You’re Invited to the Domains 19 Conference

Nothing makes an event feel more official than when the website finally goes live. And the Domains19 website has been official since last Thursday, so I think it is fair to say this conference is definitely happening. It will be taking place on June 10 and 11th at the 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina. The site art is a throwback to visions of the future during the 80s (hence the “Back to the Future” theme for the conference), and we are fortunate enough to have Ryan Seslow working with us to define the overall conference aesthetic. I’ve found imagining the aesthetic for Reclaim’s various projects over the years some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.* I’m biased though, I always feel the coolest and most compelling work comes out of art projects rather than papers. 

So for Domains19 we are hoping folks will explore various topics the event will focus on through a more experimental, interactive proposal of some kind. I’m planning on bringing back to my “Data is the New Flesh” installation from OpenEd 2013 featuring Dr. Oblivion (despite the fact no one has asked for it), and we’re really hoping others follow suit so I’m not entirely alone. In fact, I’ve a sneaking suspicion our keynote speakers, which will be announced over the next few weeks, will be eschewing traditional presentations formats for a more interactive and immersive series of experiences. 

All that said, more traditional presentations and panels are also fine … I guess 🙂 You can find the  call for proposals here, and if you are planing on coming but not presenting the registration page is also live. So, if planning on presenting or just coming to take in the Art of Domains, consider yourself officially invited! We would love to see you all in North Carolina this June to explore a wide variety of pressing themes that will hopefully transport us back to the various possible futures of EdTech.


*The tradition goes back to the myriad design work we’ve done with Bryan Mathers for severla years now, as well as the more recent building out of the Reclaim Video site with Michael Branson Smith.

Posted in Domains 2019, reclaim | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Building a Line Wobbler Clone with Twang

In my previous post I wrote about being transfixed by the Line Wobbler at the Video Games exhibit that runs through February at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.  In this follow-up I’m going to try and document how Tim, Meredith, and I actually built a clone of the Line Wobbler called Twang (“an Arduino-based 1D dungeon crawler”) and you can find the code at this Github repo. I followed the list of things to buy from the Github repo, and they were right on. Here’s the specific pieces I bought for reference:

I would add to that list the following few things:

I think that’s all, but I may add to the above if I remember anything else. The whole thing will cost you around $85 US.

The other things you need to get are the required libraries for the Arduino that are listed on the Github page, I have them all downloaded in this zip file for easy, one-click downloading, but they can all be found online as well.

Twang Joystick Enclosure

Beyond the hardware and the software, you will also need to 3D print an enclosure. We actually bought a Ultimaker3 printer last week, so it was a perfect test for our new workhorse 3d printer—that machine is awesome. We (royal, this was all Tim) modified the Twang joystick enclosure a bit, and that was a wild process (more on that shortly). You can also explore the buildlog.net remix of the Twang joystick which is very cool.

Twang joystick remix by Buildlog.net

So, once you have all the pieces and have printed the enclosure you should be ready to start building your game. One of the cooler part for me was Tim’s ability to customize the Twang joystick to adjust for a different speaker size as well as increase the depth of the gyroscope casing to fit the wires.

First mod was reducing the thickness of one section of the cover plate so that the speaker would fit cleanly in the enclosure. To do this Tim essentially removed a layer of the coverplate using Tinkercad, and it worked perfectly. You can see in the bottom corner we left a small triangle of the original depth to keep the coverplate fastened.

Arduino Twang joystick

The first task we tackled early in the week was learning how to solder the requisite wires on the gyroscope. Meredith and I actually worked through a practice soldering kit given this as our first time, and after about an hour we felt comfortable enough soldering the pins to the gyroscope board. There may be a more efficient way to solder given you will only be using the VCC, GND, SCL, SDA, and INT pins, but we decided to solder the entire pin connector so we could use the Arduino wires to just slide them on cleanly. That said, this is also why we needed to reprint the casing for the gyroscope that sits on top of the doorstop, it was not deep enough if you include the pins like we did.

