Posts Tagged ‘H’

HoloTek Programming – A Star Trek Story

April 9, 2020

President Adrienne Cocteau sat at her desk tapping away at the console embedded in her desk. She was a bit distracted and had not yet really acknowledged her visitor even though she had told her secretary to usher the man in. For her part, Judith Korben was happy to wait even though she was a little anxious about the visit. Getting hired at HoloTek Programming was a dream come true. It was definitely the place to work if you were interested in working with bleeding-edge holographic technology. Judy had been hired as an entry-level programmer but had quickly shown her skill and creativity when solving problems. She was a valued employee now and that is how she had requested and received a meeting with the big cheese.

Of course, Judy would have to actually get a chance to speak in order to make this worthwhile. Several minutes had gone by and her lunchbreak did not last forever. Thankfully, Ms. Cocteau’s secretary cleared his throat standing at the doorway which caused Ms. Cocteau to look up. Judy flashed the secretary a grateful look and then turned and smiled at her boss’ boss.

“Thank you for agreeing to see me today, Ms. Cocteau,” Judy said.

“Please, call me Adrienne,” Ms. Cocteau said. “I’m happy to meet with you, Judith. I’ve heard really great things about the work that you have been doing. You’ve increased our efficiency a lot.”

“I’m flattered to hear it,” Judy said. “It’s Judy, actually.”

“What?” Ms. Cocteau asked, confused in the moment.

“Judy not Judith,” Judy said. “It’s not a big deal, though.”

“Oh!” Ms. Cocteau exclaimed as she realized what Judy had been saying. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Judy said. “It’s perfectly alright.”

Ms. Cocteau seemed relieved. “Well,” she said with an easy smile. “What brings you to my office today?”

“I have a proposal for you,” Judy said. “I have a new direction to take our business which could make the company a lot of money.”

“Last time I checked, we are making a lot of money marketing our products to Federation and independent laboratories. Our revenue is higher than it has ever been.”

“Which is why I think we need to redirect that revenue for even further growth,” Judy said.

Ms. Cocteau’s curiosity had definitely been piqued. “What sort of growth did you have in mind?” she asked.

“Have you thought about entertainment?” Judy asked. “I think there are a lot of avenues that we can explore there. When I was little, I played a lot of video games. Actually, to be honest, I still play a lot of video games during my free time. I think we can adapt our technology to the world of video games.”

“I’m aware of video games,” Ms. Cocteau said. “I’m still not really seeing how this all connects. Also, with all of space to explore, why would people sit on their butts playing games?”

“I’m getting to that,” Judy said. “Ages ago there was a video game technology called virtual reality. Through the use of goggles and headphones, the player was immersed within a virtual game environment. With holographic technology, we could do this but make it way better. You would actually walk around and actually do things instead of manipulating a controller. We could create whole worlds within a single room.”

“This does sound interesting,” Ms. Cocteau said. “It sounds pretty complicated.”

“Oh definitely,” Judy said. “Each character within the world would be programmed separately and guided along by a dynamic and interactive script.”

“So you propose that we fill a room with holograms and each of them is controlled by a separate artificial intelligence program?” Ms. Cocteau asked.

“Guided by a voice-activated artificial intelligence. Yes,” Judy said. “Each game would have branching paths based on the player’s actions within the game.”

“That’s a lot of processing power, Judy,” Ms. Cocteau said. “It seems like there might be a high rate of hardware failure.”

“I think we can compensate for that,” Judy said. “Besides, I really only envision this technology being used on a planet or in space stations. Conditions there should be pretty stable and won’t be interrupted by the rigors of space too much.”

“I suppose that’s true,” Ms. Cocteau said.

“Oh, and there is some really interesting work being done with beams, fields, and replication which would be able to make everything feel real in the simulations.”

“That sounds like it has the potential for being dangerous,” Ms. Cocteau said. “Correct me if I’m wrong but video games can get fairly violent. That sounds like a recipe for injury and maybe even death.”

