• About
  • First time here?
  • Sitemap
  • Archives
  • Categories
  • Posts Tagged ‘yesss’

    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.

    Sweet, Sweet Funky HD Video


    2011 - 09.12

    Oh man. So in case you didn’t pick up on it, I like funky music a lot. On my recent trip to Wisconsin, I extended my stay so that I could catch a concert that, when I first heard about it, made me exclaim, “Wahaaaaaaaaat?!”

    It’s the jazzy funk organ trio WRD aka Walter, Roberts, & Deitch. For anyone keeping score, that’s Eddie Roberts of The New Mastersounds on guitar, Robert Walter of the Greyboy Allstars on B3 organ with basslines, and Adam Deitch of Lettuce and Pretty Lights on the drums. Holy. Crap. Let’s get right into the videos, taken from the Jazz in the Park concert series in Milwaukee Wisconsin on 8/18/11:

    While most people will just appreciate it at face value for what it is, I gotta say for those of us who follow the modern funk music scene, this trio is 1. a total dream-team and 2. a pretty fascinating confluence of different vibes from within the same overall scene. Adding to the interest is the fact that they embarked on a 5 date tour, with no future dates yet announced. So get it while it’s hot, and you best believe; it’s HOT!

    Let’s break down who’s who, and what they each add to the mix:

    On drums, Adam Deitch has put in a lot of time with Lettuce, bringing his really tight, on-tempo, in-your-face school of beats from New York City. He’s also played with jazz great John Scofield and acted as producer for some legit hip-hop albums from Talib Kweli and 50 Cent. His sound is hard, flashy, bombastic. The overpowering, explosive records from Lettuce owe a lot to Deitch’s style. He’s also a young guy! It’s pretty cool that the relatively older Roberts and Walter decided together that this would be the right guy for forming an organ trio.

    On the flip side of the spectrum we’ve got Robert Walter, a keys player who’s helped redefine the meaning of boogaloo for the modern generation. This cat hails from San Diego and now lives in New Orleans–sorry, Nawlins. He’s loose, and I mean that in all right ways. For many years he’s been a cornerstone of the Greyboy Allstars. He’s also played in a jillion other settings it seems like, from his own groups–the 20th Congress and the Super Heavy Organ trio–to the Stanton Moore Trio and gobs of other one-off delightful combinations of hip musicians. I saw him with Stanton Moore in New York about five years ago and it was a treat to hear him play basslines. Same deal here. In fact I sort of feel like he’s gotten better with them… or maybe he was just getting into it in Milwaukee and performed exceptionally well. In any event, this guy is a giant on the B3 organ, generally with a laid back feel, ahead of the beat, behind the beat, around the beat–and pours it on masterfully.

    Lastly, there’s Eddie Roberts from Leeds in the UK, who’s known for his main gig with The New Mastersounds. As with the others, he also has a mile-long list of side collaborations and projects. Eddie is the top chef when it comes to Deep Funk, serving up a signature stew of meaty rhythm guitar wah-comping, rippin’ solos seasoned with Wes Montgomery style harmonized licks, and an increasingly tasteful sense of when to escalate the energy level with his trademark bursts of quick-pickin’ or let the feeling simmer while he marinates with some soulful strummin’. Roberts typically eases into a performance, taking at least a few tunes to really get situated before he hits you with the secret sauce that makes you smile, but here with the WRD Trio, he came out swinging hard. I’ve seen him play at least ten different times now, and I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen him come out immediately so strong. A pleasure to watch! Out of all the guys playing funk guitar out there today, Roberts is the top of the heap, in my eyes.

    In their own ways, you can make a solid arguement that each of these three guys are at the forefront of their respective veins of today’s funk scene. It’s pretty exciting to see them teaming up like this, and you can tell both from the playing, and the facial interactions between them, that they’re having a good time!

