Sunday, January 21, 2018

Spaceships, Sharp Shadows and Sad Songs

The word of the week is inchoate.

Jan 15 - Glowforge is Ready! But...

Last week, an email arrived I've waited YEARS for:

My GlowForge is FINALLY ready to ship to me!

Except... I'm not quite ready for it.

Firstly, if I tell them to ship it now, it's just going to sit at the holding depot in the USA, costing me money every week it idles until my lady and I have to make the trip over to the USA to pick it up. Since she's moving to her new place this coming month, it's just too much to ask( she agrees )and we've no compelling reason to add to her stress.

Also, I've still got the website to complete, not to mention the import papers, which are key: I've almost got things figured out to where it will 'only' cost me a few hundred dollars at the border, but rushing a pickup might cost me big time.

Lastly, there's the issue of insurance, which maddeningly I've not been able to get a straight answer to from a few places regarding a home business. I'm stepping up my efforts again this month, to see what I'll have to pay to operate here safely.


Details, details... the devil's always in them. But:

IT WILL BE THERE WHEN I'M READY - AT LAST!


Jan 16 – Goodbye, Dolores

Goddang it, not another gone...

Today we lost Dolores O'Riordan, of The Cranberries, at the WAY-TOO-EFFING-YOUNG age of 46... only a few years older than I, and a tragic loss.


I first heard Dolores when Linger hit the air, shortly after I was done high school and deep into the magnificent mess that was university. While I was introduced to a great deal of new music in those years( par for the course )like Sarah McLachlan, only The Cranberries stuck: I knew years later that it was because of Dolores.

This piece from The New Yorker eloquently describes the impact that Dolores had on the world, and the legacy that she leaves through her music that has touched millions. Below is my favourite song, Dreams, which has held many meanings for me over the last twenty-five years... and will likely bear more, as I listen to it again.



Jan 17 – AI Authors?

Sometimes the future can be... frustrating.

Now, don't get me wrong: I love most things to do with the future, as I'm usually an optimist and can see great potential for humanity given our strengths... while hoping that our weaknesses don't undercut us too much.

Such as shooting ourselves in the foot when it comes to technology.

As many of you know, I'm a writer, and I hope to be a published author sooner rather than later. Yet sometimes I wonder about the future of the publishing industry( as do many people who are currently in said industry... )when articles like this one pop up:


While I was initially discomfited by the video, that gave way to some milder contemplation, as nowhere did the creators of Quill mention HOW its writing capabilities work. For all we know, what it turns out will be laughably pedantic and bland, suitable for travel brochures and quick-burn website content only.

I doubt that we'll see AI Authors turning out books on par with human authors anytime in the next few decades, at least. Though I won't discount the low reading standards of the general public, who seem to lap up films like Twilight and novels like Fifty Shades Of Bleh...

Best I get my books out soon, eh?


Jan 18 – Street LEDs?

Sometimes change sneaks up on you.

While I was walking around the city this week after dark, I noticed that some areas looked... different. At first I couldn't put my finger on what was off, but then I realized it with a start: the shadows were different!


It seems the city has been quietly replacing their old HP-sodium-vapour streetlights with new high-power LED lights, and as you can see from the image above, the change is startling. Gone are the mushy outlines and vague shapes of shadowed objects: every line is now sharp and clear, and the light has a spotlit-feel, as though you're on a sports field... no more 'golden glow' to the streets, as this article laments about the loss for the city of Los Angeles' film industry.

Change is sneaky, but the light's gone on for me now...


Jan 19 – Almost-Awesome Animation

Dang it!

Why do I find out about the cool stuff AFTER it's been cancelled?

As some of you know, I'm a fan of MWO( MechWarrior Online )which is set in the BattleTech universe: giant heavily-armed robot 'mechs' stomping around. Good times, and back in the mid-1990's there was even an animated BattleTech series... which wasn't so good, but at least they made it in the days before CGI.

Fast forward twenty-three years, and someone had the bright idea to make a NEW series, based on the animations in MWO but with cell-shading to appear 'animated' rather than pure-CGI: genius!

Unfortunately, the folks who owned the rights to Battletech shut it down hard, and all we have left to see is an 'official animated advertisement' for MWO - sigh.


Just goes to show we can't have nice things when lawyers are around, and when it comes to the BattleTech universe, there's a LONG history of legal bickering.

Makes me want to climb into my Catapult and zap things with lasers...

This is how I roll... er, walk. In MWO. 


