Questions and Chaos

Life in the 21st Century

More Virtual Reality

Sunday, June 19, 2016

I tried out HTC Vive Virtual Reality and couldn’t stay away.

Tilt Brush is a 3-D drawing program. It’s difficult to make it look interesting with 2-D screen shots. It was an unusual experience to draw a campfire and then walk around it. I could draw stars overhead and snowflakes falling all around me. In a screenshot it loses all effect and just looks like a five year old’s drawing so I’m not going to show you my efforts. It’s possible to save the drawings for other people to experience later. Here is a saved drawing.

Here is a sample drawing in the gallery, to show us what’s possible.
Mushroom_00
Again, it completely loses its effect in the screen shot. These are drawings that you can walk around and, in some cases, walk through.  A three dimensional drawing is something the brain doesn’t really understand until you actually experience it.

In Waltz of the Wizard  I am throwing potions into the cauldron to create spells. Each spell creates a  different super power. Super powers such as throwing fireballs, attracting objects with my hands or turning myself into a giant are available. This game  has great visual effects, but I found it a little disconcerting to find that objects could be put, not just onto the table, but also into the table.
Butterfly in Walz of the Wizard Waltz of the Wizard
Irrational Exuberance involves shattering the rocks that and boulders that float past me and shattering the rock wall that surrounds me.  Eventually I am  left standing on a small platform  floating in a star filled galaxy. If I lean too far the blue lines of  the VR boundary appear making me feel safe. Now I know no matter how far I lean I won’t fall  into the abyss.  It doesn’t mimic any real life experience and I think this makes it more fascinating.  Screen shots don’t show the details in the darkness.  Like TheBlu,  it’s a beautiful game for introducing a non-gamer to virtual reality.

Hover Junkers is an on line game that looks fascinating. I was told “You wouldn’t like it Mom.” Of coures, this means I have to try.  In this game you have a choice of various post apocalyptic space ships to drive through the desert scene, collecting treasure and avoiding death.   I admit, I did refrain from going on line so I wouldn’t get shot at, but I definitely wanted to drive a ship and go for a ride.
Here are my hands.
Hover Junkers
Loading the gun.
Hover Junkers 2

Taking a a drive around the scenery. 
Hover Junkers 3

Apparently even video game players are highly impressed. “OMG”, “No Way!  “This is the coolest shit ever!”
Take a tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual Reality is Here

Friday, June 3, 2016

Virtual Reality

A few days ago I was able to try out the HTC Vive virtual reality headset. Yes, the future is here and available in your living room. Put on the headset and adjust to fit. Add ear buds and I enter another world.

I find myself in a big warehouse space with white furniture while a talking basketball gives me instructions about how things work in virtual reality. The controllers become my hands. The blue lines show the edges of the virtual  reality. Don’t step past the blue lines or I may hit my shins on the furniture.

When I push a button on the controller it blows up a balloon that floats  to the ceiling. I can blow up red, green, yellow or blue balloons from the ends of my finger tips. The balloons float slowly upwards and when I pull the trigger I  shoot them down. I’m reminded not to push the controllers past the blue lines. My son is worried I may punch a hole in his television screen.

In another module, I  practice using my controller hands by throwing sticks  for a robotic dog. He fetches them and drops them at my feet.

Virtual Reality

My favourite program so far is TheBlu. The floor doesn’t move. Yes, this is where you introduce your grandmother to virtual reality. It’s fascinating first time around but could be boring without more interaction. TheBlu has three modules. The first is called Reef Migration. I’m standing on the ocean floor with sea anemones beside me  and various sea creatures above and all around me.  When I touch the sea anemones with the controller they close themselves up.

