Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sight Surprises, Superbooks and Senescence

The word of the week is senescence.

Aug 1 – Fan Film? Yes, Please!

Why am I only finding out about this 2 months later?

On June 6th 2016, the amazing fan film below was released on YouTube:


It's really incredible to see what dedicated fans who are passionate about their hobbies can do. I just can't get over how well-made the film was given the low budget and the fact that it's just a bunch of amateurs putting it together: no film professionals or special effects artists, just passionate people who together celebrate their love of G1 Transformers.

I should also note that because of the Internet, people who are passionate about their fandoms can find each other far more easily these days. It makes collaborative projects such as this one possible, and for that I'm quite glad.

More, please!

Aug 2 – Blind Surprise

It's one of my biggest fears, and many others: Losing my sight.

Because we're such visual creatures, the prospect of losing your sight scares most people silly, and I'm not immune to such fears, I admit. As a writer however, I'm somewhat better equipped to cope with losing my site if it happens, as I've learned to use my voice to type rather than my hands using software on my PC. All the same, I don't have any desire to know what it's like to lose my vision, as I've had corrective glasses for most of my life for my vision and I'm quite attuned to ensuring that any changes get looked at immediately by my doctor.

Which is why it was such a shock to find out that one of my favorite writers - JMS, the creator of Babylon 5 - has been nearly blind for the last 10 years. This is what his monitor looked like recently while doing some writing:


Just today, J. Michael Straczynski let the folks who follow him know that after a decade of trying to find the proper combination of surgeries to correct his eyesight, just this year his hope finally came true and he was able to have his eyes operated on, with these results:

Seven days after the first surgery, I was seeing 20/25. The next surgery had similar results, with no side-effects or complications. As I write these words, I’m seeing better than I’ve seen in my entire life: 20/25 in both eyes. I can read license plates, see the leaves on trees…ever day I’m astonished by the new-found beauty of the world.
 Best of all, I was up to full speed behind the keyboard for the first time, writing more and better and faster than I had in almost ten years. Eager to start planning out my workload for the rest of the year, I began to lay out the spec screenplays I wanted to write, and the new television series that I wanted to develop. 
It is astonishing to me that such a prolific writer and creative force could be so handicapped by his vision that his output dropped to the point where he was struggling to keep up with only one or two projects at a time, compared to a dozen or more back in the early 2000s. What's as astonishing is that his horrible experience mirrored my own imagined one where my eyesight begins to go, and I had no idea that one of my favorite writers was going through such an awful time.

I'm glad he's back to full steam now. I can only hope that if and when it ever comes to it, that bionic eyes will be an option and I'll be able to get some really cool cybernetic implants...


Aug 3 – Senescence

Are there really creatures on earth that are immortal?

As a matter-of-fact: yes. Some kinds of fish, invertebrates and even plants like trees all exhibit a total lack of aging, according to studies. They only die due to accidents, disease or predators - not old age.

Among these few lucky creatures are crocodiles, who scientists discovered years ago do not suffer the effects of aging - called senescence - as do almost every other creature on earth. Crocodiles do not suffer any of the effects of old age, but just keep growing as long as their environment provides them enough food to eat: they can grow to monstrous size, as this photo from 1956 shows:

Almost 30 feet long!

It's a fascinating science, the study of aging and I'm interested to see what advances will be making in the next few decades, for obvious reasons: I'd like to keep my body going a lot longer than the average human biological functions will let me. I'm not sure if in another 40 or 50 years if cyborg replacement parts will be up to the point where they'll allow decades or even centuries more life for humans( or if those technologies arrive it totally affordable to the average person )but it gives me hope to see that some of the creatures that share planet already exhibit no signs of being affected by the ravages of age.

I'm sure the crocodiles shed no tears for us, however.


Aug 4 – Eternal Electronics?

Can a phone also be a laptop?

Apparently so, according to a recent Kickstarter called the Superbook, which aims to combine the convenience of a smart phone with the screen and keyboard of a laptop - no small feat, that.

That's a fantastic price, even in USD!

Everything's all about economics these days when it comes to electronics, as smart phones have proven quite capable of replacing multiple categories of devices with just one smart phone. Yet many folks are still using laptops for working with larger amounts of data or typing rather than deal with the tiny screens( and lack of keyboards )that while are the portability strength of smart phones, are also their biggest handicap. Given that most modern smart phones cost as much as a laptop, it only makes sense that any device to add onto a smart phone be as inexpensive as possible, otherwise you'd just buy a laptop if the price point difference was too similar to matter.

