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Amazing, strange or funny stuff – If it impresses me or makes my jaw drop, it fits here.

Running, jumping, climbing, diving… Or not.

After being stuck at home for too long, initially nurturing a knee injury and recently dealing with an urushiol encounter of the third kind, I am really dreaming of getting back out there for heavy sweat, mild pain and frantic motion. In the meantime, I’ve been reading up on alternative training systems, wanting to bring more into my routine than simply running. So far, two characters and their ideas stick out of the crowd, David Belle and Erwan le Corre. What? Oh, yes, they both happen to be French.

The result, when taken to his extreme level, is very much like a giant jumping spider mutation of the human genome.

David Belle probably no longer needs an introduction. He is commonly credited as being the father of parkour, or free running. See my previous post about it. What I like is that he combines multiple disciplines such as running, trail running (for its balance), gymnastics, martial arts and climbing into a single, uninterrupted and challenging workout. The result, when taken to his extreme level, is very much like a giant jumping spider mutation of the human genome. A mutation that inherently accepts a disappearance of nature and digs deep into the urban core for adapted training grounds and a new exercising culture.

A the opposite end of the spectrum is Le Corre‘s approach. He was inspired by a training method and philosophy proposed by French physical educator Georges Hébert in the early 20th century, la méthode naturelle. Le Corre has adapted it to modern society and turned the original motto “Be strong to be helpful” into “Be strong to be free”, but without dropping the real outdoors as a prime training field the way parkour does. He advocates exploring one’s true nature via a very diverse training style and uses concepts such as the Nature Deficit Disorder and Zoo Humans, which I find delicious.

Here’s what he had to say about training, in an interesting interview with Men’s Health:

“Our workouts are domesticated, while the world out there is still plenty wild. In a pinch, can a man put gym-generated biceps and tank-tread abs to any real use? Could it be that our treadmill-running, elliptical-gliding, well-oiled Cybex world has turned us into show dogs who can’t hold our own in the hunt? I meet men all the time who can bench 400 pounds but can’t climb up through a window to pull someone from a burning building… [ ] I know guys who can run marathons but can’t sprint to anyone’s rescue unless they put their shoes on first. Lots of swimmers do laps every day but can’t dive deep enough to save a friend, or know how to carry him over rocks and out of the surf.”

Don’t know about you but it’s the best wake-up call I’ve had in a long time. In a few words: keep it real, keep it varied.

In the end, though, these people, methods and philosophies don’t necessarily have to become our gurus or gods or doctrines, and theirs might not always fit our own goals or capabilities. But they remain incredible displays of explosive human potential and watching them train and perform always lifts my spirit and pushes me to do a little more, a little harder.

So for now, I hit the keyboard keys with renewed intensity. One does what one can.

Posted in: Cool & Running on September 6, 2009 | Leave a comment

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The state of things

It had been a while since I last visited the very cool world of Wordle and I was thrilled to find an option that I did not remember from before: the applet now analyzes not only your own submitted text but also an entire web page as per the given URL. So I ran Coriolistic Anachronisms through it as a test and as always, I like the looks of it so much I feel compelled to show it. 

Here, hence, is Wordle’s rendition of this very blog’s main page, based on pure word frequency and adjusted for my taste of colors and orientation. I like to think that this is the view a crawling bot gets when visiting. It’s quite interesting to be shown so simply the trends behind my own train of thought, the vocabulary I tend to use most (or should I say too often), the major keywords and the re-emerging topics.

I intend to run and post this test once a month, since it will change with each new entry added to the page. It’s art, if nothing else.

And here is my favourite blog:

Posted in: Cool & Web site news & Web winks on May 21, 2009 | Show Comments(6)

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Polar planets

Last night I saw urban planets. Let me explain. I went for a run around False Creek because the wind was howling and venturing on the Seawall would have meant big waves and unexpected saltwater showers. I had the  fierce Canon G10 with me, in a pouch on a stretchy belt that makes it incredibly easy to carry.

