Dell Inspiron E7015



“Dell Inspiron E7015”

I don’t have much time but I’m sat here on my new laptop that arrived ahead of schedule using the wireless internet at Austine School for the Deaf. In 2 and a half hours I will be giving my presentation to a group of deaf kids and then getting them to make some animations as part of the workshop.

I hope it will go ok, I showed Karl my PowerPoint presentation but it turned out I had gone far too indepth into the subject matter so we radically stripped it down to something much more simpler, which works out better for me because I’m hoping to sign in ASL to these kids, bit of a tall ordeal considering I only started learning it 2 weeks ago. Hehe.

After today I ride back with Karl and Susan and prepare to go to Boston for the weekend. I have more to say but it will probably have to wait till tonight / tomorrow.

Und Tschüss!

Karl & Susan, pt II

Hullo folks,

Saturday was groovy, went to a ‘music party’ at a house of a family obviously very into world music, many musicians showed up and so we all played upbeat jigs and folky songs. I didn’t have my guitar so drummed along on the various percussion they had laying around. The family’s music room was jam packed with instruments from all over the world, very very cool. People were playing all sorts of things that I’ve never actually seen but only heard of being used musically e.g. spoons, jews-harp, jugs, a part of a glass organ? Others played fiddles, mandolins, banjos and guitars. Oh and someone whistled into a mike. Mostly the men played instruments whilst many of the ladies danced around in the middle, however we did swap around some. Awesometastic fun, not quite experienced anything like it, felt like from another time if you know what I mean? One very happy house in the middle of another nowhere.

Oh Maya was there also, she asked me again if I could come in and broadcast some of my music or playing, I told her that I can bring in a CD of music and talk about how I compose, she seemed happy with that and so we exchanged emails. Got back late after all that.
Right, onwards, I spent Sunday-Monday with Karl and Susan at their place, the main reason for me staying over was to plan for a workshop I have been asked to do.

A workshop you ask? Although I mentioned it in the previous post let me elaborate. You might remember I mentioned going up to Visit ‘Austine School for the Deaf’ a few more posts ago, well Karl as a teacher there, is organising a ‘Leadership Camp’ and asked me if I would do a presentation and activity with about 30 deaf high schoolers as part of their Leadership weekend. I was surprised by his request but interested in seeing what I could do.

His idea was that I could talk about being a deaf student at University in England and show the high schoolers what my animation degree was like. With that in mind, Karl asked if we can do something interactively with the kids so they get to have a hands on experience.

As I said before, the act of animating is very, very time consuming and I’ve only been given 1.5 hours to do it all in! None-the-less, this is what I did with Karl, brain-storm a little and do lots of thinking. Finally after a few experiments it was decided that if I could split the workshop into two halfs, I could introduce the students to the basic principles of animation via pen and paper and drawing keyframes to create a very shot and simple flipbook. Then using that as an introduction to the methodology behind 2D animation, I would take them to the Computer Labs in Austine and load up either some animation software, or even a basic online ‘flipbook creator’. There is a flash online-based one that allows you to draw into the computer in black and white line-drawings and then play them back in sequence.

Go and have a go now! It’s a lot of fun!

Some awesome ones have been made so far by other people:

I’m going to stress the point of how computers today have really helped the animation industry by allowing the workflow to be much quicker and far fewer stages required to create an animation than say in the old Disney days.
So with the plan of what to do with the deaf students sorted, all that is left for me to do tomorrow is make a quick PowerPoint presentation and burn some examples of my animations I’ve created at University to a CD to show them on the day.

Karl and Susan spent the rest of Sunday evening teaching me more ASL of which I tried to my best to assimilate even though I was quite tired from stressing over this workshop!

Karl and Susan Signing

“Karl and Susan Signing”.