Arduino Twang joystick

Arduino Twang joystick

Getting the piece soldered was a big deal for us. I did say before I began this build: “Can’t I get someone to do the soldering for me?” Not very Maker-compliant thinking 🙂

Arduino Twang joystick

Once the pins were soldered we color-coded each of the gyroscope connections as shown above based on the colored wires we had. 

Arduino Twang joystick

As you can see from the image above the gyroscope goes into the top of the joystick that sits on the doorstop. So, with the gyroscope soldered and placed in the joystick casing and the wires run through the doorstop it was time to plug them into the Arduino board. Thankfully buildlog.net once again bailed us out by making an awesome graphic illustrating where all the pins go (note they use an alternative color scheme than ours):

You can see that the SCL and SDA can go where he has them sitting before the AREF, or in ports 20 and 21 which are labeled accordingly. The INT pin goes in port 2 and the Vcc pin can use the 3V power port (he has 5V listed, but I saved that for the LEDs and both worked—probably cause we used fewer LEDs) and the ground goes to GND. Once all those are plugged in you should see the green power light on the gyroscope.

Arduino Twang joystick

If that worked you should be able to move on the the LED lights. I messed up here, which cost us some time. The LEDs will have five wired, a power and ground wire (red and black respectively that are not pictured above) and the LED specific wires (data (green), clock (red), and black (ground)) that are pictured above. The clock (red) goes into port 3, and green (data) into port 4, and LED ground (black) goes into a GND port. As I mentioned before, it is recommended to use a different 5V power supply for the LED lights, but possibly because we only used 300 we did not need to, so we plugged the power and ground for the LED strip into the Arduino board as well, but your mileage may vary on this one.

Arduino Twang joystick

Once you have the LED wired you can then wire the gyroscope using the diagram above and the 3V power port as I specified.

The speaker is the final bit, and I have yet to solder ours, but this is basically two Arduino wires that you plug into ports 11 and 12. This was crucial for us cause I did not think to plugin it in while we were troubleshooting the LED lights I had in the wrong ports, but once Tim had the idea we could establish the game was working given the sounds played.  So if you have the gyroscope hooked up, the LED lights plugged in and have loaded the code and libraries all to no avail, be sure to connect the speakers.

Now we are ready to download the Arduino IDE interface and start loading libraries and see if this thing works (note you can do this when ever you want, but there is really no need until the LED lights and gyroscope are hooked up). The Arduino IDE is basically your desktop app to upload libraries and edit and upload Arduino code (which is written in simplified C/C++). The first thing to do is plug the USB a to USB B convertor in your computer and go to Tools–>Port to see if you see the Arduino in the USB port. If you do you can start uploading the libraries.

The screenshot above is how you upload the various zip files of the required dependencies for Twang. Go to Sketch–>Include Library–>Add .ZIP Library. Once you have uploaded all the required libraries you can then upload the Twang files using the Open icon (upward arrow) and find the Twang.ino file in the TWANG folder with all the requisite code (it is the TWANG.zip file in the dependency and core files I linked to above) on your desktop or where ever you are keeping it.



At this point the code should be ready to be uploaded to the Arduino using the right-facing Arrow icon and it will then be pushed to the Arduino. You can use the Arduino IDE to compile and re-upload the code using the right-facing arrow (upload) and the check mark (compile) icons. These will be useful given you may need to make some edits. We had to change the number of LEDs, for example. We got a strip with 300 LEDs, so we needed to edit the following line of the Twang code from 1000 300 in the // LED Setup area::


After that, we needed to define the type of LED lights we’re using, this is another detail I missed that Tim picked up on. In the //Fast LED section you can change the type of LEDs from APA102 

to WS2812B, which is the type of LED lights we bought (which are cheaper):

If you have APA102 lights no need to make this change, and there may be others varieties of LEDs, so be sure to check which type of lights you ordered to make the correct edit here.

