Staying in Focus: Focus On: Spending my Summer in Virtual Reality

If someone should ask me how I spent the summer of 2017, I’ll say well, I sat atop the London Eye (a giant Ferris Wheel) and gazed out over the city of London, where the glass of the Shard sparkled in the sunlight; I stood before the Eiffel tower in Paris in the same spot where we stood on our visit there in 2013; I re-visited the mansions of the royal family of Denmark in Copenhagen, Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway and I sat behind the  huge metal letters of the “Hollywood” sign in Los Angeles. Thanks to Google Earth VR, I did all this without leaving my home. And that’s just for starters…

Welcome to the future!

This all began when our sons, Kevin and Steven, both computer artists, were assigned to work on a virtual reality (VR) video game based on the sci-fi series, Star Trek.  As we are long time Star Trek fans, we were excited to see what this new technology could do.

Kevin, always on the cutting edge of anything computer-related, bought the necessary equipment needed to enter this strange new world, so while we awaited the publication of the Star Trek Bridge Crew game, we tried a few of the sample experiences available in virtual reality.

My son has an extra room in his house that he now uses for the VR games. It is important not to have furniture or obstacles strewn about, as once you don the VR headset, your brain forgets where your body is, and wanders off on an adventure all its own.

Donning the VR headset, my first “adventure” in VR found me standing on the ledge at the top of a skyscraper. At first, I felt frozen, certain I was in danger of falling off. Now get this – I shuffled my feet back a little (hence the reason not to have obstacles lying around). I knew, of course, that I was in a room, my feet planted firmly on the carpet, but it didn’t feel that way. Once I acclimated to the sensation, however, I was able look around. When wearing the VR headset, the experience wraps around you in 3-D, meaning that if I looked up, down, behind me, overhead or in front, I was surrounded by buildings, streets with cars moving about, and pedestrians strolling along on the sidewalks. As I gaze, (careful not to fall off) sounds of city drift up from far below…

Suddenly, I am in a museum, and from around the corner a T-Rex dinosaur appears. As it approaches, it raises its head and lets out a thundering roar and I can almost feel the droplets of saliva spray over me from its open mouth. As it turns to pass me, the dinosaur swings its head closer, its bright orange eye staring right at me. It glides past and I hunch down as its tail swings by barely missing me…

Another fun experience in VR is a ride on a rollercoaster. In the program we have, the coaster runs up, over and between city skyscrapers. Donning the headset, I take a seat, and as we start to climb, I hear that familiar click -click noise of the chains, and feel a sense of acceleration (really!), as it slowly climbs upward and reaches the top. Then the rollercoaster zooms downward, and I hear the whoosh of the air as I fly by. I tend to lean right or left as if I am really moving around the curves and loops of the track (I guess, I am – virtually moving – that is.)

It is incredible how realistic these experiences are, and how easily our brains can be influenced by this effect on our visual senses. I have no doubt these are the precursors of the future holodecks of Star Trek.

Speaking of Star Trek, the Bridge Crew game is amazing. Unlike the regular video games, this one immerses the player in the game. The player sits in the captain’s chair, looks out at objects or other ships on the view screen (hopefully, not photon torpedoes, though that is a possibility), give commands and talks to the crew.

Touch controllers (you hold these in your hands) allow the player to push buttons on the control panels with virtual hands. Various missions are provided for the player and bridge crew to complete. One can play alone or with others both as a group in the home or over the internet.

Of course, I am not suggesting virtual reality as a replacement for travel and adventure. Not yet, anyway. But with the airlines beating up on people, terrorists driving into people, and gun battles in the streets, it does offer a safer alternative.

I do check on my husband occasionally when he is off planet on a mission, to make sure he remembers to return home to Starbase 1 to eat and sleep and, if he should find a better reality out there, to be sure to come back and beam us up!

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Here I am sitting atop of the London Eye. (lol)

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Here I am viewing the Eiffel Tower.

