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A blast from the past!

I put this before the doctype declaration on my old site. Thought I’d share!

    Hello fellow explorer...
    The cake is a lie!
    Han shot first.
    The truth is out there.
    *drops a tinfoil hat for you*
           
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               _/|
             _/  \ 
        __   \    \   __
             / /  / 
            /     \
            \   /  |__
            /\ /     /
           /  /     / \__
           \ /\     \   /\
           /   \       /__\
          /_  / \   /\/   
            \/   |_/
                  
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                  v
              _-------_
             /         \
            /           \
            \         O  O
            (           _\
              \      \__|
               \   ____/
                |    |
               /      \

The Vagaries of Time

I’ll be sharing this at the April 20, 2017 Literary Conclave (a Stormwind University weekly public event on Wyrmrest Accord-US). Part I: Drowning was co-written with Caniell Lyca (Bailey).

 

Part I: Drowning

What does it take for wishes to come true?

What clears your sky to brightest blue?

On a journey always living in someone’s shade

Hoping your dreams won’t be unmade

Sirens sing to you from the deep dark sea

Taunting your hopes for all you could be

Keep the light in your eyes, do not let it dim

You’re starting to sink, I beg you to swim

Advice is offered, but your heart contradicting screams

Why must it be so difficult to follow your dreams?

I lived all my life trying to be tough

The vagabond loner who never held on tightly enough

The person I see is not the one that you know

How can you live with what mirrors will show

 

Part II: Descent

Lost your mind long before your hair turned grey

You looked to others to show you the way

Got off the train to finally see the tracks

Trying hard not to focus on what your life lacks

Remember feeling two hearts beating together

As I wandered this life you became my tether

Suffering is supposed to be caused by being attached

But the happiness it brought me hasn’t been matched

Who’s at the center of your universe?

Finding out it’s another couldn’t be worse

So I continue to wander alone and write thus

Admiring the architecture and beauty around us

All the tears don’t show on your stoic face

With all its pain, happiness and heavenly grace

“Love and Death are always on my mind”

Recently I have been interested in Mitosis and Apoptosis, the life and death of cells.

Apoptosis relies on enzymes called Caspases. These are protein digesters that cleave proteins apart at specific locations. “Programmed cell death” as it is often translated, doesn’t take into consideration the usefulness of a specific cell, the experience it has gained from repeatedly performing its function… no, how could a biochemical process know such things? Still, it is a part of the life-cycle of a cell that marks the end of that cell, that unit of life, and prevents it from duplicating its organelles, Deoxyribonucleic Acid… this isn’t simple fission.

Spindle fibres, centrioles, cytokinesis—all the sundry mechanics of replication and division happening constantly within us, without conscious thought playing a role—a process of folded protein interactions, it can be overwhelmingly complex and beautiful. There are a lot of triggers for these processes including the external environment the cell exists in. Inhibitory proteins, catalytic enzymes, regulatory hormones, binding to sites on proteins they happen to stumble into in the grand and chaotic dance of biochemistry.

Sometimes the presence of specific proteins in excess causes strange things to happen. Apoptosis Inhibitor Proteins (IAPs as they’re sometimes called) can lead to extraordinarily long cellular life cycles—the fountain of youth itself. But cells aren’t meant to live forever, necrosis is just another process that can affect life. Poly-Adenosine Diphosphate-Ribose Polymerase (PARP) can cause necrosis by causing a cell to consume all of its Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), the phosphate energy carrier released by the Krebs Cycle that provides the chemical energy needed by our biochemistry—part of what keeps us alive.

