previously, I had a single 15.4″ Flat Screen with a resolution of 1280×800. That is nice, but when working with Visual Studio or Cinema 4D, it gets a little bit fiddly.

So I’ve now added a 24″ 1920×1200 Pixel Monitor to my existing one. Apart from the obvious advantage of having 1.3 Million additional Pixels compared to the previous one, it also allows me to have a Dual-Monitor setup. Now, be warned: A 24″ Monitor is HUGE. In the shop, they all look so small when they are placed in the big open space along with other >20″ Screens but at home you get to learn it’s real size. Also, 1920×1200 is a resolution where Fonts and screen Elements are rather small. Do not even think about turning on Large Fonts though, Windows is really bad at scaling and instead of properly scaling all UI Elements, it will just increase the font size, thus causing more destruction to the UI than they help. And of course, buying a screen to get a bigger resolution only to size it down then does not make sense.

I also want to thank Jeff Atwood here. His Article about LCD Monitor arms contains a real sweet picture of his setup, and I envy him for having the space to put these Monitors 🙂

The Monitor of my choice is the Philips 240BW8. To be fair, the main reason was it’s 350 € price tag compared to the 450+ € of other monitors. Ah yes, add a few Euro for a DVI Cable because it only comes with a VGA Cable. Dear Monitor manufacturers: People who connect a 1920×1200 Pixel Screen with a VGA Cable should be shot and companies to deliver a VGA Cable with such a screen should share a similar faith. Anyway, back to the screen. One nice feature is that the screen includes Speakers that are actually better than expected. They have (limited) bass and are loud enough for my office. You couldn’t run a party with them, but compared to a lot other speakers in monitors, they are good enough. The screen is also properly adjustable: Move it up/down, tilt it sideways or turn it by 90° (“Pivot”).

It’s also suitable for games, and when playing on such a screen you realize that this is how gaming is supposed to be. Unreal Tournament on such a screen is pure glory. Only downside: For 1920×1200 you would need a really high-end PC (My Athlon 64 X2 4200+ w/ Geforce 7900 GTX is not quite cutting the edge anymore 🙂 ) or you have to reduce the resolution and live with interpolation. Luckily, interpolation in games is usually not such a big quality issue.

Yes, it takes up a lot of space, but I am happy with my new screen and I would never go back to a 1 Monitor as long as I can avoid it.

Sewing without a Sewing Machine is actually work

I have now started making my Weighted Companion Cube, and I just feel like I should point out the opposite: Sewing without a sewing machine is actually work!

So far, i’ve managed to make a heart piece, only to discover that the sewing pattern is a little bit inaccurate. In the first step it talks about a “Dark Grey fabric” which you combine with the interfacing. But “Dark Grey” should be light grey instead, as the fabric that you get from step one is the one where the heart will go to and that will eventually go onto the cube, which is dark grey. It can now be argued about wether not both are “dark” grey, with one being darker than the other, but the essence is: Use the lighter grey for the first step.

Anyway, here are my attempts so far:

  1. Get a 5×5 inch (14x14cm) pattern of (light) grey fabric and the interfacing. If it’s not a perfect square it does not matter, you will eventually cut off the edges anyway.
  2. Sew them together using the circle template.
  3. Cut out a heart from the pink fabric using the template and sew it into the middle of the grey circle
  4. Cut out the circle, remember to leave a bit of safety margin.

As you see, I clearly need some more practice here, the heart piece could look a lot better. Also, the sewing technique is not optimal. You should use Satin Stitch here, but doing it manually is a LOT of work. I’m thinking of getting a sewing machine, which are not neccessarily big and expensive. The local electronics store has the Brother JS-23, which is relatively small yet does exactly what it is supposed to do – satin stitch Weighted Companion Cubes 🙂

Anyway, Sewing is actually quite fun, and I hope that I can finish my first Cube during the week.

Weighted Companion Cube, Part 2

A few weeks ago I wrote about making my own Weighted Companion Cube, and today I finally got round to buy the material needed. Now when it comes to sewing material, the question “Where to get stuff like that?” comes into mind. Luckily, Paris is a city that has everything, and of course they do not have one shop that sells sewing material, they got 10 or so, all neatly arranged next to each other in the Area around Montmatre. Speaking of that Area: As Montmatre is on a hill, you can expect a lot of stairs and walking up/down. On the other hand, you have a gorgeous view of Paris from there! I went to the Marche Saint Pierre, which has 5 stories of cloth (and a horrible web site, but at least you can get the address and opening times from there).

Please allow me to go off-topic for a minute and have a rant. First: Paris is not that big actually, but it’s a Maze. Make sure you get a proper Map of the Area. Previously, I always thought that there is always a Map nearby wherever you are in Paris. That is not the case, sometimes you have to walk quite a bit to finally find a map. When you find one, chances are that it may be a map of Paris rather than just one of the area, which makes it close to useless. And if you find an area map, there is also a chance that the nice little “You are here” sticker is missing, so you are still lost as it can be hard to figure out where you are because Paris apparantly has more streets than inhabitants (I made that claim up, but it feels that way once you’ve spend 1 hour looking for a Metro station in the Maze). Dear French Government: As a tax payer and an inhabitant of the fifth French Republic, please use some of the tax that you are taking off me every month to produce and deploy a few “Vous êtes ici” stickers. Merci. The second part of my rant goes to the people who just love to aprubtly stop walking. Dear people, it is nice to see that you are not alone and got friends or family with you, but if you want to talk to then, you can continue walking down the street. There is no reason to suddenly stop, especially because the streets in certain areas (like Montmatre) are usually overcrowded and you are hampering the flow of traffic.