    – – –

    To switch gears for a minute here, this was sort of the first major outing with my new T3i video DSLR, and it was a learning experience. Probably the most major thing I immediately took away from these videos was the importance of holding the camera steady. What seems like minor fumbling on the 3″ camera LCD I watch while filming, turns into jarring and distracting earthquakes on the 24″ LCD at home! Lesson learned!! I got a little wild with my quick zooms at times, which sometimes worked awesome (like right at the beginning of a solo), sometimes seem a bit kitschy but still cool (zooming in along with the beat), and sometimes overdone (too much ranch will ruin any salad).

    Note that anytime you can see the keys on Robert’s B3, I’m holding the camera up as high as I can over my head, with the T3i articulating screen pointed 90 degrees down so I can keep things in frame. Boom. There you go–paying extra for the T3i was justified afterall.

    Walking sideways and/or *slowly* moving the camera around on an otherwise steady shot turned out to be cool techniques that somewhat capture the excitement of “being there”, instead of the clinical feel of a documentary. I want to experiment more with those in the future. Rotating the camera to odd angles in order to fit as much interesting stuff into the frame as possible was also a good idea. Those shots that tightly frame Eddie’s head at the left and Adam’s drums on the right were cool. I want to try doing more of these so-called “Dutch Angles” in the future.

    I also learned that with 1080p at 24fps, it’s a waste of video footage to do any really fast pans, like the ones that sweep over the audience rapidly. With this framerate and quick camera movement, the subject just turns into mush. Finally, another big takeaway is that I need to improve my skills on quickly refocusing with the manual focus ring, specifically by always rotating it in the correct direction. If I want to be able to master moving between subjects and not having moments of blurriness (which can admittedly be sort of cool in limited amounts) I’ll need to develop some better ability for wrangling those rings more responsively! Maybe even DURING a pan between subjects…

    There’s room for improvement!

    Riding In An Ultralight Seaplane — WOW!


    2011 - 09.01

    So there we were, chillin on the SS Advanced Manoeuvres, drinking High Lifes and getting down with some funky jams, when off on the horizon this weird plane appears. I say to my buddies, Q: “is that a seaplane?” A: “why yes, it appears that it is.” The mystery plane comes in for a closer approach and yep, it’s a bright red seaplane with yella pontoons. Awesome! Then he comes in for yet another pass, this time REALLY close. After buzzing the boat, we watch this guy circle around the lake and ask “is he about to land that thing?” Spoiler alert: yes.

    We’re anchored in a shallow part of the lake where most pleasurecraft tend to congregate due to the nice sandy lakebottom, along with maybe 5 or 6 other boats. The red seaplane touches down not too far away and pulls up alongside another vessel not far from ours. After debating it for a little while, we decide to go over and talk to the guy.

    His name is Donny and we chat it up for maybe a good 10-20 minutes or so. He says the plane runs off of normal gasoline just like you’d get in any gas station, and tells a story about how he flew it all the way home from Florida once. That’s sort of extreme, considering that it probably qualifies as an ultralight aircraft, and I doubt the top speed is really all that fast. After a while, I can’t resist asking any longer; “so uhh… what would it take to get you to take me for a little spin on this baby? I can toss some gas money your way and I’ve got a sweet camera that can capture a video for youtube.”

    Answer: yeah sure, go grab your camera. I could always use some extra gas money.

    My buddy Cody rolls his eyes in some combination of astonishment and admonishment; “John… I can’t believe you.” All I can say is “aww man!”

    So I hustle back to home base and retrieve the gear, hop on this seaplane and shoot this video (be sure to hit the 1080p HD!:)

    Aww man is RIGHT.

