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Monday, April 30, 2018

Singapore Skyline 1996

I think this must be the reverse angle of the photo I posted yesterday, which I think was shot from the gondola that links Singapore to the Sentosa resort. On the other hand, there are no wires visible in this shot, so maybe not. Hmmm. Not sure how I got up this high, then.

Anyway, there's Singapore as it was in late 1996 or early 1997. I imagine it's even more grand now, over 20 years later. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Singapore Flotilla

When I visited Singapore in 1996/1997, it was the second-busiest port in the world. Here are just a few of the ships I saw during that trip. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Wolfenstein 3D

Here I am sometime in the early 1990s playing Wolfenstein 3d on what may have been the family's first Windows computer. Mein coupon! 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Losing Containment

During a quiet moment at work this afternoon, I tried to entertain a colleague by telling her an amusing story about Jeff throwing up. Said colleague cried for help from another colleague, who, in her best kind mom voice, said, "Earl, contain your personality."

I thought that was pretty clever and funny. It was also effective!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Night's Curse, Night's Blessing

My dreams are vivid. Sometimes this is cause for terror; sometimes this is cause for joy. And sometimes, one follows the other in rapid succession.

Two nights ago, I dreamed I was a young woman reporting on an uncanny phenomenon: all over the world, people were being found dead, their bodies torn apart. I, as the reporter, was part of a two-person team patrolling the streets of Leduc, watching for bodies. My partner, a grizzled, 50-something constable, drove our SUV while I rode shotgun. 

Then, the inevitable: I spotted a cluster of a half-dozen or so dismembered corpses scattered along 50th street, near the Gaiety Theatre. We pulled over and I started shooting photos with my DSLR, trying not to be sick as I documented the ugly reality. There was blood all over the concrete and asphalt; blood, and disembodied organs. 

Then, suddenly, there as a bright light, as if the Moon had suddenly become a giant flashbulb. I instinctively started recording video, and captured, to my dismay, a cluster of pedestrians who were suddenly stripped violently naked and ripped apart by invisible forces. One man's hair was ripped away in one stroke, his face torn apart in bloody chunks. My camera recorded it all, and then, in an instant, it was over. The bodies collapsed, shrieks of agony cut short. 

I was shaking with terror, not understanding why I, too, hadn't been torn apart. But I knew the importance of what I'd captured. Never before had anyone managed to collect photographic evidence of these bizarre deaths as they happened. I showed my partner, and he agreed that the footage was critical. We didn't even collect the bodies, racing into the night to deliver the images...somewhere. 

Last night was much more pleasant. I was at the theatre in West Edmonton Mall to see a film, and an employee pulled me aside for a special screening. To my amazement, a trailer for a new Star Trek: The Next Generation film unfolded before my eyes. In the trailer, which had a kickass, pulse-pounding score I wish I could replicate in real life, a gorgeous starship resembling a giant metallic butterfly rises from a world-spanning ocean, creating rainbows as it leaves the planet. Then, we see Captain Picard, Captain Riker, and Commander Barclay walking down the corridor of a sophisticated space station or settlement of some kind, being forced to march at gunpoint by a cadre of bronze, faceless robots. The severed, but still living heads of Commanders Data and LaForge appear, crawling along the floor on robot legs. "What have you DONE!?" an enraged Picard cries. Cut to a Federation restaurant on Earth or some other core world, with dozens of human and alien patrons enjoying a fine meal. Cut again to Doctor Crusher, conducting some kind of experiment in sickbay. Cut to outer space, where an upgraded Enterprise-E approaches a massive planet with multiple rings. Cut to inside the ship, where crew members are being beamed away, apparently against their will, leaving the Enterprise empty of all life. Cut again to Captain Picard, Riker, and Barclay, their uniforms ragged with wear, clambering over a rain-slick rock face, Picard pointing at something in the distance. 

When the trailer ended, I was tremendously excited - maybe the Next Generation crew would get a better sendoff than Nemesis, the last film in which they'd appeared. Even more exciting, the cast was at the theatre, in costume, answering fan questions. I asked Michael Dorn why he and Marina Sirtis weren't in the trailer; he hinted that both Worf and Deanna played crucial roles in the film, and that their absence in the trailer was deliberate. I played a round of pinball with Patrick Steward, losing badly. And I asked Brent Spiner, somewhat indelicately, how he could keep playing Data as an ageless android. "Aging chip!" he laughed. Of course, I thought. 

I left the theatre eager to text Sean, wondering if he'd seen the new trailer yet. But then I wondered why I hadn't seen a movie. I could not, in fact, remember what movie I'd even meant to see. And then I realized that Data was going to be in this new movie, despite being killed off in Nemesis. At that point the whole fantasy fell apart, and I woke up disappointed. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Not Enough Bullets in the World

During my flu, I've been passing the time by watching the increasingly terrible Resident Evil movies. As I watch the heroine dispatch countless zombie hordes with a hail of gunfire, I thought to myself "There aren't enough bullets in the world for her to kill all these monsters." 

But then I second guessed myself. There are, after all, only around 7.5 billion humans, and I seem to recall that back in World War II it took something like 250 bullets per person killed in that war. 

