Despite the title, these pixels are anything but lazy. This is a site of my own photos, my own art, my own written text and more. There are no memes. This is not a portal to someone else’s brain. It is an outlet for my own creative soul. I plan to post words and pictures about things that interest me and all the projects I'm exploring in multiple formats: long, short, deep, and shallow. Share and enjoy.

Badlands Scenic Tour

Posted
1 year ago
Alberta Badlands
Departure
CEG4 return
Arrival
CEG4 (Drumheller)
Flight Time
46 minutes

I landed in the Alberta bandlands at dusk last night but before I continued onward I thought it worthwhile to take a virtual flying tour of this local tourist attraction in the daylight. As morning dawned, I plotted a looping flight-path south of the small municipal airport that serves the nearby town, and took off on a low altitude cruise.

Approaching the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta

The vast Canadian prairie is wide and largely unbroken, but where the Red Deer river cuts across the mid-section of Alberta it has carved away eons of soft stone and left behind a prehistoric wonder known locally as the badlands. The town of Drumheller is known as "the dinosaur place" to every kid in Alberta, and from the serious (a world-class paleontology museum) to the kitschy (disosaur-themed everything) it is a popular vacation spot for many.

A low-altitude cruise over this so-familiar landscape reminded me that even a small town with couple of dusty highways along a stretch of unique landscape can be an adventure. From the virtual airways, the small size of the place is striking. A short flight over the town left me following the highway to glimpse some familiar landmarks before swooping back up and over the familiar prairies towards looping back towards my starting point.

Checking out the Red Deer River Valley South of Drumheller

The skies were also becoming more populated. A half dozen other flights appeared on my HUD as I followed my 50 mile flight plan over a place I wouldn't have expected many to visit... or maybe I'm not the only one ignoring the big cities in favour of vast, sprawling and familiar landscapes.

Flight Number
L005s

Test Flight

Posted
1 year ago
Approaching Edmonton International
Departure
CYEG (Edmonton)
Arrival
CYQF (Red Deer) & Return
Flight Time
87 minutes

After weeks of waiting I took possession of my virtual Cessna 172 Skyhawk, the plane in which I've chosen to start my world wide adventure. It was dawn in Edmonton when, shortly before 7am, I took off for a trial run in the new plane (and freshly downloaded MFS2020!) It's no use starting a globe-circling trip in an untested plane.

On approach to Edmonton International Airport with a summer prairie horizon to greet me.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

The area around the city and the long stretch of farmland prairie landscape en route to my destination is all too familiar to this Alberta guy. I've driven the stretch of highway between Red Deer and Edmonton (and back again) so many times I dare not even try to count. The landmarks below as I lifted off and flew south were a great introduction to the virtual worldscape in the simulator, and a good measure of just how accurate I can expect the actual trip to feel. In other words, very real... like 95% real, because when you are so familiar with something, there is always going to be a few little things that don't line up perfectly. But good enough.

Better than good enough, actually.

On approach on the first day, leg one was outbound on a round-trip to Red Deer, Alberta.

My new plane -- I've dubbed her the PIXEL -- took some time to get the feel in. To be clear, I'm not actually a pilot, so I'll be banking on my past experience in flight simming to keep me from crashing too often. (And so far, so good... two take offs, two landings, even if one of those landings was a little rough.)

Before we leave...

The rules for the forthcoming round-the-world trip are simple: (1) we take off from where we last landed, (2) try to avoid returning to airports we've already visited (at least... recently, loops are okay) and (3) any crashes need to be documented and followed up by a successful take off and landing from the original destination airport (a "recovery flight") before the next leg of the trip departs.

Flight numbering is simple too. Flights are three digit codes: any leg starting with a 0 is a practice flight, and any leg starting with any other number (1XX... etc) are sequential legs. I'll append an 'r' to the end for recovery flights (after a crash) or an 's' to the end for "scenic tours" where I take off and land at the same airport for a cruise around the area.

