Sunday, 6 November 2016

Candles, Calculators and Curiosity

The word of the week is pithy.

Oct 31 – Spooky!

Happy Halloween!

I didn't end up going out trick-or-treating tonight, but that was all right as I had a good time this past weekend at the Halloween party I mentioned last week.

Getting dressed up in a costume has always been a fun thing to do for me, ever since I was a little kid. Being able to put on another persona and parade around in public without recrimination does have its appeal, as many people will attest were no cosplayers.

Still, some costumes are more special than others; take, for example, these custom Star Wars  costumes from the set of the Empire Strikes Back - used for child extras to help sell the forced perspective scale of the Hoth hangar set:

I would have given away a ton of toys to wear one of these that Halloween in 1980...

And: a Giant Spider, just because.

Nov 1 – It’s… purple?

Bit of tech arrived today: a Darbee 5000S!

For those of you who don't know, this is a wonderful little gizmo that takes a mediocre image and through the magic of technology( an 'unsharp mask algorithm' ) adds depth cues to both 2-D and 3D high-definition video.

I anticipated that this would allow my low-end industrial laser disk to look like a much higher end unit, of which I've had two arrive damaged in transit to and no intent of purchasing a third unless I can carry it on my back all the way home from whatever far-off place I managed to procure it from.

Here's a great interview about the Darbee, and the wonders it can work:

When I was ready this evening, I looked it up to my laser disk output and spun up a copy of Alien, to check out the effect that the Darbee had in its various modes. I was impressed by how much better it made 'soft' images like faces, when they filled filled at least a third of the screen and close-ups, and the same went for any outer space images: everything 'popped' in terms of depth quite nicely. I also hooked up the unit to my PC, to play Netflix videos as well as MWO, and again in both regards I was quite impressed with how much clarity it added to the image overall.

However, there were some major issues. The first was this:

That should be a black background for my desktop

The image hue for some reason shifts to purple, and I have to unplug the power from the Darbee in order to fix things - not good, and it happened a half-dozen times tonight.

The second issue is the audio: the HDMI signal will drop out into a 'buzz' that again necessitates that I unplug the Darbee and reset things - again, not good.

Considering it's not a $19.99 Chinese knockoff, I expected far better reliability out of the box, and pending the results of a tech support email to Darbee, I'll be returning it most likely next week, as part of their 30-day money-back guarantee.

A damn shame, because I had high hopes for watching Babylon 5 with enhanced CGI shots... the few scenes I tested tonight looked stunning, but that's life.

*cut to me banging my head on a wall and cursing - again*

Nov 2 – WHAT did you just say?

Sometimes, life sends you a shocker out of nowhere, like today.

An innocent email to a good friend today resulted in an answer that made me go  "Whaaaaaaa?" in utter surprise.

They'd had open-heart surgery a few weeks ago, and were now off work for three months.

*long deep breath*

I'd had no inkling that my friend needed such surgery, nor had been going in for such -not that I can do anything about it to help, at that.

But it made me realize in a rush that my close friends and I have reached the age where Things start to Happen over which we don't have much control and sometimes don't even see coming - I certainly didn't see this today, that's for sure.

I'm obviously relieved in the extreme that my friend came out of the surgery intact and is doing well in their recovery, but it was still a shock to hear about it afterwards - to hear them call it 'interesting' was I think the understatement of the year.

I'm not have to process this for a little bit, but one things for sure: it reinforces the old wisdom that were only here for a short time and need to make the most of things.

Nov 3 –  Quit Watching TV=TIME!

How much time do you spend watching TV?

A better question would be: what would you do with all that time if you stopped?

There's a neat tool called the Omnicalculator, which lets you plug in all sorts of things and fiddle with the results in a simple yet satisfying manner. For the purpose of what I've mentioned today, if you stopped watching two hours of TV a day, you could accomplish all sorts of things, like biking or learning a new skill or even reading a few more books a year... well, a lot more books per year:

Go have a try, and then check out all the other calculations that OmniCalc has to offer - it sure beats hand-programming an Excel spreadsheet yourself!

Nov 4 – SOTDC Arrives!

Oh my... about time!

