Revisiting old songs

We’ve all been there. You’re sitting in a grocery store or some other nondescript place and an old song comes on the radio that you have not heard in many years.

Sometimes it goes very well. The song brings you back to another time in your life, another place, another aspect of yourself that you perhaps had forgotten or put on a shelf.

And sometimes you just can’t connect with the song. It no longer speaks to you. I wonder whether these lost connections with songs represent changes in ourselves over time that are unbridgeable.

Perhaps each new encounter with an old song is a mini lesson in personal growth or personal change. Popular songs may seem trivial on one level, but on another they help us define who we are. For that reason, if for no other, maybe we should take them very seriously.

Restaurants versus cooking at home

It’s fun to go to a fancy restaurant, and it’s also expensive. In the ideal case, somebody makes a great meal for you, and presents it with all sorts of wonderful service and flourish.

It can also fun to stay at home and cook a meal. You use pots and pans and utensils you have in your home kitchen, and whip up some food for you and your loved ones.

Recently I have come to think of 3D design software as falling along a similar continuum. There are a lot of tools out there for chefs. If you want to implement a computer game or a Hollywood movie, you can use the equivalent of a professional restaurant kitchen.

But what if you just want to make a nice meal at home for yourself and those you love? These days I am interested in creating 3D design software that you would use as more or less the equivalent of making a home cooked meal.

This is going to become progressively more important as extended reality goes from being something used only by professionals to something we will all take for granted in our daily lives. When that happens, people will want simple and easy to use tools.

We should not expect everyone to be able to use the tools of a master chef. But maybe everyone, when they want to, should be able to make a nice home cooked meal.

Multiple deadlines at once

For me, there is an odd inverse rule of deadlines. When I am facing just one deadline, I tend to procrastinate.

But if I have a lot of deadlines at once, it’s just the opposite. When that happens, I go into high gear and become more efficient. Which means, oddly enough, that I can get several things done more quickly than I can do any one of them.

I realize that this is counterintuitive. It seems to violate some sort of conservation law. But it also, strangely enough, happens to be true.

The human mind

This evening I enjoyed a pop culture “game of trivia” card game with some good friends. I was impressed by the command some people had of really obscure pop culture.

I had only two moments that I considered to be triumphs. The first came when the question was which actor played Robin Williams’ brother in Mrs. Doubtfire. It took me a little time to remember the gravelly voiced actor’s name, but eventually I got it: Harvey Fierstein.

But my real moment of triumph came when the question was “Who played Captain Stubing on The Love Boat?” I thought long and hard about that one.

After about a minute, I found myself exclaiming “Gavin MacLeod!” Even I don’t know how I got that right. It turned out that nobody else in the room had ever heard of him.

I am happy about this for several reasons. For one, it means that Gavin MacLeod, a wonderful actor, is managing to remain in our collective cultural consciousness.

For another, it shows yet again that the human mind is a strange and mysterious thing.

simplicity X power = constant

I am currently working on some 3D modeling software, and I want to export what I am doing in the simplest way possible. As I look at different options, I see, not surprisingly, that the simpler formats are less expressive, and the more complex formats are more expressive.

For example, if you just want to output a shape, everything is easy. But if you also want to be able to animate that shape, with joints that bend, then it gets more complicated.

None of this is surprising. But it gets me to wondering whether there is some sort of principle that could be written down mathematically, which expresses the tradeoff between simplicity and power.

For example, maybe there is a way to write each the two terms down as a number, and then multiply them. The basic idea would be that the result would be some constant, which would capture the idea of minimum “simplest possible yet expressive enough”.

In any case, it’s worth thinking about.

Strange weather

It is getting difficult for me to ignore the fact that weather is becoming stranger than it used to be. Storms are more intense, hurricanes more frequent, and surprisingly unseasonal days are growing ever less surprising.

All of this is happening gradually, and that might make it a little harder to notice. To use an analogy: If you are suddenly plunged into hot water, you tend to notice. But if somebody gradually turns up the temperature in your bath, it can take a while for you you to catch on to what is happening.

I have a feeling that we are in hot water.

Sweet Tooth

Am just watching the first few episodes of Sweet Tooth. Started out great, and getting better and better by the moment.

First WandaVision and Loki, and now this. I’m starting to think there is hope after all for television as a medium for creating good art.

The odd pace of software development

One odd thing about the experience of developing software is the crazy nature of progress. You can spend days stuck on one tiny feature.

But you can also, in a burst of inspiration and good fortune, jump ahead in a single day by what feels like months of progress. It’s a very strange sort of journey
I think that what’s really going on is this: During those difficult times, when you feel that you are barely inching forward, you are actually doing the real work.

You’re essentially fueling the turbo-thrusters that you will be using in those wonderful bursts of progress.

Nothing comes for free. But everything can be beneficial.