OK, I think that is everything, and the sheer thrill of getting this running was worth the time. And the game plays quite well. I am gonna try and add more LEDs to the string and see if I can get the lives indicator working, so I may add updates and follow-ups, but you can see the came play in the videos below. If you to try and make this thing, I do not think you will regret it—and it could make a fun light display for the holidays 🙂

 

Posted in Arduino, video games | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

DIY Video Games at the V&A

Last weekend the whole family spent a few days in London and it was a blast. I’ve been to London a few times over the last two years, and I’m a big fan. We did a bunch of things, but I’ve been unable to shake the Video Games Exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum, so I figured I would blog a bit about it.

It basically focused on a number of fairly recent games (last 10 years or so): Journey, The Last of Us, Bloodborne, Splatoon 2, Consume Me, Kentucky Route Zero, and No Man’s Sky (I may be missing one or two). The vignettes explored various design elements that make the selected games unique, essentially arguing that the last 10-15 years has been a particularly fecund period for video game narrative and design. For example, with the The Last of Us the focus on the AAA (mean big budget) approach to The Last of Us with hired actors, extensive green screening, and the robust character development of the main character Tess (a name near and dear to my heart). 

The Last of Us

The also had the very analog approach to the game narrative that I really enjoyed. Seeing the game development outside the screen was quite compelling (and the same was true with Journey).

Tess Attacks

The concept art for the grown over infrastructure that defines the world of The Last of Us  was powerful, it’s work we can come to take for granted in the artistic process—but this exhibit laid it bare again. I appreciated the way in which the exhibit integrated the various complex components of acting, art, design, and narrative that frame a game before it even get to the programming stage.

V&A Video Games Exhibit

And the exploration of narrative continued with the discussion of a game I had not heard about before seeing the exhibit, namely Kentucky Route Zero. This is an Interactive Literature game that framed its relationship to a wide range of literature, experimental films, surrealist artists and the history of computing and technology. I have not played this game, but after the discussion of the various influences and plays through I am planning on it.

Kentucky Route Zero

The following screenshoted moment from the videogame is playing on the painting Le Blanc Seing by René Magritte

Kentucky Route Zero

An another influence was Jane Veeder’s 1982 video art piece Montana, the first of its kind, and a brave new world of early 8-bit video graphic art for me.

There was also an interesting breakdown of the mobile game Consume Me by Jenny Jiao Hsia, a puzzle game that frame questions around body image through her compelling imagery. 

Consume Me

You could play the game, and it was fascinating how consumed those who did became, almost a double entendre of the game’s name.

Consumed at V&A Video Games Exhibit

Another game I need to explore is No Man’s Sky, the aesthetic is deeply rooted in the 1970s scifi aesthetic I have found myself drawn to more and more these days.

The game features a procedurally generated, open world universe, which includes over 18 quintillion planets. I have no idea what that means, but the screenshots are quite compelling. Miles warned me it’s not that good, but I want to cruise around it for the aesthetic experience more than the gameplay. 

No Man’s Sky Screenshots

But the thing that most compelled me by the exhibit was the final room which featured a bunch of DIY arcade cabinets.

V&A Video Games Exhibit

Much of which is linked to a “players_offline” idea, wherein folks go to a place to both create and play these games, and they are quite awesome—and according to the following placard define a “punk scene” within the gaming culture where anything is possible and nothing predictable. 

Players Offline

That’s all fine and good, but were the games any good? Actually, they were damn good. The Queers In Love at the End of the World cabinet is a crazy game wherein you have like a split second to make a choice as the world is ending. it is all text-based, and remarkably compelling and compassionate at once. It all happens so fas you don’t know what hit you, and I think that’s kind of the point.

Queers in Love at the End of the World

The Bush Bash is a DIY cabinet from Australia made out of half a car. The car is cut in half and you sit in the driver’s seat and shoot other cars, almost like a full scale Spy Hunter. The gear shift is the joystick and the steering wheel controls the car, while the road is projected on the wall. It is an awesome thing to behold, I want to try and make one of these.