“We’ll install safety protocols,” Judy said. “If somebody is about to be hurt then the program will shut down. Like a killswitch.”

“I really don’t think we should call it that,” Ms. Cocteau said. “That sounds really iffy, Judy. This whole thing sounds like a huge liability risk.”

“I mean, that can be covered by waivers and warning labels, right?” Judy asked.

“I’m not so sure,” Ms. Cocteau said. “I appreciate your creativity and there might be something to all of this but I don’t think we’ll pursue it.”

“Oh,” Judy said, obviously disappointed.

“I’m sorry to bring you down,” Ms. Cocteau said.

“That’s ok,” Judy said as she brightened after thinking of something. “Do you mind if I shop this idea elsewhere?”

“I suppose I don’t mind,” Ms. Cocteau said. “Just keep me apprised of the situation. I’m very curious now.”

“I definitely will,” Judy said. “This is going to be huge.”

<Star Trek was suggested as a topic by my friend Vashti on Twitter>

Halestorm

April 9, 2019

I love the band Halestorm and this is just going to be me raving about them for a little bit. They are a hard rock outfit that got their name from their frontwoman Lzzy Hale. What drew me to the band is how pure and awesome Lzzy’s voice is and how much it gets me energized especially backed by a rock band. Her brother Arejay is on drums, Joe Hottinger is on guitar and Josh Smith is on bass guitar. They have four albums out but they also have a few cover albums that they put out so if you want a hard rock version of Bad Romance or Get Lucky, you’re in luck.


What Were You Expecting?

Expectations can be a vicious part of our everyday lives. Disappointment and vindication both come from expecting something and either getting it or not getting it. We can definitely build fantasies in our heads that can create a lot out of a little. In this song, “It was just one kiss”. One kiss can send a person’s mind reeling and get them making all sorts of plans. This is important now that we are finally learning to respect women (thanks #MeToo) as we need to examine our expectations and keep them reasonable. It is alright to wish and hope but you need to be realistic and communicate with the object of your affections.


Miss the Misery

I actually think about this song when I think of ending any relationship and it also makes me think of MBMBaM a lot. When we break up with somebody or we end any relationship with somebody we are close to, it hurts. However, every single time I find that I still miss it even if it was painful. It is important in those moments that we keep in mind that we do not miss that person. We miss the way that person made us feel. Positive or negative, they elicited passion inside of us. As the McElroys say, we have a hole in our lives shaped like that person who is now gone. It is something important to remember so that we do not quickly go back to somebody who is not healthy for us. Not to mention this is a real banger of a song.


Rock Show

This one is just a pure ode to rock in general and specifically to women in rock and women who are fans of rock. It is an anthem to the girl in the middle of the crowd who is getting high on the adrenaline of a good rock show. It also throws some love to the girl who dreams of becoming a rocker like Lzzy Hale. The dream is possible and worth having.


Mz. Hyde

This is actually the first song that I heard that led me to seek out the album “The Strange Case…” which is my favorite album so far and is probably the album that led to more mainstream play for the band. This song is about the duality of people. We change ourselves to suit different situations and we actually do it pretty easily. For example, I am totally different at work than I am with my friends. I am different again with my family. Even among different family members, I can shift the parts of my personality that I show. We do this to please people and to protect ourselves. Also, this is hands down my favorite of their songs.


I Am The Fire

I like a lot of songs like this. The song asks “Am I strong enough?” and then answers that with a resounding “hell yeah!”. These songs always get me pumped because they have so much energy. Lzzy’s wailing cries sound like a battle cry and it is hard not to respond to that. It reminds me of stuff like Dorothy’s “Missile”. In fact, Halestorm has a lot of these types of songs. “Freak Like Me”, “Daughters of Darkness”, “Bad Girl’s World”, and “Here’s To Us” just to name a few. Telling your audience that they can be just as badass as the band and that we are all in this together is a great message.


Vicious

Another song about being a badass. Halestorm is so good at that. “What doesn’t kill me, makes me vicious.” It is a great reminder not to mess with people because they might mess with you back. Be kind. If we are all kind then we can all party together.


