Sunday, December 30, 2007

Movies to see and to avoid...

I rented a couple of low budget films in anticipation of a quiet new years holiday that I was going to spend mostly packing.

However, being bored I ended up watching them early...

The first, called "Man From Earth" is sci-fi film written by veteren Star Trek and Twilight zone writer Jerome Bixby. The film had no special affects, no space ships, nothing but 5 scientists sitting around a cabin talking. That being said it was actually really quite good. Described as "Quietly restores dignity to Science Fiction of the mind" is not far off. Some familiar faces in the form of B-list actors all of whom did a fine job.

The second was "Werewolf: The Devil's Hound." I always worry when I see movies with "Title:Explanation" like say ... Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever which was really really bad. How bad? I fell out of love with Lucy Liu. It was that bad.

Sadly, this film actually made Ballistic look good.

One comentator summed it up thusly:

"This film starts out somewhere in Germany...but I'm not sure what part of Germany. Apparently, it's the part where people talk like pirates, because no one had a German accent. There are military-type people; only they're wearing khakis instead of cameo. It's really just one big mess from the get-go...not a good sign. At the first werewolf sighting...which looked more like a man in a Yeti costume...I knew I was in trouble. But I persevered and continued watching.

Then came the part where the fire marshall [sic] was smoking outside the fireworks shop...which is bad humor in itself. And as any good fire marshall [sic] would do, he throws his cigarette into the dumpster. Of course, there is gunpowder in the dumpster...why wouldn't there be? As any good fireworks manufacturer knows, you always throw your leftover gunpowder in the dumpster. Do not waste your money on this garbage. And if you know anyone that thinks this movie is great...slap them HARD!!"

I have to disagree with him, it didn't look like a yeti, it looked like the salt-vampire thing from the classic Star Trek series. I even backed up the film to verify.

Lets also not forget that according to the description on the back:

"In the dead of night, a tanker carries terrifying cargo in its hull - a descendant of the Lycanthrope family is captured by hunters with a diabolical agenda. But when the ship is misdirected, the bloodthirsty creature ends up on America's east cost..."

No, what happened in the film is the shipping company was supposed to deliver fireworks and delivered a werewolf instead. This happens to me all the time. Last week I ordered some books and UPS dropped off a Shoggoth instead.

Apparently saying the shipping company screwed up delivery doesn't make as good copy though...

What I am trying to say, is I have seen some awful films, suffered through some terrible acting and directing in my quest to see every werewolf/vampire/zombie film ever made, and have been lucky enough to find a few gems.

This was not one of them.

This in fact has cast some serious doubt as to my ability to continue on my quest without stronger medication.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Rolling the genetic dice.

I saw something today that literally caused me to stop almost gawp like an idiot.

As I wandered into the World Market today I saw a family strolling past, two parents with three children happily chattering away.

The two youngest appeared to be identical twins... both with Progeria Syndrome. It wasn't the appearance of the poor lads, it was my brain reeling with the odds of them both occurring. (My brain said it was 1 in 12 million... says 1 in 8 million with odds of identical twins being 1 in 285.) That means if I remember how to calculate probability... the odds of it occurring are 1 in 2.3 billion. So there is at best 2 other cases of it in the entire world...

I managed to get control, before the dad happened to look over and see me walking into the store. He glanced at his boys glanced at me and gave a sad smile. I returned it. It hurt, and I wish them the best.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bonus Cups picture.

So normally there would be a white sheet as light diffuser. Who actually own white sheets? Frankly I'm much to prone to nosebleeds to even think about it...

Turns out trace paper makes a pretty nice diffuser.

I will have to replace those bulbs, that pink will drive me nuts.

Dear Santa...

I've been a good boy, can I have An official Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time?

How do you know I've been a good boy?

Blisters and Chemical burns.

From building this:

Err ... sorry that's actually the lovely teacup from a set some fabulous person sent me for Christmas.

But it was photographed using this:

For about $50, not including the $30 tripod on sale for $10 I have my very own light booth.

Apparently however, GE Reveal bulbs are "Enhanced color spectrum" not natural spectrum lights. If you think the paper is pink in the picture you should have seen it before I color corrected it. (As much as I could.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Solstice Update

I apologize for my lack of posts. I intend not to post anything that is not work or family safe, so I hope it will suffice to say that personal events in my life have taken the wind out of my sails.

Be that as it may...