I'll be logging a few more local practice flights in the coming days before setting out westward on my adventure.

Flight Number
L001 / L002

Around the World, a Simulated World Tour: Prelude

Posted
1 year ago
San Fran Free Flight
Departure
SFO (San Francisco Intl)
Arrival
SFO (San Francisco Intl)
Flight Time
35 mins

It's been a long COVID-driven dry spell for travel. As I write this, knowing many people have sacrificed and lost much more than us, I do quietly lament the sad reality that we've had to cancel two airplane-based vacations as a result of this pandemic. In fact, in an alternate COVID-free universe, I should be in Florida right now.

Circling the San Francisco Bay over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Microsoft Flight Simulator X (2006)

No matter. And we'll make do ...and simply be grateful that a lost vacation and some boring days stuck at home are the worst we've had to suffer thus far.

Yet... boredom. And a few weeks ago I was bluntly reminded (by the deluge of YouTube videos that appeared in my feed) that Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, the latest in a long line of a beloved software gaming series dating back to my own youth, was arriving on PCs shortly. Very shortly. It is in fact being launched at midnight tonight. My internet will be busy while I sleep downloading the pre-ordered one hundred and fifty gigabyte install so that -- over the next few evenings -- I can begin enjoying this title along with every other middle-aged gamer nerd who will be diving in along side me. (Or is it suiting up? Taking off?)

In the last few weeks, in eager anticipation of launch, I've watched about 30 hours of video, read through the software specs and features lists countless times, bought a new flight stick for my computer, shared my excitement with fellow gamers (and also a friend who is/was a pilot), and doubtless driven my family crazy with my random conversations on the topic of flight sims, world-simulation, cloud computing, and more... like an eight-year old telling his mom the amazing things that his new toy can do. I even (impatiently?) installed the now-seemingly-ancient Microsoft Flight Simulator X (MFSX) the previous instalment in this series and a game released waaaaay back in 2006, fourteen years ago. I installed it, mostly, because wanted to try out my new joystick, but it had the secondary benefit of re-calibrating my expectations about how much the tech has changed in a decade and a half. It's going to be a generational leap in amazing. MFSX was fun... but it was like digging into my PS2 library and trying to pretend to enjoy some now poorly-aging retro games.

But what to do with this new game?

Sure, I could simply open it up... learn to fly... explore a virtual simulation of the actual whole flipping planet Earth like no other simulation has ever accomplished... and just enjoy some general aviation. I could call it some virtual sightseeing, and just play... or?

Or, I could build on my past experience with flight sims (having played at least half of the previous versions and have yet to crash any planes in my recently reinstalled MFSX) and maybe, just maybe jump into with both wings... be a curious, adventurous, and set out on an virtual vacation around the world. A stuck-at-home by COVID, virtual flight around the planet. As in, I could load up a profile, plane and my local airport and see how far I can get, point to point, as if I was really on a kind of trip, learning the nuances of the game as I go.

So, this is my prelude.

Tomorrow (assuming the game installs and I'm able to set myself up properly) I'm leaving on a virtual vacation, posting some (most or all?) updates on this site as I travel. Screenshots. Flight logs. A to B to C... and on until I find myself on as many continents as I have patience for... around the world, for a simulated world tour in a virtual simulation of the planet, when the last thing any of us can realistically do is get on an actual airplane. Because... why the hell not?

Stay tuned for the Pilot Project.

Flight Number
L000

Lazy Pixels Creamery: Banoffee Swirl

Posted
1 year ago

In the early 2000s, shortly after that movie Love, Actually became a kind of holiday film phenomenon, the Wife and I took a trip to the UK. On her travel bucket list for our trip was to locate a slice of “Banoffee Pie” which was not something that had made it’s way over to Canada, but had been mentioned in passing in a scene of the movie.

