My ultra-boring life

Friday, November 08, 2013

I'm in love...with Roku

Twice a year, every year, the LDS religion holds a general conference where leaders of the church speak to all the members in a general meeting that is broadcast all over the world over internet, TV, and satellite.  It's very wonderful and inspiring.  Living in Idaho, which has a high Mormon population, we generally got it through local television stations.  But this fall, only the Saturday sessions were broadcast, leaving us, who don't have cable or satellite, in a lurch.  We could watch it on the computer, but that's uncomfortable, so we went to Best Buy and bought a Roku box.

The Roku box gets The Mormon Channel AND BYU-TV as a channel, which allows us to easily watch general conference on our TV no matter where we live, as long as we have high-speed internet.  It's got some pretty dang good other stuff, too.

One of my favorite things about the Roku box is the Plex channel.  By itself it isn't much.  But combined with a few hours of work and a computer with a large hard drive and DVD drive (and ideally a Blu-Ray drive), you can do WONDERS.  Just rip your movies onto your large hard drive, setup the connected Plex server, and voila!  Your very own video-on-demand service.  It's a little complicated, though, so I'll explain.

First, get a large hard drive.  I recommend at LEAST a terabyte of dedicated space, more if you have a large collection of high-definition movies.

Second, make sure you have at least a DVD drive in your computer.  If you have Blu-ray movies, I recommend getting a Blu-ray drive as well.  We have found a huge difference between Blu-rays and DVDs, and we recommend the Blu-ray.

Third, download and install the connected Plex media server from here.  Tell it where you want to store your movies, TV shows, home movies, etc.  I would setup an account, but you don't have to do the paid account unless you want to.

Fourth, download MakeMKV from Makemkv.com.  This is a nice little piece of software that can rip movies to your hard drive.  If you're just doing DVDs, you can use it free forever.  If you are ripping Blu-rays, you can try it out free for 30 days (to make sure it works), then you should buy it.  It's $50 for a forever license, which is MUCH nicer than the other software that does similar things for $50-$100 for only 2 years.  Why does the license term matter?  Because the movie industry is always trying to stop people from using their own movies, so they keep changing the encoding.  That means that if you rip a new movie today, you may not be able to rip a new movie in 3 years with the same software, because the 'lock' changed.

Now, if you don't have a lot of movies or you have a TON of space, you can rename the file and stop if you want.  Plex can read .MKV files just fine...but they are HUGE, so I recommend shrinking them down with Handbrake.  This is another nice piece of software that is completely free, that will take your .MKV files and change them to .mp4 or other formats that are much smaller.

Make sure you have the files named in the format Plex likes (movie title (release year).mp4, for instance) -- they have a naming guide that's handy -- and Plex will look up the movies in the location you selected and give you a movie picture and all sorts of info about the movies so it's easy to sort and find what you're looking for.
As an added bonus, with Plex you can share your movies or TV shows or home movies with select friends who are also using Plex.  So now, if I want to borrow a movie from my sister in Oklahoma, I can do it over the internet rather than through the mail.

If you want to use the Roku with Plex and have questions, feel free to message me in the comments or call me on the phone if you already have my number.  I'm pretty excited about it.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Semi-Regular Fall Television Rant

(OK Maybe it's just my second.)

As my depression slowly improves, I find myself watching a little more TV.  This is actually something of a good thing, since in the worst years, the depression sucked enjoyment even out of TV, so I found myself able to tolerate very little of it.  Now I'm getting better, and it's fall, so I have some new and old favorites I want to talk about.

First and foremost is "Elementary."  I've always been a lover of Sherlock Holmes, in almost all iterations, so even though my husband doesn't tolerate Watson's gender change, I love it.  It's well cast and well adapted, and some of the writing has made me cry.  It shows a much more human and fallible side to Sherlock's traditional 'perfection' -- though his outstanding mental acumen is still there -- and it's my favorite show right now.

A close second is "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."  As usual with Joss Whedon productions, it's funny, tense, exciting, touching and thought provoking all at once.  I find myself wondering who is going to get killed off (though the romantic tension bit is already rather delightfully obvious).  I suppose one day I may get tired of the Joss Whedon 'formula' -- but that day is not today.

"Castle" is doing another year of funny-but-interesting crime drama.  It's not at the top of my list anymore, but I will always have a soft spot for Nathan Fillion and this year seems to be doing better writing than last year, so I'm happy with it.

Still waiting for the predictable-but-quirky "Grimm", and I can't bring myself to delete episodes of "Person of Interest" off of my TiVo (though I can't bring myself to watch it, either.  I still can't handle THAT much television).  Blue Bloods, though predictable and often rather bland, is refreshing in the family drama category (I can't bring myself to generally put it fully in the 'crime drama' genre), because it bolsters rather than belittles more traditional viewpoints and values.  I appreciate that a lot.

