This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Comments here or emails to me at abulsme@abulsme.com are encouraged... or follow me on Twitter as @abulsme.

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Alex is Eleven!!!

As of 8:40 UTC this morning (1:40 AM Pacific, 4:40 AM Eastern) Alex was exactly 11 years old according to my calculations that include time zones, leap years, the fact that years are not an even number of days, etc.

We’re not going to have an “interview” like we have had every other year. Alex doesn’t like them and hasn’t cooperated in the last few years. So instead, to get an idea of what Alex is like when he is nice and casual and interacting actively, here is the last full live stream he did. Right around when we did this live stream, YouTube started being fussy and sometimes deciding his live streams and videos were not appropriate for YouTube, shutting them down or removing them. Of course, there was NOTHING actually wrong with them. Sigh.

Anyway, here is Alex working on editing one of the old videos he recorded when he was six years old in Final Cut Pro, talking about what he is doing as he works. No face cam of 10-year-old Alex, just audio. And I’m annoyingly distracting in the background doing another live stream trying to edit a separate episode at the same time. Because that is what Alex wanted. But you get the idea.

What new things has Alex been up to this year?

Well, as mentioned above, YouTube has been screwing with his channel, removing the first 64 videos he ever published back when he was six. Plus they blocked some of his live streams and prohibited him from live streaming for a couple of months. That restriction has been lifted, but because things just sometimes get declared not OK even though they are no different than everything else we have done for the last nearly five years, we’ve not really put much new up since that started happening. Very frustrating. We still have eight hard drives full of videos from the last five years that have been recorded and are waiting for editing and publishing. But Alex is unsure how much effort he wants to put into it if he has to worry about things being taken down without us understanding why, or really being able to do much about it.

Anyway, what else. On the video editing front, Alex continues to increase his proficiency with Final Cut Pro X. We also spent some time earlier this year learning Motion for creating animated title sequences and such.

He has grown from playing Minecraft, where his creations are increasingly detailed and elaborate, to building mods for Minecraft. He has been using MCreator for building the mods themselves, and BlockBench for doing 3D modeling of new items and mobs. In some cases he’s even started looking at the Java code underlying some of this stuff to try to figure out what it is doing and to see if he can add functionality not built into MCreator by copying and modifying code people have used in other mods and made available publicly, or by searching the internet for discussions or tutorials about how people have done similar things in the past. He hasn’t actually published any of his work live so other people can use it yet, but he intends to. He just has this problem that he keeps thinking of new things he wants to add, so is never happy publishing the things he has already finished.

For both the editing and the mods, Alex’s vision for what he wants to create often exceeds his current knowledge and abilities. On the one hand, that means he can often be frustrated, but on the other, it is driving him to keep expanding what he knows how to do. At first, I was learning just enough about all of these tools to keep slightly ahead of him and help him figure out the next step toward what he wanted to do. At this point, while in a few cases I may have a better idea where to look to find where to start something, his actual skill at using all of these tools has far exceeded my own. He’ll still try to get me to do some of the more tedious work for him, but he has to show me how to do what he wants, and he can do it much faster than I can myself. (In most cases anyway.)

Aside from that he still does like to play Minecraft and a variety of other video games. He has YouTube channels he likes to watch and a variety of TV shows he keeps rewatching. This year he added watching the entire 2005-Present run of the modern era of Doctor Who. Then we more recently went back and started watching the classic era of the show starting with the beginning of the show from 1963. He doesn’t so much enjoy the actual stories of those old episodes. In comparison to the new ones, they are slow and clunky, and unsophisticated. But he very much enjoys mocking them for the bad acting and special effects, in many cases deconstructing it and talking about how he could easily do much better himself at this point. He has yet to actually try that though. It would be fun to watch if he does of course.

Oh. And that remote school pandemic thing?

Well, Alex has been absolutely thrilled to be at home rather than school. He has used that time for all of the kinds of things mentioned above, and more.

The actual remote school though?

Yeah. That was the first Zoom of 5th grade. Alex is not thrilled by this. I guess we’ll see how it goes and do our best, like everybody else.

Anything else?

Alex still loves his dogs Miley and Jetski.

