Sunday, 29 November 2015

Life, Lemons and Laserdiscs

The word of the week is somnolent.

Nov 23 – Life

Things are going well these last 6 months.

My job’s stable and not too stressful( though busy ). My girlfriend’s all kinds of superlatives( wonderful / amazing / incredible / brilliant )and we’re very happy to spend our free time together. While my writing has been on hold since the summer, the ideas are still percolating in my brain and I'm pleased to know that the characters are being patient with me while I wait to get the story threads in order. I'm even finally getting my finances in order, to the point where I might even start to be able to put money away again beyond what I'm saving for retirement.

Wouldn’t that be something?

I really do need to exercise more, however. I've noticed that since I've stopped biking altogether the last six months, my energy levels have dwindled significantly of a day. By early evening, I'm feeling tired and my bedtime has crept forward to well before 11 PM most nights – or earlier.

While that also means I get up correspondingly early, it does tend to throw me off, in that while it up well before 7 AM every day, I don't seem to have enough time to do much productive work before I have to leave in the morning to get to my job.

Some changes may be in order. I'm thinking I may block out a half-hour( or more ) in the morning to do some writing every day, in order to catch myself when I've first woken up and thus in closest to my creative dreamtime. I may even be able to put myself to bed the night before with certain thoughts on subjects and see how those ferment overnight into the morning writing sessions.

Nov 24 – Laser mania?

This week, I’ve become a bit obsessed… over image.

Image quality, that is.

I possess the complete series of Babylon 5 on DVD, along with the DVD movies, and I've always been dissatisfied with how poorly the video effects were transferred. There's all sorts of  distracting video artifacts, juddering, moire patterns and other ugly things that stem from poor editing decisions by those who put the DVDs together from the original source material. Admittedly, there wasn't a lot to work with, as all of the original masters are lost somewhere in the Warner Bros. media archives - nobody seems to know where they are and as the archives of the size of a small city, it's not likely that they will ever surface before they completely degrade in another decade or so.

Enter the laserdisc.

Back in the early 2000's, some of the B5 seasons were released on laserdisc, which was still the highest quality video storage medium at the time. I didn't realize that enough of the disks were released that some are obtainable on eBay now and then, so I've been looking for the last few weeks to see what I can scare up as well as what has been on sale in the last few months. I'm hopeful that I can find a fair number of the laserdiscs for not-too-much outlay each, which from what I've seen would be around $20 or less individually and far less than that if I managed to find a lot-sale.

The laserdisc players are a different story. While there's quite a few of them for sale, the video quality of most is nothing to write home about and unlike DVD players, laserdisc players are far more prone to breakdowns due to the combination of high rotational speed and the inertia of such a large disk spinning at said speed. Meaning that the supply of players, while substantial, has shrunk every year as parts wear out and people don't bother to repair them due to their obsolescence. The average laserdisc player runs about $100 with shipping, which is reasonable, but the better quality players( of which there aren't all that many left )cost easily 3 to 4 times that amount – ouch!

We'll see what the next few months of searching brings. Here’s hoping!

Nov 25 – Creative Nibbles

My muse has been stirring of late.

Having recently taken care of the many bothersome details of things financial, coupled with the improvements I've been cultivating in my personal life, has meant a reduction of stress – in general – overall.

Less stress means less worry and therefore more time for creative thoughts.

Time is a tricky thing when it comes to writing: let too much pass and things you thought you knew tend to get muddled, while pushing your creativity often jumbles those same thoughts all up. There's a certain wisdom to knowing how your creative process works and how the timing goes.

Right now I'm in an in-between place, waiting to kick-start the slumbering fires of my Muse back into full burn sometime early in the New Year. More thoughts have been surfacing of late concerning my trilogy, tiny little pieces clicking together here and there, over and over, feeling in the smaller gaps around the main question marks still remaining in my head.
That's a good feeling, a sign that my Muse is beginning to stir again in earnest.

Once I get back into my writing, I intend to finish off my second book in one continuous shot, probably in a timeframe of no more than a month or two maximum. I have to inhabit the world completely while I'm doing that, with very little else on my mental plate so that I can simply step into it as needed while things are fresh and bubbling in the creativity pot of my brain.

It will be full steam ahead in the New Year, very soon indeed.

Nov 26 – Tablet Travails

My tablet experiment has been a mixed bag.

On the one hand, I’ve managed to upgrade my ASUS TF300T to the latest Android Lollipop 5.1 version, which has made it snappy and responsive again – almost like a new tablet.

Unfortunately, it also resets randomly. Often.

So often that it got stuck in a loop this week so unrecoverable that I had to let the battery die in order for me to be able to even diagnose the problem. Such are the foibles of custom ROM installs.

While I may be able to burn a different ROM onto it, I don't want to have to keep doing that, as it's a long and involved process that I'm finding me still have nasty bugs hidden inside due to the fact that these are ROM software packages designed by enthusiasts and not major companies.

