Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Great Whiteway* 

I took a couple of minutes of video on our drive back from Whiteway (pop. 220) last Sunday using the new iPhone app from Instagram, Hyperlapse. The technology behind Hyperlapse is pretty incredible and seemingly only limited by the quality of the camera on your phone. It would be intriguing to see it deployed on better cameras. Imagine how much better GoPro videos would be stabilized to this degree. My advice for using it would be to not simply press “record” but to allow the phone to adjust white balance and exposure first. One funny thing you see in the video above is a smudge that was on the inside of the windshield which is the spot jumping around erratically. I assume that would be because that indicates just how much the actual phone was moving in relation to the landscape (so avoid filming through dirty glass).

The way the app works means it can only output a 720p video which is fine for sharing and web embeds but the intriguing part is that if say in the future you could film 4K video with a phone, you would be able to output a fully HD video. Also, as it uses the phone's built-in gyroscope to even out the image rather than any processing on the image itself, Hyperlapse isn't that demanding on the phone's battery or processor. It takes some time to stabilize the recording depending how long the video is but it's generally pretty fast. I actually found using the 1X or 2X settings give nicer results which is pretty much what the review on the Verge suggests. They also suggest video filmed during bright sunny days will look better than on darker days; here in Newfoundland, I may never get a chance to find out.

*No, not that Great White Way

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Note to Self: Your Mom was Badass 

Mom commandeering a small water craft
Mom commandeering small water craft

This week at home has been, as it always is, a reminder of what I miss living in Toronto (and some of what I don’t miss). The wild wet weather and the rocky rough landscape and the folks who, without knowing you, will talk to you as if they always have. Then there is my mother and her lifetime of habits that somehow I’ve forgotten about and moved on from. I can’t claim to be the healthiest person I know, but when looking in my mom’s fridge, I realized I’ve come a long way. The first day I was home, I opened the fridge and counted 5 lbs of margarine, 1 lb of shortening, 1 chocolate cake, 1 chocolate chip cake and some apples. Since then my aunt arrived with another chocolate cake and my mother has made 2 pies. Admittedly my brother is having a birthday in a few days but still there are more cakes than fruits and vegetables in the fridge. I won’t go on further about how my mom can’t eat Tim Horton’s chilli because it is too spicy (I swear that is psychosomatic) or that how all coffee tastes the same etc. I won’t bother you about how traumatic introducing the concept of copy/paste on a PC would be. Let’s cut a senior citizen a break on technology. I mean, this is why I fear the US would actually elect a septuagenarian as president, “Which button is the one you kids worry I shouldn’t have my finger on? This one? What? Speak up, man!” I accept that my mom is slowing down. She accepts it too. The thing I really have to accept though – when my mom was young, she was kind of badass.

Not breaking-down-doors kind of badass but travelling to a faraway place and working in some very remote and difficult conditions kind of badass. I’m not about to say working as a nurse in Newfoundland in the 50s was like working with Doctors Without Borders in South Sudan or anything but it was very different than where she came from. I’ve been going through these slides my brother scanned a couple of summers ago and I’ve been cleaning them up – colour correcting, removing dust and scratches and fixing exposure if possible. Thus I’ve been spending time with my mother and father in the past. Tidying up these photos means you really spend a lot longer looking at them than if you were just thumbing through them in an album. There she is, my mom, smiling in a snowstorm, with sled dogs, digging gardens, commandeering small watercraft, tending a stove at a camp site, greeting a seaplane, and wrestling two small boys into sitting still for a photo. She came to Newfoundland to work at a Grenfell Mission rural hospital. She stayed and married the Anglican priest. Her family and everything she knew was thousands of miles away across the Atlantic Ocean. Yet she made this her place, her history and her story.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Where Office Coffee Comes From 

Image via NPR

Blue whale carcasses that were recovered from Newfoundland's West coast are now in Trenton, Ontario being cleaned by the Royal Ontario Museum biodiversity team for future reconstruction and possible display. Interestingly, one step in cleaning the bones is to bury them in a large compost pile. Once this process is complete in about a year, the whale bones will be removed from the compost bin (a converted shipping container) for further cleaning and the remaining compost consisting of manure, sawdust and a bit of decomposing whale flesh will be packaged and distributed to be made into coffee for your office.

At least I'm pretty sure that's what my office's coffee tastes like.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Bread and Butter 

Pumpkin Pie, Thanksgiving 2014 via instagram

This is the time, the very best time of the year to me at least. This was a strange weekend. I think this is the first weekend in a long time when I didn’t rush anywhere or have anything specific to do or see which I admit is the complete opposite for most everyone else. I had planned to do a lot but it just didn’t happen. I did my chores around the house I had to do. Did my shopping, did my cleaning up, more unpacking and so on, but I don’t think I saw anyone I knew. This was also a first. I don't recall many Thanksgivings spent solo. That didn't stop me from cooking like I was surrounded by hoards. When I wasn’t lying with a heating pad on my head fighting a very nasty migraine, I was cooking or baking. I made bread, I made a pie and I made a big ol’ fashioned pot roast. Then I ate to my heart’s content.

One odd thing I did this weekend, as the weather has finally “turned” here, was configure the house thermostats. It’s funny but you can see how the previous owners lives were so different than mine just by the thermostat settings. On these controls, essentially one for every floor, you have to set the times for 1) when you get up, 2) when you leave the house, 3) when you return home and 4) when you go to bed. Clearly the previous owners were morning people; early to bed and early to rise. Most of their settings are about 2-3 hours ahead of what I needed, which explains how the heat had come on and gone off before I was even up in the morning and the heat shut off about two hours before I’m even thinking about bed.

Waking up to a cold house that stretches and yawns itself to life is a very autumnal thing which you don’t have in the summer. It’s one of those things I hate (a cold house) and love (the feeling of house that is warming up). The bread I baked this weekend was the first time since, I don’t when, March maybe, and the smell of fresh baked bread and heat of the oven felt a little like a christening for this house. There’s an old tradition when you visit someone in a new home you bring salt and a loaf of bread – presumably staples that every house should have. Now this place finally has both.


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Seen in September 

Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, stars of HBO's True Detective
HBO's True Detective, Season 1. Image via The Wire

While the learned hordes were taking in the highest quality films the world could offer at the end of a red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival I was at home watching some of the worst the streaming world had to offer. I don’t know why but I found myself oscillating between absolute crap and really great films. Some of the best movies were ones I had already seen and just wanted to watch again – Inside Llewyn Davis, Moonrise Kingdom, and the Dark Knight Rises. It was a strange month of 1 good one/1 bad one.
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