Karl also cooked us a spicy chicken-sausage risotto thing served with 2 slices of pineapple, a surprising and interesting meal, he could definitely open a restaurant I told him. I did the dishes afterwards to show my gratitude despite their grumbling that I didn’t need too, har!
Since Karl and Susan are both profoundly deaf, they have a fully equipped out apartment Continue reading

Snakes! Frisbee Golf!

Hmmm, the other day I was making lunch in the kitchen here as the sun streamed in through the windows along the wood floors, when behind me came an unexpected visitor. He seemed the slippery sort so I got my father to help me eject him from the house. Not before taking a picture first though of course.

Slipper Snake Fellow

“Unexpected Snake Fellow”.

A first for the blog, a short movie!
Snake movie (right click save as).

“Slithery Snake Movie”, captured with the Fujifilm camera.

OK so it’s not exactly a huge man eater, the movie is in .wmv format because I only have access to ‘Windows Movie Maker’, sorry Mac-Linuxy people, will rectify matters when my laptop is delivered.

This place is surrounded by all sorts of insects and small critters, not for those with quesy dispositions!

I went outside afterwards because some of the locals were playing ‘Frisbee Golf’ where they would trample all over the hills here and aim their frisbees at Chucks Sculptures, the objective being to hit the target sculpture in least number of throws. They very kindly welcomed me to the game and let me have a go. The frisbees were quite small and hard to throw straight but I started to get the hang of it after a while.

Only trouble was it was easy to lose the frisbee in the thick overgrowth of the hills and surrounding woods so most of the game is actually spent looking for your frisbee instead of chucking it around, in fact we lost one when headed straight into the woods for a huge oak tree as our target, doh.

Whilst trampling around I spotted a Praying Mantis and then a snake about 4x the size of the one above, pretty groovy huh? Didn’t have the camera with me unfortunately then as it’s a little too big to carry around just like that. However that said I have my eyes on the camera I will buy which is really small but still full featured.

Fujifilm FinePix F30

“FujiFilm FinePix F30”

I think it’ll make a great blogging camera, plus it has some of the best low light performance for its class. check out the review of it here:

A bit of a short and disjointed blog entry for today, however I gotta go and fix some food, shower and prepare some animation workshop materials before Karl gets here at 4pm!

More on that later…


Scrubbin’ Sculptures, a Caterpillar and Karl

Funnily enough after battling with ‘the-worst-digital-camera-in-the-world’ I found a good Fujifilm digital camera here in the house! I guess had my host (Chuck) been here, he would have told me about his own camera, doh, however he has been away for 10 days but gets back from a business trip tomorrow. I had a sneak look at the camera anyway and took a couple shots, it’s quite a nice camera indeed, and so todays blog posting has some better pictures.

Wednesday 20th was split into 3 chunks. The morning found me lazing about on the couch, watching TV whilst practicing my ability to dodge adverts by flipping channels back and forth.
However, in the afternoon when it had warmed up a little, I got on with the given task of scrubbing down a collection of sculptures that are due to be shown at an exhibition sometime soon. I had been asked to clean off the bird droppings and dirt.

Dirty Sculpture

“dirty sculpture”

I spent a few hours on that, but it was fairly back-breaking stuff as there were 15 of them and each had to be rolled around and maneuvered so that I could get at their multiple undersides.

15 Sculptures (c) Chuck Ginnever

“15 ‘Rashomon’ Sculptures”, the work of Chuck Ginnever.

Just after cleaning the sculptures, I turned around and spotted a caterpillar making its way along a concrete wall.
“Pah that is an easy crawl thought I� and so proceeded to make things a little more trickier for it with some obstacles and a ‘reset zone’ where-upon I carried the ‘pillar back to the start a few times to see if he would get better and faster at traversing the course. The exercise was slightly voided since caterpillar got spooked a couple times by some militant ants and either froze or shot off in a completely different direction. None-the-less he achieved his original destination in the end albeit with an amusing roll and bump down the slope at the end.
I was having so much fun that I completely forgot to take any pictures of the little hairy feller, but never mind, I present here instead, a picture of the wall and an animation demonstrating roughly the path of said caterpillar.

