I left a bit early this morning to get to an appointment, and got blizzarded on pretty fiercely as a reward. It wasn’t really cold outside, but the snow was blowing in every direction and seemed to find every gap in my coat, and the busses definitely weren’t running on any kind of schedule. I’m posting this evidence mostly to remind myself not to take summers for granted.
December 10th, 2013 · Frustrations, Ottawa
December 10th, 2013 · Drawing
I’m not particularly ecstatic about the drawing, but I doodled this out over some newsprint and I kindof dig the effect. I’m a bit retentive about clean drawings, so starting with a messy newspaper background is kindof unfamiliar and exciting territory for me.
December 6th, 2013 · Observations
Just experimenting with shapes! A friend sent me (last year…) some really cool pictures of geometric tilework in the Paigah Tombs in Hyderabad and I’ve been inspired to experiment with some more tessellations. Really need to meet some fashion designers, because I can crank out weird fabric prints like nobody’s business.
December 3rd, 2013 · Observations, Review
Sorry for the long pause between articles – I managed to establish a decent pace there for a while, but the past few weeks have been a bit of a personal rollercoaster, so I haven’t really had the time or inclination to put any bloggable thoughts together. Obviously this needs to change – I’m grabbing the bull by the horns and wrestling my way back into this blog with some reviews!
Before I start – I should mention that we switched internet providers (Yay Teksavvy!) and got rid of Rogers, because they reneged on the contract we originally signed and dropped our download cap to an unreasonably low number. I wrote them a letter and they replied, claiming that it was a service to customers who wanted more options. (Like the option to pay the same amount for half the data) So they’re gone now.
All of this to say that now we have enough bandwidth for Netflix! Yay! Lots of movies to watch!
Les émotifs anonymes – Super cute! - This french film follows a master chocolatier who’s paralyzed by her shyness, and her boss who has the same perplexing problem, as they fall in love. It’s an adorably awkward romantic comedy with excellent acting and lots of laugh-out-loud dysfunction punctuated by little moments of tenderness and sweetness. Very cute film that Natasha and I enjoyed watching together.
Saved! – Underwhelming – We thought this dark comedy about a pregnant Mary at an overzealous Christian school might take some daring risks, but while there were a handful of hilarious moments it quickly devolved into an after-school special. It felt as though the writer set up all the punchlines (a long-haired, bearded carpenter saves her from drowning in a pool, etc), but the film crew were afraid to commit, and where they could have pulled some real zingers they kept trying not to step on anyone’s toes. Ultimately, it ended up in middle ground that was mildly offensive and not that funny. But it was nice to see Macaulay Culkin again!
Tron: Uprising – Neato! - Disney XD’s big-budget animated Tron spinoff explains some of the backstory before Tron: Legacy, in a weirdly proportioned and kindof groovy 2.5D animation style that I’ve never seen before. The stories are pretty mature for a Disney property, and the cartoon is full of neat action sequences that put the movie to shame. I especially like a few of the characterizations – I felt the villainess Paige’s complex backstory was particularly intriguing. Sadly, I’ll never get to see it play out, since Disney cancelled it after season 2. The first episodes are worth watching though, and listen for the familiar voices of Elijah Wood, Paul Reubens, and Mandy Moore bringing the citizens of Argon City to life.
Babies – Beautiful! – A stunningly shot, wordless documentary following the first year of children from around the world. If anything, it reinforces the idea that babies are pretty invincible – every time that poor kid from Mongolia showed up on screen Natasha and I would cover our eyes, as he stumbles from one dangerous situation to another. I’m not sure how much dirt the Namibian baby ate, but he’s exploring the world with his mouth and apparently it tastes wonderful. By comparison, of course, the San Franciscan and Tokyo kids might as well be space babies – coddled and removed from any kind of interaction with the natural world. It’s an interesting study in contrasts!
November 15th, 2013 · Music, Observations, Review
I had a couple of Beatles songs stuck in my head this evening, and it reminded me to look up this scene from the film Across the Universe, where T.V. Carpio basically runs away with the movie and sings the heck out of “I wanna hold your hand”. So much longing! Such a fantastic voice! This one song set the bar so high, the rest of the movie fell flat. The film never ultimately resolves the storyline of her unrequited love for her cheerleader friend, a few scenes later she turns up on a fire escape in NY where she’s relegated to quirky lesbian roommate.
I get a laugh out of the footballers in the slow-mo section who are doing pirouettes and somersaults over eachother… obviously their talent is wasted at a school without a gymnastics team.
“Oh please, say to me, you’ll let me be your man. And please, say to me, you’ll let me hold your hand….”
November 12th, 2013 · Observations
Synchronized swimmer and Canadian Olympic gold medallist (and author, and Cirque de Soleil trainer) Sylvie Fréchette came by the university today to give a terrific talk about motivation and reaching your personal goals as part of our yearly GES luncheon, and she brought along some medals, which she had to fight for at an Olympic tribunal after a judging glitch robbed her, for us to take a look at.
I’m a big Olympic nerd and have a lot of respect for athletes who perform at that level, so it was pretty exciting to hold an actual gold medal. Woot woot!