Bush Bash

You can see Tess playing it in the videos below to get a better sense of what I am talking about:

And then there was the Line Wobbler, which blew my mind. It is essentially a full blown dungeon video game programmed on an LED strip. I was absolutely mesmerized; I could not stop looking. 

Line Wobbler

The sheer simplicity and brilliantly evocative and tangible nature of the design and execution of the Line Wobbler was so powerful for me that I could not stop thinking about it since. So much so that I decided to try and make one, and with Tim Owen’s help we did thanks to this clone (I love the internet), but that is fodder for my next post wherein I give a play-by-play for anyone wanting to give it a shot.

I came out of this exhibit wanting to turn transform Reclaim Hosting headquarters into a space to both make and play such video games (amongst other things). An excuse to return to the idea of making part of CoWork a maker space that can feed my growing DIY arcade obsession 🙂 Now to go cut a car n half and figure out how to re-create Bush Bash!

Oh yeah, and my kids had fun too 🙂

 

Posted in art, video games | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Remembering OWLTEH, Part 1: the Open Web Installations

Hard to believe it’s been more than a week since the Learning on/with the Open Web conference (OWLTEH) in Coventry. It was a great conference experience for me, and if I don’t stop and take a bit of time to capture some of it I’m afraid the magic might be lost. Also, I’m going to have to gloss the conversations and resulting panel discussion with Tony Hirst and Anne-Marie Scott because that will require its very own post, so I’m saving myriad thoughts about that awesome experience within an awesome experience for a soon to materialize follow-up. That said, Anne-Marie Scott already did a far better job than I will of capturing some of the excitement (and unease) that was generated as a part of that panel, and I am grateful for her work in so many ways.

For me the OWLTEH experience was so good because it was relatively small (I would guess 40-50 people), a brilliant venue (the Coventry Transportation Museum is a gem), free and open to anyone who wanted to come (and a lot of really good people made it), and more than anything it emanated the positive vibes of the organizers, namely Coventry University’s Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL). The event was done on the cheap, and it was energizing in some very fundamental ways—but I’ll touch on that later.

So, while I’m still a bit high on the post-conference experience, that wasn’t the case leading up to it. It’s a lot of work to organize a conference to begin with, but when you are trying to help with that while attempting to build an installation remotely and you have over promised on a series of networked 90s computers, the level of fail can be painful. Needless to say my vision for actually enabling folks to surf the 90s web on period appropriate machines did not materialize. We did have a nice 1997 desktop computer running Windows 95 with various games like the OG Grand Theft Auto, Warcraft II, Duke Nukem 3D, etc., but no web—which makes me sad.

Charlie and Alex modeling the Windows desktop on display at OWLTEH

That said, Rob Farrow’s above Tweet was some consolation, the idea that 90s gaming was the seed of so much of what my kids do regularly now is compelling for me. The Sega Mega, a period appropriate gaming console, with an absolutely gorgeous Sanyo monitor (I want one!) was courtesy of Alex Masters, who was an absolute savior for getting what little I did have working.

But all was not lost because Lauren Heywood rules. While we tossed around the idea of the 90s web exhibit, Lauren made it happen by taking the lead and getting it done—unlike me. It really was cool to see it come together. Below is an image of the intro placards we created above, and for scale this is roughly 11″ x 14″.

I really like the opening paragraph Daniel Villar-Onrubio word-smithed for that one:

“Vague, but exciting.” These are the three words that Tim Berners-Lee’s boss at CERN wrote on the copy of his proposal of an Information System (http://info.cern.ch/Proposal.html), which would eventually become the World Wide Web (WWW). Launched in the early 90s, the Web was imagined by Berners-Lee as a space for knowledge sharing that was by definition an Open Web. Vagueness and excitement, as well as playfulness and ingenuity, also marked the early days of the Web. A time when a still tiny proportion of the worldwide population had the luxury to explore its potential and imagine myriad uses beyond its original purpose. This exhibition aims to convey the spirit of those early days of the Web as a way of rethinking its present and future role in teaching and learning.

