Usually Sundays are reserved for group runs, but due to … circumstances … I ended up running on my own.
Had I been following my typical wimp-out strategy of late I might have pushed through a 8 (possibly 10) klick run, patted myself on the back for getting out and running despite my various barriers, and fell asleep on the couch.
Instead, I’ve committed to doing some serious training in prep for that darned half marathon I signed up for next month. So I found myself nudging myself onward at obvious turn-back points, negotiating both sides of the mental barrier, and ultimately tricking myself past a point of no return … or more appropriately, a point of no point in turning back so you’d better just push on.
I captured a lengthy bit of video which I’ve posted onto YouTube as an unedited “Let’s Run” that you’re welcome to watch … or not … I’d lean towards not if I were you. It’s pretty long. Kinda like a fourteen klick run.
There’s a ton of construction downtown this year, which is exciting.
But there’s a ton of construction downtown, which is kinda putting a big giant “MEH” on the annual decoration efforts.
Work on the new LRT means Churchill Square has more plywood barricades than food trucks. Work on refurbishing the downtown library means that what was once a brutalist architectural eyesore of an old building will be replaced by a promising work of post-modern shape of angles and glass and modern style, but is now a concrete skeleton with some jutting steel and a crane looming over the whole thing.
The New Years fireworks have been moved away from City Hall.
And there is definitely no fifty-foot-tall tree in the square.
I took some early morning video to share what it looks like on Jasper Avenue, Churchill Square and in front of City Hall this month.
There is a bit of effort. It doesn’t quite look like the holidays are skipping our City this year. Fortunately there was some forethought put into (permanently?) lighting the larger trees, and the ice rink in front of City Hall still beckons wee skaters to show off to the mayor sitting in his office overlooking the spectacle.
It’s a subdued, meh-kinda holiday season downtown… but by necessity for a brighter, fresher version in a year or two.
There is a certain weirdness to dragging people along on your hobbies, I get it.
People watch other people play video games.
People watch other people build furniture.
People watch other people eat food.
Maybe people want to watch other people out for a run. It’s not the craziest idea, is it?
I recorded and narrated a second episode of my MagPi Runner series, and gave it a bit more production value in the form of a slightly nicer bumper and lead in, a higher frame-rate on the video quality, and I deliberately was trying to channel a little more mellowed our Bob-Ross-style.
If you’re not one of those people who likes to watch other people do mundane things, you probably won’t get much out of this. If you are… let me know what you think. Share. Subscribe. Do one of those things that other YouTubers are always telling their audience to do.
Ten days after debarking from our second family cruise vacation, stepping back ashore onto the south bank of Texas, slowly making our way through customs, airports, and a yearly allotment of seasons in a single twenty-four hour span, I realize I haven’t written much about our little adventure.
I usually write something.
In November 2017, we found ourselves lost at sea. Not physically, of course. Physically we were aboard a 155,889 gross tonnage, 14 story, 5000 passenger mega-luxury cruise ship plowing through the Gulf of Mexico at 21 knots. Physically we were wrapped tightly into a billion-dollar industry’s bosom of comfortable pampering, eating too much, water-sliding in places only a twenty-first century human would find reasonable, and jogging on treadmills at ten-thirty at night in the middle of the Caribbean sea while thousands of people drank and gambled and watched country line-dancing seminars all aboard this gleaming white technological marvel of nautical engineering.
In November 2017, we found ourselves lost, but lost moreso in a cultural mismatch of vacation priorities. I claim no moral superiority in my vacation interests, my tendency to seek quiet contemplative moments on some less-travelled gang staring out at the sea counting the swells of the ocean in a meditative trance, is just different from the bustle implied of basking in the sunlit upper decks amid a wash of music and pool noise while nursing a twelve dollar drink from a carved out pineapple. It’s just my preference and while my choice was relatively more difficult to find, it was available in heaping abundance compared to any other day of my life
I found some of those moments under the water as well.
A mask sealed over my eyes and nose. A plastic tube protruding from the waves. A camera.
A hundred meters off the shore of Roatán, Honduras I swam our past the tangle of wilting reefs and floated in water ten meters deep as I lolled along the border of fractal crops of sea life as they dropped into a bare sandy abyss disappearing into the clear water murk of the Caribbean.
A few days later we, all three of us, dropped from the back of an unsteady boat and floated above the protected reefs of a Mexican protected aquatic wilderness a few kilometers from where our behemoth of a cruise vessel sat seemingly so quietly at the Cozumel dock.
There are a hundred interesting moments on cruise ship, temporarily cut off from internet and media and land and slugging through the waves towards some unknown land which will inevitably be pocked with a nugget of tropical culture perfectly aligned to selling cheap souvenirs and overpriced beer to fat tourists. The trick… my trick to find a perfect moment in that clutter, was to ignore the feeling of being lost in that fury and find a moment of clarity, rare and precious for a land-locked doofus like me, under the water snorkeling with a camera in my hand.
In the vast scheme of all the running folks out there, my little corner of social sharing is probably the least interesting. A forty-something guy plodding through the suburbs of a little Canadian city.
The thing is, I’ve been doing it for ten years. Well, ten years give or take a month to be precise… but basically ten years.
While we were on vacation last week — or was it two weeks ago — we were sitting in a hotel room in Houston, waiting to get on a shuttle to board our cruise ship, and the New York Marathon was on television. I was somehow once again in the US of A, but this time far from the start line and far from in shape to be there. A year ago I had run that race, finished that beast, and done so standing up. This year… well, it’s been a year since I’ve aspired to anything of that magnitude.
