Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Entering the VR

I'm not a techie person. I'm not into all the new things that come out. I don't play video games. But you know, when virtual reality became reality, I was excited for that one. Sci-fi had genuinely come to life. I'd like to say the Holodeck had come to life, but in actuality VR is more like (that which even has the exact same name) VR in Earth 2 (I'm sure there are plenty of other examples, too, but that's the one that comes to mind for me). I remember when I watched that show a few years ago and I said that VR was cooler than the Holodeck--and then VR became real.

And yet I didn't even try VR until yesterday. I don't know. I guess it's one of those things where I wasn't going to buy it myself and I never got around to trying it anywhere else. So yesterday.

The first game felt a little more like Tetris in a way. When I used to play Tetris on my Razor (a slim cellphone from back in the day for any who are unfamiliar), that tiny screen became my whole vision because I was so focused on the game (I was pretty great at Tetris, a skill that comes in handy when you're packing groceries into your shopping bags or stuffing the trunk of your car or packing a suitcase). So that first game felt kind of like that. The game was all I saw but that's kind of how it is when you play a screen game, anyways. It was cool, though, because you're using your hands and arms more than just your fingers.

The second game was a set of them. I just tried a few here and there, the carnival games that I'm terrible at, anyway, so of course was pretty bad at in the game. I probably had more fun on the home pages of this one, looking around at all the scenes around me. You turn your head and there are more things over there. You look up or down and there are things to look at. If someone's standing next to you in reality, you know they're there but they're not really there because they're not what you see next to you. It's crazy.

The last game I tried within this set was a little more interactive in the way that only VR can be. It was climbing. You're climbing across ropes and against walls/cliffs. So you're changing scenery. And you look down and you see down and it's amazing, even though it was animated style imagery. When you fell, you would "die" and the world would fall around you. I kept saying, I like dying, that's fun. Just seeing everything fall was so cool. And then in the end when you finish the course, there's a crown that you grab and if you waved it, there were stars. So I was just waving my crown and watching the stars fall. It's weird because there's something tangible in your hand and yet there isn't.

I can see how people get addicted to things like VR. They're really cool, no mistake. But I'll stick to it as just a novelty, something for every so often and not for every day or every week. It's amazing to enter another world but I also want to keep living in this one.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Roses Walking

There are roses walking across the earth,
Their blood is dripping red.

Petals scatter,
Thorns fall.

Brambles take hold,
Tearing and trembling.

Roots rip the ground,
Seedlings spring up.

Roses rise up in beauty,
and then shrivel.

The dried rose petals are the most exquisite of all.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Winter Thaws for a Pause

January tends to be the coldest time in Arizona. Even in the Phoenix area, there is that week or so where the lows go into thirties and the highs stay at the fifties or forties. We've just moved out of that spell. Now we're in a warm spell.

The jackets (and umbrellas) are gone. Now everyone is outside riding bikes and enjoying the weather. It got to 70 today--even though the high a week ago was 25 degrees lower.

There are desert marigolds blooming all around, as if it's spring. A little girl gave one to me at work the other day.

Where there were clouds covering the sky, the sun is beaming out. Even my bearded dragon awakened and flopped onto her sand, only to end up back in the same spot where she's been sleeping for the last couple months.

And that will be it, won't it? The warm spell will end. The rain will return and the cooler temperatures will come back, too. Maybe we've had the lowest of them, but we'll at least have cause to bring the jackets out again. Spring isn't here yet.

While such weather can be odd or even a hassle, I love the bipolarity of it. Ups and downs. One thing and then the opposite. Something you like and then something you don't and then you don't even know which you prefer because they keep interchanging.

Ups and downs and interchanging. So much that you don't even know which you prefer. A kaleidoscope. Life as a kaleidoscope. Always changing, always the same. Good or bad? Negative or neutral? Neither, in a way: you and your own perspective can be the constant, the thing that holds it all together.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Eclat Chocolate: Coffee & Cardamom

After all these years of chocolate reviewing and making up categories of chocolate (candy, confections, novelty, artisan, etc.), I've decided to add a new one: fine foods chocolate.

This Coffee & Cardamom bar from Eclat Chocolate is one of the chocolates that kind of breaks my rules about going for the more ethically-sourced cocoa products. It isn't even organic. It's so far apart from the usual chocolate style going around that it has no info about cocoa origin or the flavor notes of the chocolate or any of that, just a mention of the cocoa percentages. This one is a combination (not a mix) of 54% dark chocolate and 33% milk chocolate. The packaging gives that sleek, fine foods style rather than particularly the fine chocolate style. While it's very pretty packaging, it just looks different. Even the little window that lets you look in at the chocolate (which is honestly pretty convenient) is more reminiscent of crackers and cookies and things like that than chocolate.

Look at that bar design, too. I appreciate its singularity. The alternating stripes of milk and dark chocolate and the cocoa pods and leaves are quite striking. Sometimes when a chocolate is more of a food than a chocolate, the bar's design ends up being fairly plain or commonplace.

The aroma is fragrant. The effect here is that the fragrance comes from the chocolate's own flavor notes rather than necessarily added flavor. Though of course you know that it's all coming from the added cardamom and coffee.

I tried to break off a piece that included both types of chocolate. I got some of that warm cardamom taste and then started crunching on coffee. Coffee comes across the strongest by the time the chocolate is mostly gone. For the second piece, I tried to get a bigger one and in this way was able to taste more of the milk chocolate, this time paired closely with the taste of the cardamom. I would call this a standard fine foods milk chocolate, nothing particularly noteworthy on its own but not bad. I'm not seeming to be able to pick up the dark chocolate specifically. It's too low of a cocoa percentage to distinguish from the milk chocolate right next to it. So the milk chocolate naturally ends up registering more.

