Tuesday, October 30, 2007


My friend Garrett and I watched "Love Actually" the other night, and I wanted to share how much I loved the scene where Keira Knightley gets married - if you haven't seen it, you can watch it here on youtube.com.

That's a good kind of wedding surprise. And I'm not going to lie, if any of you want to arrange such a thing, I definitely wouldn't mind (heck, enough of you know how to play instruments).

To me, the wedding is paradoxical. I want everyone I know to be there, but I want it to be intimate. I want my dress to be simple but spectacular. I want everything to be cheap without looking cheap. I want to help set everything up myself but also spend the day getting ready. I want to take all my pictures before the ceremony, but I don't want Jack to see me before the wedding. And in this case, I want to be surprised, but I also want to avoid a lot of surprises.

For example, I want to be surprised by Jack having a heartfelt note delivered to me while we're getting ready separately before the wedding. I do not want to be surprised by Jack not showing up for the wedding.

I want to be surprised by a beautiful picture my photographer takes when we're not paying attention; I do not want to be surprised by the photographer accidentally formatting the memory card after the wedding.

I want to be surprised by an awesome arrangement the florist came up with; I do not want to be surprised by the florist deciding that the wedding color is black instead of purple and the boutonnieres should be replaced with black ribbons (This was a dream I had recently...anyone know what that one means? I was also getting married at Six Flags and forgot all my jewelry, if that helps the interpretation process).

As much as I love controlling things, I'd hate to have Jane Austen's attitude, when she said:

"Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable."

Looking back, some of my favorite memories have been moments of surprise and of inconvenience. Just think about the chicken and the hotel scavenger hunt. That's one of the things my dad taught me - life is a collection of experiences, good and bad, and the bad is just as valuable in the collection as the good. Most of the things Jack and I laugh about involve something that was definitely bad at the time, like me dropping his just-finished monthly report in a gutter-river in the pouring rain one day. These are moments I won't soon forget.

I guess that means I'm ready to be inconvenienced, wedding or not. Bring on the surprises.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My favorite yellow line

Last week, I got an e-mail from the TAMU Telcommunication Media Association saying that Sportvision and ESPN needed a student to work with a technician to help build and calibrate the cameras that paint the digital first down marker that shows up on live broadcasts of football games for Saturday's game against Kansas. The job included a day of set-up on Friday as well, and since I'm not a huge fan of actually going to class anyway, I called and applied for the position and was hired. When my brother found out what I would be doing, he insisted that I take some pictures and write something about how they do it, because it's a very cool process. Hopefully I don't screw this explanation up too badly.

They start with a laser. This part was done before I got there. In fact, it was done several years ago, and now they keep the data from each stadium to use the next time they come. The laser is placed in the center of the field and collects data on elevation points. This information is used to draw a map of the contours of the field on the computer.

The next step in hardware set-up is the sticks, or the tripod the camera sits on. This tripod has to be completely level for the process to work, and can't be moved after everything is set up and calibrated. Incidentally, Adam (my boss and the rock star behind this game's yellow line) said the cameras get moved almost every week after they have been calibrated. This week was no exception: one of the first things they did Saturday morning was move one of the cameras, which was quite frustrating for Adam, who had spent the entire day before setting them up. After the camera is set up and level, it is chained down so it won't move during the game.

Next, we have the pan/tilt head, which sits on top of the sticks. This particular head has been modified to hold a box on the front that sends information to the 1st and Ten computers downstairs about that camera's view of the field so they can add the yellow line to the live broadcast when that camera is in use. This particular broadcast had three such cameras with 1st and Ten capabilities. Usually, there are four, but Adam was more than ecstatic that Camera 4 would not be a 1st and Ten camera for the rest of the season (Camera 4 is an end-zone camera, for this game placed on top of the 12th Man TV. Apparently it's difficult to set-up and even more difficult to make the yellow line look good from that perspective because the technology was originally designed for sideline shots.)

On top of the head we have the actual camera (with a $100,000 lens, by the way). This is where I actually got to play with the technology (aside from helping build the cameras...oh, who are we kidding; I watched Adam do most of that too). Before the game my job was to listen to Adam, who was in the ESPN trailer at the 1st and Ten computer, over the headset and do what he told me to with the cameras (zoom in on a yard line, pan, tilt, etc.) so that he could collect the necessary data about the field so the virtual line would stay in perspective as the cameras pan, tilt and zoom during the game. Adam now has a really precise map of the field on his computer, and the system now knows where in each frame of the video the line should appear.

Next, Adam creates a blue screen (yellow, rather) of the parts of the field he wants to draw on by selecting the colors of those parts. He selects the different shades of green on the field and then determines how strong that color should be replaced: a higher percentage means a brighter yellow line over that color. During day games, the shadows change, so Adam has to monitor his blue screen to make sure the appropriate colors are still being replaced as the game goes on. He also has to make sure that he's not drawing on skin, logos, or uniforms so that it appears that the line is actually painted on the grass.

