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    Get Fired UP: GTA5 trailer one.


    2011 - 11.04

    There’s a NEW Grand Theft Auto! And it’s going to have stuff in it that’s never been in those other GTAs before! OMG!

    Alright, but seriously. Wait… I’m still not over it yet–Oh. My. God.

    Just check out this trailer.

     

    Aw man, GTA, how I adore thee.

    One thing I definitely look forward to is the launch night. For the past two releases in the series me and my buddy Roberto have made an occasion out of this with an all-night GTA binge. Last time this happened, we were so excited to go pick up the game that on the way out, I forgot to grab my keys… which I then realized after we were locked outside of my apartment building. And my apartment was on the 2nd floor. Rob was like, did you lock your balcony door? Answer: No!–and a high five! Boosted him up with my hands and he climbed over the railing, then came running down the stairs roaring triumphantly. I asked, “So did you get the keys?” and he was like, “Ummm, actually no. I thought I just had to let you back in the building door??” (my apartment door locks behind you!) Solid laughs right here. “So rinse and repeat on the infilitration routine, then?” Good times.

    Another amusing thing that we did was to set our own goals and just forget about the game storyline. For example, when San Andreas came out, the first place we wanted to go on the map was Las Vegas (aka Las Venturas). Sadly, this area is locked at the beginning of the game, inaccessible to even the most obsessed motorist due to barricaded bridges. Hmmm, what to do? Undeterred, we hatched a plan so crazy it just might work: find a tall truck, park it next to the barbed wire fence at the airport, climb the truck, jump the fence, and steal a learjet which we could then fly to Vegas!

    It took many tries. Every step of this process turned out to be more difficult than we’d anticipated. Including the unexpected twist that there were fighter jets that will shoot you down if you stray into locked parts of the map, which we had to evade! But lo and behold, after hours of trying and against the handicap of inebriation, we totally crashed a learjet into the Vegas strip. And it was pretty amazing really.

    It made me pretty excited to see the learjet at the end of the first GTA V trailer, just because it makes me remember our crazy, successful plot to cheat our way into places we weren’t supposed to go. And I also know that stealing this jet is also going to be one of the very top objectives when we get set loose in GTA V!

     

    If this article interested you, check out my winding yarn about what makes GTA so great.

    Only ONE more week until Bear Creek!


    2011 - 11.03

    Oh man. I am fired. Up. Fired up for the FUNK.

    Fired up for the press access, fired up over maybe getting to meet some of these musicians backstage, fired up to take a boatload of pictures, and fired up for the music festival atmosphere.

    As a recap, check out this post with the discussion of Soulive’s performance last year.  AWWW GIT IT!

    The Viaduct at Mine Creek – Chapter One


    2011 - 10.26

    I love it when I can make a post using the “Moment of Genesis” tag. That in itself is a tiny triumph. I think this one qualifies:

    In the mail a couple weeks ago I recieved all the little bits of plastic I’ll need to construct an HO-scale replica of the steel viaduct at Mine Creek. This is a giant trestle along the Milwaukee Road mainline in the Snoqualmie Valley of Washington state, and indeed my replica will be GIANT as well.  Check out the whole setup below, with the locos and some inspiring artwork seen in the background:

    Someday I dream of being ‘that-guy’ with the huge attic empire of a sprawling model railroad. To help that dream come true, I plan on building smaller dioramas or set-pieces which will someday become the focal points of a large sized train layout. This huge bridge will most definitely be one of these!

    I will probably still need to pick up a few more minor pieces to model the top deck, the railing, and the catenary posts (those parts that hold up the overhead wire), but the major pieces are all here now, which is very exciting. Micro Engineering, the company who manufacturers these bridge kits, is one of the best companies out there. When this bridge is done, it will be spectacular indeed! Also, it will probably be a very non-trivial endeavor to build it! These are advanced-level kits, not intended for the faint-of-heart. Oh boy.

    Anyway, it will probably be a while before I actually break all this open, airbrush it, cut it from the sprues and then build it. There’s a house move in the near future and all this stuff is a can of worms to be respected. But still, it’s here, and I see the potential in it. This thing is gonna be AWESOME.

    To be continued…………..

    Star Party Timelapse


    2011 - 10.24

    This weekend I attended a Star Party (aka an astronomer hangout session) with the North Houston Astronomy Club and took along my timelapse setup.  I got to meet some cool people who are way into the stars, and got in some solid time staring at the heavens during the Orionid Meteor Shower.  I’m pretty psyched about the resultant video below because it combines a whole bunch of techniques and tricks that I have never tried before.

    Public service reminder: hit the 1080p and fullscreen it.  We’re looking at stars.  They’re small!