Jan 20 – That Looks Like...

There was a time when I saw spaceships everywhere.

Though that was when I was much younger, just a boy, I still do on occasion: my creative muse points out "Hey, that thingamajig looks like a space fighter!" or the like - and it usually does. Just goes to show my imagination's always working.

While I went into the wordy side of the arts, others with the same spaceship-gaze as I took a different path, and it's served them well - take a gander at this guy's work:

Potato peeler and can opener? Not any more!

I must admit it came in pretty handy when playing as a kid, when anything could become a spaceship - and often did. I was fortunate to have quite a toy supply to muck around with, and I supplemented it with as many 'found' spaceships as I could...

What I'm saying, I guess, is: you can never have too many spaceships!


Jan 21 – Happy 10th, io9!

Wow, has it been a decade already?

Two months after I moved to BC in late 2007, I ran across a cool looking website with an odd name called 'io9.com' and I've been visiting regularly ever since.


io9.com is, for lack of better words, a 'g33k mecca' where all the different threads of g33k culture were woven together into a single website that collected news, articles of interest and videos from all over the Internet into one place - sweet! Even better, they fostered an amazing community, whose Comments sections never developed the petty ping-pong of many other sites, thanks to vigilant mods.

I was able to satiate my hunger for Star Wars news at the same place that I could find information on being an author and check out what people were saying about the latest movie news. It was a breath of fresh air in that it acted like a portal: I could be confident in going there first to check things out rather than combing through the scattered results from random Google searches.


As the video above shows, a lot of love's gone into io9.com over the years, and it's stayed the course when many other places like it have come and gone( looking at you, IGN... )which goes to show its impressive attention to g33k culture.

Here's to another fantastic ten years!


All right: this last week was SOLID! I swam twice in the morning before work, spent five FULL days at my desk( seated AND standing )and I felt great going into the weekend... no tendon aches, sore core or even a headache; yes! While I didn't end up being as productive as I'd hoped over the weekend( I did a tech support visit to my parents )it was a good one overall, and I feel balanced heading into my work-week. Normal Is Good!


Sunday, January 14, 2018

A-Bomb A-Holes, Amazing Aloy and Auditing Life

The word of the week is tremulous.

Jan 8 - Pixar... X-Wings?

Let's start the week out right: with Star Wars!

Not just *any* Star Wars though, but a 'What if?' kinda teaser:

What if Pixar had made a Star Wars animated film, along the lines of Cars?

Cue a cute and very well-done trailer:



Jan 9 – Horizon: Zero Dawn

Wow! While looking for something different to watch here and there at work this week, I stumbled upon this 'cutscene assembly movie' from the recent videogame Horizon: Zero Dawn, which is described as:
Horizon: Zero Dawn is an exhilarating action role playing game developed by the award winning Guerrilla Games, creators of PlayStation’s venerated Killzone franchise. As Horizon: Zero Dawn’s main protagonist Aloy, a skilled hunter, explore a vibrant and lush world inhabited by mysterious mechanized creatures. Embark on a compelling, emotional journey and unravel mysteries of tribal societies, ancient artifacts and advanced technologies that will determine the fate of this planet, and of life itself.
Here's a synopsis review that doesn't spoil too much about the story:


I quite enjoyed the 'cutscene movie' which was almost 1.5 hours long and excellently written: for a near-future story, it had great depth and the main protagonist of Aloy was an engaging character all on her own. I especially liked her sense of curiousity, which drove her to become what her world needed.

Great job, Guerilla Games - more stories like this, please!


Jan 10 – Wisdom from Beyond

Some profoundly wise words today from a 27-year-old young woman, who wanted to share them with the world shortly before dying of cancer a week ago on January 4th 2018. She had her whole life ahead of her, and speaks clearly about how her looming passing put her time here into clarity:












 
Jan 11 – Pseudoscience

Ah, the ignorant things I see people type online of a day...

Pseudoscience especially: it really IS true that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and people are willing to listen to anything that sounds somewhat plausible, despite there being so little science involved that you couldn't fill a thimble with it.

Such as this posting, by an ardent anti-climate-change commenter, who has NO idea how science works, but is quite vocal in his opinion of how he thinks science works:

That's right folks - this is 'science' to some people...

 A common thread among folks like the guy above is that they usually offer YouTube videos as 'proof' of their claims, or links to non-scientific blogs. In Matthew's case, he pointed to the video below, which contains such tenuous and flimsy pseudoscientific premises that anyone with an ounce of scientific knowledge would dismiss them immediately:


We live in an age where anyone with internet access can find solid scientific data, thousands of sites, yet garbage videos like this draw people in like moths to flames.

