Archive for January, 2022

The luxury of daily blogging

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022

It takes a certain amount of dedication to blog every day. The key is to remember every day not to not blog.

But the process also affords an interesting kind of luxury. If you get it wrong one day, you have a chance to get it right the next.

Essentially, daily blogging a kind of laboratory for trying out various things. It has also taught me how to simply write, without sweating the process too much.

And that by itself is very a valuable form of exercise. I highly recommend it.

Dates that come up in art

Monday, January 10th, 2022

I have always been fascinated by references to real world dates in literature. Although sometimes you need to look carefully to find them.

One of my favorite examples was June 18, 2006. This real world date was foretold in the lyrics of one of my favorite songs, a song that you have most likely also heard.

Can you figure out the reference?

Funny plurals

Sunday, January 9th, 2022

This week I started thinking about the oddness of plurals in the English language. Plurals in our language can be very strange.

For example, the plural of the word “fruit” is (sort of) “fruit”. You can say “I’m getting a banana, or I’m getting two bananas.” But if you don’t say what kind of fruit you are getting, you would say “I’m getting fruit.” In that sentence, the word “fruit” might mean just a single banana or a whole bunch of bananas. There’s no way to know.

Yet if the word “fruit” is used to refer to a particular kind of fruit, and then there is indeed a clear plural form. If you say “I am getting fruits”, that means you are getting more than one kind of fruit. So there is a distinct plural for kinds of fruit, but not for the thing itself.

Then there are words for which the singular and the plural are exactly the same, like deer or fish. The latter is even more confusing, because it’s also a verb. You can say “Whenever I fish, I hope for lots of fish, but I only catch one fish.”

It’s amazing that little kids learn this stuff with so little trouble. Just one more thing that helps me to appreciate the wonder of the human brain.

Physical prototyping

Saturday, January 8th, 2022

Today I left my usual comfort zone of software hacking and built a physical prototype of something. It felt good to get back into the real world, and work with tangible materials.

I even worked up a sweat. That’s something that never happens when I’m hacking on software.

At the end of the day, we can’t spend our lives entirely in the virtual. We have bodies, and those bodies want to be used. And it feels good to use them.

Maybe I’ve caught the bug of “making things in the real world.” I wonder whether this is the start of a trend for me. I hope so!


Friday, January 7th, 2022

One of the interesting things about blogging every day is that you keep running up against the limits of the medium. Like any medium, on-line blogging has limitations along many dimensions.

But there is one limitation in particular that I actively create: I don’t believe in talking about things that will point a finger at individuals who are not public figures.

I know that a lot of people on social media believe in “outing” other people for their expressed beliefs. There is quite a bit of on-line indignation these days, and some of it manifests itself in unilaterally taking private discussions public.

But I find myself taking the more old-fashioned view. The private and public spheres are very different, and they should not be casually mixed together.

I don’t have any problem with poking fun at myself, or with poking fun at entire groups of people who behave badly. But private individuals are off-limits, unless they choose to take their opinions public.

January 6

Thursday, January 6th, 2022

What a strange and sad anniversary to commemorate. When I was a kid, it never occurred to me that anybody would be attacking our democracy from within. I realize that made me naive.

Now that I am older and more cynical, I worry whether we will get past this phase in our country. I know that that our democracy is far from perfect, but it’s far better than the alternative.

Whatever you choose to call it, that awful alternative would be, in essence, government by fiat.

Widget Wednesday #1

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

I’ve decided that with the new year, I will try something new. Every Wednesday will be “Widget Wednesday”. So once a week I will post and discuss something I’ve created in computer graphics.

I’ll start off with something old. THIS DEMO is a partial rebuild in JavaScript of a Java applet I originally presented as a SIGGRAPH 97 Technical Sketch, which was then incorporated into a traveling museum exhibit by the American Museum of the Moving Image, and was eventually used by kids on the Spectrum to teach themselves how to read facial expressions.

The full demo showed how a real-time autonomous virtual character could express convincing emotions, without using repetitive prebuilt animations, by mixing facial expressions over time to simulate shifting moods and attitudes.

This partial rebuild mostly shows how a minimal number of elements of facial expression can start to generate a convincing impression of character and personality.

Virtually on-line

Tuesday, January 4th, 2022

Suppose you wanted to take a complete vacation from being on-line, but you didn’t want people to know it. Say, for example, you wanted to sneak off for a week in the desert, away from all forms of electronic communication, just communing with nature.

Let’s say you were running an A.I. that could simulate your responses — on the order of “I’ll need to get back to you soon on that.” Something that would suggest that you had read people’s email/text/whatever, but not that you were off the grid.

How long could you get away with it, before people started to catch on?


Monday, January 3rd, 2022

The man is no longer with us, yet he bequeathed us with the most profound thought of all:

β€œAll we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Morning coding

Sunday, January 2nd, 2022

For me there is something magical about the early hours of the morning. It’s a time when nobody else is awake, when emails and other bothersome things have not yet started to arrive.

I usually wake up with the Sun, and on a good day I get lots of programming done. It’s also the time of day when my mind is the most fresh, and anything seems possible.

Today I’ve already gotten several hours of productive programming done. I could stop now, and still feel a sense of accomplishment for the whole day.

In fact, I think I will do just that. πŸ™‚