Archive for May, 2022

Grateful

Saturday, May 21st, 2022

Sometimes a concert is simply too good to wrap your head around right away. Tonight I attended such a concert.

I know that it had a profound effect on me, but I need more time to digest the experience. For now I will just ponder in silence, and be grateful.

Stranger than Stranger than Fiction

Friday, May 20th, 2022

I am happily reading L. Ron Hubbard’s 1940 novel Typewriter in the Sky. I purchased a used hardcover copy on-line a while back, and am finally getting around to it.

If you’ve seen the 2006 film Stranger than Fiction you know the basic idea. Except that Hubbard invented the idea more than eighty years ago in Typewriter in the Sky.

Without giving too many spoilers, there are resonances here for anyone who has ever pondered issues of personal destiny or the limits of free will. As sentient beings in a contingent universe, what are the limits on our powers of self-determination?

To what extent are you an individual with freedom to decide your fate, and to what extent are you actually defined by whatever deity or celestial clockwork sent you hurtling into motion at the start of your life? And in the end, how much does it matter?

In any case, Typewriter in the Sky is a great read. It’s fun, wild, fast paced and completely original.

And it’s actually worthy of that often terribly misused word “Meta”.

Interactive-lite

Thursday, May 19th, 2022

The program that I posted yesterday was an example of something that might be called “interactive-lite”. It’s interactive, but in a sort of minimal way.

Normally when you write an interactive computer graphics program, you keep track of everything that the user does. When do they click their mouse down? When do they release it?

I started out writing the MapTime program that way. But then I realized that there was no need for all that.

There is just no reason to keep track of whether the mouse is pressed or not. So in the final version of the program, I don’t even check for that.

All the MapTime program cares about is where your cursor happens to be. To me there is something very pure and simple about this way of doing things.

It seems to me that this is an interesting category. I wonder how many different interactive computer graphics programs could be written as “interactive-lite”?

Widget Wednesdays #20

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

This afternoon I wrote a program that I always wanted to have. Just a really simple way to move a clock around on a world map to find out what time it is anywhere in the world, without need to to do a Google search.

You can also use it the other way: If you already know what your local time is, you can use this to find out your exact longitude in the world.

It was surprisingly easy to implement, mostly because I tried to make it as simple as possible. The one little extra design flourish was that I change what the clock looks like depending on whether the local time is day or night.

Also, I decided to make time change continuously as you change your longitude, rather than using discrete time zones. Mostly because this way it’s more fun and dramatic. 🙂

I call it MapTime. You can check it out here.

Ideas in dreams

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

Every once in a while I get a really great idea in a dream. Or at least I think I do. I suspect you have had similar experiences.

Invariably when I wake up from such an experience, I say to myself “Wow, that was a really great idea!” And then my next thought is “If only I could remember what it was.”

Which leads to the obvious question: Do we actually have great ideas in our dreams, or do we merely experience the illusion of having great ideas?

Maybe the emotion associated with having a great idea is a specific thing in itself. It’s possible that this particular emotion is what is getting triggered, and what we are remembering when we awake.

Come to think of it, that’s a much more plausible explanation. Although a lot less fun.

Bingeing

Monday, May 16th, 2022

Just finished bingeing all eight seasons of Psych. Amazing TV show, which began with a wonderful conceit and then proceeded to executed it flawlessly.

Bingeing a series over a short period of time allows you to see it in a different light. Episodes seen back to back read less like a series of weekly offerings and more like a novel.

And that makes it easier to see how the writers are thinking. A show can be entertaining week to week, but it’s the long term character arcs, the evolving relationships — platonic or otherwise — that truly hold an audience’s interest.

Which is not really surprising. What we humans really care about, at the end of the day, is the relationships between our fellow humans.

Faces

Sunday, May 15th, 2022

Today I was in an airport that I have visited many times in the last two years. For some reason, everything seemed strange and nearly uncanny.

Then I realized what the difference was: I could see people’s faces!

It felt good. I hope it lasts.

One-to-one correspondence

Saturday, May 14th, 2022

I have been building some VR rooms that correspond one-to-one with actual physical rooms in my life. Being in these VR spaces is an interesting experience.

When I am in the VR version of these rooms, it makes me think of the physical room world. And now when I am in the physical room, it makes me think of the virtual one that I created.

What is interesting about this is that the rules are very different in VR and in real life. In VR I can walk through walls, float up to the ceiling, teleport from one side of the room to the other.

But of course the real world is vastly richer in visual detail and in so many other ways. For all of its many magical possibilities, I don’t think the virtual could ever replace the physical.

Yet these virtual worlds can certainly help us to think about our wonderful physical world in new ways. And that’s pretty awesome.

Kinesthetic reality

Friday, May 13th, 2022

I attended a fascinating on-line discussion today about the relationship between human perception and objective reality. The gist of it was that because we humans all share the same powers and limitations of perception, we collectively construct a reality that makes sense to us.

The significance of this is that our collectively created reality corresponds to some objective reality outside of us, but it is not a one-to-one mapping. What we see, hear, feel, taste and smell allows us to detect a particular slice of the world around us.

We call this shared perceptual space “reality”, but it is in fact a sort of reflection of our collective human nature. For example, we don’t generally think about the many things a dog can smell but we cannot, or the colors of the spectrum that are visible to a bee but not to any human.

We think of water as a freely flowing liquid, whereas to an amoeba it is a nearly rigid sludge. And the way we think of the nearest path from here to there is very different from how a bird would think about it.

Our very language reflects our shared kinesthetic reality, with words like “higher” and “lower”, “hot” and “cold”, “strong” and “weak”, taking on metaphorical meanings that we apply to phenomena which are completely non-physical.

I don’t think any of this is a problem. It’s perfectly ok that we live in a collectively constructed reality that does not quite correspond to the physical world around us.

I just think it’s just something we should try not to forget.

Kingmaker

Thursday, May 12th, 2022

Elon Musk says that he will lift the ban on you-know-who when he assumes control of Twitter. Which suggests to me not that Musk is claiming to be a Drumpf enthusiast, but rather that he is claiming to be a free-speech absolutist.

The results are not going to be kind to Twitter. Once that platform ceases to be moderated, it will very likely quickly descend into a cesspool of unchecked vituperation and hate speech.

From a business perspective, this will not be good for Musk. Some other large company will push a properly moderated alternative that is not so polluted, and people will abandon Twitter, flocking in droves to the saner new place.

But what if Elon Musk is not interested in a positive business outcome? What if he has larger fish to fry?

Because of this move, he is quite likely to become a de facto ally of our former President, which would give the latter a boost to be elected for a second and final term in 2024. Which in turn might then pave the way for a different goal — deciding the outcome of the 2028 U.S. Elections.

Even if Twitter hemorrhages money, Musk will be controlling the conversation for the next six years. After which he would be in a good position to install his Republican candidate of choice into the Oval Office.

I really hope that I am wrong about this.