He nailed it, and from there we had various community-submitted entries, somewhere between 15-20 sites featuring sites from the 90s web exhibited on a caddy-cornered bookcase from Ikea (Billy to the rescue). A few of the sites featured were Alan Levine‘s various web creations from the era—that guy has a long digital footprint— and I think I’m gonna have to get a separate post highlighting the various entries….damn I knew blogging OWLTEH was going to be an ordeal! 

For my part I submitted two examples, the first was a fan site dedicated to the British 1967 TV series The Prisoner (featured above) with the penny farthing bicycle complementary of the Transit Museum. The brief research I did around this Prisoner fan site (which was also part of a larger Prisoner Webring) led me to UK ISP called Freeserve from the late 1990s that has a pretty interesting story, here’s the label I created

The Prisoner (http://www.the-prisoner-6.freeserve.co.uk/)
The website screenshots captured here from 1998 and 1999 highlight the popularity of amateur fan sites across the web. One of the UK’s most celebrated television series from the 1960s, The Prisoner, had numerous fan sites—a fact demonstrated by the announcement of “The Prisoner Ring,” outlining the various benefits of linking with other similarly focused sites.* This site also provides access to various media such as music (.midi files), video (.avi files), and streaming animation using Microsoft’s proprietary video format Advanced Streaming Format (or .asf) as highlighted here.

As the URL suggest, this site was hosted through Freeserve, a British internet service provider founded in 1998. Freeserve took the bold move of dispensing with subscription fees for dial-up web access, opting for a portion of the telephone charges. Additionally, they provided 10 MB of web hosting space and multiple free email addresses. In two short years Freeserve would have as many as 2 million active subscribers in the UK and be valued at well over £1 billion.

*This refers to webrings, a popular method of highlighting a series of sites linked to one another based around a common theme.

I got taken with not only the budding ISP market in the UK, but also the Dot-com Bubble valuing of tech companies in the late 90s that is easy to forget about in the age of social media insanity where everyone’s got a startup valued in the seven figures. Freeserve was a huge disrupting force for British Telecom, which would ultimately buy them, and strikes an interesting note, at least for me, of what was to come.

My second submission was about the Prof.Dr. website style of the 1990s that Olia Lialina has written about extensively. I already referenced this label on the bava while preparing the exhibit, but to see it as a physical object in the UK was a thing of beauty. But you’ll also note from the above images a collection of open source tools gorgeously designed by one of the DMLL student activators. The color-coded designs feature various open source projects such as Jupyter Notebooks, Mastodon, Twine, Etherpad, and more. The various artistically designed installations and exhibits were indicative of the care and though that everywhere filled the day. The most impressive installation has to have been Rob Hassell and Mat Dalgleishthe’s SIDsynth64: “an 8-bit synthesizer combining obsolete and open hardware.”  Follow that link, and if your too damn lazy, see it in action below:

And, the kind of invisible exhibit highlighting the power of the open web was the conference web presence itself. The spaces where participants added their bios, submitted abstracts, checked the schedule, even added their photos were all built using SPLOTs. Nothing like a return to simple, open web-based tools for a manageable conference. After seeing the innumerable Tweets from the annual EDUCAUSE conference that folks couldn’t manage the deluge of spam from vendors. Jesus, what a nightmare. I take no little solace in knowing there are still folks out there in edtech that actually walk the walk of open and spare us all the blather.

All this and I haven’t even talked about any of the sessions or any of the participants beyond a few of the immediate organizers. I guess Remembering OWLTEH is going to have to be a multi-post series to remember OWLTEH, but it’s worth it!

Posted in OWLTEH | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

I woke up the other day and my phone was on 2%. I thought I had charged it the night before, but maybe not? In fact, the last week or two the lightning cable hasn’t been sitting right, and time and again I’ve found the phone was not actually charging when I assumed it was. Drat.