Small ideas can drive life long adventure, and one of my stories of this is wrapped around a slice of banana and toffee pastry.

Banoffee Pie has some variation in it’s composition, but the basic recipe seems to be this: a graham cracker crust is painted with a generous slosh of dulce de leche (a kind of condensed-milk liquid toffee-equse bit of heaven in a can) filled with sliced bananas and topped with sweet whipped cream. It turns out it is amazing. Every time I make a banoffee pie it disappears with compliments and people asking what the hell was that and can I have the recipe?

Until recently, however, dulce de leche was not just something that was easy to come by. Sure, it can be made at home, but with some risk that involves the potential for explosions and minor kitchen destruction. Now, in Canada at least, it’s part of a very small product line by a company that also makes condensed milk — they just carmelize some of it and sell it as this nectar of the gods.

I was contemplating a banoffee pie the other day when inspiration struck. With another heat wave due this week, why not adapt my pie into a cooler treat, like, say, ice cream!

Recipe: Banoffee Swirl Ice Cream

2 cups, heavy cream
1 cup, milk
2/3 cup, granulated sugar
1/4 tsp, coarse salt
5 egg yolks
2 ripe bananas
1 tbsp, vanilla extract
75 grams, coarsely ground graham crackers
2/3 cup, dulce de leche

In a saucepan I combined the cream, milk, salt and sugar and heated to about 125F or until the sugar dissolved completely. Meanwhile, I separated the eggs from their yokes and combined the yokes with the bananas which I’d mashed as smoothly as I could with a small whisk. I tempered the egg/banana slurry with the hot cream mix, and then combined fully, pasturizing at about 170F in the saucepan.

Normally I’d filter this, but the banana mash was being removed by the wire screen mesh filter, so I skipped it and just transfered it to a container and then into the fridge. This was cooled for about 6 hours. I also put the can of dulce de leche in the fridge to bring the temperature down.

In the frozen ice cream attachment, I churned the chilled base. I could have stopped right there and this would have made some fantastic banana ice cream. Believe me... I sampled.

Instead, with a few minutes left in the churn, I added the graham crackers. Then, in stages, I alternately combined spatula-fulls of the ice cream and then spooned dollops of dulce de leche, folding it all together two or three times to make the swirl, all right in the freezer containers. Then into the freezer for the final chill.

The result tastes so close to banoffee pie, even aligning some of the textures with the crunch and the swirl, that even after just a few bites I’m debating, but I think this may be my preferred banoffee format. I think. Either that or I just invented the worlds most perfect ice cream flavor.

Photo Expedition: Garage Lightning

Posted
1 year ago
Lighting and Silhouette

The storm rolled in around dinnertime and it flashed and crashed for a couple of hours before the sun set.

A few years ago I experimented with photographing lighting by first hoping for a storm, then setting up a tripod in the front of my garage where sheltered by the overhang of the roof from the pouring rain I would paitently snap hundreds of low-light, long exposure images hoping for the perfect shot.

It’s a terrible and wonderful way to spend an evening with the camera.

About a year ago I handed my patience over to a computer... specifically the computer in my phone. An app I purchased called iLightingCam2 is a finicky camera app whose sole purpose is to monitor a portion of the live camera feed and “detect” flashes (that could be lighting) and save a buffered image when it detects a candidate.

It’s partially cheating, yes. It’s a phone camera, true. But consider that:

a) I still needed to sit at the end of my garage for an hour, in a thunderstorm to capture a single epic shot,

b) the dozens of settings and weak ability to focus the camera in the pitch darkness of a late summer rainstorm makes getting the app to work effectively is actually a challenge, and

c) if you don’t hold the camera level and steady it “detects” literally hundreds of false positives that turn out to be blurry pictures of the streetlight across the road or the reflections of the same on the road.

Last night I used the app for the second time successfully and captured a mix of good and not-so-good lighting shots. I include a small selection in this post to demonstrate the breadth of the app’s ability.