Sunday, 30 July 2017

Sounds, Stop-Motion and STAR Parties

The word of the week is autarky.
July 24 – Headphones 24/7?

I really love my Parrot Zik headphones.

They create a 'sound bubble' that I can take with me anywhere, protecting me from sounds that I would find irritating or even painful. I especially like using them on the bus, as it cuts out the low-frequency rumbling from the vehicle. The same can be said when I'm walking downtown, as the often-loud noise of traffic( especially large trucks! )almost vanishes, though I always keep the volume low enough that I can still hear exactly what's going on around me to stay safe. And don't get me started on how many motorcycles there are around here...

However, I've also noticed of late that my head hurts.

Specifically, the top of my head hurts if I have my headphones on for more than an hour or so, and it's only started in the last week. Because I'm paying such close attention to my body's idiosyncrasies, I've been able to moderate it with the addition of a thin sponge underneath the headphones while also taking them off as often as possible during the workday. The same goes for when I'm writing at home, where they cut out much of the road noise and other distractions for me.

I'll be keeping an eye on this, as it could a sign of mild occipital neuralgia( not that I'm looking for more trouble! )which also notes a particular sensitivity to light, which I have in spades. I'm going to try just using regular headphones at work for part of each day, to see if that helps relieve pressure on the top of my head.

It won't sound as good as my Ziks, but I think I can live with that if it means fewer migraines and less sensitivity to bright light( am I a mogwai? ).

July 25 – Sound and Goblins

Ah, what might have been...

Thinking back to Spider-Man, the movie that came out in 2002 when Toby McGuire was all the rage along with Kirsten Dunst... the villain was a bit of a let-down.

The Green Goblin should have been a great nemesis for Spider-Man, but he ended up being a bit 'meh' and then got killed off for the rest of the series. Boo!

The Goblin's suit was okay, as was his glider, but it didn't hold a candle to the in-your-face Halloween Monster that was the Goblin of the comics. Crazy AND clever was the order of the day, and William DaFoe wearing a performance-hindering mask in the film didn't help.

Which is why they should have gone with this instead - HOLY CRAPOIDS:

While we're on the on the subject of movie magic, the flipside of incredible special visual effects are the sounds that support them.

Some sound however, are sneaky and underhanded in what they do. I just learned this week about something called the 'Shepard Tone' which Christopher Nolan uses in his films to create tension in the audience. I called sneaky, because it's a device that the director can use that has no audible limit: it just keep going and going! You can listen to a bit of the tone below, but be warned: you should not listen to it for more than a few minutes at a time or you won't be able to stay calm for a while afterwards!

July 26 – Stop-motion Superheroes!

Holy action-figure action antics, Batman!

It's really amazing how easy it is to create incredible works of animated art these days with just the off-the-shelf low-budget tools available to consumers. One type of animation that I love are films made with stop motion, which tend to expensive only in terms of the time it takes to pose each frame for each figure. There's no costs for drawing involved and while the production values may be low, the story and style of animation can elevate things far above grade-school level antics.

Look at this epic battle between Batman and the Joker, and tell me it's not entertaining:

July 27 – A-Hah AR!

One of my favorite music videos of all time is 'Take On Me', by a-ha.

Released in 1985, the music video was the group's only song to reach the Billboard Top 100, due in no small part to the breakthrough rotoscoping animation. I think it still holds up today, even in this age of over-the-top CGI:

But reminiscing about a favorite 80's video of mine isn't why I'm posting this particular piece: it's the as a preface towards the next step in immersive video - Augmented Reality.

And what better way to illustrate the power of immersive Augmented Reality than using a video like Take On Me( itself about the power of shifting reality )to show it off? Check out the new AR app from Trixi Studios( sadly, just a prototype right now and not available yet )that is mind-blowing in how it can 're-shape' the reality that you see through VR glasses:

Most exciting of all, there's news just this week that Wingnut AR, which is film director Peter Jackson's, has been playing with next-gen AR tech... whoa!

July 28 – Blogging Benefits 

Why does one write?

Unsurprisingly, the answer is different for everyone.

Some people do it for pleasure, the act of creation itself giving them satisfaction. Others do it for purely financial reasons, putting 'bread on the table' through their writing. Some writers want to educate their readers, passing on their knowledge and skills through the words on a page. There's even some writers to write to be famous, though usually they're disappointed by how that turns out in the end. Those are just a few of the reasons why some people write.

For me, there's a mix of reasons, but the primary one is to tell a good story.

What I'm deep in the process of creating a good tale, nothing else exists outside the words I'm creating from the story in my head. I enter a sort of mental fugue-state, where I am a conduit between what my minds eye seeing and the words appearing on the page. This is the 'Flow State' that I've mentioned before in this blog, and when I manage to reach it on a good day, it's an incredible feeling.

I also write to relieve stress, to work through my thoughts and feelings, to reach out through my blog for those who want to know how my life is going... these and other reasons all inform my writing. They also help to ensure that I'm writing every day, as every good writer should!

