Summer Vacation

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

 

 

Daily Prompt: Fifteen Credits:Staying in Focus: Memories in Black and White (Notebooks)


 Daily Prompt: Fifteen Credits

Another semester is starting. If you are  in school are you looking forward to starting classes? If you’re out of school, what do you miss about it — or are you glad those days are over? 

Memories in Black and White (Notebooks)

Although I often felt sad at the passing of summer, those long, sunny days of swimming, fishing, hiking or lying in a hammock reading the afternoon away, there was always a special anticipation which came with the arrival of September. We started school  after Labor Day, and so September brings to mind change, replacing summer’s freedom and ease with routine and schedules.

We would go to a store named Gellman’s to pick up our uniforms, to a shoe store for black and white saddle shoes and then to the Ben Franklin’s  or Woolworths for pencils and paper, black and white notebooks, and fountain pens and cartridges (remember them?  No ballpoint pens allowed in my school). To this day I cannot walk past a display of school supplies without getting that nostalgic feeling.  I can remember having a Dr. Kildaire pencil-case and a Monkees lunchbox.  Am I dating myself here?

I can remember opening that new black and white notebook, all the pages crisp and clean, that first page representing a new beginning, full of possibilities, a new year of learning waiting to be written. I remember how carefully I would write on that first page, practicing my Palmer method handwriting.  By the time the notebook was filled, it was dog-eared and tired, the excitement of a new school year-long past and replaced by dreams of Christmas vacation.

While in school our lives have clearly marked milestones. The beginning of the school year in September, Christmas and Easter vacations, the last day of school followed by an endless summer. Once out of school the years run together, and one day you find yourself gazing nostalgically at the school supplies in Staples.  Dr. Kildaire is long gone, and now vampires and zombies cover the spiral notebooks which have replaced the old black and whites.

Do I miss the start of a new school year? I guess, so, as I have just enrolled in an online course provided by my local community college. Some things change and some remain the same, and guess what? I can still find a black and white notebook wedged between the vampires and zombies. Now, I if I can only find that fountain pen!

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school picture grade 8

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my first black and white notebooks

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kindergarten homework

Staying in Focus: Notes from a Scrapbook Fanatic

I wrote this as an assignment for a writing class. today.  You may ask why I enjoy making scrapbooks.   Well, preserving memories is certainly one of them, but the act of putting them together, seeing the pages emerge as embellishments are added,  fills my need to create.  It’s also therapeutic – keeping my mind and hands engaged keeps the old noggin from losing it  and the fingers stay nimble as well. Not to mention how much people enjoy paging through them, especially my grandchildren  It fascinates them to see what they looked like when they were one or two years old..And when they’re older, I will give them their books and they will have a nice chronology of their childhood. So grab some markers, stickers, photos and paper and feel like a child again, ready to embark on creating a masterpiece.  Have fun!

Bits and Pieces

“Nothing is ever lost to us as long as we remember it” – L.M.Montgomery

I have preserved many of my most cherished memories by collecting bits and pieces and arranging them in a way to record the memory visually.  Or, in other words, I am a self-taught scrapbooker.

I began making scrapbooks long before the craft and hobby stores began to devote aisle after aisle to stickers, fancy paper, die cuts and doodads  too numerous to mention.  My first scrapbooks were really visual travel journals, my way of preserving the memories of family vacations, and I began my first one when I was a teenager.

I would literally collect bits and pieces to make my scrapbooks – post cards, brochures, ticket stubs, photographs, even the bags my souvenirs were placed in at a gift shop. When we returned home the first step would be to get my film developed (this was long before the advent of that most wonderful of inventions – the digital camera).  I would  assemble them into a visual  journal, using colorful paper, and those paper bags as backgrounds. I would add written anecdotes and comments to recapture the feel of the experience.

Over the years my scrapbooks have become much more sophisticated, with the advent of computers and an infinite variety and color of fonts, home printers, Photoshop and other wonderful tools.  I make them for friends we vacation with; I have made one for each year of my grandchildren’s lives – 10 so far; I make them to showcase my photographs and poetry and most recently, one to document my journey with Parkinson’s disease.  This IMG_9761may sound morbid, but I fill it with positive quotations, my poetry and a diary of the ups and downs of this journey.  It is a catharsis of sorts, and will be helpful when I write my life story.