Path Wall

“Path of mentioned caterpillar”.

The previous night Karl had asked me online what I was doing today because he wanted to ask me about a ‘Leadership Camp’, because every Wednesday night my father likes to goto the Jazz Jam at the Vermont Jazz Center I told Karl he could meet me there at the Jam and then we could talk some more.
Lo and behold Karl was there at the Jazz Jam and we sat and listened for a little whilst I showed off the new ASL I had learnt so far. Cool thing about signing is that it doesn’t matter how loud the environment is, you can talk away freely over music and loud noise without any such problems with understanding each other, that is once you’ve learnt the language sufficiently that is! I have a long way to go but Karl was very patient and spelling out words for me that I did not know. What Karl wanted it turned out,, was for me to take part in a weekend of activities that he was organising on behalf of Austine School for the Deaf, in fact he wanted me to give a presentation and host a workshop for about 30 deaf students, they would be from the 3 surrounding deaf schools (Connecticut, Manchester and Brattleboro). Well golly, I was a little taken aback, what could I possibly share with these budding deaf students? Karl went on the explain that the idea of the camp was to give deaf high school students of ages from 1420 some inspiration for going on to further study. Karl had a Principle from the only deaf University in the World (!) attending to give a talk and another graduate ex-student like me to give a presentation. So it seemed to be that I could give a talk to the deaf students myself and tell them about what it was like for me to goto University in England and explain what I did, how I did it, and what I want to do next. Here comes the worrying bit.. Karl stressed repeatedly that my presentation and workshop should be interactive with the students so that then can essentially have a go at what I did at University..
“OK sure, so I did a Computer Animation degree, Karl wants me to show the kids how to animate�
“Wait-a-sec, how long do you want me to do this workshop for?.� To which, Karl whips out some poster print-outs that outline the schedule for the weekend. My name was already on there!

2:30 – 4:00pm: Activity w/ Myles de Bastion.


This guy moves fast..

Apart from being completely taken aback, it suddenly began to dawn on me a major problem, 1.5 hours to teach 30 kids how to animate? If you aren’t aware of this, the art of animation is one of the most time consuming things you can do as a creative profession, each stage takes a lot of time, concentration and (for the best results) specialist equipment like Lightboards, Graphics Tablets, Scanners, Cameras, Render Farms, etc etc. You need a lot of time, resources and endless patience to complete an animation. Thankfully these days you can do a lot of the work straight into the computer and skip past many of the stages that cel-based animation houses used to have to do back in the pre-Pixar ‘Disney Era’. But even so this requires at least a computer per artist and plenty of time.

OK, so we’re not looking to create a block-buster full length animated feature movie here, but the ideal would be to have each kid make their own small animation sequence, the simplest form of animation that springs to mind is good ol’ pen on paper cards which are then stacked and flipped through with the thumb to create a flip-book, I’m sure a lot of people have tried that at least once? Trouble is, it’s very difficult to make and view a convincing animation with this method for a number of reasons, one is the fact that altough paper is nice and easy to see through so you can trace your previous drawn frames, it doesn’t the type of flexibility when stacked into a flipbook that you need to rapidly flick through the pages in succession. Card has this elastic flexibility but you can’t see through it without the aid of a back lit surface such as a lightboard that professional animations use.
To get to the point, I feel that the kids are going to be disappointed by their hours work invested into a flimsy flipbook that doesn’t flip, hardly the way to inspire kids about animation!

Oh dear..

My brain starts to go into overdrive thinking of solutions to this near-impossible conundrum and as I sit here typing I have to admit I still haven’t decided on the best way to do it. Any animators out there, feel free to suggest something!

However I need to decide something by tomorrow because Karl needs to order in the materials I need, and thus I feel a bit pressured there. Shall have to email him and voice my concerns.