Shatter Me

Yeah, this is just a bonus song because it only features Lzzy. It’s so good, though.

 

(Written on 4/5/19)

Heather and Hel

April 9, 2018

The elevator always took forever. It took forever to arrive and then the trip took forever. Heather tapped her foot and checked her phone again, swiping over to play a game while she waited. She knew that she would not have any signal once she stepped into the elevator and not for the rest of the weekend either. She had already changed her outgoing message accordingly and set an auto-response on her e-mail. It was a little weird getting cut off from the world like that but the girls weekend was a time-honored tradition. Of course, these weekends used to be a bit different right after college but Heather was dedicated.

Finally, the elevator dinged and the doors slid open. It was surprisingly clean. Heather knew that the elevator regularly transported bodies and blood and stuff so there must have been a great cleaning service. She turned off her phone, picked up her bang, and stepped into the elevator. Her heels clicked on the marble and the sound was pleasing to her. The place was always stylish as heck. There was a comfortable sofa in the elevator and Heather knew it was just for her. She kicked off her heels, set her bag aside and lounged on the couch for a good four-hour nap as the doors closed. It was hard work as a social worker and, as rewarding as it was, she needed a break.

When the doors dinged again, she woke up and checked her hair before putting her shoes back on. She grabbed her bag and stepped out into the busy lobby. The place was just full of people with all sorts of grievous wounds that must have been mortal. It was easy to bob and weave through all the staggering people with a dumb look in their eyes. It was also really cold and Heather cursed herself for forgetting to wear a jacket again. She got to the reception desk and rang the bell. A blue-skinned woman walked over to the front desk, her body making creaking and cracking noises as she moved. Her breath came out in clouds of ice crystals.

“Sorry, for the wait. I’m half ice giant on my mother’s side and sometimes it makes me a little slow,” the woman said. “Will I be assigning you a room or are moving on to Valhalla?”

“Oh no no no,” Heather said. “I’m just visiting.”

The woman just stared blankly at her, one of her eyes drifted away for a moment before she refocused. “Just visiting? Name?”

“Really?” Heather asked. “How many people come visiting?”

“Name?” The woman asked again with a literally icy glare. Out of habit, she looked down and saw that the woman’s name was Katrin.

“Heather Marks,” Heather said. She even fished out her ID and held it up.

“Alrighty Heather,” the woman said. She held up a keycard. “Please proceed to the penthouse. To get there – “

“I’ve been here before, thanks,” Heather said with a smile. She took the keycard and headed to the second elevator. With a swipe of her card, this elevator was much faster. She happily shouldered her bag and hummed a little tune as it lowered to the penthouse on the lowest level. She stepped into the hallway as soon as the doors opened and then she made her way through the front door. “Hello?”

A paper-white pale young woman with jet black hair stood up from in front of the glow of a large television and rubbed her eyes and yawned. “Yo, Heather! Welcome to Hel!”

“Thanks, Hel!” Heather said and the two of them hugged. “Isn’t it weird that your name and the name of this place are the same? I mean, it would be weird if I lived in a place called Heather, right?”

“You get used to it,” Hel said. “It’s nothing like living in the dorms at Hearst with you, though.”

“Yeah,” Heather said. “it was a lot more lively for sure.”

“Literally,” Hel said. “Thanks for coming down here for our girls weekend this time. I know you wanted to go to the beach but you know I don’t tan well. Besides, I just got done hosting some of my stupid uncles on their way to visiting Valhalla.”

“Oh yeah?” Heather asked. “Like the one with the hammer?”

Hel laughed. “Yeah, him and the rest of them. They visit more than my dad does. I really hope they don’t stop by when they swing back through. I wouldn’t want to interrupt our weekend. I’ve been so excited.”

“Yeah? What were you doing when I walked in?” Heather asked with a smile. Hel’s secret sanctum was nothing like the rest of her domain. It was much warmer for starters. It felt more like early spring than mid-winter. It also had all of the latest entertainment technology, stuff that Heather could never afford. One of the many reasons she had been willing to visit Hel instead of Ocean City.

