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JOURNAL: Dream Psychology and the Ulanzi V2 GoPro Cage

Submitted by on July 30, 2019 – 9:22 pm
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Tuesday, July 30, 2019
8:00 a.m. Room 4, Natalia Guest House
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Look at that time! Eight in the morning. I finally did it. I manged to get some sleep last night, and I feel so much better this morning. I’m not sure why I slept better, but it was definitely partially because Natalia brought in a brand new set of pillows, and Room 4 got one of them. It’s crazy what a difference a new pillow can make in terms of how you sleep.

One side-effect of sleeping better is that I remember more of my dreams. I have a long history of being fascinated by dreams and their relationship to memory and even to reality. My dreams are so intense and take place in such fully-realized worlds that they are much more interesting than my real life. That’s sad to say, but there is no denying it. I often wish they were the real world.

And I’ve become aware of certain patterns in my dreams and in dreams in general. As everyone knows, you dream when you are in the deepest stage of sleep. And that sleep is what makes you feel refreshed. Without it, you’re exhausted all the time as your brain never completes its nighttime job. I have the unfortunate habit of waking up routinely during the night. I wake up and go back to sleep (or try to go back to sleep) constantly. This happens at least a dozen times a night that I remember and perhaps even more often. It can be an exhausting process in itself. It’s like running a sleep marathon every night.

However, if I do manage to fall into the deepest stage of sleep, it means that I have intense dreams, and I remember them for a few seconds after I wake up. Again, as everyone knows, dreams take place in short-term memory, and they are not transferred to long-term memory. So even if you remember the dream you were having when you first wake up, it will quickly disappear unless you make a deliberate attempt to remember it. There were several times in my life when I did an experiment with this and I wrote down my dreams every time I woke up. The fascinating thing is that when the full morning arrived, I had no memory of any of those dreams or of even writing them down. All I had was a notebook (and later my NEO) filled with a record of all these dreams, and each one read like a full movie. It was like a gift each morning. I’d wake up every morning to find a long list of stories in a notebook, and I had no memory of how they got there. It was a like a stranger had dropped off a notebook filled with short stories every morning.

Last night, I made a deliberate attempt to remember one dream because it was so intense. In this dream, I was in some kind of hotel with a vast spiral staircase leading from the lobby up to the floor where my room was located. For no reason that made any sense, I kept trying to bring armloads of objects from the lobby up the spiral staircase to my room on the upper floor. The hotel was an old one, and the lobby was filled with artifacts from historical periods, so I was carrying swords and statues and art and vases and things like that. And no matter how hard I tried and how hard I worked I never managed to get even one object to my room. Not one. Some barrier or obstacle occurred every single time to prevent me. Yet I kept working and working and working at it. (I have variations on this theme in my dreams all the time.)

And then, something strange happened, something new in my dreams. In the dream, I saw that there was a kind of black rash or series of dots on the underside of my right arm. They were clearly defined black marks, kind of like an elongated oval with a point on one end. I simply noticed the rash at certain points in my dream and thought little of it. But then it started to grow and started to cover more and more of arm. Then I could see the black dots start to move around under my skin. And then later on, large maggots encased in a kind of plastic tube started to erupt out of the top of my arm. These creatures were literally bursting out of my skin. There was a row of six of them on the top of my arm.

In normal circumstances, you’d freak out about this, of course, but in the dream I was just annoyed and a little bit frightened, and that’s all. I considered finishing bringing the objects to the top floor and then going to sleep and hoping the maggots would be gone by the morning.

Later, however, a feeling of panic started to set in. The maggots kept bursting out of my flesh, and the black dots on my arm started to sink down into my arm and disappear. I realized that the black dots were eggs for these creatures, and that meant hundreds of them were living and growing inside my body. Once I figured this out, I realized I needed to see a doctor, and I started to approach hotel staff so they could help me call a doctor or get to a hospital.

Just as with my attempts to move objects up the spiral staircase, I couldn’t get any of the staff to help me. Every time I tried to show them the maggots bursting out my skin, something would happen so they’d turn away and not see them. And when we tried to call a doctor eventually, the doctor was always gone or unreachable or it was impossible to finish dialing the number on the phone. This situation went on for what seemed like forever, and the dream ended with the maggots still coming out of my arm and me trying desperately to find a sword that I was trying to bring to my room but which I had misplaced. That was when I woke up.