Aside from debating about the workshop, I enjoyed a tea (strawberry mmmm), and a couple shots of Jagermeister (Mmmm!!) with Karl when we went out to a bar afterwards. It appeared to be an Open-Mic night in the bar and had people taking in turns to get up on stage with an acoustic guitar and warble away, I didn’t pay much attention though as I had to concentrate more on what Karl was signing to me, it had been a long day too so my tiredness made things slightly more difficult, none-the-less we got to have a very nice chat and I found out a lot more about him and how he grew up in Boston but was actually from South Africa. I really like him and hope we can remain good friends in the future even if I move away from here.
Better end the post for now, will report back on the workshop and other things when I know more!

Good night all.

Cousin Once-Removed ‘Isabel’ and a Drum Jam

Good day,
This ‘dodgy’ camera actually has quite a feature set to my surprise, you can change the exposure, white balance and jpeg picture quality (super fine, normal), wow, and also it records movies! Unfortunately I only have an 8mb SD card to play with which is good for about 10 pictures at a time, not so useful.. 🙁

Here are a couple shots I’ve taken with it, note that I had to bump the saturation up in Photoshop

Chucks Farm House Valley

Farm house I am staying at and the view over a valley opposite.

Last Monday evening there was a surprise phone call from ‘Isabel’, she apparently is my Grandfathers niece and thus is a distant relative of mine that I never knew I had. She phoned because she was in the area and was staying at the Putney Inn. She was part way through a trip to visit more of her friends and family and would only be around for that night only, hastily leaving the following morning.
I have never seen my father in such a hurry to change his clothes and clean himself up to be presentable. He usually has no sense of urgency and his personal appearance is a lower priority for him. None-the-less, that night we were out the door within 20 minutes and scooting off down the tree-lined dirt roads avoiding the pot holes and probably going faster than my fathers Nissan pick up truck can really cope with.
Meeting my cousin (once-removed?) Isabel was certainly an interesting experience, she was jolly and up-front, the type of person who will really tell you what she honestly thinks. She told me that she was the big mouth in the family and proceeded to prove this as she dished out the family dirt and secrets that were presumably meant to be kept inside the family. I liked Isabel, not just for being honest but she was easy to talk to and seemed ‘real’ if you know what I mean?
So before even our meal had been served I was versed in who the crazy ones were and those who have had nervous break-downs so far, I’m sure you get the picture..

She also invited me to her home in Buda, Texas which I will certainly be visiting probably in Spring when I start journeying out West. I’ve always wanted to visit Austin which is renowned for its music. Some of my favourite guitarists have come from there; Eric Johnson, Andy Timmons and Stevie Ray Vaughan to name a few. Must be something in the water over there.
We decided to get together again the following morning for breakfast and to see her off but left her at the Inn that evening because my father wanted to go to the ‘Drum Jam’ in Bellows Falls, although we invited Isabel, she declined and preferred to get an early night anyway.

The drum jam was fun, I had actually gone the previous week as well but forgot to mention it here, it’s held every week in the studio of a woodworker artist friend of my father, the work-tops are pushed aside and out come the drums, congas, bongos and sticks.
That night there were about 9 or so of us making a lot of racket. Someone would lead with a beat and then we’d all join in to add our own beats to interweave an ulterior tangle of rhythmic sound.
If I can I will see if I can get an audio recording of a session to give you a better idea, probably when my laptop arrives (still 3 weeks to go.. Hmmpf).
Oh ya, I met a girl called Maya at that Drum Jam, it was her first time there but we got talking a little at the end, turned out she does some radio broadcasting in Bellows Falls and always has local musicians coming in to play live over the airwaves, she asked if I could come in the following week and do something, I’m intrigued, but as to what I can ‘play’, I’m not sure yet, I’m more of a composer than a performer you see. Currently I only have my CD of music and an acoustic guitar with me, but there could be some possibilities though, wish Maya had been more specific about what would be suitable..
Anyways, if I am able to put together a performance then I will no doubt let you guys know.

Which also reminds me that, as some of you may already know.. Continue reading

Bowlin’ Rollin’ & Photograpic Cajoling.