According to Wikipedia Canadians have earned 111 Gold medals (59 summer, 52 Winter), multiplied out to 371 total by all the team sports (ie: everyone on the hockey team gets one but it’s only counted as one win). So you wouldn’t think Olympic medals were so rare, then, but this is actually only my second time seeing one in person, and it’s still a real thrill. If I ever earned one I’d be wearing that medal to the grocery store, to the gas station, to the library, to the park, to concerts…
November 12th, 2013 · Observations, Ottawa
I spent Saturday and Sunday at my first UXCamp Ottawa, a cool conference about usability and “User Experience”. The event ran both days with a full track of speakers on a range of subjects.
Overall the event was well organized, incredibly well attended, and a couple of unanticipated power outages Saturday morning didn’t throw things too far off schedule. I enjoyed many of the lectures, particularly the ones with concrete information and actions you could take away from them. Highlights included Leisa Reichelt’s lengthy talk about her work for the Government Digital Service in the UK, and Jason Westerlund’s talk about his work on the National Arts Centre website. The best talks were delivered with a bit of humour and aplomb, confident in their assertions with the data to back them up, based on real-world experiences and examples.
November 8th, 2013 · Music, Observations, Ottawa, Review
A nice perk to my job is that on special occasions we have musical royalty drop by to play for us in the Hugette Labelle hall, which is really just a stairwell away from my office. Cellist Laurence Lesser took a break from teaching his cherry-picked class of highly gifted cellists at the New England Conservatory to grace us with a performance as part of his uOttawa visit. He’ll be doing lectures and working with music students here over the course of the next few days.
He opened with a trio sonata (no 16) by Handel, with Paul Marleyn and Fréderic Lacroix accompanying on cello and piano, and then performed Bach’s suite no 6 as a 6-part solo.
What a treat to see a master of their craft. Inspiring! (As a neat aside, it bears mentioning that his cello is a 1622 original – and he seems to know what he’s doing with it!)
Natasha and I joined a friend last night at Monopolatte, a cool Ottawa board-game café that serves drinks and candy alongside their 700+ board game collection. They easily have every version of every game I can think of, and then a few hundred more.
We played classic Settlers of Catan for an hour and a half or so, with a DJ spinning in the background and folks getting turned away at the door because it was a full house (on a Tuesday!). The drinks were great (although they took a while to show up because the servers were so enthusiastic about teaching people new games at the tables) and their mixed up candy plate went well with board games, although it was a bit pricey.
We’ll definitely go back – there’s a bunch of games there I want to play and I liked the environment. The back room looked a bit more cosy than the front we were in, but all of the tables are big enough to spread out on and we had a nice view of the street from our window booth.
Admittedly, half the fun was listening to the people playing social games at other tables shouting strange things at eachother. There was a Snake Oil game that sounded hysterical being played behind us – a girl was at one point adamantly trying to sell her friends a ‘farting-excuse dog’.
November 3rd, 2013 · Observations, Photography
A gang of my friends are participating in a weekly photography exercise, shooting images according to a theme. This week’s theme was “Hands”.
Finding time during the week to take creative pictures ended up being way more challenging than I’d planned (I’m actually late submitting this), because I’m a natural-light guy and it’s getting dark before I get home from work. I rushed out to Parliament hill Friday night after work to snap a few shots of the clock face (HANDS! Get it?!) but it had already turned dark by 5:45 and consequently, shooting with a long telephoto lens, I managed to only get blurry shots. So lame. The peace tower clock is lovely, though, and it would have been nice to get the shot. Ah well.
So it was back to the drawing board – it was clear that I was going to have to set something up.
As I was doing the dishes Saturday night, finally my bolt of lightning hit. I’ve been doing a lot of swimming (and dishes) lately and really dig the weird translucent matte look of my skin when I’m in the water, so I put together an impromptu underwater set in my basement. Here’s the setup:
I sat a clear juice jug across two 2x4s with a fluorescent light between them, and the contrast between the light and the dark was enough to blacken out my basement without a black sheet or towel behind it.
I snapped off about 30 macro shots, and I think this one’s my favourite. I noticed that the longer I kept my hand in the water, the more bubbles formed on my skin’s surface – getting up close it kindof reminds me of those shots of the bubble-filled glass I took earlier in the year. Be sure to click it so you can see it full-size – this one’s all about the little details.
My own critique: There’s some blue fringing along the top of the knuckles I’m not happy with. That’s a technical issue I could try to fix in photoshop but I’m too lazy. Colourwise, I dig the pink and greens, and I’m really happy with the almost creepy flatness of my skin texture and colour – aesthetically it came out almost exactly as I imagined it.
Creatively… I considered holding some watercolour paint in my fist to make smoky swirls around my hand, but the tank was just too small to get a decent cloud of paint. I also thought about thrashing my hand around to get some crazy bubbles, but didn’t want to electrocute myself in the process, so I’ll have to settle with a soaked fist for now. I have an aquarium I’ve been meaning to shoot something like this in, so I might set up something more elaborate (and safer) for the next try.