“I just got the latest Monster Hunter and I was giving it a whirl,” Hel said, walking Heather back toward the TV.

“Didn’t you literally grow up around your father’s monsters?” Heather asked.

“Pfft,” Hel said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Dad’s monsters are totally lame. Hunting them would just be a pain in the ass. Just ask Tyr. We should play together! It’s so much fun.”

“Totally,” Heather said. “I brought blurays too.”

“Oh man,” Hel said. “It’s been so long since we binged movies. Oh, and I have plenty of other stuff to binge too.”

“Oh yeah? Like what?” Heather asked.

“Well, for starters I got us two whole pizzas,” Hel said excitedly. “Like that special we used to get back in college.”

“Oh man that was the best,” Heather said. “Just don’t tell my trainer.”

“Our little secret,” Hel said with a mischievous smile. “This is our weekend to be bad.”

“Exactly what girls weekend should be,” Heather said.

“So what do you want to do first?” Heather asked “Video games? Movies? Pizza?”

“Why not all three together?” Heather asked.

Heavy Metal

April 10, 2017


Metallica – Blackened

The very first album I owned was a tape of Metallica’s And Justice for All. It was mine but only because my parents bought it for me. I did not really know much about Metallica, but I wanted to get something different from what my parents were listening to. It is not that I disliked The Rolling Stones or Lynyrd Skynyrd but I wanted to find my own thing too. When my dad let me put the tape in his car as he drove, I felt like my voice was being listened to. The music blew my tiny mind. I had never really experienced the loud, raucousness of heavy metal music. The guitar work was amazing and energetic and I felt like James Hetfield was yelling right into my brain. I felt like we were driving two hundred miles per hour and I loved it.


Black Sabbath – War Pigs

Black Sabbath are often known as one of the progenitors of heavy metal as a genre and in particular, they helped start the doom metal subgenre. Like Metallica, their music and vocals reverberated inside of me. I sang along to Ozzy or Dio as I tried to study and later as I drove my crappy first car in high school. I loved the epicness of each song. One of the first albums I bought with my allowance was the Ozzman Cometh: Greatest Hits. It was actually a UK import that came with some additional tracks including the awesome Faeries Wear Boots. As an angsty teen, I really got behind the darkness in Black Sabbath’s tone and lyrics. It was so unlike everything we had to listen to in school and what my parents listened to.


Flyleaf – Cassie

I would be remiss if I did not talk about the women of heavy metal. The first female metal band that I discovered was Kittie and I was instantly enamored by Fallon Bowman’s classic heavy metal death growl mixed with more melodic singing. At some point, somebody clued me into other bands and I discovered Flyleaf. I figured that them being a Christian band was roughly equivalent to all the bands I listened to that talked a lot about Hell so I put that aside. I now seek out female vocalists in heavy metal and hard rock (I have two Pandora stations for this) as I love the mix of a strong female voice with heavy metal instrumentals. Lately, I have found more modern outfits like The Agonist, Battle of Mice and The Birthday Massacre all of which let their genres bleed a bit.


Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast

As I got older, I not only sought out new stuff but I looked for stuff from the past that had not been played on the radio. I became a big fan of Iron Maiden and some other great bands from overseas. I had already been a fan of bands like The Scorpions and Pantera but I was deep into discovering stuff new to me. I really got into Rammstein when they briefly poked their heads into the American mainstream. I discovered Dio’s post-Black Sabbath band Heaven and Hell which quickly became a favorite (along with his solo work, of course). Thanks to Chris Jericho and the video game Brutal Legend, I found even more new and old heavy metal bands to listen to. I discovered all sorts of different flavors of heavy metal and I am still discovering new stuff.