    Earlier this year I flew in a single engine Cessna and it was definitely way cooler than a commercial jet. Being able to see forward really changes the experience. Single engine planes are really a whole different world compared to airline travel. Flying in this ultralight seaplane was like the next level of coolness beyond that–you can easily look down on either side of you. For someone afraid of heights, this thing would probably be terrifying. Me, I do have somewhat of a fear of heights, but when I’m strapped in tight, as on an amusement ride, it doesn’t bother me. The whole thing was over before I knew it, finishing with an exceedingly smooth landing. I thought that touching down on the lake would feel rough, but no, it was actually softer than a large jet landing.

    So yeah. That was really something else. I wasn’t paying too much attention to where the camera was pointed; pretty much just gawking at the world below and trying to take it all in. Donny and I both had headsets on, so we could chat while we were up there. Right after we took off, he’s like, “hey, do you mind if I put on some reggae while we fly?” And I was all, “oh man, this is the life.”

    A day to remember.

    The Funky Cactus Vinyl Gold, To Blow Up Your Eardrums


    2011 - 08.27

    It’s time to raise the curtain on two little mini-mixes I’ve been compiling for some time. I’m really tickled with how awesome these turned out.  First off: “The 70’s Cactus Vinyl Funk Mixtape” (click the cassete to play)

    I’ve been hitting up this really awesome record store in Houston called Cactus Music, where they have maybe 20-30 crates of used vinyl which is up for grabs at 97¢ per LP. Yes, $0.97. It’s completely unsorted and a good deal of the records are scratched and dirty, but still, for under a dollar per LP, this place is a total gold mine. This mixtape is the cream of the funky crop I found while diggin through those crates down at Cactus this summer.

    As you’ll hear immediately from the start, there’s plenty of crackle and vinyl “dirtyness” in here. I did pick up a record cleaner soon after I started buying LPs, but listening back to two recorded versions of the opening track which I dubbed before and after using the record cleaner, I actually decided to use the dirty one on purpose. I dig the raw, unkempt vibe that record crackle gives. There’s even a minor skip in the second track; see if you can catch it. I left if raw intentionally so it’s exactly like you’d hear if a buddy came over to your house and you were excited to play that hot LP you just found earlier this week–we’re not going to waste time cleaning this thing, throw it on the platter and go, man!

    That’s pretty much the spirit of this mix–it’s a bunch of weird 70’s funk that I’d never known of before, mostly from bands I’d never heard of before either. I compiled it to share my favorite finds with fellow funk fanatics. The mix is 30 minutes long so it would fit perfectly onto a cassette tape as part of the Bill’s Boat Cassette Project. Since I was putting extra care into the track selection and mastering of this mix, moreso than any of the other tapes, I got on eBay and picked up a sweet looking reel-to-reel style tape for it, as you can see above. The vinyl was digitized to FLAC through my Pro-Ject Debut III USB turntable, arranged in Sony ACID, compressed and mastered with T-Racks tube emulation software, rendered back to FLAC again, and then put to tape on my NAD 6130 cassette deck. I was very pleased with the end result!

    Since I did spend time obsessing about the sound quality, I’ll offer this one in FLAC in addition to the usual 160kbs mp3. Right click those links to download. Click the cassette above to stream it now (flash required).

    Track Listing:

    1. Cosmic Truth – Earthquake Shake
    2. B.T. Express – Do It ‘Til You’re Satisfied
    3. Brass Connection – Movin’
    4. The Commodores – Patch It Up
    5. Cosmic Truth – UFO’s
    6. Ronnie Laws – Mis’ Mary’s Place
    7. Steve Miller Band – Fly Like an Eagle (psychedelic intro only)
    Playtime: 30 minutes

    And the proverbial Side B to The 70’s Cactus Vinyl Funk Mixtape: “BOATCHASE!” (you can stream this too, by clicking the previous cassette and going to the next track. Since these mixes were created together, I’m grouping them in their own playlist together)

    Track Listing:

    1. Brass Connection – Sambo (progression)
    2. Curtis Mayfield – Junkie Chase
    3. Ohio Players – Fight Me, Chase Me
    4. Ohio Players – The Big Score
    5. Mandrill – Silk
    Playtime: 24 minutes

    As with the A-Side, this mix was gathered exclusively from 97¢ vinyl I bought at Cactus Records and built/mastered the same way, only this time I picked these particular cuts to emulate the soundtrack for a 1970s style boat chase scene, probably from a movie about people smuggling illicit goods from tropical locations. There’d be a lot of exposed chest hair and mustaches involved. And brown avaiator sunglasses. You’ll notice the last tune is a change of pace–this is the triumphant part of the boat chase where you’ve eluded the pursuers and are chillin out in the sunshine, smooth sailin.