The enigma of the season is "Sleepy Hollow."  It's the Twilight of the television world, in that I can't stand it's egregious errors of history, law, and culture but I can't stop watching it.  Hello, though many think it's simple, you can't 'lock someone up' just because the police THINK they are crazy, cops don't generally pull their guns and arrest someone who happens to be dressed weird and walking by their car when they get a call, and the Roanoke colony wouldn't have spoken Middle English (it died out a century before Roanoke) COME ON PEOPLE AT LEAST CHECK WIKIPEDIA BEFORE YOU MAKE YOURSELVES LOOK SO STUPID.  And I don't exactly appreciate people taking scripture and twisting it into a ridiculous plotline for entertainment value.  So why do I watch it?  It's probably because the star is tall, dark, British, and bitingly witty (though his impossible list of positive qualities would make even Sherlock roll his eyes.  Eidetic memory?  Really?).   Ugh.  I'm so weak.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Writing is hard and my birthday is coming

It's been an interesting few weeks.  My desktop computer is down -- bad motherboard and/or bad processor in an upgrade we've been trying to accomplish, and dealing with multiple RMAs, almost makes me wonder why we bother putting together machines ourselves.  Then Wes's death and the trip down to Oklahoma for the funeral and to visit family.  Nothing like driving 21 hours by yourself and drinking (literally) a gallon of diet dr. pepper a day in a vain attempt to stay awake to mess up the old kidneys, so now I'm on antibiotics.  While I was down there, my baby brother got engaged (yay!) and the same day that Wes died another brother lost his job (boo!) so I didn't know what to think.  And I dropped my laptop and broke the charger and charging cable, but $30 of parts and a few hours of work later, it works again.  Got a new phone (the HTC One) and I luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuv it.  Got a new bluetooth headset because during that 21 hour drive everyone complained about my old headset.  Calling people to stay awake on drives works better than diet dr. pepper, but it doesn't work well on Sunday when everyone is at church.

Now I have to say that writing is hard, mostly because I've been having a hard time getting myself to do it.  I have received a ton of great advice from my little writing group and that has been helpful, but now I have to discipline myself and implement it.  I suppose it helps that things I've read suggest that many people struggle with their first book.  But come on, Dyany, it's been a good 9 years!  ARGH.

Also, my birthday is coming in only a smidge more than a month.  It sneaks up on people because it's the beginning of October, and people think that's autumn but right now it's still like summer.  So, hinty hinty hint, don't forget!

Depression is actually doing better.  Getting it more under control.

So hang in there.  We'll see y'all later.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wes

My very good friend Wes Jones died last week.  I won't get into the how, because it doesn't matter, and I don't know the why, but there is a hole in me now, a hole where people who originally called me "Eeny Meenie Dyany Moe" used to be.  It's the end of much of what was good and precious to me those many years ago and I will miss him tremendously.  One of my favorite memories of college was the night Wes came back from California.  He had developed a bad habit of calling around midnight (because it was 2 hours earlier in California) and waking us up.  Well this night was no exception.  I still delighted in his calls, but this night was later and he was acting weirder than usual.  5 minutes later I found out why when the door buzzer began going off incessantly.  He had come back and surprised us!  And I felt so special because I was his first stop.
The last few years his health had really deteriorated, though.  He was frustrated by it.  So I am so glad of the gift of the resurrection and the promise we have that we will see him again.  I am so grateful for Christ's atonement.
So until we meet again, dear friend.  Love you.  Save me a seat.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGHHH Senioritis!

I have two weeks left of school.  I HAVE TWO WEEKS LEFT OF SCHOOL.  And I have got senioritis soooooooooooooooooooo bad!  I am having a devil of a time focusing on the 2 projects I need to get done instead of the fact that I am going to Disneyland two days later.  So if I call you out of the blue in the next 2 weeks and you say, "Dyany, are you avoiding your homework?" and I say, "yeeeeeeeesss...." then you need to tell me to get back to work and stop calling people and playing video games and knitting and updating blogs and stuff.

That is all.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Writing is FUN!

Well it is.  Sometimes. 
As I prepare for life after school (again) and being out in the 'real world' (again), I am practicing my writing -- not just for the sake of getting better, but for the sake of getting it done.  My old friend Katie, who is also a writer, is doing this with me where we 'meet' online 2-3 times a week and encourage each other.  It's surprisingly effective.  I've actually added 20-25 pages to my book in the last couple of months and am getting closer and closer to rough-draft done.  I'm also reading more, which has been hard for YEARS, but is necessary for good writing.  Good writing is hard.  I'm not talking about grammar and spelling and how-do-you-decide-what's-a-paragraph.  I'm talking effective, emotional writing that draws the reader in and really conveys a story well.  If I think about it much, I freeze up, but if I just DO it, it gets done.  Slowly but surely.  And hopefully well.