A little investigation reveals that according to this 2012 press release from Oxfam, the world produced about 12 billion bullets per year at that time. I imagine the numbers haven't changed much, and since we're not using up 12 billion bullets a year (thank goodness), we can presume that there are more than enough bullets in the world to plug every one of us many times over. 

 You can't even really joke about this sort of thing. Why have we, as a species, chosen to expend so much time and effort into making bullets? 

I wonder how many bullets humanity uses each year for legitimate purposes: target shooting, hunting, starter pistols? Even if we used up a billion bullets a year for non-lethal purposes, that still leaves billions of bullets piling stockpiles, I guess? There must be giant bullet bins all over the planet. 

The mind truly boggles. On the other hand, I guess I don't need to be so skeptical when I watch action heroes in the movies use up thousands of rounds in a couple of hours. Goodness knows there's no shortage. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

That Weird Feeling You Get When You're Sick

I'm just about finished day six of being really under the weather. I think (hope?) the worst is over, because I'm at that weird stage where I'm not coughing or vomiting as much and I just feel this heavy weakness through my whole body that almost feels masochistically "good." I mean, it's still awful, but it's like a siren call to sleep more than anything else, and when you do slip into bed (just a few minutes after I hit the "Publish" button, I assure you), it feels really right to surrender to your body's need.

Does anyone else ever get that feeling? 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Comment Spam Bots

Give up, you malicious monsters--even sick, I can see when you try to phish innocent readers, and I'm deleting your evil spam immediately. Rotten so-and-sos. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

With Nostrils Stuffed

With nostrils stuffed
I sleep fitfully
Dayquil beside me
Immune system rebuffed

The lines don't scan
Congestion too strong
How did Keats maintain AB-AB-AABB-
While convulsing with TB?

Rhyme schemes and fever dreams
Four days and counting
Sweat-soaked sheets and
Nights without sleep

Not much energy left for hacking out bad poems frankly

Friday, April 20, 2018

Down with the Sickness

I am down, down,
Down with the sickness
Virus stealin' away
All of my quickness

At the very moment I'd love to be chillin'
Instead I'm stuck here, coughin' and illin'

I am down, down,
Down with the sickness
Little bugs in my blood
Sappin' my physical fitness

I get a look from my main squeeze, she say
"Jeb Bush is all up in your disease"

I am down, down,
Down with the sickness
Cold sweats and hot flashes
Leavin' me all but witless

Down, down - down with the sickness
You holla at me if you gonna be my witness, huh

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Could You Make Really Huge Pancakes in Zero Gravity?

If you were a cook in a space station with no gravity, could you make a pancake as large as, say, a parachute?

This question could also be applied to pizzas. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Stovepipe Melody of 1922

Dust off your bowlers, gents
And leave behind all your laments
Take the blinders off yer horses
And set them runnin' on the courses
'Cause Stovepipe Sally's on her way
For the Mountain City Summer Parade!

Yo ho ho and a bottle of fun
Here comes the Pirate Posse
In their poofy shirts and wild west six-guns!
Our parades don't need to make sense
Step right into the novelty tents

Just a penny gets you inside
Too see weird sight from far and wide
Just a nickel gets you out!
Just a nickel gets you out! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

That Which Echoes

The chastening rod
Clenched tight in the fist of the tyrant
Cracks like a dry wishbone
Across the fragile bodies of the righteous
But that crack, and the scream of anguish that follows
Are not the sounds that persist into all our tomorrows
The sounds that last
Are the cries for justice
Echoing down the long walls of time

Monday, April 16, 2018

Lost in Space Again

I just screened Netflix's re-imagining of Lost in Space. It's better than I anticipated, with a solid cast giving depth and nuance to each member of the Robinson family, who find themselves stranded on an alien world when their colonization attempt goes awry--the same premise as the original, but with far better production values. 

This time around, the Robinsons' Jupiter 2 is just one of a fleet of human spaceships fleeing Earth in the wake of an environmental catastrophe caused by a comet or asteroid strike. Unfortunately, the Jupiter 2 lands on a glacier, and the family evacuates just before the ship, white-hot from atmospheric friction, melts the ice and sinks, lost. Circumstances place plucky Will Robinson, the youngest member of the family, into an initially unsettling first contact situation, while oldest daughter Judy must be extricated from the ice. 

Drama on the new world is interspersed with flashbacks of the Robinsons' life on Earth before emigration. These brief segments provide important context and backstory for the characters, giving the audience reason to care about the jeopardy they face in the present. 

In fact, things look so bleak for the characters 50 minutes in that I began to wonder if, perhaps, one or two might not survive. The showrunners do a good job of amping up the stakes, although there's a bit of necessary - and literal - deus ex machina by the episode's close. 

The show also handles Dr. Smith and the Robot in a new and interesting way, though the other character from the original show. Major Don West, doesn't appear - or if he does, he's unnamed as of yet. There's a fun cameo, as well. 

All in all, I'm pleasantly surprised. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Into the Wasteland

I finished painting the Fallout board game miniatures I featured here a couple of days ago. You may not see much difference, but I added washes to the Super Mutant on the left and the person in power armour second from the right; the washes help bring out some shadows and highlights. 