I keep on chewing this chocolate more than letting it melt, both because I'm trying to get all the flavors mixed in and because it has those coffee bean pieces. So definitely a munching chocolate.

It's good. There is a good balance on the cardamom, which is present but not overwhelmingly strong. The cardamom also makes the coffee, which is quite the common flavor combination with chocolate, more interesting. Chocolate like this is meant to be shared with strong flavors like these; otherwise, it would have no interest. So it's definitely a fine foods chocolate (since the focus is on the added flavors and not on the chocolate), but it's a good fine foods chocolate.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Do You Return?

Do you return to the same book again and again? I had been reading Jane Eyre about every four years. The exact same copy that I started with in middle school--even though I now own many, many copies of that book. I underline and I write things in the margins and I look back at what I noticed before. And each time, I brought with me a new perspective and so the book grew and developed with me.

It's now been five or six years since I read it. I'm not reading much these days, so there are plenty of other books I should probably spend my time on. But I'm feeling very much overdue for another reading of this book that has begun to feel like my soul.

What will I bring with me this time?

In middle school, I liked the dark, Gothic elements. In high school, I liked the fairy tale quality. In college, I liked Jane's growth as a person. Whatever age I was and whatever I was learning, I could take with me into this book.

It's funny, maybe now I'm going to really get into the whole Bertha thing. My perspective on Bertha is that she is, figuratively, Jane. She is what Jane would be if she stayed with Rochester at that point in their relationship. That's why Jane had to leave; she couldn't become Bertha. Later, things changed for both Jane and for Rochester and they were able to come together on better, healthier, equal terms. But at that point, Bertha was the thing within Jane that she had to beat and destroy. And I've been really into that concept of beating down things that you know try to destroy you.

And . . . maybe more. We'll see. I don't know, I think this book that is so familiar will be like it's fresh and brand new this time. The book that grows with me.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Thirteenth Doctor

I'll preface this by saying that I haven't yet watched the New Year's episode of Doctor Who, but I have watched all the other new episodes.

The idea of this character being female for the first time sparked, well, lots of conversation. Strong opinions. While I didn't exactly feel the necessity for introducing a female Doctor, I didn't want to feel too deeply about it either way and in any case, I thought it would be better to just wait and see how it all went. After all, I wasn't the biggest fan of the twelfth Doctor, so I was probably already okay with the idea of liking some of them and others not so much.

When I started watching the show, though, it was like we just had another Doctor. They don't try to make much of the fact that she's female and that's the point: it's still the same character. And Jodie Whittaker also just approaches playing the character; she doesn't try to infuse the character with femininity on purpose or anything. She just is and that was the best way to go about it. So anything female about her is just a natural part of it all.

There are, of course, the moments when it does come in to the plot. If they're in historical places, then of course it makes a difference for the Doctor to be a woman than a man; the believability would go down otherwise (I mean, we all know this is fiction, but you know what I mean). Still, even when it needed to be an aspect of the plot, I appreciated that the plot never revolved around this.

Thirteen's companions are more reminiscent of the First Doctor's posse. Not just one companion to flirt with aka. Rose and Ten (though I did love them) or Amy Pond and Eleven. A group. The Doctor is great when he has a whole group, not just one companion. That also gives more space for the plot of each episode; you have more material to work with.

There was something fresh about the whole feeling of this season. Getting a new writer in obviously reworks the whole tone. It was great to have episodes that were just adventures, like before. Everything can't be a facing-the-end-of-the-universe thing because that gets old, as does having the same character die multiple times. It's fun at first and then it's draining and then it has so much weight that it has no weight. So it's better with such a long-lived show as this to go back to that lighter weight. To have the peril within the episode and that's it. To have the fun skittering over to the past or a new planet or whatever.

They also had a good mix of settings. Historical, present, future, Earth, not Earth, space, land, aliens, no aliens (or kind of no aliens). That's the fun and imaginative element of the show.

So I was pleasantly surprised by this new season. I liked the Doctor again, was entertained once more by that character. And I enjoyed just going along for the adventure of each episode, just a fun hour of exploration.

Monday, December 31, 2018

The New Year Is Upon Us

Shall I cue the return of blogging organization with the new year? Perhaps, perhaps not. We shall see. I was doing so well for a while there. Mayhap I will discover again the thing that is called an organized schedule of tasks for different days.

This past year passed so quickly in one sense and yet also seemed to fill in the space of more than just a year. Without going into detail, there has been so much ground I've covered in this year. And also so little.

I came home today delighted by my Victorian Christmas tree and my Victorian etagere and my books and my coffee table and my new record player. And I just . . . am glad of where I have come to be. Even while there is so much more to settle, there is also so much that has been settled.

When you're at that point that you look around and you like the progress that your life has been through. Maybe there is plenty more to go, but you're glad for what has progressed. In the last year or so, I have learned the practice of continual thanks and that has enhanced my ability to enjoy everything.

I see everything on a different plane now. Places, people, moments. Beauty has such a strong and different meaning from the general one.

I feel like I have so much more to give to my second book than I did to my first one--and yet I never seem to take the time to work on it for more than brief moments here and there. In a way, though, I think that this might be okay because maybe I will be better capable of working through it later than at the current moment. Maybe stewing is good.

I know everything and nothing.

I am alive and you are alive and it is good that we are alive. Let's live.

Happy New Year.