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Here is Bill defending the Earth aboard the USS Aegis

 

 

Saying in Focus: It’s Never to Late to Learn

 

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Once more I must apologize for falling behind in posting to my blog. I had envisioned my retirement as a nice, leisurely time of life, maybe even having too much time on my hands, but that hasn’t been the case.

I have been able to slow down the progression of my pd  (parkinson’s disease) by keeping abreast of the latest developments and guidance from doctors and physical therapists and implementing them in my daily life.  Exercise of all kinds seems to be one of the most helpful tools, but it does take up time. Recently,  I happened on a website called http://www.invigoratept.com founded by Sarah King, a physical therapist. There is a wealth of information about exercise and nutrition on this site and I have joined Sarah in her challenge to exercise daily, for at least 2.5 hour a week. Today we begin week 3 of the 4 week challenge. She is also doing a series of live videos through her Invigorate Physical Therapy and Wellness Facebook page about nutrition and how what we eat affects pd. I’ve found her links to You Tube video sites of exercises developed specifically for pwp (people with parkinson’s) most helpful.

But physical exercise is only part of the picture. The brain must be exercised as well. My husband, Bill, and son, Steve, and I are into crossword puzzles and word games on our electronic devices, which help me slow down the ‘loss of words’ associated with pd.

I had never mastered Algebra in high school, so I purchased a book entitled “No Fear Algebra”and can actually say it is beginning to make some sense to me. Working out simple equations is like solving a puzzle.

I have always wanted to be able to draw, but was always too intimidated to take a class with other people. But I recently received one of the Great Courses videos – a gift from my husband – on “How to Draw”. This is perfect for me because I can pause the video as often as needed and I don’t have to rush or try to keep up with others. So far I have learned much about line and shape, aggregate shape, volume, figure-ground and positive – negative shape. There are thirty-six lectures with accompanying  lessons so it may be years before I finish.

Finally, throw in my interest in photography, poetry (see previous post for my latest) and reading, and that’s where the time goes. In a sense, having pd has determined the way my retirement will unfold, but if one has to combat a disease, why not learn a little something during the process? After all, it’s never too late to learn.

Staying in Focus: We the people

 

We the People

the malaise spreads, as the shadows descend

to bring an end to all we believe in,

our lady now weeps for those who would seek

the light of her torch in the dark of the night,

we are fast losing hold of the dream we were told

of liberty and justice for all,

 for anger divides as much as a wall –

and united we no longer stand;

the land of the free must rally once more

from mountains to desert, from shore to far shore,

and erase all the lines that are blue or red –

We the people can color them purple instead,

if we embrace compromise and compassion

we can begin to heal our nation

 and strive once more for our ideals,

if not, soon, we will rue the day

when we let the dream slip away.

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Staying in Focus: Moving Day is a Winner

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We had a super time at our Moving Day Event this year. The weather was beautiful – a warm, sunny day, but with a nice breeze.

 First, we were thrilled that our team picture was chosen to for a billboard advertising our event. Our two weeks of fame.

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Second, our team raised $1,035 for the National Parkinson Foundation, an all-time high! Total for the event: $187,133!

The day dawned warm and sunny. We began with breakfast at my house, then drove over to the Koka Booth Amphitheater where my granddaughter, my friend Diane and I made it through the haunted house, the kids painted pumpkins and demonstrated their skills with cartwheels and hula hoops. We learned some Salsa moves to limber up for our walk, which was pleasant meander through the woods filled with giant spiders, spooky characters, witches and ghosts, across the parking lot, along the road and past a lake quite scenic on a warm fall afternoon.

I am always amazed and extremely thankful for the number of people willing to get up early on a Saturday morning to come out and support us.  A great big THANK YOU goes out to all of you!

 

Staying in Focus: I’m Back! (I Think)

I can’t believe my last post was in August, and here it is October already.  We didn’t travel  this summer, or do much of anything, really. I lacked inspiration.  Then we had some family matters to work through.  My 93 year old mom suffered through a second round of Shingles and required  our help in getting her to doctor’s appointments, and weekly visits to help keep up with her household chores.