    As above, we got FLAC format available for you audiophiles with the Grado headphones, and we’ve got 160kbs mp3 available for the iPod listeners on the move. Click the top cassette to launch em right now in the player, playa. Also available in the Music section.

    Awwwwwwww GIT IT!

    The BBCP: Bill’s Boat Cassette Project


    2011 - 08.23

    Ever been jealous of a present that you’re giving to someone else? This tape collection is totally like that.

    My buddy Bill acquired a boat some time back, and since I knew I’d be chillin on it with him over my Wiscotrip this summer, I wanted to bring along some hot jams. Deadly hot jams. As detailed previously, being able to provide the proper musical playback format involved getting a cheap tape deck and makin tapes. And here’s the results:

    The tapes:

    “70’s Cactus Vinyl Funk” Mixtape / “So Funky It Hurts!” Mixtape
    “BOATCHASE!” Mixtape / “Modern Funksters” Mixtape (not shown–it’s in the player!)
    “70’s Vocal-Funk” Mixtape / Donny Hathaway: Live
    Orgone: Cali Fever / Orgone: Killion Vaults
    Greyboy / New Mastersounds
    Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles: Live (Sides A & B)
    Curtis Mayfield: Superfly (Sides A & B)
    “Heady Downtempo” Mixtape / Scientist Dubtape
    Easy Star Allstars: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band (Sides A & B)

    Click on the linked titles to Listen!

    Some of it is taped directly from vinyl, others are recorded from the PC, where I’ve got a nice retro-wamrth compressor/limiter program that brings out the detail on those tracks. As you can see, there’s a definite genre theme here with a heavy amount of funk. That’s what Bill digs the most, and also I wanted to stay centered there so the whole collection would have its own ‘vibe’, as the soundtrack to the boat. The two exceptions to the funk theme would be the Heady Downtempo/Scientist Dub mixtape, which I envisioned as something you’d want to put on while floatin on the lake after the sun’s gone down, and the Easy Star, which is just such a killer record I had to throw it in.

    There’s a veritable cornucopia of killer jams here, a substantial portion of which will eventually get posted on the site. Stay tuned for the full lowdown.  In the meantime, check out the SS Advanced Manoeuvres

    When I’m Feelin’ Down, These Things Bring Me Back Up: Part II


    2011 - 08.18

    It’s been a hot minute since I wrote about anything space-related on here, and we’re due.  In the words of the late great James Brown, awwwww, git on UP!

    #1 news item: SETIstars succeeds! They raised their $200k and will use it to reactivate the Allen Telescope Array. That, my friends, is news sweeter than yams with extra syrup. Their website is curiously brief about the this victory and what comes next. Maybe I might email the people from SETI I had been talking with and see what they say. Inquiring minds want to know; what now?

    #2: The Juno probe has been launched to visit Jupiter in 2016, where it will orbit for 1 year in a highly elliptical path, dipping into the atmosphere repeatedly to make measurements. There’s two especially fascinating things about this probe: one, it will be subjected to radiation more harsh than any other space probe, EVARRR. This craft will serve as a test-bed for future missions into the most unforgiving environments; It’s even got a titanium vault for the electronics to withstand all those deadly alphas betas gammas and whatnot. And two: it runs on solar power, at a distance from the sun where the photons are 4% as bountiful as here on Earth. Therefore it must be very power-efficient, and uses special solar cell designs to derive the juice it’ll need way out there. Stunningly cool.