I also used art pens to add some fine detail, like shadows on the clothing of the other figures and to shade in the phosphorescent screen of the Pip-Boy the character on the far right is wearing. (The Pip-Boy isn't visible from this angle, but I think it looks pretty cool.) 

The centred figure is a wasteland wanderer; I tried to give her American Indian skin tones, but I'm not sure if I succeeded. The ghoul (second from left) is supposed to be mutated by radiation and slowly decaying, so I added some different, mottled colours to his skin. Maybe you'll see some of these details if you click to embiggen...

I'd say these guys are now ready to go. Trying to improve them further will probably just mess them up, given my limited skill. Back into their Fallout board game box they go! 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Inglorious Misfortune

Thanks to the much improved homebrew reorganized ruleset some kind souls at Board Game Geek created, this round of Fortune and Glory actually provided a challenging, satisfying experience. Our crew managed - just barely - to defeat the Nazis, thanks in great part to Pete and Jeff's derring-do in sabotaging the Nazi's secret base and their Zeppelin, respectively, which held back the enemy's progress on the victory track long enough for us to accumulate enough Fortune for the win. I'm much more confident now that this will be a good experience at the next Gaming & Guinness. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Fallout Minis

Works in progress: miniatures for the Fallout board game. I wish there had been a character in a Vault suit; maybe in the inevitable expansion. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Against the Skeletons

When the sands of time engulf the windows of opportunity, take the leap of faith with eyes tightly shut. 

 - Cain's BraZen Koans, Volume I

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Laugh Until Hoarse

My colleagues and I use this whiteboard to scrawl silly jokes. I came up with this one this afternoon, and made the mistake of attempting to draw a horse to go with it. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Earl vs. the Wolf and the Hole

I think this is me, probably around 1974 or 1975. I appear to be in Leaf Rapids, in Churchill Place, judging by the look of the fence behind me. I don't know why I'm climbing into a hole. Also I appear oblivious that there's a wolf behind me.

For some reason I find the cup half-buried in the sand quite arresting. It seems perfectly embedded in the earth. 

Monday, April 09, 2018

A Speeding Truck

This was my attempt to photograph a moving image, keeping it in focus while blurring the background by holding the shutter open and tracking the subject - in this case, a truck zooming down the street in front of Leduc Junior High School. I guess it turned out decently. The cool thing about these Grade 8 photos is I developed them, too, with chemicals in the school darkroom.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Afternoon Wheelie

Sometime in 1983 or 1984, I shot this black and white photo of a classmate popping a wheelie on a Leduc street. I wonder who it was. 

Saturday, April 07, 2018

GKR: Heavy Hitters

GKR stands for, of course, "Giant Killer Robots." In a corporate dystopia, giant robots fight in ruined cities for the entertainment of global megacorporations, tagging (and destroying) skyscrapers. I actually managed to accidentally win this match on points, suffering little damage while Steve and Mike duked it out. (I controlled the blue robot in the foreground.) 

Friday, April 06, 2018

Earl's Mouth

Here's a shot of my mouth, taken by a classmate for our Grade Eight Industrial Arts class at Leduc Junior High School. 

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Cat on a Wire

Here is Alex the cat getting into some mischief behind Mom and Dad's house sometime back in the 1990s. He escaped unharmed. 

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Tricycle Sean

It's Sean's birthday, so here's a photo from 1979 featuring Sean on his prized tricycle. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Animated Real-Time Globes

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, someone is going to invent a globe that's connected to the Internet and has some kind of drawing capability so that the globe can update national boundaries, country and city names, and so on, in real time. For example, if we'd had this technology in the 90s, it would have shown the borders changing as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia crumbled. More recently, it could perhaps show the shifting fronts of the Syrian civil war, or the disappearance of North Yemen, Eritrea's liberation, and so on.

I'm pretty sure the various technologies to create this probably all exist; they just haven't been combined into my realtime globe. Someone invent this and I'll buy one! 

Monday, April 02, 2018

Steamroller Sports

During a brief text chat with my brother, I suggested there should be an event "where you get to run over things in a steamroller."

"With obstacles," he replied. "Goal is to cross the finish line in the fastest are penalized x seconds for each obstacle you crush and target you miss."

I endorsed this plan, and named the event Flat Out. Sean extrapolated, noting Flat Out could be one event at a larger Steamroller Games, with events such as jousting (Sean), ski jumping (Earl), downhill skiing (Sean), painting (Earl), and polo (Earl), which I call "Steamrollo."

I think this has lots of potential, and I can't wait to see steamrollers flying off ski jumps. 

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Painted Pakhet

Here's Egyptian superheroine Pakhet again, but painted. I tried to add some yellow pinstriping to her outfit and failed miserably; perhaps I needed a narrower brush at this scale? 

This is the second miniature I've designed and painted for our Villains & Vigilantes group. I don't think it turned out quite as nicely as the first, Mirror Maniac

There are a couple of unfinished zombies in the background, part of my Last Night of Earth board game.