I don’t know if that dream would strike other people as unusual or horrifying. But for me, that dream is almost tame. It’s a normal kind of dream for me. The intense nature of my dreams has led to me reading about dream psychology from time to time, but I have to say that the explanations that the experts give for dreams never quite make sense to me.

Enough about dreams in the night.

Yesterday, during the day, I embarked on another of my favorite activities – shopping for gear. On my To-Do list for Kuala Lumpur is to pick up a special new cage for my GoPro. This cage is made by a company called Ulanzi, and the cage is the Ulanzi V2 Pro. This cage has two big advantages over the regular GoPro cage. The first advantage is the entire point of the cage’s design: it was designed to provide a convenient spot to house the giant and ridiculous GoPro Audio Adapter for microphones. As things are normally, the Audio Adapter simply hangs from the GoPro and that’s it. There is no place to put it. So people come up with all kinds of crazy solutions. They use rubber bands to tie it to a tripod or selfie stick. They use Velcro to somehow attach it to the GoPro itself. None of these solutions are actual solutions. The Audio Adapter remains a giant pain in the butt – this big hunk of plastic dangling from the GoPro and banging around and getting in the way and looking ridiculous.

And Ulanzi saw this problem and they designed a cage with a rectangular slot at the bottom. They call this the “battery bunker”. And the Audio Adapter slides into the battery bunker with the cord sticking out the other side. Then you have to twist the cord in a complicated fashion to insert the cable into the GoPro. It is not a perfect solution. There can’t be a perfect solution because the Audio Adapter is ridiculously large and bulky and the cable is very thick. But considering the limitations, this Ulanzi V2 Pro is as good as you can get. It’s certainly far better than anything GoPro itself provides.

The second big advantage is that the Ulanzi V2 Pro has a cold shoe mount on the top where you can mount a microphone (or other accessories). Not only that, it comes with a little extension for that cold shoe mount designed specifically for the Rode VideoMicro microphone. The problem with most microphones is that even if you figure out a way to mount them on top of your GoPro, the wide-angle field of view of the GoPro means that the wind muff of the microphone is dangling in the picture. You can see the microphone in your video. This extension block on the Ulanzi V2 Pro is intended to raise the microphone just enough to get the wind muff out of the frame.

Not only that, but the Ulanzi V2 Pro kit comes with a lens cover (which GoPro does not provide or make). AND it comes with a 52mm threaded mount to allow you to put standard filters on your GoPro – like an ND filter or a polarizer. And finally, it ships with an extension bracket that allows you to mount a light or to mount the microphone off to the side. It is, to put it simply, a fantastic piece of gear. And to my mind, it shames GoPro. Why wouldn’t GoPro itself make or provide such a cage? It’s beyond ridiculous that they don’t. It’s embarrassing for GoPro that they have to rely on random companies around the world to come up with fixes for their terrible design. Why don’t they provide these fixes themselves?

Ulanzi makes two versions of the V2. The first version is just called the V2, and it has a regular GoPro mount and ships with just this cage. When I set out to buy a V2, I assumed that that was standard. But, to my delight, I learned that Ulanzi released a newer version that has a regular tripod mount called the V2 Pro. I LOVE that. It means that I can simply attach the cage to any f my tripods or grips without having to mess around with GoPro-to-tripod adapters. Again, it is embarrassing for GoPro that a different company had to step up and make a cage with a tripod mount. Why wouldn’t GoPro do it themselves? That’s a mystery to me.

Considering what this Ulanzi V2 Pro does, it necessarily comes with a couple of compromises. For one thing, it’s significantly larger than the regular GoPro cage. It has to be by definition because it is designed to house the GoPro plus the audio adapter. So you can’t blame it for that. It also has to be a bit larger to accommodate the cold shoe mount on the top. And you can’t blame it for that either because it must be larger to provide this feature – and it is an essential feature. The ridiculous thing about the GoPro Audio Adapter is that it is specifically designed to allow you to plug in an external microphone, but there is nowhere on any GoPro products to attach such a microphone. So it is something dumb combined with something dumber. The Ulanzi V2 Pro addresses these problems.