I begin to see where pundits from the sixties decried the death of knowledge when they coined the term 'boob tube' as people tuned into television, and tuned out their brains...


Jan 12 – 2018's Films?

On a lighter note: this year's going to be FULL of fine films!

Here's a HUGE LIST of 44 of the biggest movies coming out in the next 11.5 months, and of that list, 14 are of mild to MAJOR interest to me, as follows:

Feb 16 - Black Panther( HECK YEAH! )
Feb 23 - Annihilation( interesting? )
March 9 - A Wrinkle In Time( kinda...? )
March 16 - Tomb Raider( interesting? )
March 30 - READY PLAYER ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
April 6 - A Quiet Place( Horror, so I may rent and watch it with the lights on )
May 4 - Avengers: Infinity War( mostly interesting? )
May 25 - Solo: A Star Wars Story( interesting? )
June 1 - DEADPOOL 2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
June 15th - THE INCREDIBLES 2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
July 6 - Ant Man and The Wasp( interesting and funny? )
Nov 21 - WRECK-IT RALPH 2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dec 21 - Aquaman ... and also Bumblebee!

As you can see from the list above, many are sequels or reboots, but on the whole everything looks good enough to see in the theatres... which would be a BIG change for me from 2017, where I saw about six films in total on the silver screen.

Of all of them though, it's a three-way tie between Deadpool, Ready Player One and Wreck It Ralph... those three alone will make 2018 a memorable movie year!


Jan 13 – WTF, Hawaii???

For the millions of people living in Hawaii, today was terrifying:


Though it turned out to be a false alarm, I can only imagine the horror and helplessness people were feeling there: there were reports of parents pushing their children down manhole covers into the sewers for shelter, among other things. 

What stunned me though was that so many people were laughing it off online: comments ranged from "great joke!" to "I wouldn't want to live in Hawaii today" to "I keep hoping this isn't a joke" - the last comment should tell you how many Neanderthals are still alive today and learn to use social media.

I never thought that the world could so easily return to the state of fear akin to that of Cuban missile crisis in the sixties, with nuclear annihilation was only a few breaths away. I grew up in the 1980s, with the threat of MAD hanging over all our heads from the US - Russian Cold War standoff, but it was never immediately real because the public wasn't intimately and immediately aware of developments.


Cue Twitter and 45's penis-size contest via nuclear proxy, and here we are today. I can only hope that everyone who voted for 45 had enough of a shock today to begin re-thinking their support of the madman with the nuclear button...


Jan 14 – Life Audits

I spend much of my time thinking, in addition to doing.

While most of my doing is humdrum, day-to-day tasks at work or the samesuch at home, my thinking tends to rove all over the place... or at least, it used to.

For the last few years, much of my thinking has been in 'survival mode' aka how to make money stretch, how to get a better job, how to overcome my health issues. Little time was spent thinking about fun things, or the future, or even interests outside the narrow scope of immediate entertainment, or writing.

Going into 2018 with a better financial sense of how this year is going to turn out month-to-month means that my thinking can finally escape survival mode and get back to the business of living life by examining it from a far freer scope.

Part of that means looking ahead, as I mentioned above: where do I want to be in the near / far term, what do I want to be doing, and how do I want to get there?


As is often the case, LifeHacker has an article on just this sort of thing form back in 2013: Performing A Life Audit. It asks some excellent questions, such as:

·       What life do I want? In 5, 10, 40 years?
·       What areas of my life could be improved?
·       What’s my motivation?
·       What do I believe in?
·       What do I consider essential?
·       What does “meaningful” mean to me?

These questions, among others, will help you get a handle on where you want to be and how you're going to get there. As I described to my girlfriend today over a nice relaxing lunch at Garrick's Head Pub, for years I've felt the disconnection between my knowledge of what I need to do and my ability to achieve it, akin to seeing a series of handholds rising up a wall towards success... but the bottom one is just out of reach, no matter how hard I strained or jumped towards it.

My hope is that a firm financial plan will provide the boost that I need to grasp that first run towards a far better future this year, in all respects of my life.


It's been a good week: while I've made little progress on my novel, I made BIG progress in the financial side of things, and my health's teadily improving( I swam twice this week! )ao I'm going into this coming week with a steady stride...