Let’s see, I have a few days to catch up on here.

A photo! (finally)

“*Gasp* can it be, a photo??”

Yup I went bowling on the Sunday in a bid to meet more deaf people locally, my father took me there and drove off to do some work presumably. I was fairly early but when I went in I spotted a couple of guys signing away, a younger jolly looking lad and an older feller in donning a cap over his white hair and weather tanned skin. As before I went up to them and attempted to introduce myself. I was able to finger-spell my name out to them and tell them that I had been invited by the deaf people I had met already. They were familiar with the names I gave them and said that I would be able to fill in for a team member who would not show up. All good and well so far!
Shortly after that people started turning up, and gradually the place seemed to be teeming with people signing to each other whilst putting on their bowling shoes and limbering up. Must have been 25 or so of us suddenly taking up half the bowling lanes in the place!

I spotted Kelly from the other night and went over to say ‘Hi’. She recognised me straight away and said it was good to see me there. She then introduced me to the chap in charge of the whole bowling bonanza called Ken who then assigned me to 3-person team.
I hadn’t been bowling in years so suffice to say I was more than rusty and ready to embarrass myself.

Embarrass myself I did on a few occasions but I also get in a few nice full strikes in there too! My team were pretty patient and were kind enough to give me plenty of bowling tips however it seemed that the more I thought about my technique, the worse I did! Oh well.. 😉

After 2 hours we had managed to play 3 games, it was enjoyable but I hadn’t been able to talk to people and socialise as much as I was hoping to, if I had to attribute that to any reason I would say it was because everyone was pretty competitive about their game and that didn’t leave a lot of room for getting to know people better and learning more ASL from them. Oh well, it was still a good experience on the whole. Oh yea my father sure took his time to pick me up, I was the last to leave! Mmmmm a car to call my own.. *daydreams*.

Thus onto Monday where I, yes indeed, I got my hands on not just any camera but quite possibly the worst piece of photographic technology I’ve ever used, but none the less, images! Read on! Continue reading


Thus, as recommended by Karl and Susan, I made my way (with my Father kindly driving me there) to McNeils in Brattleboro at 8pm the Friday evening.

You would think it’d be relatively easy to spot some deaf people chatting away in a bar wouldn’t you? Just look for people signing avidly to each other. However most notable when we walked in was an absense of any such signing from anyone.
Hmmm, maybe they were at another bar? So we had a quick mosey around to the other local bars but either the deaf groups were not talking to each other or there was no-one out tonight.
As my father and I walked back to McNeils, I must admit to feeling a little deflated.
However, lo and behold as we walked back up the street, there, stood outside McNeils were some people signing! Continue reading

Karl and Susan

So let’s put away the dastardness of dealing with inefficient large corporations, card fraud and other nasties as I talk a little about the pleasure I had to welcome two young deaf people here last night.

Let me quickly start at the beginning when I went down to Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro to enquire about the local deaf social activities, I had been informed that there is a sizeable deaf community in Brattleboro and the surrounding areas of Vermont so I was naturally keen to find out more.

The busy bubbly receptionist named Kim at the Austine School audiology department had me wait a short while whilst she attended to some weather-beaten senior citizens who had come in for their regular check ups, but then finally Kim came over and asked what I wanted. I told her I was new to the area and would like to get involved with the deaf communities, to which she replied;

“Hmm, I’m totally the wrong person to ask for that, why don’t I give you some email contacts who are a little more clued in to the local action”.

This was fine by me, so I went away with a couple addresses of whom I wrote to. The first probably doesn’t check her email so often as I have yet to hear from however the second address I tried, I got a reply immediately. He instantly told me that every Sunday at 4pm there is a deaf group who tend to go bowling and every Friday they meet up at a local pub/bar called McNeils at 8pm. Well surprise, surprise, this was my fathers favourite watering hole. So I agreed with my Dad to go check it out.