    Also, another awesome tidbit: the name is derived from the wife of the Roman god Jupiter, who was able to see through the veil of clouds that Jupiter drew around himself. Poetically done, guys! Popular Science has a solid roundup of the details here.


    #3: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has mapped Mars in greater detail than Google Earth’s satellite imagery shows our own planet, has spat out some eyebrow-raising images that seem to convey liquid water moving down some slopes on the red planet (see the streaks in the images above?!). You can maybe file this under ‘knew it was coming eventually, but still über-rad to have real evidence now!’


    #4: NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has reached the asteroid Vesta, where it will orbit for a year before progressing on to Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. Now that it’s nice and close, the Dawn team made an eyeball-poppin’ movie showing the asteroid spinning. That’s pure spaceporn and I love it. Vesta is the brightest object in the asteroid belt and thought to be the source of many meteors that reach earth. If I read correctly, Dawn is done snapping pictures for now, and is commencing it’s “science orbits” where the many other instruments will check out all the asteroid’s vitals. Awww git it!

    #5: Mars Rover Opportunity has almost reached Endeavour Crater, its target since 2008. This crater is more than 25 times bigger than Victoria Crater, which Opportunity spent two years checking out. Endeavour has some exposed ancient rocks to study, spotted by the aforementioned Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Note that Opportunity’s primary mission ended in 2004, and they’ve been continuing on “bonus, extended missions” since then. That’s like… mega friggin’ triumphant. If the rover had beats for its mission, I bet it would be the second half of Ewan Pearson’s Ride A White Horse Disco Odyssey remix. That thing is out in the wilderness scoring so many points right now.

    All this stuff is so sweet. Seriously. It’s things like this that really help me maintain a positive outlook on us humans. As I said in my previous post of this same title, the people who are conducting these missions and operating the satellite dishes that recieve these images are called heroes. While the majority of us are concerned with daily operations on a tiny backwater outpost known as planet Earth, or the small quests like groceries and entertainment for the evening, these badasses are studying the timeless questions, about how the larger universe ticks–The larger universe that will be there still moving onward, long after the genus homo sapien is a minor footnote in the annals of what once was. Hopefully, due to the knowledge gained in these quests, an evolutionary descendant will be able to look back and think, ‘nice one ‘sapiens!’

    Canon T3i is HERE. File this under “Yesss”!


    2011 - 08.05

    Oh yeah!  OhyeahohyeahohYEAH!  Canon T3i is here!  More technical thoughts and details to come, but for now let’s just gawk at some really pretty images with thin focal planes thanks to the almighty Canon 50mm f/1.8, now in the glorious format of motion-photography.  Here’s a bunch of loose test shots cobbled together quick in under an hour.

    For anyone so interested, the track playing is a snippet of “Green Bird” by Magic Places.  Apparently it’s a remix of something from Cowboy Bebop, although I don’t recognize where.

    A fresh photographic epoch: new equipment and the goals of these acquisitions.


    2011 - 07.27

    I have been waiting for today.

    Today a new camera came in the mail!: a very lightly used Canon t2i DSLR I snagged on eBay. Dude.

    I’ve been dreaming of a video DSLR with extended ISO range for years now. Today it’s HERE. That is so &^%!@*# exciting.

    I’m going to be able to make movies now. Sexy, beautiful HD movies that have blurry backgrounds and sharp detail. This is a major technological advance for my artistic tools. The nerd in me is so ready to rock every dial and button on this puppy! We’ll see if the artist in me is capable of crafting something of beauty with it… afterall, that’s what matters. I see a Vimeo membership in my near future.

    This camera also comes with a battery grip that will accept either AA’s or two of the normal canon camera batteries. Hopefully this should spell ample battery life for doing all-night timelapse photography. That’s like a whole extra layer of cake on top of the icing of the previous cake layer which is the t2i video capability.