The Superbook aims to change this by plugging in an 11-inch screen / keyboard combo to your smart phone and using the powerful hardware of that device to run programs just like you would on a laptop. It's a sound concept and as a bonus, it makes the Andronium device far more portable, as there's no need for much of the internal laptop electronics such as a processor inside nor the cooling for same.

I'm debating signing up before the Superbook Kickstarter ends in two weeks. While I already have a laptop, my sister does not and it would make perfect sense for her to use this kind of device both at home or while out and about other day. She's definitely not one to haul a laptop around for only a few minute's use in a day, however convenient it would be to have a full-size screen and keyboard to do work on.

The best part? Whenever you upgrade to your next smartphone, the more powerful hardware means your portable experience with the Superbook will be even better. It's like having a infinitely upgradable laptop: full of win!

I love ideas such as this one, that leverage one technology's power to make it better without adding significant extra cost. It's exciting to think of what sort of technologies will come along and next five years to improve our mobile information abilities even more.


Aug 5 – Now THAT's a collection...

A laserdisc collection for the Ages!

I follow a few laserdisc groups online, both on websites and on FBook, mainly because that's where collectors like myself go to exchange information, tips and mainly just to hang out with like-minded people. All sorts of interesting things get posted and discussed, and lucky finds are some of the most fun things to see.

Like this one:

No ... words...

Apparently, this was the personal collection of one of the first Pioneer Laserdisc dealers in North America, consisting of thousands of laser disk, most of which were still sealed when the group member came by to make an offer for good portion of the items you see above. It's not for the faint of wallet, however, as even a good deal would probably run around $5000 USD for everything you see, plus some other items that are outside the frame of the photo.

Impressive. Most impressive....


Aug 6 – Gliding In From Crazytown

My work-week ended smoothly today, for which I was quite grateful.

Although this was only a four-day work-week for me because of the holiday on Monday( BC Day! )the entire week was a solid grind from the word go. Being the beginning of the month, we were inundated with calls and e-mails, to the point where I actually lost track of time at several points on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Fortunately, we have three new trainees and they really stepped up this week to pick up their share and more of the work that was flooding in. I'm extremely impressed with the calibre of people that have been hired, not only for their skills but for the happy attitude they've all brought to what could've been extremely stressful introduction to our office given how crazy it was this week and last.

While no small part of their introduction was due to the training they've received today( small pat on my own back here )it's only under pressure that we began to see how someone really can perform and these three have been greatThanks to their help, we managed to finish off the week solidly, with almost everything caught up to the point where we can actually look to do other things such as cross-training. It's gratifying to know that while we were up to our necks in craziness at the start of the week, we all pulled together and ended the rush four days later with a smooth glide into the weekend.

One more reason to like, even love, my current workplace.


Aug 7 – This And That

What to do with an early day...?

Unusually, I woke up at 6 AM this morning, far too early for a Sunday. As everyone else was still sleeping and I couldn't get back to sleep myself, I decided to do update my research on Tiny Homes as it's been about six months since I really dug into what the state of the markets at right now.

In brief: it's grown, and there's a lot more options out there now.

Small, pic: click for BIG details!

I won't bore you with the details( see pic above! )but it's still looking good that I might put a 'total home package' together that the bank will consider funding. I've also come up with a few ideas of my own to help with one of the biggest obstacles, which is collateral versus risk: unlike larger homes, many Tiny Homes are built on trailers and so can be easily moved, something that the banks don't like as you can literally drive away with their investment of many tens of thousands of dollars.

It's still a work in progress, and I'll update you here when I have more to go on.

Weekend-wise, it was pretty relaxed overall around here. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon gaming with a few friends, playing more than a few sessions of SmashUp! and SmallWorld, the latter of which I've not played before but thoroughly enjoyed for both its speed and light-fantasy elements. Good times.

Today, my lady and I took it easy with a relaxed breakfast out at Adrienne's in Cadboro Bay, then visited my mumm for a few hours, which went over well with everyone involved. I'm really pleased that my girlfriend and my family get along so well, just as I do with her parents who visited last weekend: again, good times.

Not surprisingly after an early day, I was feeling tired by the early evening around my usual blog posting time, so after dinner and some exercise-biking, I polished this week's entry up at 8 PM and called it a night, retiring to read a little bit before sleep takes me into its welcome fuzzy embrace.


There's been no sign of Crazy Window Woman this week, but all the same we've requested the property owners to install a security light outside in that area, to deter any such incidents in the future - damned scary, random people banging on your window and yelling, late at night.