News about me, and my thoughts, jokes, and stuff.

Sean's Blog

Festival and Frigidity

A few weeks ago I biked up to Greenfield, MA to check out the Brick and Mortar Video Art Festival.  It was a one-day presentation of many video installations at 5 different buildings in town, all 5 of which were in at least partial need of renovation.  I had not heard of the festival before, but this seems to have been its second year.

It started in the mid-afternoon and ran through late evening.  I headed out close to 1:00 and got to Greenfield around 2:45, passing through Sunderland and Deerfield on the way.  In Deerfield, I passed right by the Mt. Sugarloaf reservation, and took some pics of the side of the peaks (with some Fall colors):

Once I arrived, I looked for some lunch before going to any of the exhibit spaces.  I ended up eating at the cafe in Greenfield’s Market, which is the natural food co-op there.

From there, the first building I went to was the Pushkin gallery, which is in an old bank building:

There were videos showing in a few spots in the building, including in the old vault:

The second building I went to was also an old bank:

Inside its cavernous space was the largest video projection of the whole show:

That image was at least one story tall.

It was an interesting way to see videos, in spaces that were partially restored, or full of bare studs, or just dilapidated.  Some were projected on walls, some showed on small lcd monitors, and a few were on good old honking CRT monitors on A/V carts.  The quality varied, and I think I found about half of the videos interesting in some way.  They were all fairly short, so if I missed the beginning, I could just wait until it repeated.  One that I found fairly captivating was also one of the simplest – it was just a real-time, extreme closeup, single take of a snail crossing a space of 6 inches or so.  Of course, it helps that I like snails.

Once I’d seen everything, it was starting to get dark, so I set out for home.  I had lights with me, so I was prepared for the darkness.  Unfortunately, I had somehow thought I’d be leaving sooner, so I hadn’t dressed as warmly as I should have – just 2 not-very-thick layers on top, only 1 layer on my legs (with shorts underneath), no hat under my helmet, and no gloves.  It got quite cold as I rode back (down to the upper 40’s, if not lower).  I took a slightly different route back, crossing the Connecticut River and heading South through the towns of Montague, Leverett, and Amherst.  It took about 2 hours in that direction, but though it was cold, I still mostly enjoyed the stillness of the night, and the excellent view of the stars.

It’s good I wasn’t out much longer, though.  By the time I arrived home, it was cold enough that my hands were getting numb.  The total distance I covered was more than in the organized ride I did the previous weekend – about 47 miles.

Posted by seaking on 11-08-2010 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Arts/Media, Biking, Video with 0 Comments

Face-to-Face with Danger

Earlier this evening, I went out to pick up a few groceries.  As I was driving up the somewhat rural road that leads to our local commercial strip, I saw some cars with their blinkers on just up ahead.  Some of them were clustered just off the side of the road in a field.  As I slowed down, I realized there were people walking around in the field – waving at me and telling me to stop.

I did come to a stop, and as I did so, realized that there were power lines hanging just a couple of feet above the car.  I started to back the car up, but saw that another car had come up behind me and was stopped.  Someone then was yelling for me to get off the road, so I pulled over into the grassy field and got out of the car.  Once out of the car, I could see that, across the road, a car had slammed into an electric pole, and the pole keeled over across the road.  The pole had not fallen all the way down – it appeared that it was being held up by the wires – but the top end of the pole couldn’t have been much more than 6 feet off the ground, and the wires were just about that close to the road.

I asked if the police had been called, which they had.  After another minute, a patrol car showed up, and then 3 more arrived in another minute or two.  At that point, the cops were able to take over redirecting traffic, so I and some other people drove past the downed pole area and back onto the road.  I did my shopping, and went home a different way (which I’d been planning to do anyway so I could get gas).

As far as I could tell, nobody had been hurt.  The car that hit the pole seemed to be empty, so I think its drive had gotten out after the accident.  I don’t know how much danger I was actually in – it’s possible that I would have cleared the wires if I’d kept driving, but it was still pretty freaky seeing them looming so close in front of the car.  Definitely the most unusual shopping trip I’ve had in a long time.

Posted by seaking on 11-07-2010 at 11:11 pm
Posted in News with 0 Comments

Fall Forty

A month ago, I did an organized bike ride that started out nearby in Northampton.  It was a fundraiser for the youth cycling programs of the Northampton Cycling Club.  Unlike the MS rides I’ve done, the riders weren’t expected to raise donations – the funds were simply from registration fees.

I did a 40-mile ride.  I’m sure I could have done more, but the next level up was 65 miles, and I didn’t have enough time to train for that.  It was a neat ride, though, as I went through some towns I’ve been in before, but on unfamiliar roads.

The ride first went Northwest into the town of Williamsburg, and then headed North into Whately.  I went through Whately center, passing its quaint library, and then found some nice views just North of that, such as this:

Eventually the route took me into Deerfield, where I passed by Warm Colors Apiary (we’ve bought their honey in local stores).

I crossed state hwy 116 and soon was looking for the one rest stop on my route, where I could have a snack and refill my water bottles.  The route cue sheet (which listed all the turns and mileage) said the stop would be in front of a small cemetery.  I passed said cemetery, but there was no rest stop set up.  I eventually found it another mile or so up the road, near some farm fields.  Apparently, the ride organizers had chosen the cemetery site and set up there without checking whether it was legal.  Turns out they needed a permit to do that – some neighbors complained, and the police came by and told them they couldn’t be there.  Hence, they moved.

The rest stop was on a loop at the Northern end of the route, and the beginning and end of that loop both crossed a bridge over the Deerfield river.  Here’s the view from each side of the bridge:

After that, the ride went on a dirt road for a while, and then started up a long climb.  That climb was the one really grueling part of the ride, though fortunately it wasn’t dirt for very long – most of it was paved.