Speaking of which, I'm still looking for beta readers for my story.  It's about 215 pages right now, will be about 300 or so when it's done.  The last 20-25 pages are very rough, but right now I'm working on finishing, not polishing.  I need good eyes to find glaring inconsistencies and who are able to ask questions that need to be answered in the text.  If you're interested, post a comment below. 

Thanks!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

a little assignment...and a rant...about domestic violence



I am talking to you.  Mostly women, some not.  Not everyone who struggles in a relationship, because that’s everyone, but those who have special struggles.  I am not you, but I’ve seen you struggle.  I’ve seen you afraid.  You are afraid of the cut-downs, the control, even the blows.  You are afraid you can’t be alone, but afraid of being with him, too.  You are afraid that you deserve to be treated like this. 
I don’t pretend to know everything about you.  But I know what good relationships look like and that isn’t it.  You don’t deserve to be treated like that.  You don’t need to be controlled.  You don’t need to be raped.  Even if you were in prison for mass murder, you don’t deserve that.  You don’t need to be afraid of being alone, because you are capable of doing things on your own.  And being alone is better than being treated like that, but you don’t have to be alone. 
You’re strong.  That’s how you’ve survived so far.  You’re special.  And there are people out here who recognize that and will treat you that way.  There are people out here who want to help you be happy.  But we can’t help you unless you reach out to us. 
It’s not just for yourself that you need to do this.  It’s for everyone who has ever been belittled, hit, forced, raped, or controlled.  How can we stop it if you don’t tell us about it?  How can we help you if you don’t ask for help?  How can we teach children that it’s wrong to treat people this way if they see it in their own homes and nothing is done about it?  How can we teach our daughters that they deserve to be treated well when they see their mothers just ‘put up with it?’  How can we teach our sons that no one should be treated badly when that’s the only example they’ve ever had?  You are the first step.  Yes it is hard.  It is scary.  But it is worth it. 
Some of you have had bad experiences seeking help.  I’m sorry.  Try again, with someone else if you need to.  Keep trying until somebody listens.  Because somebody will  listen.  Someone will help.  A counselor.  A friend.  A women’s shelter.  A religious adviser.  A cop.  Someone will help.  You have to trust just enough to make that happen.  You have to be the one to stop the cycle. 
Most of all, though, you need to hang in there.  Don’t give up.  Don’t just ‘put up with it.’  Things can change.  You are part of the change.  Imagine what life will be like when you have acceptance, love, security.  Then strive for that vision.  There is tenderness.  There is love.  There is acceptance.  There is a rewarding relationship.  For you.  It won’t be easy.  Nothing worth having ever is.  But you will find happiness.  My hand is reaching out to you.  Take it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valium-times Day!

I think that name works as well now as it did when I was single. :) 

Mostly it's a happy birthday to my nephew Malachi and my cousin Maria!

I may be posting here in the next week or so a post about violence against women, so be prepared.  It's not a personal issue to me -- I've never been abused -- but we've been studying this in my Women's Rhetoric class and I have an assignment coming up that I want to try out here first.  Or at the same time.   That class is interesting.  I really like the professor and I'm learning a lot. 

By the way, This is a totally awesome cover of a totally awesome song from the Hobbit movie.  You should check it out. 

That enough randomness for you?

Peace out.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Life Update

I keep thinking that nothing is happening in my life, that it's not worth blogging about.  But it's the small things that make us what we are, so I'm going to post about a lot of small things.

First, as an intro, I'm linking to a cool website I found the link for on a friend's blog.  Drops of Awesome.  It explains a lot of what I've learned about the Atonement and while dealing with the depression.  Now for some of my own drops of awesome.

First, and most importantly, the depression has been doing much better the last few months.  I haven't had a bad depressive episode in months.  I still struggle with getting things done, but even that is getting slowly better, as I exercise those mental muscles.  Along those lines are little drops of awesome that I have done, not completely, not consistently, but some.  Which is better than nothing.

I have been writing.  I've finished a whole 'nother chapter of my book even! 
My cousin Jordan has moved in with us.  Hopefully we can help each other.  He has already helped me get out and exercise a few times.  This is good.
Class has started.  It's a Women's Rhetoric class this time, which has been intimidating (I'm not used to rhetoric at ALL), but I keep on plugging at it and I think things will be okay.  It's odd that I have an easier time reading literature, which can be veiled, than rhetoric, which is designed to persuade and inform.
Jake and I are serving in Primary now, teaching the 5 year olds.  So far it's pretty fun and just challenging enough.  

Things are good.  Things are progressing.