Lunar Bovine – Jason Cobill's Weblog

Centerpointe Library Imagine Space

April 23rd, 2014 · Observations, Ottawa

I attended the opening of the Imagine Space at the Centerpointe Library tonight, and they had a pretty slick setup! Two crazy high-quality 3D resin deposition printers, a laser cutter, a 3d scanning station, some video equipment – the US Embassy spent some big bucks putting together a workshop to attract serious maker-types.

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I’m really looking forward to trying out some of their machines. The services seem to all be free with a library card, but printing costs $0.30/gram of plastic (but a little goes a long way when you properly hollow out your objects). They have a staff on hand to answer questions and if you’re really green at this stuff they can walk you through the entire process, end to end.

I have a feeling I’m going to spend a lot of time there! ;)

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Reviews! Reviews!

April 23rd, 2014 · Review

A bunch of things I’ve seen lately!

The Secret Life of Walter MittyLoved it! – As a chronic daydreamer I could definitely associate with Ben Stiller’s character, a magazine photo editor who’s head in the clouds prevents him from experiencing the adventures going on around him. I really loved the cinematography in this movie, and the message really hit home, even if it was a bit heavy-handed at times. There’s a bunch of really clever jokes in the film, although it’s not structured like a typical comedy. Pretty high-brow stuff for Ben Stiller, and it was really fantastic.

FrozenPretty good – Disney’s second digitally animated tentpole movie was pretty solid, although I think it suffered for all the hype. I didn’t find the music particularly exceptional, but the visuals were beautiful and well executed. I have a few problems with the plotline, but it’s a kid’s movie, and certainly it must seem very reasonable to a kid to lock yourself in a room for 15 years rather than deal with the fact that you have incredibly useful super powers.

Captain America : The Winter SoldierRad! – I have to hand it to the Marvel people for making Captain America more compelling than I had expected. After dimension-hopping Thor and robot-army Ironman films, I expected “Slightly tougher and faster” Steve Rogers to underwhelmingly punch and run his way through a series of badguys. Instead we got a weirdly dark political thriller attached to a pretty capable action film, with a 3rd act spectacle that was really satisfying. Double-kudos to them for including The Falcon, although that guy can’t rely on stealing backpacks if he’s going to keep saving the world. ;)

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Stairwell

April 21st, 2014 · Observations, Ottawa, Photography

Just sharing a moment from my life – this is the view down the stairwell I descend at the end of every work day. They don’t build back stairwells like they used to – lovely white marble steps and shaped steel railings all the way down. Not many people even know this stairwell exists, I think, since most offices connect out to the grand main stairwell at the front of the building.

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The Epic Saga of the Giant TV

April 21st, 2014 · Observations

So I’ve talked a few times about how, for a handful of years back in the early 2000s when my career doing graphics stuff started to take off,  I had a pretty nomadic lifestyle. I got pretty good at not having stuff, but one of the things I’d weirdly craved while I was abroad were DVDs. I know it sounds stupid, but after years without a TV I was deliriously in love with the idea of watching a movie in my own living room.

When I finally had a semi-permanent home base in Winnipeg, even before I had furniture, I decided it was time for a TV. At the store, though, I was swept up with a kind of television fever. The most amazing television, a high-definition colossus of plastic and glass, cast some kind of spell on me. I was working in the movie business, right? I mean it’s practically a necessity! I work so hard, I deserve it! It was like a bomb had gone off in my brain, and … my wallet. ;)

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In hindsight, it was an incredibly stupid purchase – but I was in love. The TV was gorgeous. With an up-scaling progressive-scan DVD player and a quickly expanding library of classics I was in freeze-framing, picture-in-picture, high definition heaven.

…until my next move. A friend was moving out of his deeply coveted heritage building apartment and I grabbed up his lease – except there were no elevators and the TV (despite being mostly hollow) weighed a ton and had to be handled delicately. Move after move since then I foolishly hung on to my beastly television, convincing myself that it was a modest investment to hire movers to take care of. Eventually, it made it into the storage pod (because there was barely enough room) and came across the country with us on a move to Ottawa, hopping from apartment to apartment while we found a place to settle down.

Finally, in the basement of our home (in which we intend to stay forever) 12 years after it first captured my heart, it’s journey has come to an end. The blue tube popped, cursing the inhabitants of television-land to a bleak future trapped in a green-tinted matrix world. With a last heave up a stairwell and through our side door, we put it out for garbage collection with the banana peels and bags of yard waste.

It was gone less than an hour later – I like to imagine some electronics guru has transplanted in a new blue projector and it’s living out it’s life playing My Little Pony episodes to children in an orphanage or something. (But the truth is it’s probably been recycled for wire and components)

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Ms. Marvel!

April 8th, 2014 · Observations, Review

I had to wait for the second printing of the new Ms. Marvel comic after the first imprint sold out, but the silver lining is that issue 2 hit the shelves at the same time and I got to read them together!

So “mainstream” comics have a number of complicated reputation problems – among them women and non-caucasian ethnicities and cultures not being well represented. There’s a can of worms discussion around this that I can talk for hours about, but fundamentally I think it’s an audience problem, and the people at Marvel should be applauded for taking a business risk and making an effort at broadening the cultural and ethnic backgrounds of their characters in recent years. I think it may be the key to their survival as a company, since their profit stream is based around licensing characters people admire and associate with.