Click on photo to see better details

Click on photo to see better details

I am surrounded by schools of small fishes flitting everywhere. It feels like a little fish might go right up my nose. And then there are the jellyfish.
Jellyfish 1
Luminescent orange jellyfish everywhere.
Jellyfish 2
And gigantic jellyfish.
Jellyfish 3

I was so enamoured with jellyfish I almost missed the sea turtle completely.
Turtle

The second module is Whale Encounter. Instead of standing on the sea bottom I am standing on the deck of a sunken ship.
Ship
A whale swims in from the distance.  It swims past the platform and looks me right in the eye. I’ve never been face to face with a whale, so perhaps I shouldn’t judge, but the whale somehow didn’t seem real. Still, it was a really good 3D movie whale.
Whale
And the stingrays floating overhead were beautiful.
Stingrays
The third module is called Luminous Abyss. I am walking on the sea floor littered with old whale bones. It is dark and I need to use the controller as a flashlight. Many scary things could happen when surrounded by darkness.  I am nervous but, here, it’s perfectly safe. Nothing jumps out at me.  I use the flashlight to look around the sea bed at the bones and the crabs, as small luminous jellyfish float by.
Small Jellyfish

I have to confess, on  the drive home the streets looked a little drab and ugly.  Really, with all of modern technology,  is this the best we can do?

When I went to sleep that night I was still seeing schools of orange jellyfish in my head.

There’s so much more to see.

 

Fire

Friday, May 20, 2016

Fire

wildfire
homeless city
alone
afraid
i stand
bare feet
on rocky ground

 

 

 

Yarn Bombing

Friday, March 18, 2016

Yarn Bombing – Guerilla Knitting – Yes,  It’s  a thing. 

I am weary of violence and outrage. There’s a political campaign in the U.S. and my Facebook feed is filled with outrage all day long.  Just scrolling through without reading it’s clear that people are not in their happy place. Apparently some have even resorted to asking our prime minister to be their president Sorry, there’s enough mess to clean up in this country.

Graffiti is often an expression of outrage and anger. People see graffiti as something dirty and destructive.  Some knitters have decided to do a different take on graffiti. This is graffiti without harshness and without anger.  It  is soft and cuddly. Knitting or crocheting adds bright colour and softness to concrete side walks and roadways.   Instead of knitting baby blankets or mittens they have tossed knitting across the urban landscape.  These knitters are bringing their  grandmothers’ craft from the hearth into the outdoors of the concrete jungle.

Instead of just putting a blanket over their head when the world is too harsh,  knitters are putting the blanket on the world.  Our grandmothers knit to bring beauty and warmth to their families. Guerilla knitters are knitting to remind us that beauty and warmth are necessary for the whole world. They remind us that our cities need the characteristics of the stereotypical grandmother. They remind us that we all need gentleness, nurturing, and warmth, no matter who we are or where we are living.

 

 

Headlines Everywhere: Girls Love Pink

Monday, August 27, 2007

In my local paper I came across an article from Reuters London reporting a new scientific study that showed: Boys like blue, girls like pink and there isn’t much anybody can do about it, researchers said on Monday in one of the first studies to show scientifically that there are gender-based colour preferences.”

Scientific American has run the Reuters article verbatim: starting with the above quote. Newspapers everywhere are proclaiming the above line or something even more scientific sounding like that of the Toronto Star : “A new study, appearing this month in Current Biology finds for the first time that girls are hard-wired to like pink.

In this study 208 subjects age 20-26 looked at pairs of coloured rectangles and picked the one they preferred as quickly as possible. While both sexes preferred blue tones, more women picked reddish-blue tones than men. Based on the evidence, the conclusions published around the world are sheer nonsense and, sadly, people will believe those conclusions have been proven by science.

In the summary of her paper submitted to Current Biology researcher Anya Hurlbert talks about how no previous studies have found sex differences in colour preference and “This fact is perhaps surprising, given the prevalence and longevity of the notion that little girls differ from boys in preferring pink.