When cells don’t or can’t die they proliferate in ideal conditions, mitosis creating life, again and again without end. In my mind this is how tumours grow, there can be a gene mutation, or simply an over-expression of a gene that codes for an IAP inhibitory protein that prevents Caspases from cleaving, prevents the cascade. I’m certainly not telling you anything new, this is the first place to look for understanding tumour growth. Perhaps in the future there can be an injection given into the heart of a tumour that helps regulate Apoptosis, turning off these inhibitory proteins and allowing the cells to die a normal cell death. Or even an activator that causes PARP like proteins to increase in concentration in the cytoplasm, Caspases that cleave proteins apart, or phagocyte digestive processes aided by enzymes might be able to aggressively consume tumours. The only problem is these processes are simple mechanically and don’t yet discriminate. Still, if one could find a way to isolate, start and stop these simple mechanisms then they might be viable in the future… or maybe just in my head.

When I have a thought, I wonder where it originates. Yes, neurons are the cellular unit that make up my brain, but what causes that presynaptic neuron to fire in memory recall? Is it a chaotic process like protein interactions? Are millions of neurons “searching” for the memory of my first kiss in the back of that car, or making out during The Lord of the Rings? What gives neurons the capacity to hold data, like images, sounds, smells, memories, our identities? The brain is so poorly understood that it all seems like magic, like we have a time machine in our skulls that lets us visit the past, live in the present and contemplate many possible futures. Maybe there is an intangible, metaphysical component to our consciousnesses? But then what happens during traumatic brain injury, when someone loses their sense of self, can no longer recognize loved ones, becomes unresponsive? Do the monists have it right, does consciousness exist solely within the bio-electro-chemical interactions within a mass of neurons, in countlessly finite synapses, along the axons and dendrites of the units of thought? I am not sure what to believe, but I really want there to be more to us than our physical forms.

Animals too have the ability to learn, are born with instincts and innate behaviours, and they too perhaps wonder about their lives as they lay there in the sun on our kitchen floors. If aliens were to visit our planet they would find it very strange we both care for and kill animals selectively, even with our superior technologies, we still haven’t solved the problem of why meat tastes so damn good. I hope one day that out of necessity or out of empathy that the majority of people become vegetarian, but this comes from my Indian background, I’m certain. India by percentage of population has the largest vegetarian population on the planet. Poor people cannot afford the meat, and others simply enjoy not having to support killing in their daily lives. Hunting is a cultural thing that dates back to when we were surviving outdoors. Maybe some of us lived on fruits and vegetables alone, with little protein in our diets, even back then… it’s possible, after all raw meat probably doesn’t taste too great.

All this thought about life and death has made me appreciate everything I have, especially my health. Everything functioning within ideal limits, the biochemistry, the physical, the emotional realms all making me alive. Life may not have turned out the way I wanted it to, planned it to, or wished it to, but I am able to feel that regret, that loss, that longing and it makes me who I am. I enjoy any emotions I feel, both the good and the bad (I hate to reduce emotions to a dichotomy, a binary, but you understand what I mean hopefully) because some people due to medications, depression, or other conditions can lose that part of themselves. Or you could be born Vulcan and repress the desire to feel, giving cold logic the throne of the mind.

I am working again, and time sure does fly when I’m at work. I haven’t reached a place where I can mull over thoughts, as my mind is occupied by having to remember and match numbers to their correct locations. I’m sure in a few years robots will have taken over my job, because it will be more efficient. A robot could do my job, but I’m glad they chose a human being. So when I come home I like to try and expose myself to things I find interesting, or sometimes simply relax into the familiar world of Azeroth. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Be The Key

I’ll be sharing this at the January 12, 2017 Literary Conclave (a Stormwind University weekly public event on Wyrmrest Accord-US).