Now that the computers know where the field is and which colors to replace, Adam can select the yard line he wants to put the line of scrimmage and the yellow down line on during the game (far left screen). He watches the three cameras to make sure the line is showing up properly on all three cameras (center screens) and the action on the field to find out where to put the line next.

I came away very impressed with the technology, process, and end result of this little feature. No wonder Sportvision has won multiple Emmys for this advancement.

Here are a few other things I observed during the experience:

Their cables are really freaking long. (These go from their cameras under the press box to the trailers)

These are the graphics guys. They create the lower third graphics that go on the screen when they show a player on TV and other stats graphics. They get really mad when a graphic doesn't get up on time or if there's a mistake in the text of a graphic.

It's fun to have one of these. This is the first of what I hope will be many TV Crew credentials.

The view of the Aggie Band is even better from here.

Special thanks to Adam for letting me follow him around all weekend, and the whole crew for letting me take their money in the pool (I put in $10 and won $80 back because I drew "0" and therefore won 3 quarters). An Aggie loss is a Mandy win, apparently.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My REAL boy-toy

Tonight Jack called me, extremely amused, to tell me a story about one of his Tiny Tigers (4-6 year old taekwondo students). Apparently, the little boy’s mom told Jack that her son had asked for a “Mr. Hornbuckle” toy for Christmas.

“A ‘Mr. Hornbuckle’ toy?’” the mother asked. “What’s a Mr. Hornbuckle toy?”

“You know,” the little boy explained, “A toy that looks just like Mr. Hornbuckle and talks.”

Jack told the mom to go ahead and get two if she found them, because he’s going to want one too.

Although I’m pretty sure this is the first request for a Jack Hornbuckle action figure, this isn’t the first time “Mr. Hornbuckle” came up in toy-land. A few weeks ago, Kai, another of Jack’s Tigers, built a bear (actually, built a dog), and when it was time to name it, he called it “Mr. Hornbuckle.” The next day, Kai was also calling it “Nurdle,” so I guess it was “Nurdle Hornbuckle.” Jack’s best man, Dave, was wildly amused and tried to convince us to name our first child that.

But I digress.

I got to thinking about this talking “Mr. Hornbuckle” doll, and what it would say when you pulled the string. Here’s what I came up with:

“Stop taking my food! I don’t share food!”


“Cheriup Kinyay” (No, I don’t know how to spell that)

“Does that make sense?” (That one’s for you, Kristen and Matthew)

“I just want it done a certain way!”

“I’m hungry… and you make sandwiches SO much better than I do…”


“I’m tired.”

“I signed somebody else up today!”

“One time, when we were in the corps…”

“Many much mostester!”

Yep, I’m pretty sure it would be a popular toy, at least for the kids at the taekwondo school. I’m thinking about getting them made and selling them at the school. I think I could do pretty well.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lucky girl

I know I'm lucky to have Jack for a best friend and soon-to-be husband. He calls me funny names. He wakes me up in the morning with phone calls. He brings me flowers when I'm not expecting it. He takes me out to dinner. He surprises me with Starbucks. He saves his money and thinks about our future. I don't say it enough - he's good to me.

Sometimes it takes a week like this one for me to remember to brag about him, though.

Being the creative yet insane lady I am, I've decided to make my own invitations for the wedding. And to further convince you of the "insane" part, I've decided to tie pretty little ribbons around each and every invite. Yep, that's 200 invitations with 11 inches of ribbon around each one. This means that I need more than 60 yards of the ribbon I've picked out for just the invites. And oh, by the way, I think I'm using them for the programs too, so I'll need more than that.

This isn't such a big deal if you can find the ribbon you've fallen in love with at a place like Hobby Lobby, where you can order and pre-pay for as much as you need, as you should be able to. Unfortunately, this ribbon is only sold at Wal-Mart, the incompetant employee capital of the universe. But the ribbon is pretty and the price is right, so I've been going back every couple of weeks in hopes of finding more.

Anyway, the last time we were at Wal-Mart buying everything they had, I asked them when the next time would be that they got more of the coveted ribbon in, and they told me it would be October 11. This was dissapointing for Mandy, because Mandy lives in College Station during the fall semester. Jack, however, lives in Dallas all the time. Being the smart guy he is, when he heard the delivery date, he programmed an alarm on that date into his phone, and when his little alarm went off yesterday, he went and picked up 30 YARDS of it for me (two entire rolls)! This made me incredibly happy.

But wait, there's more.

Because he knew this made me happy and that I still needed at least 15 more yards, he used part of his day off to travel to Frisco, which is a half an hour each way, just to see if they had more at that Wal-Mart. They didn't, but the gesture was definately appreciated.

This probably doesn't sound like a lot to those of you who aren't trying to simultaneously plan a wedding, be a rock star at work, pass all your classes, graduate, and oh, yeah, find a big-girl job; but to me, not having to go find ribbon in the little free time I have left is priceless.

Thanks, Jack, for the little things.