On the positive side, we had a lovely visit with Bill’s sister Pat, husband Rick and son Matt. They brought us a grandfather clock , which had been a gift given to their mother from their father just months before she passed away. Before his untimely death this past March, he had expressed the wish that someone in the family would take the clock. We had a space for it, and everyone agreed that it looked like it had always been there. During their stay we browsed the bookstore, looked at new houses in the area, and sampled the fare of local eateries.

Our 40th anniversary was September 4th. We finally found a few free days last week to get away to the mountains to relax and de-stress, and celebrate 40 years together. I took some nice pictures of Echo Lake. The trees were just beginning to trade their overall green color  for splashes of color like crimson, umber, sienna, red-orange and yellow.

So I’m back, I think. We are about to start my favorite season, and it is a busy one. I am preparing for our Moving Day Event – A walk for Parkinson’s disease . Pat’s  Patrol (my team) will number at least 17 this year. And I am proud to announce that we have achieved  our team goal of $720.00 raised for the National Parkinson Foundation. This will be followed by Halloween,  Thanksgiving and, of course, Christmas, with buying gifts, wrapping, decorating, cooking, and visiting. with family and friends

So, I’ll try to keep up with posting (I wouldn’t mind a little snow this year. I love taking snow pictures!)

Here are some photos of Echo Lake:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying in Focus: A Beautiful Day in My Neighborhood

What is it about spring that makes us want to go outside and play in the dirt? Is it the warm, earth-scented breezes that draw us outside, or the warmth of the sun, or the intensity of green that brings such delight to our eyes? Or perhaps it’s the birds, filling the morning air with song, as they go about building nests for their families. I imagine it is life, calling us forth to join in the return of light and warmth, growth and change.

We had a lot of rain in the early spring months here in North Carolina. Everywhere you look, flowers are blooming, trees and bushes are lush with spring green leaves, the grass, a soft carpet of beneath our feet.

Now as we near the summer solstice, the bright green of spring is deepening into the dark green of summer.  We have had a few days of uncomfortable heat and humidity, but in between, Mother Nature has gifted us with absolutely perfect days of cool weather, pleasant breezes, bright sunshine. They are the kind of days I where I simply cannot go inside, intent on savoring every minute of clear blue skies and fresh air. In fact, this coming week has a few days predicted with highs in the 70s.

I know that soon the heat and humidity will fall on us, like a heavy wet blanket draped over our shoulders and our bright blue sky enveloped in a pall of hazy white. But, for now, I will cherish each low humidity day, pottering outside with my plants, listening to the chorus of birds in the trees.

I invite you to enjoy a beautiful day in my neighborhood:

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Staying in Focus: The Joy of Pottering

What is it about spring that brings forth the urge to go outside and play in the dirt? Is it those gentle spring breezes scented with the aroma of fresh earth and growing things? Is it the warm sunshine, the songs of birds filling the air, as they flit from tree to tree, building nests, or the buzz of the bees as they search for delicate blossoms of sweet nectar? I imagine it is all of this, awakening in us the realization that winter has lost its frosty grip and we are invited to join in the return of life and growth and warmth once more.

We had a string of perfect spring days recently, and I headed out to the plant nursery to buy a few new plants, and the tools and soil I needed to repot some of my houseplants. I move some of them from their winter shelter in my dining room them to the porch for the growing season.

When we visited the British Isles a few years back, we noticed clusters of small garden plots, most with a shed or small building on them, just outside the cities, and our tour guide explained that they were the gardens of city dwellers who had no space for a backyard garden. They come out on weekends or on long summer evenings to tend their gardens and commune with nature.

The British, who have the most descriptive and colorful words for things, call this activity “pottering”. What a perfect description for getting your hands in that rich potting soil and providing a new home for a plant, or planting a flower or vegetable garden.

I do not have a potting shed, but I do have a potting bench, and as it happens, being retired, I have plenty of time for pottering. Which reminds me, I have several African violets which could use some larger pots. Maybe I’ll wander outside and play in the dirt for a while.

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