Sunday, 27 March 2016

Superheroes, Spring and Sight

The word of the week is indicative.

Mar 21 – Spring!

Did you know that yesterday marks the earliest arrival of spring in our lifetimes?

I didn't, and I find that fascinating.

Spring is a time of rebirth, of regeneration and renewal, all things that I can relate to this year. As I've said many times in this blog since the summer past, I've got a lot to do and have to ensure that I'm not overextending myself while trying to accomplish it all. My recent anxiety hasn't helped get things done either, but I'm choosing to see it as just one more challenge that I have to overcome to accomplish what I want this year.

Seeing all the fresh life blossoming around me here in Victoria now, I can't help but feel like my spirits are buoyed... and the recent time change has certainly helped as well, ushering in later evenings and earlier mornings both to look forward to. I'll also be thinking about my friends elsewhere, how they're enjoying their spring this year and how soon I might be able to see them again.

Probably not until next spring, at the very least, depending on how this year goes.

Mar 22 – Orthokeratology?

I've had glasses for more than half my life, ever since Grade 8.

While I can see all right without them, my vision is much poorer in my right eye and I can't go too long nowadays without glasses without giving myself a headache from the focus discrepancy. At least modern glasses weigh only a few ounces and aren't anywhere near as heavy as the sliding-prone glass monstrosities I had perched on my nose decades ago.

Still, I regularly wish I could see without them.

Today I went to the eye doctor and got some test pairs of contacts. I'm thinking about getting some monthly-wear one's sometime late this year or next, simply to have the variety available. It's been over 10 years since I last were contacts, mainly because I was working in retail and constantly having to touch your eyes meant I was constantly getting sick from the transfer-germs-contact with people. All the same, it's not advisable to wear contacts at work if you're staring at a screen all day, as that can also lead to headaches and I won't even get into the fun part where the lack of oxygen to your eye( even with today's technology ) means that in the long term, the surface of your eye dies the longer you or your contacts....

But what if you were contacts that reshaped your eyes?

Such is the promise of orthokeratology, contacts that you wear at night to apply pressure to your corneas so that when you wake in the morning, your vision has been corrected - temporarily, at least.

I'm quite leery of laser eye surgery, due to the lack of long-term studies showing its full effects, so hearing about orthokeratology this week is exciting for me. I'm going to investigate it further and see what he can do for me, but I'm quite aware that it too might possibly have side effects; all the more reason to research it.

Maybe I can wear them for the next 10 years, until bionic contacts finally arrive...

Mar 23 – Bike/Car?

Do I need a car? Not really? Could I use a car, though? Well...

Apart from the expense  of owning and operating a vehicle in general, it's great to be able to be able to travel directly to a destination without needing to orchestrate a ballet of bus routes. Especially if your destination is on the other side of the city and taking your own vehicle means that you save at least half an hour trip time total by going directly there and not having to wait for a bus... etc etc.

Time is precious to me these days, so my lack of mobility has been on my mind. I've been considering some ride-share alternatives like Modo, but that requires advanced planning and also that nobody else wants the vehicle at the same time as you need it... who might reserve it first. Then there's the time it takes to walk to the nearest vehicle location, which in my case is at least 15 minutes away.

What if I could get a vehicle that's not a car, but not a scooter either? And definitely not a motorcycle... while still being an environmentally-friendly electric.

Enter the C-1( working title ).

While it looks like an enclosed motorbike, the resemblance ends there. The C-1 is designed to operate like a car, containing extremely advanced technologies like gyroscopes in order to make the driving experience as simple as possible. For someone without motorbike skills like myself, this sounds ideal, as the C-1 can carry one passenger and a small a lot of cargo, or two passengers in a pinch for up to 200 miles on a single overnight charge - perfect for city driving.

While I'm not in love with the current design of the vehicle, it's better in my mind than Smart cars, which sound like rattling refrigerators with wheels to my mind. The C-1 is something that I could park easily on the street and take me wherever I need to go at a moments notice, with no ties to expensive fuel or general maintenance necessary for gas powered vehicles.

While it's too early to tell yet if the C-1 will become a reality, its appearance perhaps heralds the arrival of the pure 'Commuter Electric Car' designed just for city driving.

Hopefully it also heralds the arrival of affordable vehicles in the same category...

Mar 24 – Guess What Arrived Today?

It's here, at last!

After months of work, a package arrived in the mail for me yesterday. After lunch, I excitedly trotted down to the post office to pick it up, lugging it back home in order to free it from its packaging. Have a look:

A little blurry, but at least you can ready the LED: 95 rounds!

Isn't she a beauty? The prop is built around a fully functional Nerf Rapidstrike that's been upgraded with some very high-power motors, meaning it can fire off the entire clip of 12 darks in under 3 seconds: three times as fast as normal! But that's not the point: it looks just like the M41A from the movie Aliens, doesn't it?