Any way, back to topic. So I went on and bought the cloth that is needed for the cube. I did not know that there were so many variations of cloth, but there indeed are. But every variant, be it Satin or Cotton has one thing in common: They are expensive. Some still more than others, but it’s not really cheap. I also ended up buying quite a bit more than I needed because the sheets were 1.80 Meters long (and you had to pay per Meter of Width), but I think it cannot hurt to have some spare stuff. I also got a bag of Fill Material, so that I can stuff the Cube.

My complete shopping list today:

  1. Light Pink Thread (Fil a Coudre), 100 Meter, 3,05 €
  2. Filling Material (Tapissier), 1 Kilogram, 9,50 €
  3. Light Pink Cloth, Cotton, 1.80 Meter x 1 Meter, 8,80 €
  4. Light Grey Cloth, Cotton, 1.80 Meter x 1 Meter, 8,80 €
  5. Dark Grey Cloth, Cotton, 1.80 Meter x 1 Meter, 8,80 €
  6. White “Net”, 1,80 Meter x 1 Meter, 2,75 €

So for a grand total of 41,70 € I should now have everything for my Cube (I have different colored thread and sewing needles already), which means I will now start actually building it. And I will make sure that GLaDOS will not let me burn it for sure 🙂

The one remaining problem is that the original sewing pattern uses imperial units (inches) and that a simple 1:1 conversion to the metric system does not make much sense, unless you want to work with 7,62 or 12,7 centimeters. If I happen to have a dual Metric/Imperial ruler I might just use imperial units, otherwise i’ll try to properly make a pattern based on metric units.

Paris Slalom World Challenge 2008

Last week-end, the annual Paris Slalom World Challenge was held in Paris. This is one event in the World Slalom Series, and the PSWC is the one with the highest Rating in Europe (3 Cones), hence the competitors were some of the best freestyle slalom skaters you can find. The location is also one of the best, Trocadéro, in front of the Tour Eiffel.

And of course, with such an Event, the team of 4WheelFreestyle was also at the Event. On Friday, we did a lot of free training and meet & greet. Oh, by the way: Congratulations to this couple! The Friday ended at the place near Hotel d’Invalides, with more skating and meeting more people. The day ended with a trip on the Metro (I need to get another backpack, the existing is too bulky) and a visit to a restaurant that had some interesting wall decorations

Saturday started with the confirmation that you CAN have 4 people in 31m² without people stepping on each other’s toes, and also with the confirmation that the French can’t Park 😛 So, back to Trocadéro, the sun was burning but luckily there were some clouds to make it endurable. With the lighting being a challenge, it looks a bit like the world is going to end any minute 🙂 During Saturday, the first part of the Men Freestyle Battles started. At the beginning, there were 48 Riders, in 16 groups of 3 each and the first 2 riders to qualify for the next round. Unfortunately, some German Riders already bit the dust during Round 1, finishing 3rd in their group: Thomas Vilcans from 4WheelFreestyle, Bernhard Kuhn and Heiko Bader could already change their plans for Sunday. At the end, 32 Riders were left for Sunday. For 4WheelFreestyle, Rudy Op’t Veld and Michel Schulz were successful in this round. (From left to right: Thomas, Rudy, Michel). The day ended at Notre Dame, that beautiful church that attracts a lot of people. It was nice, having all those bystanders and “accidential” visitors.

The final day of the Event – Sunday – started with the Women Battles. With 12 girls competing, we had 4 groups of 3, with the last one being eliminated. Sadly, Miriam Kwasny and Antonia Eggert did not make it past round 1, leaving 8 Riders (what’s the female form of Rider by the way? Ridestress?) for the next reound (2 groups of 4). At the end – surprise, surprise – Chloe Seyres of Team Seba won, ahead of Polina Semenova and Nathalie Rager.

Also, Sunday had the Men Finals. 32 Riders in 8 Groups of 4, with the first 2 Riders going to the next round. From the German perspective, we lost Stephan Ullmann, Jan Gresens and André Stepczac on Position 4 and Michel Schulz on Position 3 of their groups. From the remaining three German Riders, Martin Sloboda was eliminated in the Quarter Finals, and Mischa Gurevich (who would later finish 7th) in the Semi-Finals. The Finals had a surprise for us, even though it is not really a surprise if you see the final: Rudy op’t Veld finished second, in a Group with Igor Cheremetieff (who won the event), Tiziano Ferrari and Kirill Ryazantsev. In this picture, Rudy is the one with the white shirt and the german flag, Igor is standing right of him (not holding anything), and Tiziano on the left. On the left side of Tiziano, there is Kirill, and on the left side of him, there is Olivier Herrero, the 5th Placed rider.

Needless to say, we were really happy with the week-end, even though I am mentally kicking my ass for forgetting to get sun blocker, and now I’ve got pretty bad sun burns.. sigh… well, a minor price to pay for this great event!