    So, what do I aim to do with all this hardware?

    Well step one; I’m taking a trip back home to Wisconsin in Mid August. The objectives:
    1. get some sweet video of my favorite places to visit while I’m there: Devil’s Lake, Parfree’s Glen, Durwood’s Glen, the Baraboo hills, etc.
    2. capture video on the boat outings I’ll be doing with my buddies Bill and Rob. Maybe including a music/dance video of the funk mixset due for release on Bill’s boat, in conjunction with the new wide angle Tamron lens
    3. take all night time lapse photography of the sky in Caledonia where I hope to capture the Milky Way moving over the sky, also in conjunction with the new lens.

    Those are the initial ones I can think of. I’m sure lots of little ancillary bits will occur along the way.

    Long term, I want to make some ‘shorts’–little mini-movies that are digestable 10-15 minute affairs, maybe with the goal of shooting enough footage that I could combine it into something feature length. That’s a tall order, and will probably take me a very long time to actualize.

    Anyway, the tools are here, and I am thoroughly excited to dig in and start playing!

    In the pic below I thought it’d be cool to show the evolution of my camera setup.  The Elan IIe at far left was my first SLR and my last film camera, I bought it at the end of high school.  It’s got a 28-105mm walkaround with some great filters, and a Canon 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 came soon after.  A95 was my first digital, shown here with a fisheye attachment that rocks my socks.  The Rebel XTi was my first DSLR and I got it with the wonderful 17-85mm, my first setup with Image Stabilization.  Next came the Tamron 10-24mm, a bondafide superwide, with 16-38mm equivalence in full frame size.  And finally, today, the Rebel T2i, my first video DSLR, shown here with the 50mm f/1.8, possibly my favorite lens out of them all ;)

    So excited to work with this new capability!

    SETIstars Infographic


    2011 - 06.26

    So recently I was contacted by the SETI team regarding a sequel to the infographic I had produced a couple months back.  As many of you may know already, they’re trying a new way of keeping the Allen Telescope Array running: crowdsourcing.  There’s a new website over at SETIstars.org where anyone can go and give funds specifically for the restarting of the ATA. It’s a savvy move in the age of kickstarter, microloans, and grassroots funding.  And it’s pretty awesome to think that, well, if the people who should be paying for this won’t pay for it, fine, we’ll do it ourselves!

    I hope the venture is a big success.  It’d be reaffirming to see the citizenship of planet Earth as forward-thinking enough to collectively grok the profound implications that discovery of other intelligences would have.  It would be invigorating to know that we realize this meaningfully enough that we, as single individuals, would band together to sustain this important work.

    In the large scope of things, it’s not all that expensive either.  Just for perspective: the 1st infographic so far has seen over 40,000 views (just the flickr version, nevermind the ones I cannot track).  See the bottom of this new infographic to see how much 40,000 people would need to spend apiece to keep the ATA in action…

    There is a slightly-higher quality version available at flickr, as well as a whopping 11,749 pixels-long monstrosity of this new graphic combined with the original.  Anyone is welcome to use or repost this to their heart’s content.  All I request is a link.  And that you can chip in at least a fiver to SETIstars! Anyone can swing that.

    Also, I got a lot more creative with the background this time around.  Check out the remnants of Kepler’s supernova, comet NEAT, and the Andromeda galaxy!

    Special thanks to Phil Plait, Jill Tarter, & John Girard.

    Lastly, if you’re really into this sort of thing check out some other space-musings on the site

    Kepler Space Telescope Exoplanets visualized (great video comparing sizes and orbits) – video

    “oh, by the way” (a reminder of just how large the universe really is)

    Putting Things In Perspective: NEAT!

    When I’m Feeling Down, These Are Some Things That Bring Me Back Up (a roundup of inspiring projects)

    the microcosmologist frontpage