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

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

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

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?


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

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™‚


January 1st, 2022

Happy New Year!!!

Here’s hoping this year will be better than the last one.

Doubly obscure

December 31st, 2021

On this day of all days, which marks the passing of time in a more than usually dramatic way, I was reminded of how culture moves on in surprising ways.

Today I heard a song by Duran Duran, and I was reminded of when the source of their name was one of those deliciously obscure pop cultural factoids. Back when they were one of the biggest bands in the world, true fans knew that they had named themselves after the villain in the 1968 Roger Vadim sci/fi film Barbarella.

Now, among many people, the band Duran Duran itself is an obscure pop cultural factoid. So the full lineage of the term “Duran Duran” is doubly obscure.

There are lots of examples of such doubly obscure pop cultural references. A few might come to your mind while you are reading this. But I wonder whether there are any pop cultural references that are triply obscure .

Reality filter

December 30th, 2021

Suppose there were a pair of glasses that you could put on to visually or sonically transform the world around you. Let’s also suppose that those glasses were as affordable as a smart phone.

What sorts of choices might people make, when taking advantage of those transformations? Would we turn the world around us into a theme park? Would we change the appearance or voices of people we’re talking to?

In principle, you could do anything with a reality filter. But in practice, certain choices will prove popular and others less so.

I suspect that people won’t choose any transformation of their perceived reality that would interfere with their own EQ (emotional intelligence quotient). It’s important to us, as social beings, to be able to “read” other people.

If anything, I suspect we will start to see apps that enhance your ability to figure out what is really going on with the people you are talking to. And that is going to have all sorts of implications for social interactions and acceptable cultural protocols.

Useful mistakes

December 29th, 2021

As I do research, sometimes I get things right, and sometimes I get things wrong. It’s always gratifying when I get things right.

But when things go wrong, I sometimes learn more. Because I am forced to ask why did it go wrong?

And generally that gives me an insight that I didn’t have before. Hitting an unexpected wall forces me out of my comfort zone, which sometimes leads to new ways of thinking about the problem.

And that can be even more productive, in the long run, than getting it right would have been.