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Enter Ms. Marvel! She’s Kamala Khan, Pakistani-american schoolgirl and fan-fiction writer, who can transform from mild-mannered Muslim girl to powerful shape-shifting superhero. The art is fantastic, a bright and vivid watercoloury style filled with hilarious little background details and clever framing and layouts. My first read took ages to get through, because I just had to stop and drink in every panel. (The trade-off is that the art takes so long it’s only printed monthly, which is a snail’s pace!)

The writing is solid and humorous without being patronizing or preachy. I was really worried this was going to be a “knock you over the head constantly that she’s muslim” thing, but I feel like they’re telling a superhero story with an authentic muslim teen perspective. It’s treated with respectful humour through most of the book -  the opening scene has her agonizing over the tantalizing smell of bacon (sure to be her kryptonite in later books). :) The first book is a bit heavier on her ethnic background than future books probably will be, it’s an origin story after all, but I feel like her Muslim-ness isn’t the point of the story. She’s cheeky, smart, and ready to kick butt.

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My only beef is that so far, two issues in, she hasn’t been up to much super stuff! I know, I know, it’s an origin story. Epic storylines take time to develop! She’s got no enemies or disasters to overcome just yet, but as a blank slate, anything could happen!

I’m really looking forward to future issues – she’s a lot of fun and I like her attitude. I hope she’s enough of a financial success to warrant continuing her story. It hit #1 on the digital comics sales side but ran out of first printings on the shelves which limited her sales numbers, last I read she was tracking at #24 (which isn’t great for print sales). Hopefully public interest runs strong for a while, and this isn’t just a fleeting curiousity.

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Poutine Festival

March 27th, 2014 · Ottawa, Review

The Poutine Festival is on at the university – at lunch a swarm of chip trucks show up on campus to peddle their gourmand variants on the delicious Gravy/Fries/Cheese Curd Quebecois recipe.

Behold the Shwarma Poutine – it’s not going to win any prizes for looks (like something a dog might yack up) but it was an unexpectedly strong contender for my best of the fest pick. The standard trio of fries, curds and gravy make up the base, but our inspired chef threw on chunks of slow-roasted shwarma chicken, fried onions and mushrooms, and a layer of garlic sauce that bled down into the mix. I was cynical at first, but the garlic and gravy were actually a power couple – it was like an explosion of flavour. Word of warning though – you’re going to need the whole box of breath mints when you’re done or everyone’s going to know exactly what you ate.

ShwarmaPoutine

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Alluring

March 27th, 2014 · Ottawa, Review

While Natasha was shopping for clothes I ran next door to check out “Sail”, an outdoorsy store at the Trainyards in Ottawa. They’ve got a pretty huge space, and have an impressive selection of camping gear, sports clothing and gadgets. I was a bit surprised to see the hunting section upstairs – I’ve seen guns for sale in Canada before (rarely), but usually the hiking and hunting community are separated by their philosophical viewpoints.

The other half of the upstairs area was dominated by fishing – where I learned that, (like any other hobby I suppose,) you can drop multiple thousands of dollars on high-end equipment designed to outwit a creature with a brain smaller than a lentil. :) I mean compared to a hook with a worm on it, dropping some of these lures in the water must be like deploying the stealth bomber. But man – choose wisely! They have walls upon walls of brightly coloured tackle – It was bamboozling. I was starting to worry this was all a distraction from the giant hook about to snatch me up. First you’re hypnotized by the lures, then a chocolate bar dangles tantalizingly into view…

FishHooks

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Monitor EUREKA!

March 16th, 2014 · Observations

Our monitor went dead (black screen) a few months back, but I couldn’t shake the suspicion that there was probably some repairable component blown on it, so I kept it around in my workshop planning to “fix” it. Let me state clearly: I have only the most rudimentary self-taught understanding of electronics. I can follow plans and do simple circuit-building, but “fixing” consumer electronics, for me, usually involves poking around with a multimeter, rubbing my chin a lot, and saying “hmmm” until I get frustrated and throw it out.

So this weekend I went way in over my head and studied the board for a few hours, soldered off a pair of suspicious capacitors and replaced them with $0.35 of new hardware. Imagine my surprise when… IT WORKED! ARISE, MY MONSTER! YOU ARE ALIVE!

WOOT WOOT! I am apparently smarter than I look!

JC_MonitorFix

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Life Goals

March 16th, 2014 · Observations

I am deeply ashamed to admit that though I’ve spent a large fraction of my life on bicycles, I have never, ever, managed to properly pop and ride a wheelie. Everyone else managed to figure this out when they were twelve – I blame my preference for 10-speeds as a factor in my late unicycling development. All of this is going to change, though, because THIS SPRING, I VOW TO MASTER THE WHEELIE.

Don’t be surprised if you see me this summer riding gangsta style through your neighbourhood on one tire, winking at your mom. (Yes, I am aware that I’m 37 years old.)

meBMXpandawheelie

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EXTERMINATE

March 16th, 2014 · Observations, Ottawa

I keep the blog family friendly, but I just want to put this out there – I can say with some certainty that  you’ve never really lived until you’ve seen a lovely girl with a glitter-covered plunger on her head performing the scintillating dance of the Daleks. Kudos to Loretta-Jean (SFW) of Nerdgirl Burlesque for her far-out performance at the oddly commingled board-games and burlesque night at the Clocktower pub. I never once, even the tiniest bit, considered that human-eradicating garbage cans could inspire that kind of … lasciviousness. CONGRATULATE.

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