    For anyone who’s wondering, those 4 tall poles in the timelapse where the sun is still going down are actually a radio telescope, set up to listen to the sounds of Jupiter as it passes southernly-overhead in the middle of the night.  Bonus points for exotic telescopes!

    I had done “star trails” images before by using this simple, free program called StarStaX, but I hadn’t realized that the same program can save a picture at every step during the composite-making process, which gives these really neat star trails videos.  I also found a photoshop actions file as blogged about on Owen Scharlotte’s site that let me do the fading-startrails effect. This is my first time using either of those techniques. (UPDATED…TWICE!: Owen had a broken link, which is now fixed! His actions are now more sophisticated as well, so click here to download the version I used, which I’ll leave posted as it was requested of me via email from a reader. Please note: I can’t provide technical assistance with this actions file. You’ll have to read Owen’s website and figure out on your own how it works. You should check out his site anyway, as it’s good.)

    As with my last attempt, I did a batch process on all 1,145 photos before compiling them into the video.  I figured out how to remove hot pixels from the dark parts of the sky (using a subtraction layer on a noise reference image), but I still haven’t mastered removing them from lighter regions near the horizon.  There’s definite room for improvement.  Another very cool thing: I learned a few neat, new tricks with Shadow/Highlights in Photoshop as well as Curves; two functions I use all the time.  Hah!  And I arrogantly had assumed I knew all there was to know about these functions!  Enlightening and humbling in the same moment.  This whole deal was certainly a beneficial learning experience.

    But stepping back from the technical aspect of all this, and speaking of humbling, have a look at those stars.  Wowzers.

    Something that really knocked me out that night was seeing “the great nebula in Andromeda”, aka M31, aka the Andromeda Galaxy.  Maaan.  I mean… every star you see in the sky is an incomprehensible distance away from us.  Jeez, really I can’t even genuinely comprehend the distance from Earth to Venus, let alone the distance from Earth to Proxima Centauri…  But holy %*#^ Andromeda, that’s 2.5 million light years from Earth.  And you can see it with your naked eye if the sky has clear “seeing”.   Hanging out with a bunch of astronomers and having them point out all these fascinating things in the sky was really inspiring.  There’s certainly more sensational things to be seen in the sky (Jupiter and it’s four Galilean moons was truly a sight to behold) but looking up and spotting another galaxy, well that blew my mind.  I checked it out through both binoculars and a pretty excellent telescope as well.  No matter how you see it, it’s dim.  But it’s there, and one of the top mind-boggling sights of  my year.

    You can see it, as my camera saw it on the left.  I drew in purple dashed lines connecting some of the nearby stars in the Andromeda constellation that make it easier to spot.  The galaxy itself is circled in green.  As you can see it’s not much more than a faint blur.  But man oh man, did those photons ever come a long way before, by sheer random chance, happening to land upon the image sensor of my camera.  At the time that those photons left the Andromeda Galaxy, the genus Homo had literally just begun.  Homo Habilis was the species.  Definitely still very very ape-like.  By contrast, Homo Sapiens emerged 250,000 years ago; an order of magnitude more recently.  Wow.

    Even though there are fantastic pictures out there of such objects as Andromeda, it’s still so very powerful to see it with your own eyes–to have your own retinas collect some photons that traveled 2.5 million years to reach them.  Seeing that is ….. well it’s breathtaking.

    —-

    Meeting other people who are jazzed about the sky was a highlight of the evening as well.  One thing I had hoped to do was learn a bit about telescopes since it’s somewhat of a long-term goal of mine to acquire one.  I met a guy named Rusty who had just gotten a brand new Orion model off eBay.  It was his first real night out with it, so he was still getting things dialed in, but overall he had it in pretty great form.  Seeing his excitement over the new instrument was infectious and definitely made me want to go do some further research.  But talking to him at length also made me realize that I have 100% no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to ‘scopes.  It’s going to be quite some time before I know enough to even consider a purchase.  In the meantime, I think I might invest in a good, lightweight, comfortable pair of binoculars.  I had read people saying that this was a great first step into astronomy online, but I sort of scoffed at the idea, thinking, naahh, what I want is a badass telescope!  And yes, that IS what I want, but still, a good pair of binoculars is certainly a fun, portable, and instantly-maneuverable way to check out the sky.  I think I will be getting a pair.

    That, and a 75mW laser pointer! ;)

    ‘Late Nite Chill on the Lake’ downtempo mixset


    2011 - 10.09

    Servin’ up another mixset to add to the list of original content around here; I call it the “Late Nite Chill on the Lake”. This is another byproduct of the Bill’s Boat Cassette Project, only unlike the previous two “Cactus Vinyl Funk Mix” and “BOATCHASE!” this one is a descendant of the mix which was imprinted to ferromagnetic tape, labeled “Heady Downtempo”. The tape was version 1, this is version 5. Click on the image below to stream it from the music player on the navigation bar!