After coming down that hill, the ride headed into the town of Conway (which I’d never been in before).  We passed Conway center, where a big festival was going on (it’s apparently an annual event in the town).  This made the ride slightly more challenging, as tons of cars were parked along the side of the roads near the town center.

Once past that, the route went South, climbing again, and leading to this view of the hills to the West:

Before too long, the road entered Whately again, and eventually joined up with the first road we’d taken through there, which went back through Williamsburg into Northampton.  My total ride time for the 40 miles was just short of 4 hours.

Posted by seaking on 11-06-2010 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Not to Be Confused with the Arcade Game

Here’s another sci-fi webcomic review.  Galaxion, by Tara Tallan, concerns space exploration and a mission to test an experimental interstellar drive (after 2 previous experiments met with failure).

This comic is one that was first published as a print comic series in the 1990’s, but Tallan relaunched it on the web a few years ago, rewriting much of it and redrawing it from the beginning.  I’ve read both, and it’s interesting to see some of the plot points she changed, but I won’t get into spoilers here.

The story has a lot of elements of mystery/suspense to it, as there is much that’s unknown about what happened with one of the earlier drive experiments.  What makes it compelling is the clash of different characters, especially as the captain of the ship being used for the experiment (the Galaxion) has to deal with her civilian crew of scientists and researchers being commandeered by the military.

There are a number of very different characters in the comic, many of them defined by their jobs on the ship.  One of the neat things is getting to see some of the everyday life of the crew.  Another interesting point is the ship’s survey contact team, who are trained in various aspects of contact with new life forms, though in the story’s history of human space exploration only one other form of sentient life has ever been encountered (and these folks haven’t gotten to meet those life forms).

I’d also call it a feminist comic, as most of the characters are strong female ones, including the main character (a contact team member), the ship’s captain, the general leading the mission, and the contact team leader.

If you like lightly techy sci-fi with a lot of interpersonal dynamics, occasional silliness, and a slowly unfolding puzzle, check out Galaxion.  Plus, this week you can see Tallan’s blog entry about her kid’s Dalek costume.   🙂

Posted by seaking on 11-05-2010 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Comics, Links with 0 Comments

NaBloNoGo

I seem to have already failed at the challenge of posting to my blog every day this month.  I did not post at all yesterday.  I wasn’t even all that busy in the evening – I just plain forgot to do it.  Easy to do if one is not in the habit.

I still think I’ll try and post every remaining day of November.  It’s an interesting exercise to try and make a habit of it.  This does put me out of the running for an official prize, though.  (registered participants in NaBloPoMo who actually manage to blog every single day are eligible for prizes donated by other participants)

And yes, this post counts as my entry for today.  Tomorrow night: another webcomic review.

Posted by seaking on 11-04-2010 at 10:11 pm
Posted in Meta with 0 Comments

Runners Review

It’s been quite a while since I last posted here about a webcomic that I read.  Since the last time, there are a few I’ve picked up, and I’ll be posting about them this month.

Up today is Runners, by Sean Wang.  It’s a sci-fi comic, with a partial adventure, partial comedy bent.  The main characters are a group of freelance smugglers (known as “runners” because they run contraband around the galaxy), who find themselves getting somewhat in over their heads on what ought to be routine jobs.

The series was originally published as black and white print comics.  There were 5 issues in the first storyline, which were then collected in a trade paperback.  Wang made the decision around 2 years ago to make it into a webcomic, so he started republishing the original issues online, one page every weekday for several months.  Once that completed, he started a second 5-issue story arc in full color, which is currently in issue 4 (it was 2 pages a week for a while, now down to 1).

The aspect of the strip that I think I like the best is Wang’s alien designs.  He’s got a few humanoid characters in the mix, but most look very different, and he’s very careful to think about designing clothes, weapons, and other tools that fit well with the varying anatomy of his characters.  It makes for a well-built world that sucks you in easily.  It’s also refreshing that human types aren’t the main or even a main force in the galaxy.  Almost anyone the reader meets who’s in charge is a non-human.

The writing is also strong, with characters having very distinct personalities (even the minor ones) and good chemistry.  There’s also a really fun sense of humor pervading the series.  It isn’t just funny, though, and Wang does still manage to have some emotional impact, and even some overarching menace lurking in the background.

I highly recommend Runners for anyone who likes humorous science fiction or adventure stories.  Check it out.

Posted by seaking on 11-02-2010 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Comics, Links with 0 Comments

The Beach is Back

First, let me begin by stating that I am attempting to fulfill the requirements of NaBloPoMo this year (National Blog Posting Month).  Actually it’s just one requirement – I will endeavor to post something to this blog each day for the month of November.  This is the first of those 30 posts.

This past August, we made another trip up to New Brunswick, to among other activities, spend time exploring the beach.  Here I present some of my better vacation photos.

Here’s the beach scene one day near dusk:

There were plenty of Gulls around, of course, some of them large, like this one:

This crab was deceased, but I later saw more than one large crab walking around under the water (and trying to avoid humans).  I didn’t get great pictures of the live ones.

This is a clam bed, with all the little hole for the clams’ breathing apparati:

At one point I saw something moving across the dry sand, and looking closer, I saw that it was a sand-colored spider!

Here’s a hand for size comparison:

We came upon some fun sculpture in the sand as well.  Here’s one where we felt welcomed:

A dragon with a city on its back:

The best was a squid attacking a ship:

I think it’s supposed to be the Love Boat:

Posted by seaking on 11-01-2010 at 10:11 pm
Posted in Travel with 0 Comments

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