Even with the pandemic, we’ve managed to expand our “bubble” to include his friend Kaylin, so she comes over to visit for about one weekend a month. (We thank her parents very much for letting us “borrow” her so often… she is here right now for his birthday.)

Although he still rarely speaks to outsiders, at home he is a constant stream of exciting ideas, thoughts, and opinions, strongly expressed.

All and all… eleven. Very much a tween at this point, with signs of teen starting to show occasionally.

Anyway, happy birthday Alex! Love you!

 

Vote for Brandy!

I just filled in my ballot. I’m heading to the drop box momentarily. If you live in South Snohomish County and haven’t already voted, check out electbrandydonaghy.org and get that ballot in!

Alex is TEN!!!

Well, he turned ten quite a few days ago now, but I was otherwise occupied and couldn’t get to do this post. Oops.

The actual time he hit precisely ten years old when taking into account time zones, leap years, the fact that years are not an even number of days, etc. was September 13th at 02:52 UTC. That would be September 12th at 7:52 PM Pacific time, 10:52 PM Eastern.

The actual moment passed without much notice because we waited until the weekend to do the actual celebrations. Alex’s best friend Kaylin came over for a sleepover, and we did the usual thing with presents. It was a good birthday. Everybody had fun.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ALEX!!

A little bit before the birthday, I attempted to do the traditional annual interview. The last few years Alex has decided to talk less and less on these, and instead do other things. At least last year, after a few minutes he did start talking. This year, nope. But here is what we got. (With guest cameos by Amy to help with transitions.)

Oh, and for the few of you who might care, I set up a playlist that includes all the previous interviews and a few other random home movie sorts of things including Alex. It is here.

Just a few highlights this year. As he gets older, it is up to Alex what he shares, not me.

  • Alex’s YouTube channel ALeXMXeLA is up to 63 subscribers (13 more than this time last year). Help get him to 100! Subscribe!
  • We are still many years behind in posting videos to the channel. When posting videos “in order,” we are posting videos recorded when he was six. This last year we’ve also done a lot of live streams as well though, which also are published on the channel once they are over. Alex has said he wants to stop producing much new content until we can catch up a bit though. As part of that, he has said that after we get to publishing the 200th in order video, instead of him doing lots of editing in Final Cut Pro, he wants me to push out a few hundred videos straight out of the recordings to save time. We’ll see how that goes. I still need to find the time to do THAT.
  • Alex is now in FOURTH grade. He is testing several grade levels higher in math, and halfway through high school in terms of reading level though, so I suspect he is somewhat bored, although he won’t explicitly admit it.
  • He usually doesn’t read books, though. Wikis. Not Wikipedia, but niche wiki’s about video games. Minecraft. Terraria. Five Nights at Freddy’s. Subnautica. Whatever. If it is a game he has played, watched being played, or is considering playing, he searches the web and finds the best wiki on that game and then studies it until he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the game. Then he quizzes people in the family about trivia from those games and laughs when we do not know the answers.
  • He and his dog Miley are still best friends, but now we also have Jetski. We got Jetski last December. As I post this on September 21st, it is his first birthday. He is huge. He is crazy. He is a puppy. Alex and Jetski have a love-hate relationship. They play together constantly. Jetski usually finds Alex to cuddle with when they sleep. But Jetski is a puppy and plays with his teeth, and Alex riles him up to play continuously, and eventually, Alex gets mad at Jetski for being too rough, even though Alex started it. So they are still learning. I think they are both getting better about this as they get older though. Miley usually watches from a distance. You can see the thought bubble over her head. “Kids. What can you do?”

As usual, there is lots more. But this is enough.

Happy birthday Alex!!!

Paid Off, Cut Up, and Done!

Refinanced the house to do it, but we just wiped out a ton of super high interest debt in a single evening on the credit card websites hitting the “pay full balance” buttons. Then we cut them all up. (Except one, just in case.) This has been a monkey on our backs seemingly forever. Some of these cards haven’t had a zero balance since I was in college nearly 30 years ago. The monthly savings on interest will be huge. It is like being able to breathe again after having been under water too long. Yay!

Amy is TWENTY THREE!

According to my calculations, taking into account all the geeky things I take into account, at 19:10 UTC today (12:10 PM Pacific, 3:10 PM Eastern), Amy will be exactly 23 years old.

Happy Birthday Amy!!!