While it can in no way replace a DSLR, the G10 is an incredible little camera, sturdy, compact, extremely easy to use, loaded with very advanced features and even quite stylish. It shoots RAW files processed by a DIG!C 4 processor, has a 5X optical zoom down to a wide 28mm, a 3" PureColor LCD display with 460,000 dots, focuses in macro at 1 cm, has a old-style top-dial rotating ISO knob, is image-stabilized and features advanced motion and face detection technology. And with its 15 MP, it even beats my Canon XSi. It really feels remarkably solid and well built, slides in your hand with a purr and just begs to shoot. A real pleasure to play with. Oh, and it was a present from Marie. ;-)

So I was running and glancing around me at the urban urchin that surrounds False Creek and had to stop here and there to take pictures of the skyline. Nowhere is it more obvious why Vancouver was nicknamed the City of Glass. The sun was setting lazily and dragon boat crews were hard at work on the calm water.

I began wondering how I could bring panoramic shots back and yet show them in the limited horizontal space of my blog or even the main photo gallery. Then I remembered a technique I had noticed in a photo magazine and so tonight I decided to experiment a bit. It’s called a polar planet and involves quite a few steps but revolves around the very cool Polar Coordinates tool of the free GNU Gimp image manipulation program.

Here are my first attempts at polar planets, or as I’d rather call them, urban urchins. Not so perfect yet, I’ll need to refine my skills and work from true 360 panos (these were created from incomplete panoramas.) But it’s a fun way to look at a city and you get it all in one look.

Posted in: Cool & Photography & Vancouver on April 2, 2009 | Show Comments(2)

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The Macro Experiment – Part 1

Well kids, we’ll start today’s class with a trivia: can anyone tell me what this photo is? The Frenchies among you are at an advantage, but you won’t know that until later… Can’t guess? Just read on then…

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon some pretty amazing macro photography and my curiosity was triggered. I began reading more on the subject, trying to assess whether or not decent macro could be achieved with a minimal budget. I was not about to launch into yet another expensive hobby and wisely decided to stay away from Canon’s $900 MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro Lens. Some day, maybe.

Further reading revealed that many people successfully used modest setups involving belows and enlarger lenses. I found a Rodenstock Rodagon lens on eBay for a laugh and ordered it. It has arrived but I can’t start my trials until I get my hands on bellows and an adapter ring.

But then I read some more and I got into the really cool stuff. Reversing a lens, it seemed, allowed for very interesting macro results, keeping quality decent and cost down. I knew I had found my experiment’s first step.

I ordered two rings, on eBay once again, for a total of $18.78 shipping included. The two small metal adapters, once arrived from India, didn’t look like much. One was going to allow me to mount a lens reversed on my camera body, the other would let me mount one lens reversed in front of a normally mounted lens.

I did my first series of tests last night, late, with a throbbing headache from my lingering cold. The conditions were bad, my patience low and my bed was calling. But I needed to know. These are everything but good shots. But the initial results are quite amazing. Here is a non-macro shot of my Opinel knife, king of French-made outdoor tools. Do you see where I’m going with this? Yes. That’s what the first shot was. A macro of the first two letters of the word Opinel engraved in the blade, taken with my very ordinary kit lens, a EF-S 18-55mm set to its widest focal length! I only cropped the out-of-focus top and bottom a bit, but that’s basically full frame.

Of course, the first noticeable glitch is the incredibly narrow depth of field, to be expected. By mounting my lens in a reversed postion, I lost all electronics and hence control of my aperture (and depth of field). Mounting the 2 lenses one on another should help with this. Then focus isn’t really that sharp, because at this kind of magnification, the slightest vibration will make the image move. I was not using mirror lock and my remote cable was coiled very close to the camera, inducing slight trembling. In addition, with this kind of macro, focus is no longer set by using the lens’ ring but by varying the distance to the subject, which becomes incredibly difficult with a tripod-mounted camera…

But wow. This is quite amazing an improvement for a lens which normally has a 25 cm minimum focusing distance! And it cost less than $10! My kind of stuff! Next, I’ll be playing with the double lens setup and I will look into getting some kind of rail system to allow for easier focusing.