 

In this solitude I have come to realize
That I am no longer the same in your eyes
Twisted and contorted by vitriol and words
Happy memories of me have flown away like birds

But I protected mine, kept you safe from harm
With all of your idiosyncrasies, emotions and charm
And in time these memories will fade and disappear
Feathers falling from skin, my greatest fear

Our time together was innocent and pure
And for this loneliness those memories are the cure
I catch glimpses of you in my minds eye
Even when I’m not thinking of you, you fly by

I wonder if within us lays the ability to communicate
Our very life force sending messages of love, not hate
Consciousnesses somehow connected through dreams
The dancing, prancing, tossing, crossing streams

But the real world weighs heavily on me these days
And I find myself laying awake at night in a daze
Conflicted within, the dichotomy of love and reason
Watching as time marches by with seasons

Maybe you’ll never love me again, who really knows
A love the winter in your heart may have froze
But I’ll always keep you safe, tucked away someplace
I’ll be holding on tightly to you just in case.

Don’t Panic (iPhone 5 iOS 10 wallpaper)

dont-panic-japanese

I made this wallpaper from a logo and free wallpaper I found on Google. I don’t claim ownership of the parts of the image, I only combined/remixed them in Photoshop.

「パニック」is the english word “panic” and 「しません」is the word for “don’t do”. Together it roughly translates to “Don’t Panic” in Japanese(日本語で).

The image is free for personal use.

Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell is one of my favourite anime (or アニメ which is short for the english word “animation”). The Ghost in the Shell anime series is known for its whodunnit story lines, political and bureaucratic red tape, action sequences and philosophical questions. I am absolutely drawn in by the cyberpunk genre, this series being no exception. I most recently watched the ARISE prequels and thought they were beautifully animated and had enough mystery to keep me wanting more.

What makes us alive?

This collection of bio-electro-chemical interactions happening not only along the myelinated lengths of a mass of neurons—specialized single cells supported by glial cells—but also in the interconnected and countlessly finite dendritic synapses we carry within us, all giving rise to consciousness, memory, emotion, thought. What happens when we probe a brain with electrodes and medications to discover how it functions, and finally understand it well enough to interface it with technology? Are you a monist or dualist? Do you believe in the existence of an organic soul? Does your ghost arise from biology? Can we create consciousness with software?

じゃあ、let’s take a look at what 2017 has got in store for Ghost in the Shell, shall we?

Official Trailer #1:

2017 live action movie shelling sequence depicting the assembly of Major Motoko Kusanagi:

Here’s the 1995 anime shelling sequence/intro for comparison (below). This has to be one of the most memorable sequences ever created largely due to its haunting soundtrack.

あが、まえば、てるつき、とよむなり

which I tried hard to translate, and all I could come up with was: “if dancing, the shining moon” … that’s as far as I got.

よばいに、かみ、あまくだりて

“sneaking at night into a girl’s bedroom to make love, god, descends from heaven”. These are just my interpretations because it’s difficult to find any official lyrics. I had to rely on my ears, a dictionary and educated guesses largely because the homonyms in Japanese make the lyrics ambiguous, and you have to guess at the intentions of the artist who wrote them when lyrics aren’t readily available.

For instance とよむなり if interpreted as と読むなり means “and right after reading” or “and the reading sound” or “and reading or …” the later being incomplete, and all can be valid. But I see most people interpreting it as “ringing”/”echoing” which completely ignores とよむ and focuses on なり, or they have a completely incorrect translation for とよむ.

*Sigh* Oh language.

Anyway, the ambiguity only adds to the overall effect of this, again, haunting sequence.

Below is an interview with Scarlett Johansson who will be playing Major Kusanagi, Takeshi Kitano who will be playing Aramaki, and the director Rupert Sanders. Rupert says that any time you cast someone, people are critical of your decision, stating that there are also fans who support him.

While an Asian lead in such a huge film would have sent a message to Hollywood, I don’t think it’s going to hurt the film at all. I’m a little upset, but I’ll still watch it in theatres, with Scarlett’s face being a constant reminder that she’s NOT EVEN ASIAN! Okay, I can totally see the other side, it’s easy to be indifferent or think in a global community that things like this shouldn’t matter so much. Besides Major Kusanagi doesn’t really look Asian to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to be racist, instead I am sick the business and creative sides of Hollywood thinking that an Asian lead would alienate their audience or hurt their box-office earnings. But granted, you need to pick your battles wisely, and this is something I can live with. That’s it. I hope you can at least see where the other side is coming from.