I can’t believe you are 23. That’s like, old. :-)

17166.383 Days

As of the moment this is scheduled to post, at 6:10 UTC on the 16th (11:10 PM Pacific on the 15th, 2:10 AM Eastern on the 16th) I am exactly 47 years old. This is of course properly taking into account leap years, the fact that years are not an even number of days, time zones, and the time and place I was born…

So. 47. Woo!

Alex is NINE!!

Well, he turned 9 yesterday… we aren’t celebrating this year until the 21st because of all kinds of scheduling things that also are my excuse for not having this post go out at the exact moment as usual. But at September 12th at 21:03 UTC (2:03 PM Pacific, 5:03 PM Eastern), Alex was exactly nine years old.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALEX!!!!!

So first, the traditional annual interview. He is uncooperative as has been normal for the past few years. In the first half of the video (recorded a few hours BEFORE he turned 9) he pretends to be 3 and does not speak in full sentences and hides a lot. In the second half of the video (recorded a few hours AFTER he turned 9) he speaks more fully, but spends his time climbing all over my office and jumping on me and generally being unresponsive to actual questions. Then he spits. I miss the years where he actually spent five minutes giving honest answers to my questions! But those days are long gone! :-)

Now, a few highlights of what Alex is like at this milestone. Each year of course the I provide less details, as it is more up to him to talk about himself. But I’ll allow myself a few highlights.

  • Alex’s YouTube channel is now up to 50 subscribers. Help him get to 100. Subscribe now!
  • We are still years behind publishing his videos. We have 7 external 4 TB hard drives almost completely full of videos he has recorded. I just bought an 8th. We’re still publishing videos from the FIRST of those hard drives. Videos he recorded when he was 6. He’ll do live streams occasionally, or publish something out of order when he really wants to though, so there is current stuff on the channel too, in between the old stuff.
  • But, over the last few months, we’ve upgraded our kit. He is now editing the videos he puts out with Final Cut Pro X, professional level video editing software, rather than us just posting things right off the screen recording, or using something simple like iMovie. So more and more titles and special effects, animations, and other fancy things are getting added in. Now, we still haven’t quite gotten to the point where he realizes that sometimes less is more in terms of those sorts of things, and that perhaps we can edit out some of the slower bits from the videos, but his technical aptitude is increasing by leaps and bounds as he figures out the tools. I help occasionally with bits and pieces, but MOST of what you see in his videos is all him…
  • He is also doing lots of image editing. It is for his videos too, as he is making “custom thumbnails” for them rather than accepting whatever YouTube picks by default. This usually means taking several screenshots from the video, then composing them in collage style in Pixelmator (a nice image editing tool for the Mac), adding in the episode title and such. Just like Final Cut Pro X, he has been getting very proficient in using Pixelmator to get the results he wants. Some of the thumbnails he puts together are quite complex.
  • Alex is now in third grade!
  • Sometime a few months ago, his primary TV watching switched from YouTube, where he used to watch lots of DanTDM and Stampy and such, to binge watching various series on the various streaming platforms. Recent shows he has binge watched from start to finish are the new Voltron series, Transformers Prime and Transformers RescueBots, Ninjago, and everything ever put out in the How to Train Your Dragon franchise.
  • He and his dog Miley are still best friends. Well, Miley likes him best when he is asleep or chilling and calm. When he is excited and bopping all over the place, Miley tolerates him. He still is a bit rougher with her than she should be as she gets older, but she is VERY good and puts up with everything.
  • Alex still does Minecraft. He has some worlds that he has been working on for over three years. Incredibly elaborate, including red stone contraptions, behaviors he programs with command blocks, and all sorts of other things.
  • The whole family went to a “family camp” together at Camp Seymour for a long weekend this summer along with Alex’s best friend Kaylin. Alex and Kaylin (and Amy!) had a blast. All sorts of traditional camp activities. They were running around flat out having fun for the whole time. Alex still insists he doesn’t want to do it again next year, but…
  • Lego is back in the picture with a vengeance! He is doing things with Lego sets every day almost. Sometimes straight out of his imagination, but often building sets following the instructions, sometimes large complex ones that he does over the course of many days. There is Lego EVERYWHERE right now.

As usual, there was certainly much more. But this is enough.