I got my final grades in for the semester and they were all B, with the exception of a single B-. Since I feel I didn't give the class the time and attention it deserved it is not altogether unexpected. I'm not happy with the grade, but it is not less then I deserved.

In other news, I am moving. I have found a place that is less then 1/2 a block from campus, and three blocks from my favorite coffee shop. It is always good when your favorite (and the cutest) barrista hears the news and blurts out "Oh good, we'll see more of you!" and then promptly blushes.

I will be renting the top to floors of 1930's faux edwardian. It is more expensive then my current rental... but in addition to school+coffee proximity it has large fenced back yard, all utilities are included, and 6 ft long 2.5 foot deep claw-foot bathtub.

One bedroom is effectively the whole attic and is alone up a flight of stairs, so if a suitable human came along a roommate is not out of the question. (Prospects seem dim.)

Did I mention the claw-foot bathtub?

Anyway, I am hoping that by not having to drive the 30 miles round trip to school (and to work... and Kenpo class) the savings in Gas will offset the increased rent.

Speaking of Kenpo, my yellow belt will have to wait, as my next scheduled class falls on Christmas day... and the one after that... New Years. Doomed.

Actually it's good, because I need to practice a bit more. I know all the techniques... but certain ones are cross-wired in my head. Within the set I get similar techniques mixed up with each other... plus with techniques from a different branch of Kenpo I've studied in the past.

Lastly, I've sorta got my sleep schedule readjusted. My initial attempts were foiled by late night phone-calls from Alaska waking me. Calls, that once I was awake enough to answer left me unable to get back to sleep. Several days of taking melatonin and going to bed at the same time have me falling asleep from 11:00-1:00 AM instead of 5:00 AM. Tonight I forgot to take it until I started this post... but already I can feel oblivion creeping is quiet little feet into my brain and dimming my sight.

On that note, happy Solstice, merry Christmas, and joyous Chanukkah.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Doggy Drugs.

Clearly ye dog has been partaking of illicit pharmaceuticals... look how psycadellic her picture is.

Has nothing to do with me trying different camera setting... oh no.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Transhuman Architecture

I was reading some science-fiction novel last night (I now forget what) and I stopped briefly with the sudden thought.

Few writers consider the architectural implications of transhumanisim. Of course, we all know transhumanisim is the concept that our technology is changing so fast that there will be fundamental shifts as to how we define human and what is the nature of humanity. These changes will have profound social, biological, psychological, and religious implications.

For example, if you think tattoos and body piercings are bad... what about gills, gestalt consciousness, or even something as simple as extending the human vision range into the ultra-violet. That simple (relatively speaking) little tweak can play merry hob with how we see everything from warning signs, make-up, traffic light, house paint, etc...

As I was saying, rarely it seems the architectural implications of fundamental nature of humanity changing are addressed in these books. Seemingly everyone still has magic star-trek doors, vaulted ceilings, and cathedral windows.

On the virtual reality side one of the few authors to address this was John C. Wright in his stupefingly fascinating/frustrating* Golden Age Series. Wherein the inhabitants of earth relied so heavily of augmented reality that it effectively replaced what was actually there.

Or as Shakespeare said in Hamlet "I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams."

If the dream feels, smells, and looks completely real to you how do you determine what is reality...

So the architectural implications of this are what?

Here's thought experiment for you, imagine that you are in a 10' x 10' room and you see an orc guarding a pie... wait sorry forget the orc and pie. (D&D joke, had to do it.)

10 x 10 room, yes? Completely plain, unadorned, walls are institutional beige. If you (or a sufficiently powerful computer) completely control your visual interface, you can choose that room to be red, or blue, or covered in gold leaf...

The lack of windows doesn't bother you because you can put windows wherever you want looking at whatever you want.

None of which has to be built in the real world.

What's that you say? You don't like augmented/virtual reality? Very well.

Me: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
You: Yes, sir.
Me: Are you listening?
You: Yes, I am.
Me: Nano-technology.

Programmable matter. Walls that move on demand; furniture that changes texture, temperature, and color based on your whim; or even evolving houses that reshape themselves based on how your families lifestyle changes over time.

Just a little bit creepy? Let me add one more thought for you.

So I mentioned gills and the like earlier. Lets say there was a actual branch of humanity who, whether temporary or permanently, lived the life fully aquatic. How are their needs going to be different from you or I? What kind of beds, doors, windows, or even general structures are they going to need? Who is designing for the future mer-person?