Oh and by the way: look at the first photo carefully, there’s a splendid optical illusion. Because of the sideways lighting I was using, the letters appear to be sticking out. They are in fact engraved, or recessed. I swear.

Posted in: Cool & Photography on September 26, 2008 | Show Comments(7)

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Dancing on walls

They think out of the box. They have guts, grace and trust their lines. Where we see a wall they have a playground. A window becomes a challenge, the sidewalk a parterre. They are the Aeriosa Dance Society. For some reason, as I watched them perform on the walls of the Vancouver Public Library last night, I kept thinking about Tolkien and the Elves.

Maybe it was the light. Maybe it was the slightly surreal evolution of the human spiders,  bouncing off their own tilted horizon line and reaching downwards for the sky. Maybe it was just because I’ve again started reading the trilogy, for the Xth time, always the first. The critical part is forgetting about the bloody movies. But once I manage that, I plunge into the most detailed, carefully crafted fictional world ever invented with such delight that everything in my daily life becomes tinted by it. The Middle Earth erupts into my mind with such amazing power that I lose track of where the fiction stops and reality begins.

So they danced and they flew and they jumped and glided and hung, seemingly effortlessly, obviously happy, and high on the crowd’s mesmerized silence, which meant but an inner roar. Kudos.





Posted in: Cool & Photoblogs & Vancouver on July 13, 2008 | Show Comments(1)

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Beat it! (Running with music)

After careful analysis of my many cramps, side aches, crashes, morale low’s, mood swings, mediocre results, motivation deprivation and various other technical factors, I’ve concluded that:

  • I run more often in my head than out there;
  • I run faster if I have something in the oven;
  • I run much better to music and even better to certain specific beats.

Granted, I’ve known all that instinctively for a long time; but it’s now scientifically backed up by over three years of seriousgoofy running.

Hence my recent problem: for most of those years, I have been running to the same repertoire of less than 10 songs, half of which I actually use most of the time. Sure, they are pretty darn goods song and the repetition probably achieves some kind of hypnotic effect but still, I think a change is in order because as it is, simply hearing one of those tracks in a non-running environment gets my heart pumping, my forehead sweaty, my feet longing for running shoes and adrenaline shooting through me like if an invisible finish line had just materialized.

For the longest time, I had been putting off adding songs to my playlist based on the simple fact that finding tracks with an appropriate tempo within my 1500 song library was a daunting task of trial and error. The thing is, I use some tracks for warm ups and others for the 2 most common speeds I run at (slow and super-slow), and they each fit within their own rather narrow tempo range – 82 BPM for the slowest, 83 to 85 for the mid-speed ones and 86 to 88 for the fastest, as it turns out. It’s amazing how a change of 6 beats per minute can mean the difference between life and death!

Well, yesterday I found a nifty piece of software called beaTunes, which analyzes your MP3 tracks’ BPM (Beats Per Minute) and saves the resulting value in the file’s appropriate field via iTunes. I left beaTunes run overnight so I don’t know for sure, but the whole (one time) process probably took a couple of hours.

Result? I can suddenly browse through my music library, click on a column header and sort all songs by tempo! Nirvana! Not the band, the state! I now have an amazing variety of new songs to chose from and can tailor my running playlists to my needs based on the speed or rhythm I want to be running at on specific routes.

Now of course Microsoft is always behind and the Media Player which I use to upload music to my MP3 device doesn’t support the BPM field. Duh. Why would Microsoft natively support anything useful or cool? Mais qu’à cela ne tienne, iTunes does, so I made my playlist in there and then used the open source iTunes Export to turn it into a WMP-compatible list, and I was done.

The MP3 player is loaded (I refuse to run with the iPod – too bulky, too precious) and eager to get a field test. So am I. The new Asics rock. My runs are mapped over at MapMyRun. For only cramps, now, I will fight those in the hand holding the player. ;-)

[Note: this post was originally written about BMP's but to accommodate the rigid perfectionist mind of some readers, later adjusted to BPM's.]

Posted in: Bits and pieces & Cool on July 11, 2008 | Show Comments(7)

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