LADYBABY – Nippon Manju

Of course, as music continues, genres keep bleeding into each other. Artists seek out new takes on older musical styles and try to produce new stuff. It was one day on Facebook of all places where somebody posted a band called Babymetal. Their intention was to mock and surprise us about what the music industry has come to. I was actually inspired. I had already been sort of a fan of vocaloid and Japanese pop music since the early 2000s but the two genres had a baby called “kawaii metal” which also includes Ladybaby and Dazzle Vision among others. Around this same time, I also got into the combination of heavy metal and comedy, mostly through the band Steel Panther. A lot of heavy metal bands go on about satan or dark powers in their lyrics to evoke the forbidden for the sake of rebelliousness (and probably to scare parents). Steel Panther does much the same with rampant misogyny. It is a parody of the oversexualized lyrics of bands like AC/DC or Van Halen. I have to say that if these lyrics were not done as parody then I would be boycotting them no matter how good their instrumentals are. They are not for the lighthearted but they can be pretty funny.


Steel Panther – Death To All But Metal (Explicit)

How to Train Your Dragon

April 9, 2016

So Dreamworks Animation is kind of hit and miss. I loved The Prince of Egypt and the Road to El Dorado which were both movies that kind of glommed onto the Disney style. Antz, although it ended up being similar to a Pixar movie, was actually really good. Shrek was good and Shrek 2 was actually better. I really liked Kung Fu Panda as I felt like it had a lot of heart and more substance than flash. I also liked and reviewed Mr. Peabody and Sherman and the Penguins of Madagascar right here on the blog. There are a lot of clunkers between those. The Madagascar franchise and the latter half of the Shrek franchise especially, are not good. So it is with a 50/50 track record that I approach a movie about Vikings and dragons and hope it’s as good as people say.

Let’s approach this one first from a technical standpoint because I used to want to be an animator and I still study it. Even six years ago the animation is a little stiff but still very fluid. The cool stuff is really subtle, like hair moving with people’s movements or excellent lighting. The character models are really neat looking. So neat that they kind of re-used the same style for The Croods. I haven’t studied Vikings so I don’t know how accurate it is but that doesn’t matter. They created a look and feel to their world that is consistent and interesting looking. Even the drawings and writing we see is really neat to look at. The “camera work” is really fun and exciting especially during action sequences. A lot of it looks like a live action adventure movie. Throw in a good score and excellent foley and creature sounds and we have a movie.

The movie starts with what looks like it will be a literal hero’s call to journey. We see a warrior culture fighting against the only threat they have ever faced. There are too many tropes going on to name. We have the misunderstood outcast, the father who loves but doesn’t understand his son, the intellectual in a world of brawn and so on and so on. Each of these is taken in a slightly different direction though and most of them are only noticeable in the early parts. Instead, we get a movie that extols the virtues of being smart and kind and that sometimes it’s braver not to fight. These are great messages to teach these days as some groups try to prove that this is a weakness. It also throws in the easy message of the power of friendship and forgiveness.

The star of the movie is voiced by Jay Baruchel whose most famous role is arguably the one where he goes on a rant about HD-DVD versus Blu-Ray. His voice isn’t really suited for his character model and doesn’t really fit the body of a preteen but it grows on you eventually. They really should have picked somebody a little more boyish but I get that they were going for nerdy but snarky. America Ferrara is especially good as the tough and driven Astrid and I loved every bit of her strength mixed with very reasonable insecurities. Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson play really fun Vikings who manage to be kind of touching too. Everybody else is pretty good too.

Overall, the movie is a good family movie that has a lot of heart and a good message. I laughed in all the right places and I felt in all the right places. It’s a little paint by numbers but it’s definitely worth your time if you’re interested.

Hotel Gaines

April 9, 2015

I started to walk across my room and realized my shoes were still on. My feet felt hot and confined from hours of air travel and walking through airports. This was a vacation, wasn’t it? I took my sneakers off and tossed my socks into the corner of the room. I spread my toes on the soft carpet and stretched my back out. I walked to the window and slid it open and stepped out onto the balcony. The room had such a good view of the beach. I really lucked out on that last minute upgrade. I leaned on the railing and felt the breeze that you can only feel when you’re by the ocean. It just tastes different. I thought about downstairs.