Finally, here is a rundown of the setting and characters of Ghost in the Shell from Grace Randolph of Beyond The Trailer.  She does a pretty great job:

So what do you think?
Are you excited for the film?
Still hurt over the casting of Motoko Kusanagi?
Are you going to watch it?

何を思いますか?
映画を楽しみにですか?
モトコでうれしいですか?
見たいですか?

Bio-Hazard Battle

bio-hazard-battle

Coming out of cryogenic sleep, you are a pilot of a Bioship that has to find a safe place on the world Avaron for the last remaining human beings. Released in 1992, this side scrolling (to be clear it scrolls on its own) biological spaceship shooter for the Sega Genesis is now available on Wii’s Virtual Console and Steam. My younger brother Peter and I played this game this past weekend and finished it. We used the 99 lives cheat though, because I don’t do well with the punishing mechanics found in retro games (I suck at them).

From the Bio-Hazard Battle Manual:

During G-Biowar I (the first global biowar), a powerful new form of retrovirus was released as a deadly reprisal from the enemy. The viruses unleashed biological forces which couldn’t be stopped, leaving the planet filled with new and deadly forms of life.

Only a few survivors remain in suspended animation in O.P. Odysseus, an orbiting platform circling Avaron. The space station’s purpose is to keep the surviving humans alive until Avaron is habitable again. The crew of the Odysseus have been frozen in cryogenic tanks for hundreds of years, and now the onboard computer has awakened them.

Computer probes show that conditions on Avaron are hostile, but livable. The question is: where can the crew of Odysseus set up a colony? This is the question you have been assigned to answer. You must pilot a Bioship to Avaron, fly over the areas which the probes have labeled least hostile, and check out the conditions there. Find a new home for the last survivors of G-Biowar I!

 

You shoot and dodge your way though each level collecting Energy Seeds (see screenshot and section below) to change your weapon *or* power up your current weapon by collecting multiple Energy Seeds of the same colour. All Bioships start out with the Green Energy Seed weapon and it is the standard weapon for all ships.

 

Energy Seeds
energy-seeds

Energy Seeds are scattered by the space station along the flight path your Bioship will take. There are four types of Seeds, Yellow, Orange, Blue and Green. Each Seed changes the Bioship’s genetic structure, enabling the ship to generate a different type of weapon.

Your Bioship ingests Seeds by passing over them and the energy is transferred to your ship’s Power Star. The Power Star, both a shield and weapon, floats near the Bioship. As a shield, it stops most creatures from hitting your Bioship. More importantly, it uses power from the Energy Seeds to generate weapons.

Yellow Seed:

  • Spin Laser: A spinning twin laser beam. [Fires horizontally only. Soaks/destroys bullets.]
  • Fire Petal: A stream of white-hot fireballs. [A pretty standard weapon, much like Implosion Pods.]

Orange Seed:

  • Plasma Ring: A spinning ring of energy which bounces off inert matter and detonates upon contact with living matter. [A decent weapon, but increases the amount of chaos on screen.]
  • Seeker Laser: Homes in on potential hazards and destroys them. [Probably one of the strongest weapons, but sometimes can prioritize strange targets.]

Blue Seed:

  • Bond: Blue globes of plasma which attach to the creature and explode. [Niche weapon, slow rate of fire, but soaks/destroys bullets.]
  • Nova: A multi-directional burst of energy. [Difficult to aim.]

Green Seed:

  • Implosion Pods: Create a vacuum upon contact, causing damage. [The default weapon.]

 

The Bioships

orestes
Orestes
Fast
Orange: Plasma Rings (bouncing)
Blue: Nova (star)
Yellow: Fire Petal (stream)
A quick but overall mediocre ship. In most cases you shouldn’t pick Orestes.

