52Frames – 2019 Week 11 – Experimental Photography

The theme for 52Frames this week was “Experimental Photography“. I have a fondness for pretty rocks/minerals, and I was thinking these days they’d be a nice photography subject (that doesn’t move too much). So last week I pushed the door of a mineralogy shop, and I got out with a few specimens to start experimenting.

This one is a chalcopyrite, and it comes from Wallis, Switzerland. Taking the picture was a matter of taking a lot of them and stack them using Zerene – which I had used successfully a few months ago for the Macro theme. I’m however super unhappy with this picture for a number of reasons:

  • I hadn’t fixed my white balance and ISO, which meant my pictures were not as consistent as they should have been.
  • The light was crap, and the shadow below/left is not pretty.
  • I have an ugly purple fringe on the left that’s ugly, and I’m not sure if it’s a matter of light, of lens, or both.
  • I used my lens at its longer focal (300) – by mistake, but I didn’t double-check what I was doing – and I think it’s not as sharp there as it would be at 200.
  • My white paper background is getting very dusty and I should change it.

So, all in all – many mistakes were made… but that also means that many lessons were learnt, and that next one will be better!

Cool stuff

Why ‘ji32k7au4a83’ Is a Remarkably Common Password [text] – a neat thing that’s been making the rounds on the internets recently

For the Easiest Duck Confit at Home, Go Sous Vide [text with images] – I like duck confit. I have a sous-vide water circulator. I sense experimenting in my near-ish future. (Just need to find duck legs around here…)

Awe-Inspiring Winners of the 2019 Underwater Photographer of the Year Contest [images] – some nice underwater pictures

Why Synergies are the Secret to Slay the Spire’s Fun | Game Maker’s Toolkit – some analysis of what makes Slay the Spire so good 🙂

Before Envelopes, People Protected Messages With Letterlocking [text] – a cool article about the research around letter folding.

Top 20 things likely to be overheard if you had a Klingon Programmer[text] – because I chuckled.

NASA Captures First Air-to-Air Images of Supersonic Shockwave Interaction in Flight [text, images] – those are pretty images. And a cool achievement.

Angry Metal Album Art Neural Networks [text with images] – neural networks classifying metal album art, I found that thing hilarious 😀

Google Cloud Topples the Pi Record [text] – “oh, we accidentally computed 9 trillion digits more than the previous record”

Lessons learned: writing really long fiction [text] – a post from Charlie Stross where he talks about writing (long) series of books.

Who the fuck is my D&D character [text] – a profanity-filled background generator for D&D characters. Goes with HERE IS SOME FUCKING D&D [text, GDrive folder with PDFs in it], a micro-RPG, because why not 😛

52Frames – 2019 Week 10 – Symmetry

This is probably the latest I shot my 52Frames submission so far – since I did that on Sunday evening! But I didn’t fail, and there we go: a Symmetry submission.

Again, initial lack of inspiration (this is becoming a theme :/ ) until I remembered the tiles from Azul, which have very pretty symmetric patterns. I decided to add a bit more to the symmetry by stacking them into a symmetric pattern; since they are transparent, they also play pretty well with a back light (although I’m not entirely happy with the shadow at the bottom, which I didn’t manage to get rid of, neither during the shooting nor during the postprocessing).

It was also probably one of my fastest “start setting up things to processed picture” for what I’d qualify as “studio work” 😉

Dipping a toe back in EVE waters

That’s me, in EVE!

I used to play EVE. I was never any good at it, but it always held a kind of fascination and it’s a world I find myself drawn to. I’m not entirely sure why, mind you, because it’s a pretty stressful game: space is dangerous, unknown players can in no circumstance be trusted, and if you lose a ship… well, it’s permanent, and you need to make enough monies to compensate for the loss. But I think I enjoy the challenge of it, including its brutal learning curve, and I really like the fact that there’s a fairly large variety of content.

I also still know a community of nice and helpful players – people with whom I’ve played in the past, and with whom I still occasionally chat, making the whole “I should get back to EVE” a fairly common self-nudge. And then, someone who shall not be named showed me 21 Day Challenge, Can YOU plex it! the other week – which made me want to explore the PvE side of things more, and next thing I know, I’m looking at my in-game inventory trying to figure out where I left most of my stuff.

Coming back after a couple of years is a weird experience. My character is still there, with all her skills and all her money (which makes the “newbie” experience very skewed, but not necessarily in a bad way). I found my main stack of “stuff” in a station somewhere in high-sec, so that’s where I put my base for now – I’ll reconsider once I’ll have blown up all the ships that are in there 😛 Some reflexes are still there – where to look for what, how to try to fly safely, how the mechanics roughly work. Some “emotional” reflexes are still there as well – the gut-wrenching stress of deciding to go through low-sec to get to a place in 5 jumps instead of 25, or the very large hesitation at even considering to jump through a wormhole. (I haven’t set a wing in null-space yet.)