Sure, in 2017 I ran a couple awesome relays, finished a half marathon (or was it two?) and plodded along with my sport. In the back of my mind, however, I was giving myself a bit of a year off. Not pushing. Not exceeding. Not trying to find a new level.
Everyone needs a year off. And I think I’ve finished mine.
So… how to get things cranked back up… becomes the next tough question.
One idea I’ve had (particularly since picking up a new GoPro in the last month) was by creating some Youtube videos and effectively just vlogging about it.
Hold on. Wait just a second.
So in the past, I’ve frequently run with a video camera. This results in one of two outcomes. Either (a) I mount it to something and run past the lens in steady, serene staged clips of this-guy plodding through the scene, or (b) I run with it in my hand and I get vomit-inducing, very shaky first person clips of my run. I like both, but the first is time consuming to create and no one really wants to watch the second.
The new camera has built-in stabilization. This means I can run with it in my hand and while it’s not quite like watching a camera on rails, it’s not nearly so shaky as past videos. Have a look for yourself:
So the next question becomes… can I make these at the rate of one every couple of weeks? Will anyone watch them? And most importantly, will they inspire me to run more frequently and on more interesting routes? Can they help kick start my training back into something resembling a serious hobby?
If you’ve been following my web comic effort over the last couple months you may have noticed I’ve been hitting the promotional effort quite strongly. Thing is, this little “goofing around on a boring weekend” project has escalated into something that has some leg. The legs are small and weak and barely pulling along the wee body mass of the corpus-proper, but there are legs.
So it now seems like I’ve jumped in with both my legs and decided to see how far I can push this thing until it runs out of steam. For example:
I’ve actually punched out a proper logo.
I’ve set up a few additional social media channels to cross-promote.
And since I had the art work sitting around in HiDef-ready format anyhow, I’ve been using the simple YouTube video online editor and some in-built audio clips to chop out very simple video versions of the comic strips.
You can check out the video version of one of my most popular strips (based on page views and retweets, etc)…
Or, number 007, which is one Claire simultaneously loves and hates because NOW… now… she says that they’re not called unicorn pancakes anymore, so… dad… WTF(udge)?
To top it all off, I’ve created enough strips and scheduled enough stuff that I could officially go on a vacation until October and this thing would just quietly post away until virtually Halloween. That’s a cozy place to be sitting… and it really only giving me more time to flex my promotional creativity.
Now I almost feel like the next milestone is to make it –actually, chronologically– until Pi Day 2018. Imagine that?
Photo of the Day Theme A light-toned photo of a person or people.
“Dad, can I make a Minecraft video?” She asks.
I sigh. “I guess.” And then I hand over the keys(board) and let her log into the game and start recording. She’s making a YouTube video of herself playing video games. If I’m not careful, she’ll be a success and pulling in a bigger annual salary than me soon.
I opted for an overhead shot. I couldn’t quite get the over-the-shoulder perspective to capture the right glow from the monitor, and besides she wouldn’t stop playing for the two seconds required to look at the camera.
My little social media guru has been busily promoting her efforts. She’s been telling all her friends that her and her dad are still making Minecraft YouTube videos.
This means that (a) not lots but SOME people are actually watching these things and (b) this is now officially the most successful YouTube channel I’ve ever been a part of.
And while you may not be inclined to spend your free time hunting down videos of random people playing video games, apparently it’s media catnip for this generation of pre-teens.
So we play.
We recorded our thirteenth episode this past weekend, and –given that it’s spring break and there is no structured extra-curricular this week, no dance, no swimming lessons, no school work to do– my co-star has grand plans for at least a couple more episodes before the week is out.
In the meantime, we had a little (post) Easter fun in episode 13:
Continuing the whole “trying to make a family bumper” effort, the second attempt at this 3D animation has more movement, but less 3D… and also less personalization.
I was trying to make use of some interesting textures mashed up with a craft-project slash construction-play motif, the concept being that this might look something like a homemade bumper we built out of cardboard and craft paper.
The result is okay, and the animation moves quick enough that you don’t catch the flaws unless you watch it a half dozen times in a row… in which case you might notice the unwanted collisions and some minor shearing that occurred. I may tweak it into a version point-one and see if I can clean some of that up, but otherwise I’m happy with it.
If you’ve been to our house, you may already know that we record and “produce” a lot of home movies for our own offline private viewing. Daily movies, vacation videos, random films, and other fun thing captured in high definition.
Over the years the production value on these has increased, largely due to a lot of practice putting them together by your’s truly. And to make them “fancier” we’ve got into the habit of adding our own little “Family Features” bumper to the front of those videos. A bumper is a few second clip that shows off the video like we’re some little studio putting these things together. It’s fun.
Part of my inspiration to learn the 3D animation software Blender was that I had the idea of producing a 3D animated bumper. I’ve got a few ideas, but the process isn’t nearly as simple as you might expect. I’ve got those ideas in the works, but the most time intensive part by far has been the rendering.
This first attempt took 9 hours to render, and though it is a little simple I like the idea of adding some kind of personalization into the clip: as you can see, I textured the cubes with photos from my collection:
In fact, the problem with being sick so much and missing so much opportunity to run has been that I have a lot of sitting around time. It occurred to me that, rather than just wasting it by watching endless hours of Netflix as I recover, I might actually try doing something useful. To that end, I’ve been teaching myself a new piece of software: Blender, a 3D animation suite.
“Blender is the free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation.”
And I’ve been using it for about two weeks, watching a lot of video tutorials on how things work. The result has been a lot of finished pieces that are essentially things that the tutorials taught me… and this one other thing: a coffee cup, that I made just on my own. It’s not much, but I thought if I started posting some of my work, it might inspire me to keep practicing…