 

electra
Electra
Slow
Orange: Seeker Laser
Blue: Bond (bullet soaking globes)
Yellow: Fire Petal (stream)
A slow ship, but has access to the Seeker Laser, arguably the best weapon in the game. Also has access to Bond, which can soak/destroy bullets, but is a little difficult to use. In my opinion Polyxena is a better ship.

 

hecuba
Hecuba
Fast
Orange: Plasma Rings (bouncing)
Blue: Bond (bullet soaking globes)
Yellow: Spin Laser (bullet soaking horizontal twin laser)
Arguably due to the two bullet soaking/destroying weapons that Hecuba has access to, it is the best ship for those wanting to play a support role.

 

polyxena
Polyxena
Slow
Orange: Seeker Laser
Blue: Nova (star)
Yellow: Spin Laser (bullet soaking horizontal twin laser)
Due to having access to Seeker Laser, this is one of the best ships. Because Spin Laser is a slightly more reliable (easy to use) weapon for soaking up or destroying bullets when compared to Bond, Polyxena is in my opinion the best ship.

 

As a side note:
All four names are taken from Greek mythology. Orestes and Electra were children of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. Hecuba was the wife of King Priam of Troy and Polyxena was their youngest daughter.

 

Gameplay

According to the manual, you can choose whether you want to have 3, 4 or 5 lives and have a total of 9 continues. The game ramps up steadily in difficulty with levels getting progressively more challenging the deeper you get into them. There are often multiple enemies on screen, some of which shoot out small round red bullets that can be difficult to notice in the chaos. This is why it helps to have at least one ship with access to bullet soaking/destroying weapons (such as Hecuba). The game is made much easier when played in two player mode, with no enemies being added to compensate for the addition of another Bioship. Essentially you play the single player mode with help from a friend in two player mode. Don’t play it on Easy though because you don’t get access to the later levels if you do.

 

Music

The sound in the game was directed by K.N.U. The moniker is attributed to different individuals depending on the source. Bio-Hazard Battle ultimately has an awesome and memorable soundtrack.


In the first track the use of delay, reverb and sustain in the music creates a vast soundscape with rhythms and effects that remind me of the Predator (from the 1987 film of the same name) as well as thoughts of distant worlds teeming with extraterrestrial life.


In the second track we are treated to a more uplifting melody and short instrumental flourishes reference the theremin, which was used in many classic Sci-Fi soundtracks including The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951). It compliments the faster pace of the second level.


In the third track, reminiscent of music by NIN and the like, we return to dark and brooding melodic elements that make you feel emotionally encumbered, and again the use of instruments and effects reference echo-location, heart beats, and other organic processes.


In the fourth track we hear themes carried over from previous tracks in a sort of slow, spaced out remix.


In the fifth track we hear a bass building suspense to small climaxes. At one point a sinusoidal modulated waveform along side other foreign electronic sounds, all of which meld into a strange track that conjures images of a sleuth on the trail of a killer, or spy subterfuge.


In the seventh and final track the composer(s) tried to add their own layer of melody on top an instrumentation that conjures the end credits of Akira (1988) and of course Philip Glass’s Glassworks (1982).

 

Graphics

The sprites in Bio-Hazard Battle are insanely creative, with everything from flying squids to myelinated sheathed worms and floating sperm with faces. All sprites are set on great industrial, natural and xenobiological environments, on this habitable world of Avaron, which create levels that are varied throughout, containing unique sections only appearing for a few seconds on screen never to be seen again. The Bioships themselves each have a unique look which have both aquatic and insectoid influences. The designs are organic and invoke a sci-fi nostalgia (kaiju, aliens, etc).
bio-hazard-battle-03
bio-hazard-battle-02
bio-hazard-battle-01

 

Final Thoughts

Bio-Hazard Battle brings together two of my favourite things, Biology and Technology, in a polished Sci-Fi aesthetic that stands the test of time. This 16-bit classic is a must play for fans of the aforementioned domains.