    This mix is intended to be something you’d put on after a long day of cruising around on the lake, tubing, drinking, goofing off, enjoying the sunlight and the fresh air. The sun goes down, you turn on the running lights, pop open one last brew (or maybe the second or third to last), and slip this tape into the deck. Or this could be what you put on the stereo after you get back to the lakeside house after a day on the water. In any event, it’s the soundtrack to the end of a long day of good times.

    Tons of artists suffer from the desire to keep tweaking their works ad nauseum, to the point where one begins to wonder, “Will it ever be ready”? This mix was suffering from the same nagging feeling that I could still improve it, but finally I decided to just shove it out onto the stage and say okay, OCD adjustments OVER, this is it. Some of the neat tweaks you guys might appreciate knowing about:

     the sounds of the Mediterranian Sea can be heard between tracks 2 and 3. I recorded these on MiniDisc in 2004. Finally I put them to use here.

     the very start of the mix begins with the sound of me taking a cassette out of its plastic case, opening my cassette deck, putting the tape in, closing the door, pressing the power button, and hitting play.

     the end of track 1 and the beginning of the last track were run through my Glass Nexus effect pedal, providing a large reverb and some delay. On track 1 the effect starts out light and gets progressively thicker; on the last track the effects start out thick and fade back into to clean. I tried using the software reverbs on the PC and they just weren’t cutting it–the Glass Nexus has an awesomely realistic ‘verb.

     some of the chatter (in French) before the last track I recorded at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris from 2005. There is also a really cool sound effect that I included, which plays through the airport preceeding any announcement over the intercom.

    update: the people have demanded a tracklist, so here she be:

    Tracklisting:
    1. Global Communication – “5:23”
    2. Leggo Beast – Bizzare Love Pentangle
    3. Tipper – Everything Is Everything
    4. Visit Venus – First Man On The Moog
    5. Tom Middleton – Astral Projection
    6. Blue Planet – Chaser
    7. Bonobo – The Shark
    8. Swag – Aug Munch
    9. The Karminsky Experience – Departures

    As with before we’ve got a 160 kb/s mp3 for download, and a luscious, rich FLAC file for your audiophile needs. Put this on after dark, and kick it.

    3 hours of night sky in under 30 seconds


    2011 - 10.09

    A short timelapse video I made, showing the night sky from 12:30am-3:30am.  I used 830 images to make this, and you can see the corresponding startrails images in the previous post!  Don’t forget to hit fullscreen and 1080p on the video.  A tiny preview doesn’t do the stars justice!

    I’ve wanted to get into making timelapse like this for a long time, so it’s rewarding to put one of these together.  I did a batch process on all photos in Photoshop before compiling into a video, which was an awesome idea; definitely want to do more and get better at all of this.  Check out that SKY!

    This JUST happened. 3 hours of starlight


    2011 - 10.08

    I’ve been up to my usual shenanigans tonight, which involve staying up till all unreasonable hours of the morning.  While doing so, I set out the camera and captured this sweet startrails image from 12:30-3:30am.  Saaweeeeet!

    Since the above image is actually composed of 800+ individual 10 second exposures, I also made this version which is only a short part of it; a good stretch without any clouds.  And just to keep things fresh, I flipped the canvas horizontally.  Because, ya know, why not?

    Note that clicking on either of these will unleash the 1920 x 1280 sized versions.

    This is truly inspiring: masterful timelapse


    2011 - 09.30

    Today I was derpin’ around on the timelapse subreddit, and I found a link to this video.  There’s a lot of badass timelapse out there, but wow, this compilation really has it all. I wanna do stuff like this…
     

    So I didn’t get a timelapse video during the Perseid meteor shower, but I DID get this:


    2011 - 09.24

    Enough clear photographs to make a startrails image!

    I just now realized I could do this, using a program called StarStaX.  This is badass, and I am going to be doing more of it.  YES!

    Originally I had intended to use my intervalometer to shoot exposures all night (which worked) but something I didn’t anticipate ruined the fun: DEW on the lens!  Who knew.  In any event, a totally full moon also blew out the sky and prevented me from getting many stars.  The images used to build the star trails picture you see above were captured before the moon rose above the tree line behind me.

    There’s always next time.

    Just THE BEST animated .gif ever, that is all.


    2011 - 09.21

    In 1987 Compuserve introduced the .gif format so that it could someday culminate in the perfect storm of kickassery that you now witness below.  At the time of its inception, it was never dreamed that the format would someday achieve this level of incredibleness. Now that it has reached its zenith with this image, heretoforth animated gifs shall ever be in a state of decline, never quite living up to the golden standard achieved here.