On the other hand, I could try to get a newer tablet…

Except that I don't want to pay many hundreds of dollars for something that I'll use perhaps once a day: reading ebooks, a few games, checking email… small tasks and ones well-suited to an older tablet like I have, albeit one that doesn't suddenly reset at the drop of a hat.

I did find out today that Telus has just started offering a ‘Tablet Plan’ where you can purchase a newer tablet for less than $20 /month… over 2 years, which is reasonable. I have my eye on a Samsung Tab A which has decent specs, better than my TF300T and there's no goofy reset bug to boot as the software is the original that comes installed with the tablet. I could upgrade to a Samsung S2 tablet, but that would mean a substantial outlay in addition to the monthly cost and I think I'd be better off just looking for last year’s Galaxy Tab S on eBay.

Any of the Samsung tablets I’ve mentioned would be plenty fast enough for me to use without frustration and avoid the issues of limited space, as they have expandable SD card slots. I just have to decide how much money I’m willing / able to spend for what I want to do with them daily.

Nov 27 – Seven Years

My musical tastes are… eclectic, to be kind.

It may surprise you from interventionists, as I don't usually talk about music. I like things that are mainly top 40s, with some indy bands, classical music… and Enya.

Enya’s my go-to artist when I need to relax and shift my mind into creative gear – bar none. Her music has been a mainstay of my mind’s happy places for twenty years, and happily so.
Today she released a new album, her first in seven years.

It’s interesting to be an Enya fan /enthusiast, as I am at once looked at askance by other people while knowing inside that the music really connects with me on many levels. Kinda like a metalhead zen practitioner who paints rolling fields of peaceful grass and flowers.

I was surprised, nay delighted this week to discover this article that delves wonderfully well into the private artistic world of Enya. It gives a rare insight into how she's managed to have her music means so much to millions yet avoided all the pitfalls and trappings such fame usually brings while retaining her creative freedom. Her contract allows at least three years between albums, and she's always worked with the same creative team since her very first album release in the 1990s.

I'll most likely be picking up her Dark Sky Island album in the next few days to give it a listen and added to my extensive playlist on my phone. By now so many of the songs are part of my thought processes that I think some of my neurons are tuned to each note pattern.
Which is a good thing, as my creativity is tangled up in there too.

Nov 28 – Black Friday Blahs

What happened out there yesterday?

While Canada seems to have adopted the US commercial-crazy Black Friday moniker in the last few years, it doesn't seem like the discounts seen south of the border have made it up here as well.

Looking over the flyers this week, I didn't see a single thing I wanted to spend money on.
Sure, there were some cool things, but not at prices I was reluctantly willing to part with cash or credit for. For whatever the reason, most of the tech products I saw could be found at very similar prices during other times of the year on sale - there is no compelling reason to get out of bed today, sale-wise, that I could see.

It makes me wonder what Boxing Day’s going to bring.

Not that I'm really into shopping for technology these days; I simply like to keep my toe in the water so I have an idea of what's out there and what the general price ranges for items are - just in case. I have pretty much everything I need and everything else is basically a luxury or unnecessary save for the g33k factor; who the hell really needs a curved 4K TV right now, anyway?

Well. There's always next year, though we'll see if the retailers learn anything from US sales practices: you can't bring in customers if they’re savvy enough to shop online and educate themselves enough to see that your prices aren't actual incentives but merely window-dressing.

Nov 29 – Bright Sun Day

What a gorgeous weekend!

I spent most of it with my lady, enjoying the cloudless blue sky( not so much the cold ) and reveling in the fact that I didn't have a headache from the high pressure, for once. We got out and about, seeing the city while the Sun was up and keeping our toes from freezing after had gone down at a far-too-early time in the afternoon. Babylon 5 has figured prominently on our watch list of late.

I also was at the optometrist’s today to get my eyes checked out, as it’s been a year since my last visit and I really need to get a prescription for reading glasses. AS my eyes have aged, in the last couple of years my minimum focus distance has been moving further and further away, so reading's tricky and I have to take off my regular glasses just to focus up close.

The optometrist did give me a jolt today while examining my eyes: he said my optic nerves looked ‘a little odd’ which made my heartrate jump. Fortunately, he immediately followed up with “But it’s nothing to be really worried about and probably related to the early stages of glaucoma’ which he then said is easily controlled nowadays.


Here I thought my being light-sensitive and experiencing the effects of post-age-40 nearsightedness was enough to keep on top of… but heck, why not add glaucoma to the list? I told myself on off today that I needn't worry and by the evening, I've managed to convince myself of it.

Later, my family went out for dinner to celebrate my dad’s 68th birthday in style, dining at Il Covo in James Bay, which is a lovely Italian restaurant tucked away in one of the quieter sections of Victoria:

I’d never been there and I was impressed with both the decor and the food, which combined with the excellent service made it a memorable evening. Happy Birthday, dad!

That's about all I've got; it's nearly 10:30pm and my eyes are getting pretty heavy. I've a lot to do this week, including ordering some new glasses, writing a presentation on poetry and maybe even rebuilding my desktop PC, in addition to work and regular writing. For which I need my sleep...