Secret Body

secret-body

There exists a section in every person that is tucked away purposefully due to fear of social stigma. SECRET BODY is an interactive art installation that explores themes of stigma and social interaction. The piece attempts to display human emotion through data visualization and measure emotion through affective science methods. The piece uses bioinformatic data to create a light pattern within ten human-shaped models, and uses the same data to create an interactive platform between the piece and the audience.

By using galvanic skin response (electrodermal activity) and heart rate sensors attached to 10 Arduino Megas and 70 LEDs, students at York University created an interactive art installation whose purpose was to explore our inner emotions and foster awareness of stigma in its sundry forms. The installation created by: Denise (Nichie) Enriquez, Dallis King, Anna Papazian and Samantha Puder for the LE/EECS 4700 course offered in the final year of Digital Media, whose focus was the creation of a group project (2014-2015).

One of the project’s goals was to illuminate and give life to emotions that we feel uncomfortable talking about or otherwise expressing due to the stigma associated with them. By using data visualization the students created a dialogue between the human and digital realms. When we think about emotions, we can reduce them to bio-electro-chemical signals happening within neurons and their dendritic synapses, but there is no digital analogue, yet. So the need to express this fundamental part of the human experience led these four pioneers (now graduates) to create visual feedback from a valence/arousal encoding schema. For more technical information please visit the project’s tumblr page.

We can feel ashamed or embarrassed by our deepest emotions and hide them away from the world out of fear that we will be stigmatized, judged and cast aside. It’s difficult to find ways to express how we feel— we use the tools of art, the brevity of language and even our physical bodies to give legitimacy and life to our inner emotional worlds. In Secret Body we see technology being used to visualize emotional data. And although I haven’t learned the lesson of stigma personally, I certainly could by opening up about what happens within the dendritic synapses and neural pathways of my own mind.

I feel just like everyone else does. Maybe not to the extent that some people feel, surely, based on how they express themselves, but I do nonetheless have the capacity to feel like every other human being, and even some (most?) animals. But it’s that social piece that makes it difficult for them all to be on the surface. We are conditioned at a young age to repress or control certain emotions for the sake of maintaining pleasurable social interactions. This makes it difficult, as we get older, because the more we keep buried and bottled up, the farther that cork will fly when pressure reaches that elusive critical juncture.

Having the fear of stigma myself, I trend towards not stigmatizing others for their experiences, but embracing the unique individuality within every human being. Our brains are all made of neuroglia and neurons, but our minds, whether you’re a dualist or monist, all react slightly differently to stimuli based on our own unique aggregated experiences— our inner narratives. We can, however, still share experiences with each other using empathy, but this is all very obvious. Our empathy should be at such a level that we no longer stigmatize others for their experiences, at least that’s what I believe.

These four young women showed Lion-hearted bravery in attacking stigma, creating a space for open dialogue and critical discourse about our inner emotional worlds. While emotions may be ephemeral this Digital Media project creates a lasting key to those doors we keep locked within ourselves.

I am very pleased by thoughts Secret Body catalyzed within me, and even though I have yet to experience the installation myself, I have been inspired by the project. I’m impressed by the use of Arduinos, sensors, algorithms and the interactive emotional interfacing achieved by these four young women. But now, I … I suddenly feel like watching Inside Out … and Mr. Robot … and Ghostbusters. じゃあ、またね!

 

Read more about Secret Body on the York Website, and on the project’s tumblr page.

yuurei

yuurei

どこも、幽霊がいます!
でも、この幽霊が生きる
人たちは、幽霊がなれば
人たちは、生きながら、
人たちは、幽霊がなる!

幽霊たちが生きる
だれかを思い出す
彼らが、見ますか
彼らが、後悔する
彼らが、付きます