And then, there’s trying to get back in the game. I’ve had a few close calls already – and I lost a few ships as well. None of these actually happened in PvP, which makes it a bit embarrassing 😦 I’d like to believe it’s because I’ve been careful with regards to PvP, which is not entirely wrong, but I don’t think I was ever at a real risk there.

My first loss was a VNI, lost by engaging something I shouldn’t have. (In my days, Autothysian Lancers didn’t exist, and gate rats were… reasonably safe to engage. I think.) My second loss was ALSO a VNI, lost in a combat site that escalated past my (player) skills. I think I could have escaped that one if I had seen earlier that I was webbed (and not aligned) – I failed at warping out before my ship died. Sad.

After a bit of whining (that I’d lost a ship again) to the aforementioned nice players, someone made the remark that data cache hacking in wormholes was actually fairly good money, and that it was feasible in a pretty low-cost ship. I stumbled upon All-Out Guide to Relic/Data Exploration, which I found pretty useful – took a bit of advice here and there, and went on my merry way through that wormhole. Which lead to my third loss, which was, was, thankfully, less ISK-painful – only a Magnate. I scanned the whole hole, found a pirate signature, went to it… and missed the “covert” keyword on it. Started hacking a can, can blew up, and I heard the “DING” of the ship insurance notification before even seeing that something had gone wrong. Cheap ship, so it’s fine; I am, however, sad that I didn’t make the effort to dump my stuff back home between two sites explorations, because I had loot from the previous successful exploration in my ship 😦

Since then, I HAVE done a successful wormhole data expedition (and brought the loot back to my home base, although not sold it yet), and I brought a bit of salvage to Jita to go back to my starting ISK levels (roughly 1B liquidity – that I had PLEX’d before stopping playing, I think). I also did a couple more sites and got another escalation this morning, played with a Thrasher and guns instead of drones. I feel like I’m starting to slowly getting back into the game (and enjoying it 🙂 ) and re-building the itty-tiny bit of competence I ever had. I think I may enjoy the game more this time around, also partly because in the meantime I did get somewhat better at handling stress and anxiety. Hidden benefits of life skills: getting less bad at video games 😛

I don’t know yet if it’s going to stick – partly because playing both WoW and EVE may be more than I can chew. But this morning, I ran into a group of three Lancers. I wisely avoided them.

52Frames – 2019 Week 09 – Negative space

I’ve had a hard time coming up with an idea for this week’s 52Frames‘ theme, Negative Space (with an extra credit “In the studio”). My first impulse was to try to find some intricate piece of… SOMETHING, and to go the “product photography” way, on white clean background.

Well, I missed the nice light because I was doing something else, and I got the idea of trying to play with small, very direct lights instead. So I started playing around with a couple of tiny IKEA LED spots, saw the halo, wondered what I could put in there, and got the idea of someone making a speech.

Snuggles was around (say hi to Snuggles), so he became the focus of my attention; the thing on which he’s leaning (after much effort trying to find the right height and form factor) is an oven dish wrapped in a microfiber cloth 😛 Oh, and the black background is a large piece of black fabric that I use a lot whenever I need a black background.

Cool stuff

Photographer follows red squirrels daily for six years: here are 30 of his best and cutest shots [photos] – because we can all do with more cute squirrels.

The real reason the sound of your own voice makes you cringe [text] – apparently, hearing one’s own voice also makes us hear the “extralinguistic content” of what we say, and that’s the cringeworthy part.

Under Pressure (Piano Cover) – Peter Bence [video, music] – that guy does piano covers of various stuff and I really enjoy his stuff. And I can’t resist a good Queen cover.

A List of TPK’s Free Printable Calligraphy Practice Sheets [files, images] – my primary school teachers may laugh a lot if they saw me working on calligraphy drills 😉 But still.

Why programming is hard [text] – what the title says 😛 And a nice (and funny) reminder.

Strange Planet [comic] – a funny comic with aliens. Or… are they?

Differentiation and Integration [comic] – XKCD made me chuckle on that one. “It’s funny ‘cuz it’s true.”

Flightradar24 — how it works? [text] – a neat article that explains the real-time tracking of airplanes, including how to roll your own receiver for the planes in your area.

#balisebooks – February 2019

(Version française ici : #balisebooks – Février 2019)

Short month, short #balisebooks!

Slayer – Kiersten White

I’m a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer… the TV series, that is. I could never quite get into the comics – to my great dismay, because I really want to know the story, but comics are definitely not my medium of choice. So you’ll understand my excitement when I heard “this is a novel set in the canon timeline of BTVS, although with a different cast of characters”. The hype was real, and I was in the mood for a lighter read, so I picked Slayer pretty close to its publication date.