Another compromise with the V2 Pro is that the rear door is different. With the cold shoe mount on the top, they couldn’t use the regular GoPro door mechanism. Instead, they had to use a sliding door that simply clicks into position. In a way, I like it better because I find it very difficult to undo the GoPro hinge mount. It nearly breaks my fingers and fingernails when I try to get it free. It takes a lot of strength and pressure. But the Ulanzi inserting door is not quite as satisfyingly rugged as the GoPro system, and that means that the Ulanzi V2 Pro doesn’t grip the GoPro quite as strongly as the GoPro cage does. In a way, I actually prefer that because I find it difficult to get the GoPro out of its original cage. It is in there so tightly that I have to wiggle and wiggle and twist and poke and prod at it to get it out, and that means covering the lens with fingerprints and scraping the top. But with the Ulanzi V2 Pro, the GoPro just pops right out.

As a piece of gear, I have to say that the Ulanzi V2 Pro is about as perfect as gear can get. And on top of that, it appears to be very well constructed. It is made of plastic, of course, to keep it light. But the plastic feels high quality to me. I’m astonished that they can make something as nice as this for the price. To get the tripod mount version, you have to buy the entire Ulanzi V2 Pro kit. You can’t buy just the cage itself. So the price was a bit higher at 85 ringgit. But that’s only $20 US. And that kit includes not only the cage but the lens cover, the filter mount, AND the Ulanzi PT-7 extension bar. How they can possibly provide all of that for $20 is completely beyond me. It doesn’t seem possible.

My one concern with the V2 Pro (now that I see it in person) is that I might not be able to mount a Rode Wireless Go microphone receiver on the cold shoe mount. One of the reasons I was so excited to get this V2 Pro is that I wanted to combine it with the new Rode Wireless Go. But it appears that the receiver might stick out over the record button on the GoPro. If it does, you wouldn’t be able to press the record button to start and stop video recording. I wasn’t anticipating that problem.

I just checked online, and the Rode Wireless Go is listed as being 46.4 mm wide. And if that is accurate, there is a chance it will work out, especially with the V2 Pro’s extension block in the cold shoe. There should be just enough room for my finger to reach the record button underneath the edge of the microphone receiver.

And I guess that was all I did of note for the entire day. I continued my research for my return to Myanmar. That included watching a 40-minute video about the 300-ton Dhammazedi Bell and the efforts to recover it from the bottom of the river. It was very good and very entertaining. In terms of my online world, I spent a lot of time trying to catch up with my website. Plus, for some reason, I never got around to posting my Myanmar videos on Facebook. So I spent most of the day creating these little promo videos – one for each vlog – and then posting them to Facebook. I’m sure it was a bit confusing for anyone that saw them because I posted them all in a row and they are related to vlogs that I shot weeks ago.

I still don’t really understand how to integrate Facebook and Instagram with YouTube. It’s complicated and confusing. Now that I’m slowly getting caught up with Facebook and the website, I have to figure out what to do with Instagram.

And while I was working on the Facebook promo videos, I had the new season of Orange is the New Black playing in the background. I’d watch a few minutes of the episodes while my computer was busy compiling video or uploading to Facebook and processing. At first, I didn’t enjoy the show. It’s very well-acted, well-written, and all that stuff. But it is so depressing. SOOOOOOOOOO depressing. Everyone in the show – particularly the prison guards and administrators – is so nasty and evil and unpleasant. It just seems like too much at times. I wonder what real prison guards think when they see themselves portrayed in such a negative light. I don’t think there’s any way that prison guards in real life can be so universally evil and brutal and lazy. And it’s not just the guards. The family members of the prisoners are also so nasty and unpleasant. I go about my life and I meet nothing but nice people all the time. People are helpful and friendly and polite and nice, in my opinion. So it is a bit weird to watch this television program where every single person is nasty and unpleasant – and often for no reason. They’re just jerks.

And a final note about how my future planning is going. I’m still fairly certain that I will be returning to Myanmar – at least for an additional 28 days. And the basic idea there is to be more active and go to a lot more places. I feel like I didn’t do the country justice. And upon returning to Kuala Lumpur afterwards, I’m thinking about going to Sri Lanka or maybe even Pakistan. I’ve long wanted to visit Pakistan, and I recently found out that flights from KL to Pakistan might not be that expensive. And I also heard that they are relaxing visa requirements. I haven’t done my own research yet, but it’s possible that Canadians can now get a visa on arrival. I’m not sure how long they would be good for or if they can be extended, but I’ll find out over the next few days.

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