Anyway, I shuffled downstairs and plugged the phone in….and nothing; 2% juice and the lightning bolt refused to show. Dread.

I’m back on the road in a few days and a smartphone has become a indispensable tool for tethering anywhere, managing tickets, taking photos, restarting servers, checking Slack—did I mention taking photos? Can you imagine all this drama coming from someone who didn’t have a phone until three years ago; the transformation is complete, I am a middle-aged iZombie.

I’ve broken my share of laptop and smart phone screens over the last few years, but a lightning port was new territory. I just assumed I crushed it on my recent journey to the UK fighting off the hordes of foreigners, and was beginning to worry it was beyond the pale. I tried cleaning it out with the sharp end of a steak knife, but no dice. So, I went online to see what the process might be for replacing a lightning port.

Jesus! This video comment says it all, “… and then go down to the store to buy a new [phone].” For the iPhone 7+ you literally have to remove everything to get to the lightning port. I was getting discouraged. There’s a local shop for fixing phones and I was resigned to bring it in, but turns out it was a national holiday and everything was closed. Damn, damn.

Cutting it too close, and my phone was bricked without anyway to charge it—a remarkably frustrating feeling I had not felt until then.

So, I kept searching online and I found this quick tips video from CNET featuring the old reliable toothpick fix. I was skeptical, but it just so happens I co-habitate with some badass cooks and a toothpick is always in reach. I asked Tommaso, my trusty assistant in all things technical, to get the toothpick so we could try a last ditch surgery. And after some digging we pulled out a decent clump of lint that was, indeed, preventing the cable from making contact and foiling any charge.

What was craziest of all was the relief I felt when the phone finally started charging again, I knew I would become dependent once I broke down and gave in to the phone culture, but I don’t think I fully understood just how much it would cost.

Posted on by Reverend | 2 Comments

Tommy’s Chocolate Doom Pi

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+

I got a Raspberry Pi 3 recently in an attempt to get some Windows emulation going in preparation for an exhibit about the 90s web at the OWLTEH conference. I am playing with the emulation software QEMU, and I have gotten DOS running smoothly, but still working on Windows 95 and 98. Tommaso has been my partner in this adventure, and I have to say he is really into this stuff. I told him once we get the emulation working he can check out the original Doom and Duke Nukem for the 90s PC. This sent him over-the-top with excitement given PC gaming for him is the end-all-be-all of existence. We currently have a PS4 and a Switch, but the siren’s song of the professional PC gaming machine is powerful in casa bava. That said, I tried to impress on him that the Raspberry Pi 3 is by no means a gaming machine with little success.

DosBerry Pi

Anyway, Tommaso has been cheerleading me through my struggles with QEMU, as well as reminding me I’ve made some promises. When he realized I was a long way from home he finally took matters into his own hands and pointed me to this tutorial for getting Doom running on a Raspberry Pi. Needless to say, it worked seamlessly and he has experienced the original Doom in all its 640 x 480 resolution glory. We tried a similar process for Duke Nukem 3D using the RetroPie Setup but got tripped up, so that is a work in progress. Playing with the Raspberry Pi to re-create old computing scenarios has been a more than welcome diversion; I’m not sure my exhibit work is as far along as I had hoped, but the time with Tommy playing Chocolate Doom on the Pi is no small consolation.

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Migrating a cPanel server between Cloud Hosting Providers

This post is a quick run down of the steps for migrating servers so the next time I have all the steps in one place. The scenario in this case is we’re migrating a school’s server from Linode to Digital Ocean. In preparation for such a migration you need to make sure that a) we have control over the DNS for the domain (i.e. it is registered through Reclaim) or b) the domain is using a CNAME record rather than an A record. Why? CNAMES point to host names like stateu.reclaimhosting.com rather than an IP address. When moving servers the IP address will most likely change, whereas hostnames do not—which means by using CNAME records the DNS switching will be seamless.