Besides the initial premise, we meet Nina and her twin sister Artemis, both part of a larger “Watcher Academy” that aims at training Watchers for Slayers, as well as providing some infrastructure and services. The plot then loosely follows the structure of a long BTVS episode, or maybe a long multi-episode arc. I had initial misgivings at the beginning of the book: Nina hates Buffy and Slayers in general, and I think that, if the tone there and the amount of repetitive brooding had stayed the same, it would have been a problem. But the pace eventually picked up, and gave way to what really felt like a multi-episode arc story, with demons, villains, libraries, family and friendly relationships, and a non-zero amount of wit.

All in all, I enjoyed Slayer, and I think it’s a good addition to the BTVS canon. Looking forward to the next one! (Also: in the meantime, I started re-watching Buffy :P)

Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste – Bianca Bosker

Cork Dork is a memoir about the journey of Bianca Bosker, initially a tech reporter, who made her way through the world of wine tasting and wine serving. She recounts how she came to that idea, the people she met, all the things she learnt about wine, and how she went from basically “yup, that’s wine, and I think it’s white wine” to taking a Master Sommelier exam within a bit more than a year.

Bosker makes her journey memorable – she’s not afraid to show how clueless and clumsy she may have been, but she shows tremendous grit and a real passion for her topic. I’m thoroughly impressed and a little bit jealous 🙂 She also gives some actionable information about how to get better at smelling and tasting things, and I’m intrigued enough that I may give some of them a try. (Hell, I went to the restaurant the other day and I did choose the wine glass I really didn’t know on the menu, so there’s that 😉 ). Her writing is very engaging, although I found myself slightly distracted at times when I literally heard a few “transition questions” read in my mind by Carrie Bradshaw 😛

I thoroughly enjoyed Cork Dork: it opened the door to a world I do not know, and made me want to hazard a foot through it 🙂

Meet Me at the Museum – Anne Youngson

Tina, a farmer’s wife in England, writes a letter to a museum in Denmark, and the curator of the museum, Anders, answers her letter. It’s the start of a long correspondance that constitutes the whole book.

I haven’t read that many epistolary novels, but I seem to enjoy the form a lot – maybe I should read more of them 🙂 In this one, I liked the fact that the people involved are complete strangers at the beginning of the book and in pretty different places, which is a perfect justification for very vivid descriptions as the writers explain their environment to each other. Generally speaking, the writing is beautiful and the voices of Tina and Anders are pretty distinct. The first 80% felt very sweet and very restful to me, although by no mean boring. I was, however, not happy with the developments of the last 20% of the book (although I liked the very end), because I felt that the tone became suddenly more judgmental and I didn’t care for that; that part also felt more rushed and I didn’t care for that either.

Everything considered, it was still a “more than 80% positive read”, but I’m sad that the part I didn’t like really didn’t work for me.

Cibola Burn – James S.A. Corey

The titles of the Expanse books’ series are somewhat cryptic, and Cibola Burn is not an exception – and on top of that, I cannot read that and not think “cinnamon buns”. There, you’re welcome.

This is the fourth book of The Expanse, and the premise of it is very much a spoiler on the previous book – I don’t see how I can avoid that if I want to explain the premise. So, beware:

SPOILERS ON ABADDON’S GATE, THE THIRD BOOK OF THE EXPANSE, AHEAD!

The Ring from the previous book ended up being an inter-solar system traveling gate, so we’re going to (larger) space today! I must admit I was a bit disappointed by that development in the previous book – I really liked, in the first three books, that the plot stayed in our solar system. Hence, I was afraid to not like this one as much as the previous ones. I shouldn’t have feared: I actually liked it better than the third one.

So, a bunch of people have rushed through the gate and started a colony on Ilus / New Earth; since the planet is rich in lithium, it is also very relevant to corporate interests. Said corporate interests are RCE, and they have a Proper Colonization Charter, and they’re not going to get stopped by a bunch of squatters on The Planet That’s Rightfully Theirs. The situation escalates, and Jim Holden and his crew are sent to try to de-escalate.

LESS SPOILERY CONTENT AHEAD

We get a fair amount of what made the first books memorable: the mix of old friends and new characters, the multiple point of views narration, the drama and action (although the scale seems reduced here). The setting is basically “frontier, but IN SPACE and with SCIENTISTS”, and it was very enjoyable. Cibola Burn was hard to put down (I may or may not have made the VERY BAD DECISION to finish it last night and to continue reading past midnight) and managed the transition to the larger setting flawlessly. It can feel somewhat formulaic at times, but the formula definitely works for me, so everything’s shiny.