My signed copy of Shadows of the Dark Crystal arrived today, straight from it's author's hands to me from New York City - I am beyond excited!

Yet, when I opened the box, I had a strange feeling of déjà vu pass over me and I stopped for a minute to think about why... then it came to me.

This could have been my book, if I'd won the AuthorQuest 3 years ago. It could've been my name on the cover, and my bank account would've been $10K USD better off... but that didn't happen, and yet I'm still connected to the Jim Henson company through the friendships I made when I traveled to NYC in October 2013.

Plus, I must admit, my vision of the world of The Dark Crystal probably wouldn't have meshed with what the Hensons had in mind, after speaking with JM Lee, the author of SOTDC. After all, his vision was the one they chose, and now I have the chance to read it through, page by page, enjoying every line.

Even better, I'll be able to chat with the author afterwards, at a level very few readers, or even fans, would be afforded: he'd like to hear my thoughts, and I'll oblige.

That, I think, is more than I ever could've asked for, as only a runner-up.

Nov 5 – Strange Coincidence?

Life is full of little coincidences, but sometimes you really have to pay attention to notice them properly.

Like tonight, when after seeing Dr. Strange( it was great, a solid and fun CBM )my lady and I decided to have dinner at Fiamo, a charming downtown Italian restaurant neither of us have been to before. Even though it took a while for the huge party of teenage girls sitting next to us to pack up and leave, we had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed the old-time exposed-brick decor of the interior. It was a lovely, romantic evening.

And... the magic followed us as we went to have some after-dinner beers!

We stopped at the Breakwater Café, finding a small table in the corner facing the Breakwater for which the café was named and listening to the acoustic ministrations of a live guitar player who nailed the whole selection of popular 90 songs that brought smiles to both their faces.

The Mystic Candle Of Coincidence...

What amaze us both is that out of all places we could have picked, both restaurants had the same strange-looking candles on some of the tables, as you can see above. Neither of us have ever seen them anywhere else before and we found it curiously coincidental that both of the places we visited tonight had these on candles on the table. It must be magic... and speaking of which:

Also: 40 days until Rogue One!

Nov 6 – More Magic

Life's great, some days.

Amazingly, I spent most of today with my girlfriend, which hasn't happened in quite a long time as we've both been quite busy of late, and I haven't been in the best shape to boot, what with walking with a cane( or walker )since the summer.

Today we ate lunch at Swan's Brewpub as the clouds disappeared, sitting in the conservatory patio in the bright sunshine; it wasn't crowded at all. We had brought along a bag full of two-player boardgames that we haven't played in a long time: three games of Hive were followed by two games of Dragonwood, and we fully enjoyed the utterly relaxing sensation of each other's company - as it turned out, we each won two games and ended with a draw in Hive.

Afterwards, I had to take a walk as my girlfriend ran her poetry group; I've been sitting too long and couldn't find a comfortable position, which happens of late. I hobbled a few doors down to Cavity Curiousity shop, which as I've mentioned before has an incredibly well-curated collection of sci-fi and fantasy books, as well as many other things of interest to the g33ky set - it's where have my laserdisc player, after all.

Upstairs( not an easy task for me right now )I found that the somewhat untidy items for sale had been replaced by a neat set up: The Vorpal Gnome was the name of the new tiny shop! One entire wall was full of nothing but fantasy books, while the other was taken up by racks of RPG books, including many old Dungeons & Dragons modules!

Trust me, that's a LOT of GOOD fantasy books there!

Oversee it all was a guy who turned out to be someone very similar in taste and circumstance to myself: he'd grown up on reading many of the books so neatly stacked on the shelves at hand and was a writer to boot. We got to chatting and before I knew it well over an hour had passed and I had to get back to the coffee shop next door before a search party was sent out.

I left shaking my head again at how some things in life seem so coincidental and yet afterwards feel like you are in the exact right place at the right time - my heading into Cavity today was was certainly one of those times and I am hopeful that this chance meeting will end up benefiting both myself and my new acquaintance.

I'm hurting and tired and happy and contemplative all the same time, which is rather taxing on me, so I think I'm going to go to bed early tonight and try to catch up on the sleep I missed this morning by waking up at 5AM, thanks to the time change.