So, once you can confirm you control the domain and/or it’s pointed to a CNAME you can start the process.

1) Setup cPanel on the target server (in this case Digital Ocean) using Reclaim’s deploy script
2) Update your local host records to point to target server’s IP address
3) Login to the target server and use the Transfer tool in cPanel to move all account from the old server (in this scenario Linode) to the target server (Digital Ocean)
4) When using the Transfer tool make sure you enter the IP of the old server rather than a hostname
5) After all the accounts have moved successfully point the hostname (which for Reclaim is in AWS’s Route 53) to the IP of the new server on Digital Ocean
6) You will also need to update the DNS Cluster on the nameservers (both ns1 and ns2) with the new API token or access hash
7) The final bit is to make sure all traffic hitting old server is redirected to new server using this guide

Here’s the code to enter in the command line on the old server:

The other thing particular to Reclaim is that monitoring is using a URL so that will not change, but R1Soft (our backup solution) will need to have the public key refreshed. 

And that should do it.

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Bava Mountain High

I was tickled when I read Adam Croom’s recent post about his trip to Trento this Summer. When someone visits the gorgeous country of Italy, it is no small feat when their visit ranks as a highlight. Entertaining so many good folks in Trento has been a lot of fun, and thankfully the scenery makes the job easy. In fact, I have begun to fall in love with the mountains of Trentino and Alto-Adige, when I am lucky enough to be hiking here, the rest of the world feels far, far away. 

Dolemiti di Sesto

A View of the Dolomiti di Sesto from an off-season Ski Slope

But I’m no Romantic poet, I can barely write a cogent blog post. So adequately penning the beauty of these alps is beyond my powers. So, being a lowly edtech, I’ll stick to the iPhone 7+ (which continues to blow my mind) and this humble blog. It’s hard for me to regret getting a phone after amassing more than 15,000 photos during my travels over the last  3 years. It’s become part of my daily rhythm, which is something I was aspiring to. I’m pretty much addicted, and this obsession is fed well by my surroundings. When heading up to Alto-Adige/Süd Tirol for a hike—one of three regions that are home to the Dolomiti, the other two being Trentino and Veneto—it’s impossible not to be visually inspired. 

Dolemiti di Sesto

The prato leading to the Dreischusterhütte

In fact, we took a day-trip to Val Pusteria in Alto-Adige, which might be one of the most spectacular spots and in region chock-full of natural beauty. We did a hike part way up the Drei Zinnen (Tre Cima di Laveredo) in Val Pusteria before dropping the kids off at camp.

The road ahead

Tess always leads the pack on hikes

Cyclist in Dolomiti di Sesto

Some cyclist scale

Of Maps and Phones

Lost in the mountains

Dolemiti di Sesto

Moon landing

Dolemiti di Sesto

Like the wild west

Grand Hotel --> Youth Hostel

Site of Tess and Miles’s summer camp “Grand Hotel.” Cats in NYC pay top dollar for these accommodations….

And the climbing continues, we finally did our first trail with a significant ferrata (kind of guided rock climbing) where we all had to strap on a harness and be attached to the iron guide rails at all times. It was wild, and the kids ruled:

That shot is everything to me! We did a ferrata on a smaller mountain over Lago di Garda and the views were stunning and the fear of doing a ferrata pretty firmly behind us, though being out there in the mid-day sun for a couple of hours on the rocks can wear you down.

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View of Lago di Garda from 3000 ft.

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Luckily the new and improved bava is virtually indestructible:

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Achievement unlocked

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Ask me again how I’m doing? #NOBODY!!!!

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Old Gold VHS Mold: the Fungus Amungus

Looks like we have fungus growing on a couple of our Betamax tapes. You can see it above on the Goldfinger tape. Kinda eats into the tape like the opening title sequence of John Carpenter’s The Thing. We are gonna have to get a headcleaner for the Betamax and do a full inventory check given this can spread communicatively through the machine! What’s more, we will have to do a fairly thorough inventory check for mold. Mold is pervasive and it ruins both the VCR and any tapes you play through it. I love this description from a forum post I found, this is no joke!