The LED counter on the right-hand side is something I'm especially proud of as I managed to find a pair of them for sale on eBay after waiting nearly a year for one the pop-up. There's a fellow on there by the name of Majenko who very occasionally puts up three or four for sale, which go damn fast, but I snagged a couple through persistence and luck. The counters are designed to exactly mimic the function of the M41A as it fires and then is reloaded in the movie, as shown in this test clips sent by the engineer who put my prop together:

Needless to say, I'm extremely pleased with the results and to be honest, a little scared that I still have such a long way to go with my costume before the convention in a couple weeks. While I wasn't able to budget having this prop wired for sound, part of my specifications were that it be pre-wired to allow such an upgrade in the future should I so choose.

For now, I'll just have to make some pew-pew sounds when I fire it...

Mar 25 – Bat vs Cape

It was movie night tonight: Batman versus Superman!


Going in, I'll admit that I deliberately didn't find out much about this film, but not for the reasons you might think. Batman certainly ranks highly in my lists of best superheroes, for many reasons that I won't get into here( apart from being a normal guy without superpowers and the super genius part ). As for Superman, well... he's just the idolized version of what every superhero really should be: a boy scout, with lots of cool powers including flight.

So let's get these two fighting on-screen, and that'll be cool, right?

Sad Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman

Let's start with the visuals: BvS looks great and doesn't suffer from too much SFX overkill like Man Of Steel did( many parts of which were still cool-looking ) as much of the effects budget has gone to serve the story instead of just putting things on the screen to look good.

Speaking of looking good: what about Wonder Woman? Perfect casting! She's underplayed subtly by Gasl Godot, with powers far surpassing that of Lynda Carter's iconic iteration from the 1970s television show, all done in a solid performance that really sells the character while moving it forward significantly.

But back to the title match: it eventually happens, and it's a letdown.

Why? One word: story.

Quite honestly, while I enjoyed the biff-bang-boom action parts of the film, the rest of it was a major letdown, as the story has obviously been cobbled together in order to get these two heroes to fight one another. There's a whole lot of things that don't make sense in the film( 19 of them, in fact! )and in the end I just had to turn off my brain to enjoy watching the film, which looks great in IMAX.

Bottom line Guardians of the Galaxy was much, much better.

Mar 26 – USCM Progress!

Today was mostly spent working on my costume.

My girlfriend had an extremely busy week, so much so that we decided to forgo getting together today so she could just rest, which I can totally understand.

So, I was essentially handed the rest of the day to do with what I pleased, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make some significant progress on my Colonial Marine cosplay. It also helped that it was extremely sunny here this afternoon, so working at the table by the window with all my paraphernalia was great for both light and fresh air.

Most of the secondary parts, excluding the helmet, chest and back plates. You can see on the left a complete shin guard vs one that's just been cut out

The main material on using for the costume is EVA foam, cut from large 8ft x 4ft antifatigue mats: I managed to get two of them for the budget price of $40 total from Canadian Tire on sale a few months ago! There's enough material for me to make a lot of mistakes and still end up with four suits, so I'm pretty happy about that.

While the cutting out of the parts isn't all that complicated, it does require a strong arm and the dense foam dulls blades at a frightening pace. As you can see from the image above, today I managed to cut out all the major and minor pieces, including the leg sections and I even got a few of them shaped with the help of some hot glue. Note to self: hot glue is HOT, so you shouldn't grab any freshly glued parts when you're not looking where your fingers are going...

The biggest challenge for me in the next few weeks, apart from finishing, is going to be the painting of the foam: the finish is key, and foam isn't smooth when you paint it with standard paints. I'll have to pick up some latex paint on the cheap ( from Canadian tire again )this week, so I can have time to do multiple layers while they dry for a day or so in between. It's going to be a challenge to keep them in my apartment while they dry without stinking the place up, I have to say.

Even with all the above challenges, I'm excited to be creating something so cool!

Mar 27 – Resting

I took a bit of a break today from the costuming, only cutting out a few replacement parts to substitute for ones that I've managed to screw up in some way. Plus I needed to get my arm a rest from all the cutting.

My girlfriend and I spent the morning and early afternoon together, taking a walk around and enjoying the flowers blooming everywhere in Victoria:

I took these on our walk today in Beacon Hill Park

I also caught up on a few more episodes of the wonderful Netflix-original anime TV series Knights of Sidonia, which is a scifi feast! in a nutshell: some of the last survivors of earth have fled the ravages of an alien species they don't understand it is still trying to destroy the seedship Sidonia as it travels to what the humans hope is a new world to begin again:

The premise is excellent and the science surprisingly sound for show with giant mecha in the traditional Japanese style. The story centers around pilots of the Gardes, which is what the Mac are called, and their defense of Sedonia from the Guana, which are the aliens. While the writing isn't stellar, and it's rather heavy on too-many-names and too-many-interpersonal-relationship stories, the overall plot has been engaging and I'm looking forward to learning more about the universe that's been created in which the story is set.

I'm going to add 'Figure out why Google Drive isn't uploading my pictures automatically' to my long list of Things To Do in 2016. Already on that list: fix Plex so that all the movies I copied from my DVD collection actually show up, finish scanning and organizing my book collection, check my few dozen laserdiscs for warpage... the List goes on and on, and that's not even THINKING about getting my novels completed or getting my new business running in the summer. I wonder if I can take a paid sabbatical from my day job for a few months...?