Archive for April, 2020

Watching the video of a Zoom meeting

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

There was a meeting today of some of the people in our group who are working on a project together. I am in the group, but I had a conflict and so could not attend the meeting.

The meeting organizer kindly recorded key parts of the meeting. He sent me a link to a video, which I just now finished watching.

It was very informative to “sit in” on the Zoom meeting, even if only forensically. But in a way the most interesting thing is what happened at the very end.

As the meeting wrapped up, everybody said goodbye. Each participant smiled and gave a wave into the camera before signing off.

Although it made no objective sense, I found myself smiling and waving along with everyone else. Obviously I was not there, and the meeting had long ended, yet I found the compulsion to join in at that moment to be overwhelming.

On a completely rational level, it was a very strange thing to do. Yet now that I think back on it, I am not sorry that I did it.

Rewatching “Raiders of the Lost Ark”

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

One silver lining in this very dark pandemic cloud is that we can cheer ourselves up by going back and watching favorite movies that we have not seen in years. Yesterday I rewatched “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

I had remembered it as a great film, but I had forgotten just how very great it is. The screenplay by the great Lawrence Kasdan didn’t hurt. Also, once again I was reminded why Harrison Ford is a national treasure.

And of course why Spielberg is Spielberg. :-)

The action is non-stop thrills, the pre-CGI effects from ILM are breathtaking, and even the minor characters have elegant character arcs. Most of all, it’s a beautiful and fond love letter to adventure films of the 1950s like Secret of the Incas.

And how can you argue with a movie where the main character’s best friend is none other than Gimli, son of Gl√≥in?

Poem for a pandemic

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

it’s what I like to do
it thrills me without fail
spending time with you
when we disinfect the mail

Essential chocolate

Monday, April 27th, 2020

Sometimes, in difficult times like these, you really need very high quality chocolate. Fortunately there is an excellent, and appropriately pricey, chocolate shop near here.

They are practicing proper social distancing, with everybody wearing face masks and with strict rules about one customer at a time entering the shop. Their chocolates are out of this world.

Of course, every time we choose to leave our abode and venture out, we are making a choice that needs to be weighed seriously. Given the mental and emotional stress of living through the current situation, I think this trip was well worth it.

If shoes could talk

Sunday, April 26th, 2020

There is something about old shoes. They suggest a story about someone’s life, and you know it is probably a very rich story. But you don’t know quite what that story is.

I am particularly taken by this pair of old work shoes, which I spotted recently in someone’s house. I have no idea how long they have been sitting there, but I suspect it’s been a while.

If only shoes could talk, imagine what stories they could tell us!

old_shoes

Virtual double date

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

This evening we went on a virtual double date. The theme was wine tasting in exotic places around the world.

We and our friends both went on Zoom, and picked various handpicked backgrounds while describing past or future experiences at those places while tasting various excellent alcoholic beverages.

It was good to feel fun and non serious social connectedness, even at a physical distance. You might want to try it for yourself!

Virtually virtual

Friday, April 24th, 2020

Today it was announced that the SIGGRAPH conference — the large yearly gathering of people in my field of computer graphics at the end of July — is going to be canceled. It will be replaced by something virtual, details to be determined.

The announcement was not a surprise. At this point it would be been much more surprising had it not been canceled.

Still, it is a big deal. This conference has been going on uninterrupted since 1974, which is significantly longer than most attendees have been alive.

When even the iconic gathering about all things virtual is forced to go virtual, attention must be paid. One more sign that the world may be changing in a fundamental way.

Who are you talking to?

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

I was on a Zoom meeting yesterday. I had another Zoom meeting scheduled right after that one.

One of the people on the first meeting also sometimes joins in the second one. So at the end of the Zoom meeting I said to him “Are you going to join our other meeting?”

He looked into the camera and said “I have another meeting, will reconnect in an hour.” I was disappointed, because I had hoped he would be joining that second meeting.

But it turned out that he was talking to the other participants. He was telling them that he needed to take the next hour to join the meeting I was talking about.

This seems to be an inherent problem with video chat. Everyone is looking at the camera, so you are never sure who anyone is talking to.

I suppose our use of language might evolve to deal with this. For example, we might get into the habit of explicitly saying the name of whomever we are addressing.

But I’m not convinced that’s the right way to go, since it would detract from the richness of verbal communication. It would be much better if we could evolve our tools to better support multi-person conversations.

Something to work on!

Zoombies

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

Until today, I had thought that “Zoombies” was just a 2016 direct-to-TV movie about a zombie outbreak at a zoo (in case you were wondering, the animals all turn into flesh-eating zombies).

But today somebody pointed out to me that the term “Zoombies” has taken on another meeting. It is currently being used to describe young people who spend all of their time glued to a screen while using Zoom.

I kind of like the word in this context — it has a nice ring to it. And I guess that in the larger scheme of things, the phenomenon is not so bad.

In any case, it’s much better than all the animals turning into flesh eating zombies.

Economic shift

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

Business is booming for companies that offer goods and services to people who are not physically gathering together. Amazon and Netflix are but two examples of companies that are reaping the benefit of these strange and tragic times.

Yet at the same time, retail outlets, entertainment venues and transportation services are being devastated. Many will not be around when the pandemic is over.

Are we witnessing a permanent economic shift? Will the result of this pandemic be a fundamental realignment of local and global economies?

In two hundred years, historians will have the luxury of looking back, with the wisdom of hindsight, on the long term economic impact of the year 2020. I wonder what they will see.