“Welcome to the Hotel Gaines, Mr. Jennet.” The girl at the counter had said. Her name was Jenny and she couldn’t have been more than twenty years old. Her nametag said manager and I wondered if that could be right or not. “I think you’ll enjoy your stay. It looks like you’ve been upgraded free of charge. You’ll be staying on the top floor if that’s ok with you.”

I had blinked and let the words register, probably waiting a little too long. “Yeah. Wow. That would be cool.” Very smooth, Arthur. You always knew just what to say. Oh, that’s me. I’m Arthur Jennet.

Now he was here and it still felt a little odd to have the key to this room resting in his pocket. It must have been a mistake but it was their mistake and I resolved to enjoy it until they made me move. The beach looked inviting and there was no time like the present to enjoy it. Lissy and her family weren’t going to arrive for two days. I wonder what they’ll think of my room. There will probably be teasing.

I stepped out into the hall with my bathing suit on and my towel and key in hand. Unfortunately I only had my sneakers because I don’t like wearing footwear that shows my toes. I can never think of a good reason for that. I am who I am. That’s what mom always used to say. At least, that’s what Aunt Kathy says she used to say.

I could have sworn it was a left to get to the elevators. All of these hallways and all of these doors look the same. They all have clearly stenciled numbers and little speakeasy doors so you can see who’s outside your door. I guess I hadn’t really seen that before but this hotel came recommended so I guess it’s a thing. That little door makes me feel kind of vulnerable but I have to believe that they’re firmly latched and nobody could use that to sneak into my room.

Where are those elevators? They should be around the next corner.

“Out of your room, Mr. Jennet?” Wait. Who was that. I turn around and I thought I saw somebody for a second but there’s nobody there. I think I’ve walked this floor for ten whole minutes now without finding the elevator. I’d settle for finding the stairs. This is getting ridiculous.

“Are you so eager for your treatment?”

This time I answer the invisible young woman. “Who’s there? Can you tell me where the elevator is?”

There is no answer and I pick up my pace until I start to breathe harder. The air-conditioning cannot fight back the sweat that starts to seep from my hairline. I came here to relax and now my heart is beating out of my chest. I am suddenly lost and afraid. I wish I could give this upgrade back and I would if it meant that I could find the elevator.

I hear screaming from a door on my right. I should keep walking past but I instantly press my back against the wall opposite the door and cringe in fear. What is behind that door? What must they be doing to the man behind that door? I want to know and yet I would live the rest of my life without knowing. There is a whole library of knowledge that I realize that I am better off not knowing. Ignorance is bliss.

I turn the corner for the 53rd time. I’ve been counting. Jenny is standing there in a freshly starched and pressed uniform. She looks so professional. The men on her right and left are not so put together. They look like they have had a long shift. She smiles reassuringly at me and I smile back to be polite. What is she doing away from her desk downstairs? Did she hear the screaming?

The silence stretches on for hours. The two men look tense as if they were wild cats, big game ready to pounce. They watch me with an unmatched intensity. I look around for the elevator or the stairs but it’s all the same doors. The doors are all the same. All the same.

Jenny is closer and she puts a hand on my shoulder. “Let’s get you back to your room, Mr. Jennet. We don’t need these gentlemen to do that, do we?” She smiles and this time I can’t help but smile back. A genuine smile. A grateful smile.

“No. I guess I haven’t unpacked yet. I should unpack and sit down for a bit.”

“Sounds like a plan.” She says and we walk back the way I came. It seems a lot shorter this time.

I walk to the window and I open it and step out onto the balcony. The air tastes so salty. It feels good to see the ocean. I wonder what Lissy will think when she comes. I wonder what she’ll think of my room.

*   *    *

This one was based on Doctor Caligari, the stage adaptation of the Cabinet of Doctor Caligari that my brother recently starred in.  It is also inspired by horror games like Amnesia: the Dark Descent.


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