Aug. 23rd, 2013

Miscellany

Aug. 23rd, 2013 08:36 pm
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  • Last week I spent my workdays in a Drupal training class at the Penn Stater hotel and conference center.  I’m not sure how much I’ll use Drupal for web work, but there are a couple of web sites at work that use it, and improved knowledge of web content management systems in general won’t hurt.  Much of my time at work other than that class has been spent polishing off an interactive Google Maps-based web map of the measurement instruments at the local CZO (“Critical Zone Observatory,” the stream catchment south of campus from which most of my funding comes) and working on a database for all the data coming from that CZO (including web interfaces to that database).  One of my coworkers, who is responsible for ensuring the sensors at the site are in working order and transmitting data to campus, and I have to give an upcoming seminar on the new database to all the involved (local, anyway) scientists, but before that I need to make some mock up slides of my map and the database for my boss’ “State of the CZO” meeting in early September.  Speaking of my boss, early this week she asked me to take over an entirely new (to me) section of the data flow process for the local CZO:  in addition to managing the database and access, and providing assistance with visualization, I am now in charge of the processing of any and all data from the local CZO, including quality control and any conversion of raw data to commonly used forms/quantities.  I joked that someone should stop me before I go mad with power, but I actually am glad to have this new responsibility, as it gives me more contiguous control over an important area, instead of discrete bits of the process here and there.  And, as I learned in my years of management in my previous career, you cannot fix anything you do not control.
  • Saw a local doctor for the first time in State College late last month.  Went over my current conditions and talked about my fatigue and easy tiredness that hasn’t eased up since I returned to work at what is mostly a desk job.  I hadn’t gotten out on my bike because I hadn’t felt up to it.  We agreed to look at my sleep situation first, because some of my conditions may be aggravated by being generally out of shape, but I don’t have the energy even to start exercising because I’m not sleeping well.  Got a referral to a sleep specialist and had another overnight sleep study, at which I think I slept better than I have during any of those in the past, though it still wasn’t a great night.  Apparently, my CPAP needs to be set to increase my pressure by 2 cm water.  Once I get that changed, I hope I notice a difference.
  • Speaking of bicycling, another excuse I had been using for not going out on either bike was that I couldn’t find the bike tire pump.  Finally did find it, filled the tires on the hybrid, and headed out two weekends ago for a short ride.  Ended up being very short (about 2.5 miles), because I couldn’t even get off of our street.  Each end away from our condo is uphill, and at one point I couldn’t even catch a runner on the sidewalk, so I did several swings back and forth, climbing up each end as far as I could, coming back down, and doing the same at the other end.  I didn’t really prepare, nutritionally, and it was the first time out, so I’m not too upset about it.  I do think I’m going to try the road bike next, though, and hopefully this weekend, as it’s so much lighter than the hybrid.  May talk to a local bike shop about a fitting.  My geometry has definitely changed since last time I adjusted the road bike, so it wouldn’t hurt to adjust some things so I’m as comfortable on it as possible.
  • Found info on the local contra dance group.  They have monthly dances in the Fall, Winter, and Spring at a local school, and I’m going to try to go to the 1st dance of the season in September.  Toni may come along to watch (and it’s nice that the local group lets accompanying non-dancers in free).  Invited another friend along, because it’s more comfortable for me in a new group thing (even when I know the activity well, like contra dance) to be around one or two people I know, and I like sharing things I enjoy.  As for other upcoming things, Toni and I are going down to the DC area soon for a day of gaming (board/card games, not video games) with some friends there, and we’ve reserved a week in a cottage in the mountains northeast of here later in the fall – our first real vacation in years!
  • Went down to the DC area a few weeks ago to see a friend from grad school who is currently living south of Baltimore, and she and I wandered around the National Mall for an afternoon.  Met two other friends for lunch and ended up talking for three hours, so we missed hitting any of the actual museums.  We went to Annapolis for dinner and wandered around the waterfront a bit.  Downtown shops in Annapolis all seem to stay open very late, and nearly all of them have ice cream.  I uploaded some of the photos I took into a Facebook album.