Why is this relevant? Well all you have to do is look at our recent space program. In the 70's Astronauts in orbit went on a (very) short strike to protest the unlivibility of their conditions. Architects had to be brought in to work on future designs so that they were habitable. The absence of gravity plays merry hob with depth perception and throws many of the conventional design rules out the airlock. (Sorry had to.)

What other new frontiers of humanity will bring challenge to the architect? How will we cope?

(This is already gone on longer then I anticipated... but I just had another idea about cyborg resistant furniture... whee!)

*Okay, frustrating/fascinating. John, on every other damn page, introduced a fascinating concept that could well be spun off into an entire other book, blithely mentioned them in passing and moved ahead with the story. I spent the entire book stopping every other page and going "huh." Spend 10 minutes pondering the implication have to reread the page notice something else interesting and repeat the whole damn process.

Connectivity restored.

Oh and check out the snifty new banner that some brilliantly talented artist in Alaska made for me.

(Thanks dad!)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Limited Connectivity.

So while doing research on what processor and memory I might be able to shoehorn into my darling little computer, I discovered new drivers for my network card.

These drivers promised increased speeds, reduced latency, and better diagnostics of network behavior.

They lied like rugs.

Since installing the drivers at 8:00 last night I have had no connectivity on my main machine, and I have spent majority of the last 24 hours doing nothing but trying to fix it.

I even went so far as to drive out and buy a new network card, only to discover my model is not the common SN25P but instead the very rare and poorly documented SN25Pa which has an AMR slot where all the documentation say there should be a PCI slot.


I have one last thing to try, and then it looks like I may have to do a full wipe and reinstall, which makes me very very unhappy.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Word of the week.

neoteny –noun Biology. Pronunciation Key - [nee-ot-n-ee]

1. Also called pedogenesis. the production of offspring by an organism in its larval or juvenile form; the elimination of the adult phase of the life cycle.
2. a slowing of the rate of development with the consequent retention in adulthood of a feature or features that appeared in an earlier phase in the life cycle of ancestral individuals: Example Neoteny in the ostrich has resulted in adult birds sporting the down feathers of nestlings.

I some time feel like my generation has adopted this state wholesale. (Myself included thank you very much... anyway back to playing Guitar Hero.)

Yellowstone Photos Redeux.

Since I figured out how to post links to entire albums, here are what I consider the best of the Yellowstone pictures I took.

Yellowstone oct 2007

Like a bridge over troubled water...

So I don't have pictures of my bridge (which incidentally is only one of three to have survived the testing) because I was holding the bucket during testing of mine instead of taking pictures. However, here are some pictures of the other bridges and our TA gleefully testing some to the point of demise.

Here is link to the entire album:
Arch 121 - bridge

I'll try and remember to take pictures of my bridge tomorrow when there is light.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Mostly done with classes

I managed to survive my first Architectural critique relatively unscathed. On Wednesday the first professor to review my design had some good praise on how different mine was from other people's in both it's simplicity and my explanation why it wasn't curvilinear. Everyone else seem to be mating with squids as far as wiggliness went... mine was very straight edged and simple. As explained it there was no design advantage to add curves. I was going for a specific effect and curves wouldn't add to that. They wouldn't have detracted either, but I am not adding anything that does not serve a specific purpose. He gave some great advice on specific lighting and ways I could improve the over all experience for the user interacting with my instillation.

Today I got my professor for the design class. He started the conversation with the following phrase... "You are older then the other students, and seem to take constructive criticism well... so I'm not going to pull any punches."

And he didn't.

He proceeded to grill my in depth about all my design aspects, why I designed things the way I did, what was the meaning being this shape, this angle, this distance, the decision.

He told us several weeks ago he was going to try and stump us and ask us questions we hadn't thought about everything on our design.

He didn't stump me, and I had answer for all his questions.

I think I saw of hint of smile when he was done grilling me.

Mind you he then proceeded to tell me why I was wrong on most everything I said but it was a really instructive deconstruction.

Apparently he and I different definitions on what abstracting a concept means, as mine is relatively shallow interpretation. I considered my installation an abstraction of the mountains surrounding Bozeman, and didn't really consider that essence of the mountains can be shown without triangular shapes.

I have been given a homework assignment of Christmas break to pick any one object and describe a pure abstraction of it. (He is not even my professor next semester but he probably will end being one of mine again someday sooo...)

Poor cinnamon. She's going to get abstracted.

I have single class on Monday, and a final test on Friday and I'm done for a month.