Home Theater Upgrade: 4K/HDR with the JVC RS640 Projector

I’ve been waiting to go to 4K/HDR until high-performance, laser source projectors became reasonably affordable, but it looks like that’s going to be a while yet.  (Similar to the wait for high def projectors in the early 2000’s.)  So, here we go, it’s the JVC DLA-RS640U projector (full specs here) and it’s quite the nice jump up from my older JVC RS55U projector, from early 2012.  By the way, I recommend contacting AVScience for a purchase – they offer steep discounts from the retail prices and are great to work with.  I’ve purchased from them multiple times over the years.

Both my old and new projectors are able to display video at 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels), but the RS640 can take 4K input sources while the old RS55 could only take HD content (1920 x 1080) and upscale it.  More importantly though is the ability of the RS640 to display high dynamic range (HDR) content, giving a much wider range of colors and shadow and intensity.  In addition, the RS640 provides even higher contrast ratio, even tighter spacing between pixels, more lumens, better motion enhancements, better 3D display and a low latency mode for gaming (yay!).

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First Launch of the Falcon Heavy

On Tuesday, February 6th, SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon Heavy rocket on its inaugural flight, sending Elon Musk’s original Tesla Roadster and “StarMan” on a far reaching orbit around the sun as a test payload.  Happily, I was able to fly out to Florida and experience the launch firsthand from the Kennedy Space Center’s closest available viewing location for the general public – just 3.9 miles away from the launch platform!  (It’s just too bad they haven’t removed the historic-but-no-longer-needed launch tower at LC-39A, as it was sitting between us and the Falcon Heavy.)  Still, it was quite the show with essentially three of their Falcon 9’s strapped together and all twenty-seven engines firing simultaneously!  Not to mention the amazing, never-seen-before, simultaneous return of the two outer boosters back to the nearby landing zone!

I’ve made a video of what it was like to watch (and hear) from our vantage point:

The Falcon Heavy launch as experienced from the closest public viewing area

This viewing location is part of Kennedy Space Center’s “Feel the Heat” ticket package which takes you to the Apollo/Saturn V Center to view a launch and includes a buffet, some commemorative items, and return entrance to the Kennedy Space Center on a later date to enjoy the rest of the exhibits.

You’re given an assigned arrival time some 5-6 hours before the launch to catch your bus (and told not to come earlier) but for this historic event, there were so many people that it took hours to get through the security gates, boarded on a bus (really? loading the buses serially??) and delivered to the viewing area.  By the time we unloaded from the buses at the viewing area, there was slim-pickings for anywhere on the grounds to set up a tripod with a good, unobstructed view because apparently many folks had shown up an hour or more earlier.  Anyway, I staked out a spot between others some three hours before the scheduled launch but had to skip the buffet to keep watch over all my gear.

The launch ended up being delayed several times due to high altitude wind shear and we were all getting a little nervous that they’d miss their launch window for the day (1:30 pm – 4 pm) as they rescheduled all the way up to 3:45 pm.  But then, about an hour before that, they made the call to go ahead and start fueling the liquid oxygen – meaning a go for launch!  Hurrah!

And then 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, …. and great clouds of steam erupted with 27 engines firing – quite the sight!  We couldn’t see the rocket until it cleared that annoying (and unneeded!) tower, but afterwards the light intensity of the exhaust was incredible as it climbed into the sky.  You hardly notice the absence of sound from the rocket with the cheers of the crowd around you, but a few seconds later it starts to come across – and it’s an amazing, stuttering roar.

Then you get to watch it climb and roll and, higher up, begin to build a beautiful column of vapor – which it eventually disappeared into.  After a bit, it reappeared further east as a faint set of exhaust plumes still coursing away.  On the monitor, we could watch and hear announcements of each successful milestone and cheers would erupt each time – like with the separation of the side boosters and their retro-firing to return to Cape Canaveral.

Minutes later the two side boosters appeared in our sky coming down at incredible speed.  We all lost track of them though when they cut their engines again and unfortunately many of us weren’t in a position to see them again when they reignited for their final deceleration over their landing targets. We could of course see the video feed on the monitors, perfectly landing themselves (vertically!), like something out of science fiction – but it wasn’t until after they had landed that their twin sonic booms reached us.  We all of course learned later that the center core didn’t fare so well because two of the three needed engines were unable to restart (not enough ignition fuel) and it crashed into the ocean close enough and hard enough to damage the autonomous drone ship that was waiting for it.  But hey, this was a test flight!

 

The Falcon Heavy is now the most powerful rocket in the world, with the most lifting capability – though it will soon be surpassed by NASA’s upcoming “SLS” rocket as well as SpaceX’s own future “BFR”.

Meanwhile, “Starman” continues his/her epic journey in space:

Click through for my full photo gallery from the launch and my follow-up visit to the Kennedy Space Center:

      

Here are links to more videos of the first Falcon Heavy launch:

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Long Awaited Snow in Tahoe

  

Finally got some snow to ski in Tahoe this past week.  Chased the storm up with Troy on Thursday night.  We had eighteen inches of powder to play with at Homewood, which was nice, but there wasn’t much of a base (like 25″), so still tons of obstacles to watch out for everywhere.  Creeks and rocks and trees and those sneaky, ski- and board-eating shrubberies!  As a result, lots of terrain wasn’t really accessible and you had to be pretty careful where you went, but there was still plenty of room for fun.