First off, in order for little girls to prefer pink they would need to be offered a choice. Babies and toddlers have no choice in the colours they are dressed in, girls are born surrounded by pink and boys by blue. Walk down the girls’ aisle in the toy store – what colour is everything? What would little girls play with if it wasn’t pink? How often do they have a choice between a blue, green or pink Barbie car? The choice is pink or pink or pink. Any little boy who who loves pink is quickly re-directed to the correct toys and colours. It is parents and marketers that choose pink for girls and blue for boys, not the children themselves.

It’s interesting to note the age of the subjects. Previous studies found no differences between the preferences of males and females. Subjects age 20-26 have been more heavily subjected to consumer culture, more toys and television than any other generation. Also interesting that Chinese subjects of both sexes had a greater preference for reddish tones than the British subjects. In Chinese culture red is considered a lucky colour.

Hurlbert explains these findings as having a biological basis because to her it seems logical that women would prefer reddish colours because it helped early females find fruit and be attentive to babies’ skin colour changes such as fever. However there was no evidence in her experiment that women noticed the colours faster, only that they preferred these shades.
If we’re going to look at this from an evolutionary perspective and let’s assume it’s true for a moment that women are hard-wired to prefer pink. If it were true, wouldn’t every man looking for a hot date be wearing some shade of pink?

Ben Goldacre on Bad Science points out that choosing pink for girls is only a recent cultural phenomenon. He quotes a 1918 Ladies Home Journal that says girls should wear blue and boys should wear pink because “pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

It doesn’t really matter what colour you prefer as long as the truth remains that males are strong because they are the hunters and females are dainty because they are the berry pickers.

I abhor pink consumer goods, but I’m a darn good berry picker. So perhaps I need to accept that, perhaps, biologically I’m a Neanderthal.
……………………………..
addendum
In the comments Nikku said: This article is misleading as female humans preferring a slightly redder shade of blue has nothing to do with liking a pink shirt. EXACTLY! That’s my point. To use this data to say that girls are hardwired to like pink is just bad, bad science. Trouble is all the media in the English world, and maybe more, said this proved that girls liking pink is a hard-wired trait. It’s now three years later and if you Google “Girls like pink” you will read the following: “A new study, appearing this month in Current Biology, finds for the first time that girls are hard-wired to like pink.” — and that is just wrong on so many levels.

Newlywed in Their Nineties

Monday, August 20, 2007

“There is such a thing as being able to love again,” said the 90 year old bride as she married her 94 year old husband. August 17, 2007, in a lovely ceremony at Canterbury Court seniors lodge in Edmonton, Alberta, Aileen LeDrew and Ralph Arrison said, “I do.”

The couple had been spending time together for several years and cruised the Panama canal together earlier this year. Aileen’s eyesight is too weak to read so Ralph reads her the newspaper, historical non-fiction and Shakespeare. Aileen helps Ralph remember day-to-day tasks. They had considered living in sin but decided to honor tradition the way they were brought up.

 The wedding reception included champagne toasts, a bouquet toss, a belly dancer and a waltz by the newlywed couple. A honeymoon in Barbados is planned for this fall.

No one is likely to question their wisdom. Both partners were previously married for over fifty years. Together they have 116 years of marital experience.

Wedding Photos

Newlywed, Ralph Arrison had some good advice:

“You take as much happiness as you can at the present time,
whatever the situation is.”

 

Elders of the Global Village

Thursday, August 16, 2007

July 18, 2007 an event occurred for the first time in the existence of the human race and the media was incredibly indifferent.

The next day, the headline in the New York Times read: “Pull Out Bid Lost, Democrats Stop Debate on Iraq“; the Toronto Globe and Mail read: “Global Hunt Heightens for [Conrad] Black Assets“; the Edmonton Journal headline read: “Bid for Oilers [hockey team] Jumps $20 Million“. Those were the events deemed most important for public knowledge.