In addition to preserving memories, making scrapbooks takes us back to our youth – creating masterpieces with crayons, construction paper and scissors.  And making scrapbooks encourages our creativity.   Nowadays, with all the supplies available at craft stores, each page can be a work of art.  In fact, frames are available in the standard size scrapbook page (12 x 12) for display on a wall.  And best of all, making a scrapbook lets us extend our vacation!  We find ourselves reliving the experience as our bits and pieces come together to form a special memory. and they make great gifts that your friends and family will treasure.

This summer, my husband and I joined two close friends for a cruise to Alaska.  I did not want this vacation to end, but ever on the lookout, I was collecting my bits and pieces for my scrapbook.  We happened to wander into an office supply store to get a camera battery when I spied a binder with the state of Alaska on the front cover.  It was like discovering a treasure! The day we returned home, I got to work, and guess what?  Thanks to those magical bits and pieces, I was back in Alaska again!

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Focus on: Alaskan Sunrise and Sunset

Needless to say, Alaska is one of the most beautiful places on this planet.  From its glorious sunrises to its majestic mountains and  abundant wildlife, it  fills your senses with such delight and it is nearly impossible to capture the experience in mere words printed on paper.

The first morning I awoke at 4:30 AM and noticed a hint of light leaking in between the curtains.  I grabbed my camera and spent he next hour watching the light play over the water as the sun appeared on the horizon.  At first, the moon was still visible in a blue and purple painted sky.  Then as the sun rose, the colors changed to a rosy pink and  a vibrant orange. The light began to sparkle on the waters as the sun rose higher in the sky, bringing a glorious dawn to my first sunrise at sea.  The sun paved a path of gold across the water toward me, inviting me to join it in celebrating the beginning of a new day.  My camera did its best to capture the experience for me to share with you, but like the saying goes, you really had to be there to  truly appreciate how beautiful a sunrise at sea can be.  I hope these photos and poem can capture some of what I experienced for you.

as I watch my first sunrise at sea
a gentle peace descends on me
as it casts away the dark of night

the moon still visible in the sky

it fills the sky with soothing light
bands of orange, red and pink
give me pause and make me think
about what matters most to me
and this precious moment on the sea
it paints a path of gold my way
a special gift to start my day
an invitation from the sun
a brand new day has just begun!

the sun appears changing the light to rosy pink and orange

the colors deepen

a path of gold from the sun to me

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the flip side, sunset at this time of year is around ten o’clock.  The mountains darken and the clouds reflect the deep blues and purples of the sky.

purple dominates the sunset

rays of sunlight stream across the water

the sun sets bringing an end to the long Alaskan day

Memories of Summer Vacation – Part Two

                                            Summit

 standing on the summit of  a mountain way up high
where only rocks and boulders rise to meet the mighty sky
to the west the sun is sinking and it sets the sky ablaze
to the east he rolling clouds diffuse the colors to a haze
and all the myriad problems that so often trouble me
are forgotten as I witness nature’s awesome majesty
— pc 1975    

                                                                                              

To everything there is a season, and eventually our time at the cabin ended.  As we neared our teenage years, my father purchased the business he worked for, and needed to get away from it for a few weeks each year.  So we cut back  on our time at the lake, and began taking our summer treks across the United States. Eventually we wanted to spend more time with friends at home during the summer, took on summer jobs, and so slowly other interests took over and time at the cabin lessened.  We didn’t sell it right away.  My aunt’s family still used it, and we would drop in from time to time, but eventually we sold it, so another family could enjoy it as much as we did.  The lake is still there today, and so is the cabin, although it has been added on to.  The community is now a year round neighborhood, and much more developed than it was in our time there.  Time passes and things change.  That’s the nature of life.  But I will always remember and cherish the memories we made there

. But on to new adventures.  Once we were bitten by the travel bug, we really threw ourselves into the experience.  I would begin to plan out our itinerary in the spring, sending away for travel information from the state tourist bureaus (no internet in those days).  I would sometimes choose a destination based on my interests at the time.  The year i discovered John Denver, we went to Colorado, then when he wrote a song about Jasper, Alberta, Canada, we went there.  Now in college, my friends and I became avid Beach Boys fans, so, off to California, where we drove the coast highway (Route 1) from San Francisco to San Diego.  We traveled to Mexico, as well, and by the time I married, we had covered all of the contiguous 48 states and Mexico and Canada.  It was my dad’s dream to drive to Alaska, but we ran out of time – we all married and moved on before we had the chance.  The cruise I’m taking this summer will finally achieve his dream.  I just wish he was still with us so  I could share it with him.