It is not safe!!!

What will happen is the mold will spew all over the inside of the VCR, ruining it, as well as infecting any future videotape put into it. Mold spores are pervasive, and often toxic. They will leech outside the deck, through every vent hole, and get everywhere in your home.

The only DIY method to mold cleaning is to take the VCR outside, and don’t be downwind of it. Wear a face mask. Realize this VCR will be trashed afterwards, and only usable for mold removal. Never again to be used inside, never again for playing tapes.

We are gonna try and avoid the “nevermore, nevermore” scenario above and be sure to check all VHS and Betamax tapes given this is one of the scourges of the trade. It would be a good, fun 80s horror, b-movie, no? The VHS mold that feeds off the customers viz-a-viz the machines? “Get Stevie King on the line, I want to talk a script treatment.” Lunchmeat’s Spare Parts provides a good guide for removing mold, and it is a fairly intense process that would take a while, I am pretty sure from the looks of it that that the mold on the Goldfinger tape is too far gone for repair, but I’m open to being wrong on that.

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Reclaim Video Laserdisc and VHS Haul

I have been quiet on the Reclaim Video front with everything going on with the Fall semester start-up, so before they become a distant memory I wanted to mention a couple of nice hauls of  Laserdiscs and VHS tapes we got in the last couple of months. Back in late August I took a trip to the Fat Kat Records location in Ruther Glen, Virginia to stock up on laserdiscs, and that I did. 

There are a lot of gems, I particularly enjoyed the Japanese import of Blue Steel (1990), which I proceeded to watch the next day, its cool to re-visit early Kathryn Bigelow after seeing her career develop as a filmmaker, althoughI think I most enjoy  her early films like Near Dark (1987) and Point Break (1991)—but what a career.

I also picked up some VHS tapes on this trip to Fat Kat, and I was happy about that:

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And of course some VHS as well @reclaimvideo

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I wanna do a Quest for Fire/Waterworld double-feature at some point 🙂 I even got a cassette tape:

And a book:

But the real score was a few weeks ago when I found a lot of 300+ VHS tapes on Craig’s List. Full blown lots like this are harder and harder to find, and this one was a total gem. Meredith went to Maryland on her way back from the Nationals game and after hearing about Reclaim Video the Ingram family donated the whole lot for free, including  ton of empty VHS cases. This is a particular collection, I will get more pictures and add them to the ones below, but here is a small taste.

The back seat of Meredith’s car after pickup

6 Boxes of 80s VHS Tapes

Some VHS tapes from the Ingram Haul, love Turk 182, The Star Chamber, The Bad News Bears and Rambo, and even Night Hawks! (a personal favorite—we now have that one on laserdisc and VHS).

You had be at Mad Max

We still have to inventory it all, but our collection to a major jump with the addition of all these titles, and I have to think we approaching the 1000 mark for VHS tapes alone. I’ll need to confirm as much, but I have to think this haul pushed us over that number. Meredith also got the perfect card for the Ingrams, and now they have a lifetime membership to Reclaim Video 🙂

Thanks you card for the Ingrams for their generosity and support of Reclaim Video!

Thank you letter to the Ingrams

And beyond that haul, I got a 4-VHS set on Ebay featuring Streets of Fire (1984), the rock musical from the 80s you might not have ever seen. I was inspired by Paul Bond’s post on the film and his awesome GIFs—it’s a truly bizarre film.

4 Tapes

Willem Defoe at his very best

One final note, we have a second part-time employee at Reclaim Video that started a bit ago, so it’s becoming more official everyday. I am pretty hands-off on the day-to-day (understatement), but I understand people actually rent videos on occasion 🙂 And the big news is that there may be hope of telepresence via an iPad robot by as early as December, one can dream. I love Reclaim Video, and I don’t blog about it nearly enough.

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