July 18, 2007 marked the first formation of a group of global elders. Modeled on the role of elders in traditional societies they are a group of “trusted, respected, worldly-wise individuals with a proven commitment and record of contributing to solving global problems.” The mandate of the group is to work publicly and privately to address global issues, resolve conflict and support the contribution of established groups working to stop unnecessary human suffering. Members of the group are free from all political, economic and military pressures.

Their only purpose is to ease human suffering in three essential areas:

  1. Offering a catalyst for the peaceful resolution of conflict.
  2. Seeking new approaches to seemingly intractable global issues.
  3. Sharing wisdom: reaching out to the grassroots Elders and to the next generation of leaders. Listening and helping to amplify voices for good all over the world.”

Desmond Tutu, Chair of The Elders, said, “Despite all of the ghastliness that is around, human beings are made for goodness. The ones who ought to be held in high regard are not the ones who are militarily powerful, nor even economically prosperous. The are the ones who have a commitment to try and make the world a better place. We – The Elders – will endeavor to support those people and do our best for humanity.” — wow.

Other members of the group include: Nelson Mandela from South Africa, Graca Machel from Mozambique, Kofi Annan from Ghana, Ela Bhatt from India, Gro Harlem Brundtland from Norway, Jimmy Carter from the United States, Li Zhaoxing from China, Mary Robinson from Ireland and Mohammad Yunus from Bangladesh.

Look at the faces of these people and compare them to those who rant and rage about weapons of mass destruction. Look at the resumes of what these people have already accomplished. These are the people we should look to as role models for ourselves and our children. These are the people whose faces we should see on magazine covers. These are the people whose life stories should become feature articles.

In his opening address Nelson Mandela said, “We are only human through the humanity of other human beings.” Let us choose our role models wisely.

Questions and Chaos

Friday, July 13, 2007

Like everything else in nature, we are part of an ever changing and cycling world. We live out our lives in a world of infinite interactions. Like the wind and the weather we are part of a chaotic system. Generally we only see the immediate effect of our actions, if any, and tend to assume that our actions are insignificant in the big picture.

The other day, I read a newspaper article describing a very minor incident that ended up creating unbelievable havoc. A seventeen year old young man was at a play centre with his four year old nephew. Apparently the nephew threw a ball at another child. The adults accompanying this child became very angry. There was a physical altercation and police were called. Later in the day the young man was driving down the street. The same people saw him, ran him off the road with their truck and hit three other cars. Then they got out and threatened him with an axe. Now that’s a story about anger spiraling out of control!

If negative events can escalate into something much bigger than expected, it is also possible for this to happen with events we consider positive. Of course, negative events that didn’t happen are completely outside our awareness. We will never know about the man who went home and didn’t pick up an axe, even though he might have been right on the edge. We hear about the people who commit outrageous crimes. We will likely never hear about people who’ve made an outrageous change for the better. When we think about our own lives we can probably remember a time when someone said just one sentence at the right time that made a huge difference to our feelings, our confidence or our actions.

A friend of mine once found herself working in a rough part of town. When she walked down the street at lunch time she decided to smile and say “Hello” to the unkempt people she encountered. Did she make a difference? Because we can’t see the effects, we assume there aren’t any but that is not necessarily true.

Just as the snowflake falling to earth is shaped by temperature, humidity and impurities in the air, our lives are shaped by the people and situations we encounter every day. Unlike the snowflake, we have the ability to ask questions and to choose how those events will shape us. We have the power to ask, What is the most compassionate action? What would be the best action if it spread and escalated? We can choose whether we will say “Good Morning” to the homeless person, ignore him or tell him to “Get a job.” If a customer is angry with us at work, we can choose to do our best to stay calm or we can let the anger infect us and take that anger home to our children.

The best measuring instruments with the best computing power cannot predict the weather for more than four days. We have no instruments available to measure the outcomes of our actions. The best we can do is ask questions and choose our actions as wisely as we are able.

It’s a paradox that our actions may make no difference at all or they may make all the difference.