We looked forward to early June, when we would start shopping for our travel wear.  We would assemble our outfits, and be packed days before departure.  My travel itinerary was designed to include interesting places along the route to our final destination.  We had so many memorable experiences  – seeing The Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, Mount Rushmore, the great Redwoods of California, Monterey Bay in California,, Acapulco, Mexico, the Alamo, Las Vegas,  the sandstone formations of Utah, Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, the Rocky Mountains, the Cascade Mountains, the Sierra Nevada mountains – sense  a pattern here?  I was  a mountain lover and so we explored mountains.

One of the most zen moments  I’ve ever experienced, came to me atop a mountain in Jasper, Alberta, Canada.  Mom and Dad opted to sit in the small cafe located partway up the mountain, but Mary, Steve (my younger brother) and I wanted to climb to the peak.  The vista was breathtaking.  Way above the tree line, only rocks all around.  The sun setting in the west, clouds amassing from the east, the sun streaming through..  I felt lighter somehow,, experienced a clarity of thought and peace and calm suffused my soul.  The poem “Summit” was written at the top of the mountain.  I didn’t want to lose the magic so I wrote the poem there as the magic unfolded before my eyes.

Mary and I in our new Mexican beach wear

Our adventures continued.  From being accosted in our car by bears looking for handouts, to sitting around Old Faithful under a star-studded sky, and watching its eruption to traveling miles to see an ancient Indian medicine wheel rock formation, located at the top of a treacherous mountain road. We swam in the Pacific ocean and watched fireworks burst out over the water on the Fourth of July, we threw snowballs at each other in the snowy altitudes of the Rockies – on the Fourth of July.  We drove to the top of Pike’s Peak where it began to snow – in July! We ate chuck wagon suppers with the cowboys on the prairie of North Dakota,and joined them in song later, as the sun set.  Big cave spelunkers, we explored the Great Mammoth Caves of Kentucky, rode boats on the lost river in the caves of Tennessee and delighted in the crystal formations of Crystal Cave in Pennsylvania.  We swam in the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and in the crystal clear water of Lake Tahoe. We drove out in a  snow vehicle on the Athabasca Glacier in Alberta and attended the Calgary Stampede (a rodeo).

No adventure is without its dangers.  Mary,examining a cactus in the desert , got a little to close and was shot in the hand by sharp barbs.  Mom had to remove them with tweezers. Steve was nearly overcome by fumes in Mexico when our exhaust pipe had a problem.. We encountered the remnants of a hurricane on our way through Biloxi, Mississippi, and had to be pushed off the road until we could get the car to start.  Water from the bay had already covered one side of the highway. And mom bit into a salsa covered tortilla in Mexico, which nearly set her mouth on fire.  But these were just minor diversions in our adventures, and we carried on

These are also memories I will hold dear all my life.  Time spent with the family in an over-packed station wagon,  searching for a motel with a vacancy sign, and trying exotic foods like grits, or Mexican salsa, singing along together to pass the time.  I can still hear my father singing:

” The bear went over the mountain
the bear went over the mountain
the bear went over the mountain
to see what he could see…”

He’d sing it over and over until we screamed for him to stop.  We loved stopping at Stuckey’s Restaurants to look at the gift shop and drink a frosty glass of cherry cider . If we were dozing in the back seat, dad would call out “Stuckey, Stuckey, Stuckey’s” and that would rouse us.

Our summer adventures were priceless.  We didn’t have smart phones ,  I pads, laptops,  or portable flat screen tvs.  We had the car radio, a cassette player and ourselves.  One family talking and laughing, rolling down the highway, singing, “the bear went over the mountain…” To those who love to travel, there’s always another mountain.

Photo Gallery

Disneyland

swimming in the Pacific Ocean

hanging out in a tepee

a snowball fight in July