Juneteenth

June 19th, 2022

I have been spending time today reading about Juneteenth.

The very fact of slavery, even as an historical event, remains, of course, horrifying and chilling to the bone. Yet every step that our nation continues to take in the slow climb out of that nightmarish legacy is inspiring of hope.

Of course we are far from done. Some wounds are so deep that they can take centuries to heal.

And some wounds never even have a chance to heal. After reading about Juneteenth, I spent some time reading about Wounded Knee. And I was sadly reminded that not all of a nation’s sins are ever cleansed.

Or even fully acknowledged.

You say it’s your birthday

June 18th, 2022

Sir Paul turns 80 today, and I am among the millions who fervently hope he will remain with us for many years to come. It’s hard to think of any other individual who has influenced our modern popular music landscape as profoundly.

The musical inventiveness of McCartney was/is astonishing. That inventiveness started in his early Beatles days and has continued in the decades that have follows.

Like J.S. Bach before him, a man whose music said “Yes, you can do this and get away with it,” McCartney inspired everyone who followed to be more daring with rhythm, chromaticism, genre mashing, and all around delightfulness.

After all these years, I remain astonished at the inventive music of Penny Lane. It precisely evokes the mood of playful bemusement of Paul’s childhood, as the lyrics describe him taking in the mysterious antics of adult Liverpudlians.

Or take, for example, the music of For No One. Even if you didn’t understand the lyrics, you would be learning you everything you need to know about the mind numbing depression and lack of closure that accompanies romantic heartbreak.

There are so many examples of this in the man’s canon. His music is literate in a way that so much popular music isn’t. With each song he invents something musically new, expanding the vocabulary.

And I hear he’s also the nicest guy in the world. Sir Paul, Happy Birthday to you.

Some thoughts

June 17th, 2022

Some thoughts cannot be expressed in words. But apparently this one can.

Time market

June 16th, 2022

Sometimes I have way too much time on my hands, and I wonder what to do next. Other times I am in a crunch, and wish I had just 30 minutes more before whatever deadline is looming.

In an ideal world there would be some kind of time market. If I have extra time on my hands, I could go up to you and say “Hey, want to buy some time? How much for thirty minutes?”

Depending on what’s going on with you, you might find that extra thirty minutes really valuable. Or not.

I think we have the makings here for a very weird science fiction story. 😉

Widget Wednesdays #24

June 15th, 2022

This week’s widget is, as suggested in an earlier post, a result of exploring the attic. Years ago I posted a simple program that uses an iterative loop to create a huge number of lovely looking patterns.

Unfortunately that code was written in Java, so it no longer runs on the Web. So this evening I reimplemented it in Javascript. It lives again!

As you move your mouse around, vast numbers of patterns are displayed. Some mouse positions produce beautifully symmetric results, others just result in a mess.

The core code is two lines that look something like the following, which get repeated 8000 times to make the point (x,y) trace out a pattern. The loop starts with x=y=t=0, and (X,Y) is your cursor position:

t += ( pow(x*x*Y, X) + pow(y*y/Y, Y) ) / 200;
lineTo(x += cos(t), y += sin(t));

I love the emergent nature of it all — how a multitude of patterns can arise from something so simple.

You can try it out here.

Two hundred years ago today

June 14th, 2022

Today is the 200th anniversary of the announcement in 1822 by Charles Babbage to the Royal Society of his Difference Engine, the great great great grandparent of our modern computers.

Basically Babbage was the OG of computing, and now look where we are. Can’t wait to see what this will all lead to by June 14, 2222!

Radical asymmetry

June 13th, 2022

There is a radical asymmetry between the ability to recognize good art and the ability to create it. Everybody knows when they have heard a great song, seen a wonderful movie, or watched a play that has moved them.

But they usually can’t tell you just what it was about the song, the movie or the play that made it so good. They know the difference between something good and something bad, but they don’t know what has caused that difference. For example, the typical person knows when a movie has been beautifully shot and edited, but if you were to hand them a camera, they wouldn’t know how to set up a sequence of shots.

For some reason this bothers me. Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.

Humor

June 12th, 2022

Why are funny things funny? In fact, why did humans evolve humor?

Specifically, what is the evolutionary advantage of having a sense of humor? Was there some point in prehistory when tribal survival benefited from being able to have a good belly laugh?

I am imagining two tribes of protohumans at war with each other. One tribe comes at the other with sticks and rocks and a readiness to draw blood.

The members of the other tribe suddenly realize the absurdity of the situation and begin to laugh. The aggressor tribe slinks away in shame and disgrace.

And so the good guys survived to live another day. Humor is funny that way.

The only thing absolutely necessary for theater

June 11th, 2022

The only thing absolutely necessary for theater is an audience.

Let’s think about this a little more deeply, by considering two complementary examples.

Here’s the first example: If you have people up on stage acting, and there is nobody in the audience, that’s not theater.

Here is the second example: If you have an empty stage, and an audience is sitting there experiencing it, that’s essentially a variation on John Cage’s 4’33”. Unlike the first example, it is arguably theater, albeit very avant garde theater.

Exploring the attic

June 10th, 2022

For many years (roughly from 1996 to mid-2013) I wrote lots and lots of programs in Java. Pretty much all of it was in the form of Java applets that ran on the Web, including my own handy-dandy interactive 3D modeler and renderer.

Then in 2013, Java applets stopped being a viable way of communicating with the public, since they didn’t fit with the agenda of Oracle, which had acquired Java from Sun Microsystems. So I pivoted that summer and started implementing everything in Javascript and WebGL.

Now that I am doing “Widget Wednesdays”, I find myself combing the attic, as it were, for some of my old Java programs. There are lots of things I implemented many years ago which I had forgotten all about.

Of course I’m going to need to reimplement them, but that’s ok. Every time you reimplement something, you learn something new. I’m looking forward to having fun with it.