  • Been absolutely fascinated by a new TV show, one that finished its first season several weeks ago, but I’m still geeking out about it.  With Warehouse 13 ending after six last episodes next summer, Futurama ending in just a couple of weeks, and no new Doctor Who until late November, Toni and I binge watched Homeland a few weeks ago, and can’t wait for its third season to start next month.  Continuum has been fascinating, getting nicely complex, and about to wrap up its second season on SyFy.  We’ve also gotten into Orange Is the New Black on Netflix, but we’re only watching that one about once a week or so.  Orphan Black is the new fascination to which I referred, which had a ten episode first season on BBC America back in April and May.  Watched it weekly then, and have watched the Blu-ray discs twice over since they came out last month, and I’m noticing more and it gets better every time I watch it.  The best thing about the show by far is the star, Tatiana Maslany, a Canadian actor in her late 20s I had never seen before.  She plays the main character, Sarah, who is a streetwise punk grafter coming back from being on the run for nearly a year, who wants to make amends and reclaim her young daughter.  At the train station, she sees a woman who looks just like her physically (thought quite distinct in hair, makeup, dress, and mannerisms) right before this woman kills herself by stepping in front of a train.  An opportunist, Sarah takes the woman’s purse and runs off, thinking she can use this as a chance to get out of her old life and take the dead woman’s identity.  She soon realizes that things are a lot more complicated, and she starts to meet other women who are also identical to her.  The show takes a strong side (in my observation) on the “nature vs. nurture” argument, and Tatiana plays each of the identical women very distinctly.  Clothing, hair, and makeup go a long way to distinguish them, but Tatiana also understands each of the women’s back stories and attitudes, and she does an amazing job of differentiating posture, movement, mannerisms, language (including accents), etc.  She’s very expressive, and deserving of awards for her portrayal of any one of the major characters, not to mention that she pulls off at least seven in the first season alone.  That she does a fantastic job of acting is an understatement, especially considering that she may be the only one in a scene, playing against another one or more of her own characters (which means when shooting the scene, she was acting against nothing – they have a woman actor as her double with whom she rehearses, but that woman leaves for the actual shoot – and does so as each of the women in the scene).  None of the characters she portrays is a gimmick, archetype, or throw-away, either – even one of the characters we meet early who gets very little total screen time is very well-fleshed out by the writers and Tatiana’s performance.  The writing is also sharp, the production quality high, and the pace fairly quick.  Not every moment is a rush, but very little time is wasted, and a ten-episode season is just right.  It doesn’t feel like a sci-fi genre show, either – more of a mystery/suspense thriller that has some science fiction as a relatively low-tech basis for the setting.  Tatiana has a great supporting cast as well, including Jordan Gavaris, whom I’d never seen before, but who gets many of the best and most humorous lines as Sarah’s foster brother Felix, and Matt Frewer (Max Headroom, Taggart from Eureka, etc.).  I’ve seen and praised multiple-character performances before (e.g., some of the Cylons in the recent reimagined Battlestar Galactica, such as Tricia Helfer, Grace Park, etc.), but Tatiana Maslany takes it to a whole new level.  Out of character, in interviews and at convention panels, I’ve seen her talk, and she is so very intelligent and a master (“mistress”?  I don’t really use “actress” anymore, so I don’t know) of her craft.  I think what helps her pull off the gargantuan feat that is her multiple roles in Orphan Black is the fact that she spent ten years doing long-form improvisation.  I could probably write an entire blog post gushing about her, as I’ve been so captivated by both the show and her.  I didn’t think much about her appearance (and it varies quite a bit between characters in the show), and she didn’t strike me at first as physically beautiful, but the more I see the show and the more I see and hear from her, the more beautiful I think she is (and not just physically), and I think the bigger my celebrity crush gets.  And it’s amusing to refer to her as a celebrity, as she has no interest in the Hollywood celebrity life (as she said in a recent interview) and is blissfully unaware of it – watch her 2013 Critic’s Choice Award acceptance speech if you want proof.  It’s on YouTube.  If you haven’t seen Orphan Black, find it and watch it.  It takes maybe the first three or four episodes to really kick in, but it’s worth it, in my opinion.  Unfortunately, the second season doesn’t start until next April.

Originally published at Abnormality Locality. You can comment here or there.

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