It seems like there are as many reasons as to why people write as there are people. Here's a great list of 30 reasons, many of which I can identify with, especially number 25. The list is worth checking out if you have any inkling towards the written word... because one thing a good writer never does is to stop learning and refining their craft.

EDIT: somehow, my first blog draft didn't mention going out tonight....

In the early evening, my lady and I went to the Sticky Wicket, to bid some good friends goodbye, as they were moving to Ottawa this weekend. There were a good number of folks there, many of them g33ks, and we had a really good time catching up with people.

It was particularly good to chat to people when they asked about my book, since I love to talk about it. I'm thrilled that so many people are keenly interested in reading it, and that acts as incentive for me to finish it soon... and properly. 

But, it can't all be work, so nights like tonight are a balm to a writer's soul. It was fun!

July 29 – Saturn-Day Night!

After spending the entire morning and afternoon editing, I needed a break.

Thankfully, my wonderful girlfriend had suggested that we attend a 'STAR Party' tonight at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. I've been meaning to go there for almost ten years now, its white dome gleaming high atop a hill at the edge of the city.

We were joined by several other people from my lady's poetry group and we all arrived at 7:30 PM, just as cars were being admitted through the main gate. We lined up on the winding road just beyond and soon enough were on our way to the top, where there turned out to be ample parking for dozens of vehicles. What a view!

Left: Downtown and Mountains     Right: The Observatory!

Our group went into the main astrophysical building ( pictured above )for the 'adult tour' of the impressive facility. Built in 1918, the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory was a scientific wonder at the time, remaining one of the world's main astrophysical research centers until the 1960s. The telescope itself was impressive, a huge piece of heavily engineered equipment that moved at the touch of a button with silent grace to point at the skies above.

Big Telescope on the left, model of the Dome on the right

After the 45-minute tour, we walked a short distance over to the Centre Of The Universe( love the name! ), the public interpretive center for the observatory. It's worth noting that the Centre has been run since 2015 by volunteers from the Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory Society (FDAO) since funding was canceled for COTU operations by the federal government in 2013.

The glowing dome on the left held 20 people inside!

My lady and I attended a short 30-minute 'mini-planetarium' session, where young eager volunteers read us through a amusingly cringe-worthy script to take us on a tour of Venus. The little fiberglass dome was rather stuffy from too many people and too little ventilation, but we got through in decent shape. I went looking for a bite to eat, but I was surprised to find that the facility only had a water fountain and some odd-looking ice cream bars for sale. You'd think that the FDAO would have thought a snack machine and a coffee / tea counter would bring in money from the public...?

Once full dark had fallen, we went outside to look through a telescope set up by the volunteers. Right outside the front doors of the COTU was a large refractor trained on Saturn( how appropriate for today, Saturn-Day! ). The image was bright and crisp, allowing me to easily see the distinction between the planet and its rings - wow! Soon enough, the telescope was switched over to Jupiter, showing a large bright dot with four tiny bright beads on a plane along with it, which were just some of its moons!

Left: Presentation at the dome   Right: A friend was at the COTU!

We then went back up to the observation platform inside the observatory, where a presentation had been set up showing the live feed from the telescope. It was crowded and the acoustics were terrible, so we didn't stay too much longer after that, as it was getting late.

Heading home, our group was enthused and excited by our evening. It was inspiring to have been brought so close to touching the stars, making them real in our minds and reminding us that we're very small in a very big and fascinating universe.

July 30 – Feeling... good?

I haven't been in pain much at all this week, apart from a stiff neck - yay!

Yesterday, I had my third deep-tissue massage session and it was again revolutionary in making me feel human once more. Although uncomfortable( as expected )and at times painful during the sessions, afterwards I felt a looseness and limberness in my body that I've been missing for far too long.

As a result, this week I've been able to sit in my chair at work all day( with regular breaks! )without more than the occasional twinge of discomfort. I've been sleeping at night on my angled cushions without any pain whatsoever, which has been a huge blessing, as I've felt my abdominals relaxing to where they are  unnoticeable in the course of my day - a far cry from the tight springs of pain waiting to stab me if I moved in certain directions or just too quickly.

Pretty much... so DO something about the ouches!

I'm hoping that this means that the massage sessions have finally loosened my core muscles from their wound-too-tight-for-months stasis. If so, then I just need to focus on building them back up again slowly through light exercise and paying close attention to any twinges that are happening.

It's also vital that I don't stress out again, but I believe I'm now on the right path in focusing only on my novel edit( 33% done as of today! )and work. No distractions, no unnecessary financial worrying, nothing to cause my core to wind up... I will not subject myself to that again, now that I know it's a possibility if I don't pay attention to how my life stresses can so adversely affect my physical self.

All day today, there’s been numbers of crows hanging around outside my building. They haven’t stopped cawing since 6am, and frankly it would have driven me bonkers hours ago if it hadn’t been for my headphones – yay! I’ve no idea what’s got them upset, as it’s well past nesting season / no babies to fall on the ground, so I’ve just ignored them behind a wall of musical sounds as I wrote and edited today. Magical!