Here’s some pictures and a little video – though I really should’ve recorded some of the obstacle-dodging craziness and the digging of ourselves out of heavy, sun-saturated powder traps!

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Tahoe Gaming Weekend

Darlene and I joined Roland, Charles, Mark, Jon and Steve last weekend in South Lake Tahoe for a couple of fun filled days of gaming – thanks again for hosting, Steve!  We had adventures in Welcome to the Dungeon, Bang! The Dice Game, Sidereal Confluence, Raptor, Crazy Karts, Viva Java, Category 5, Chameleon, Codenames, and Ladies and Gentlemen.  Click through for the gallery:

      

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New Years Eve Gaming Day

We got a fun crowd together for gaming on New Year’s Eve day with Roland, Troy, Rachel, Dan, Kevin, Vanessa and myself:

And we got in games of Terraforming Mars, Raptor, Deception, Viral, Splendor, Bang! – The Dice Game and King of Tokyo!

Click through for the full gallery:

    

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Christmas in New York City

Darlene and I enjoyed a weeklong trip to New York City over Christmas this year just doing a lot of sightseeing.  It wasn’t a first visit for either of us but there was still plenty to go see and do.  We started off with a midnight visit to the top of the Empire State Building – and discovered that’s the way to entirely avoid any lines or crowds.

We enjoyed thoroughly exploring the lower half of Central Park and we walked around mid-town a lot, taking in the Christmas shops at Bryant Park, visiting the gorgeous Grand Central Station as well as the New York Public Library – home to specters from the movie Ghostbusters, which kicked off a hunt to seek the other filming locations including the Ghostbusters firehouse HQ, the “spook central” apartment building on Central Park West, the Tavern on the Green, Lincoln Center, etc.

Of course we visited Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas displays there and along Fifth Ave.  We also saw two musicals on Broadway over our visit: The Lion King, which was just completely fantastic and amazing, as well as a repeat of Cats which happened to be the first musical each of us had ever seen.  I found I didn’t care for Cats at all this time though – I guess my tastes have changed a bit in 30 years!

We did the VIP tour (tip: not worth the extra) at One World Observatory and stayed for dinner after sunset.  The ride up the “time traveling” elevator was very cool (see YouTube video) but over too quickly to enjoy all the detail!  We saw the 9/11 memorial that night as well – really well done.

    

We walked the High Line (an elevated rail line converted to a green space) and walked around the financial district and down to Battery Park where we discovered and rode the wonderful Seaglass Carousel.  We slipped in a visit to the art collection at the Frick museum and we finished off with a lovely trip on the Staten Island ferry on our last crisp cold day.

Click through for the full gallery of pictures and video clips.

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Geminids over Pinnacles

Darlene and I went down to Pinnacles National Park for dark skies to watch the Geminids meteor shower Wednesday night:

Time-lapse of Geminids meteor shower

That’s a 20-second time-lapse I made looking south towards Orion about midnight, covering about 90 minutes that didn’t include any light trails from passing airplanes.  And here’s a still shot.

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Pre-Movie Gaming Day

  

Clay, Roland, Vanessa and Kevin joined Darlene and me for some board gaming ahead of the full crowd we had for last Saturday’s BBQ/movie night.  (I should’ve taken a couple of pics of the full house.)  We got in a long game of Power Grid followed by trying a few rounds of the cute new Cheaty Mages.

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Frie Family Halloween Gathering

It was Darlene’s turn to host her family’s holiday gathering this year in Wisconsin – Halloween-themed this time.  Click through for the full gallery:

      

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October Road Trip

I made a number of additional miscellaneous stops on my October road trip with Pan and Hera in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle, including along a section of historic Route 66 in the Mojave Desert, on the road in northern Arizona and southern Utah, mountain biking outside of Zion National Park, and taking the tour of Hoover Dam.  This was over the course of two weeks (October 4th-19th, 2017).

Mojave Desert outside of Baker, CA

Looking down Hoover Dam

Click through for the full gallery:

     

Here are the other separate galleries for this trip:

And here’s a video montage of my drone flights over the trip, including my last flight where I lost control, crashed and was forced to leave it behind:

What happens when the Mavic Pro doesn’t have GPS lock and you’re too high for the down-facing optical sensors to work is that the Mavic becomes unable to hold its position and it starts drifting all over the place.  I was trying to compensate and keep it away from the walls but I was not at all successful.  It almost crashed into one wall but halted itself when it’s forward-facing sensors detected the wall.  As it started drifting towards the opposite wall, I had just decided to try to get it up and out of the shadow of the canyon entirely to hopefully gain GPS lock and regain control but it was too late – and this time it wasn’t facing the wall and didn’t detect it.  It crashed and fell to a point immediately below me.  While it was only like 35 feet down, it was a sheer drop with only a couple of narrow soft ledges.  Without rope and climbing gear, I would have been risking my neck to try to retrieve it.  Yeah, very sad to have to leave it behind, though it looked pretty busted up anyway.

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