That was not all though, the guy (named Karl) asked in his email what I was doing tonight? Well here I am in the middle of nowhere just outside of Putney with limited means of transport, I told him I’d be out tomorrow at McNeils but gave him directions to here anyway. He didn’t reply to that so I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, it was getting dark and I kinda thought they wouldn’t make the trouble to drive out here (whilst getting lost and wet in the rain).

So a few hours later, I’m doing more research on the PC here when there is a knock outside. “It couldn’t be?”. Thought I.

Continue reading

Stinkin’ Credit Card Fraud

Well, Well, Well, this is looking more and more like a case of credit card fraud, there has been some contact between Paypal, my mother and I. I was able to provide ParcelForce tracking information and a full email transcript between the ‘buyer’ and myself forwarded to Paypal and can only sit here and wait for the best outcome. It looks like someone in Russia was victim to a stolen credit card and the person that had won the auction and used the stolen credit card to pay for it is a very, very naughty person.

I’m concerned that I will end up being the only victim here as usually these credit card companies can brute force their way into getting money back from anyone and so the person who is going to lose the money is likely to be me. That’ll be 415 GBP + a fee straight out of my pocket for just being the trust worthy chap I am.

I have two great friends who are both from Russia so I suppose that meant that any potential warning flags that this Russian chap from eBay might be seriously dubious were quenched unconciously.

Oh well, I’ll wait and see what the verdict will be, if I lose the money then fair enough, you can say it’d be a lesson for me, ‘once bitten, twice shy’ and whatnot, but I’d rather just stomach the loss and go on trusting people than turn into some kind of paranoid old pessimist. I think having a positive outlook on life and people is important and in the long run is much kinder on your general well being. I won’t let a rotten apple spoil my barrel-full.

Hey hey, yesterday wasn’t all so bad, I had the pleasure of welcoming two very nice deaf people into the farm house here last night. I think they deserve their own post away from the current evils of credit card fraud via Paypal.  So let me just make a new post…

Mini/Large Paypal Hell?


Good news!

To solve the problem with Dell not accepting my UK VISA card to purchase my laptop, my Grandfather very kindly stepped in and allowed me to put the purchase on his VISA card so that I may take advantage of the limited time offer.

I shall pay him back as soon as I have wired money from my English bank account to here. Just writing a letter to Lloyds TSB to inform them of the details in order to do so right now..

Bad news!

I checked my mail today to be greeted by a message from Paypal that the buyer digital camera that I sold last month via eBay auction has now requested a chargeback to his credit card for the full amount. There was no information listed other than Paypal wanting to hear my response to this issue.

You can still view the eBay auction here (note the first comment from the winning buyer near the bottom):

Well of course I sent off the camera a month ago using ParcelForce, I have a tracking number that proves it was delivered and accepted at it’s destination. It was shipped all the way to Moscow, RU which seemed fair enough as initially the buyer covered the cost.

I sent an email to ask if the guy had received the camera ok but never got a response to that. The money for the camera had been deposited to my bank account already and I assumed all was well. Until now that is.

So it seems that altough the camera was delivered and accepted in Russia, the guy has now contacted his credit card company and has requested that the money be refunded in full. So I have a pending charge on my Paypal account for -415.54 GBP, charming..

To make matters worse, Paypal instructed that I log in to their ‘Resolution Centre’ and provide a response to this charge-back issue. So I do log in and enter the Case ID number provided and guess what?

We are sorry, we are experiencing temporary difficulties. Please try again later. If this error occurred while making a payment, avoid duplicate payments by checking your Account Overview before resending a payment.

Message 4011

Needless to say I’ve sent a barrage of emails to Paypals charge-back credit card department demanding why their service is not functioning properly along with all the information I have to hand concerning the transaction including the full email transcript I’ve had with this less than honest Russian.

I have yet to hear from Paypal or the dodgy Russian.

So as the gloomy grey skies open up and pour down on this chilly afternoon, you can imagine this has been a sucky day.