Happy birthday Alex!!!

A Year of Wiki of the Day

A year ago yesterday, the first episode of my Wiki of the Day family of podcasts was published. It was about, well, Load Testing.

A few days later, once there were episodes of each of the variants of the podcast, I officially announced that I had launched three new podcasts. Soon after that, the podcasts were included in the Apple podcast directory and we were off to the races.

For those who don’t remember, these are COMPLETELY AUTOMATED podcasts. Each of the three variants pick one Wikipedia article per day to highlight (they just use different ways of picking which article they highlight) and use Amazon Polly to do text to speech on the article summary along with some intro and outro text to generate the podcasts themselves. Apart from the increasingly rare situations where something goes wrong and I have to debug something, this all happens without any human intervention from me at all. Which I think is kinda cool. :-)

At the 100 day mark, I posted an overview of how it was doing, but I figured now that we are at the one year mark it would be good to look again.

This is looking at unique downloaders in the trailing 7 days for all three variants combined based on IP address and UserAgent, excluding some obvious robots. In the first couple months, downloads went from zero to about 250 a week. After that, aside from spikes, the number slowly declined, so by early this year, it was more like 150 a week usually.

There were three big spikes though.

The first spike, in July 2017, was driven by the episodes about Chester Bennington and Linkin Park after Bennington’s death.

The second spike, in October 2017, was driven by the episode about Tom Petty after his death.

The third and biggest spike, which is still in progress as I write, was initially looking like a small bump for the episode about Avicii after his death, but that was then overwhelmed by the article on the Golden State Killer after Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested for those crimes. As I write, that episode has been downloaded 848 times and counting.

Also, by pure happenstance, serendipity, and coincidence (I’m practicing my redundancy), on the exact one year anniversary, the three podcasts combined exceeded 1000 unique downloaders in the previous 7 days for the first time ever. Now yes, this is from the Golden State Killer spike, and it will recede soon, but maybe we will have picked up a few long term subscribers who found the podcast through that. We shall see.

Now, the other thing to point out is that the “popular” variant is BY FAR the most popular. Excluding spikes, over the last three months or so the breakout has been something like this:

  • popular Wiki of the Day: 100-200 unique downloaders per week
  • random Wiki of the Day: 10-20 unique downloaders per week
  • featured Wiki of the Day: 10-20 unique downloaders per week

By comparison, my actual human recorded current events podcast I do with Ivan Bou has been in the range of 150-250 unique downloaders per week over the same time period.

Of the Wiki of the Day podcasts, popular gets all the love, because it highlights Wikipedia articles that were at the top of the most viewed Wikipedia page list the day before. So it is topics people are searching for information on anyway. So people search in their podcast players and find these episodes. Now, when they get there, they just get a 2-3 minute quick summary of the topic, not an in depth discussion of the subject, so it is quite possible some of the people who find it are disappointed with what they get. But hopefully at least some folks find it interesting or helpful, and end up subscribing to hear more.

They are certainly “different” sorts of podcasts though, and I can understand why it might be an acquired taste.

But it was fun to set up, and I at least find them fun to listen to each day, and sometimes I actually learn new things!

If you want to support Wiki of the Day, you should of course search for these three podcasts in your podcast player of choice, subscribe to all of them, and start listening on a regular basis! :-)

Anyway, so that is where it is after a year. It generally seems like it is in somewhat of a steady state at this point, so aside from big spikes when celebrities die or other news events, I don’t really expect much more growth. But we’ll see where it ends up in another year…

Amy is TWENTY TWO!

According to my calculations, taking into account all the geeky things I take into account, at 13:22 UTC today (6:22 AM Pacific, 9:22 AM Eastern), Amy will be exactly 22 years old.

Happy Birthday Amy!!!

16801.141 Days

As of the moment this is scheduled to post, at 0:21 UTC on the 16th (5:21 PM Pacific, 8:21 PM Eastern on the 15th) I was exactly 46 years old. This is of course properly taking into account leap years, the fact years are not even numbers of days, time zones, and the time and place I was born…  So I am now 46, although it will be a few hours until most others will admit it.

When I sat down to calculate this date and time, I was actually surprised, because I honestly had thought I was already 46 and was about to turn 47. It is easy to lose track of these things. So I got back an extra year! Yay!