Thursday, February 11, 2016

An Example Where the Rich can Help the Poor


If you took the two top Google people and took their combined 70 billion dollars and divided it up among the lowest 50,000,000 of our roughly 300,000,000 people, that would come out to roughly 1,400 $US per person. Now to someone who is destitute, that is a lot of money. And that is just two of the rich people!

What about the top two Google people? What are they left? Well, they may qualify for that $1,400 themselves, so they have nothing to complain about.

Besides, we can throw in free Lithic Fragmentation therapy, so they get two benefits from their otherwise worthless, jet-filled lives.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Delay of No Consequence Due to Worthless Scum


A brief delay will occur while the worker unit attempts to process extraordinary input from various entities, in particular ones that attempt to malign and attack your noble and under-recognized author.

What could motivate these hateful people? Lust for glory? Self aggrandizement? Certainly. But the main motivator is nothing more than the pathetic attempts of lessor mortals trying to justify their own less-than-perfect perception in the face of my superior knowledge. I say this modestly in an effort to help the less-worthy improve, at least to the extent that they can improve.

Oh worthless scum! Have more than one data point before you condemn me to poverty forever! Oh other worthless scum, have some goddamn evidence before accusing me of security-clearance impossibility. How weird these mammals be!

And why am I forced to endure their delusive beliefs? Could it be that I have erred from the correct path? That my self-less attempt to help my friends, colleagues and related institutions have held me up for contempt and led to my victimhood by these sadly deluded swine?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Complete Lack of Reaction to my Campaign Posts (so far)

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[update as of 2/2/2016.  We now have two very impressive comments by friends telling me that this endeavor is hopeless and to do something better with my time.  While I do not think that they completely understand my vision (ahem) I am probably going to take their advice. This is bitter tea for me as I have invested a lot into this already. A total waste of my time?]

So based on the reaction I have received so far to my posts on the SIGGRAPH EC, there is absolutely no interest among my friends to support my campaign or to think that this is a good idea shared by many people.

That is actually what I suspected, and what I have thought for a long time.  It fits several potential models of human behavior and while disappointing, none of this is a surprise.  Either people do not give a fuck about the misery of their fellows and what SIGGRAPH does or does not do about it, or people care as long as they do not have to do any work, including commenting on it in any way.

So far I have one friend who encourages me, and one former SIGGRAPH big wig who is very nice and encouraging and who grubs up information for me that is otherwise hidden by the mysterious SIGGRAPH cartel.

The problem is, without support I am not going to do this.  I am tired of being the abused tool of people who want change but dont want to inconvenience themselves to get it.  There are more important things to do in this world.

But this is an early response.  Maybe there are people who are reading my blog who need time to get the word out and generate a response.  If so, do it now, please.

I could not be more cynical about the computer animation community, however.

How could I have fallen in with such a selfish, anti-intellectual and amoral group?

What the fuck was I thinking?

PS You will note that the formatting of this post is different from all other posts, mostly, on this blog.  This is because of an ancient bug in Blogspot which has never been fixed and never will be fixed. I do not have the energy to try and get around it any more.  You will just have to read my blog for its content, if anyone reads my blog at all, and not for the formatting consistency.  I like Blogspot, its free and its useful, but it is far from perfect and issues like this are part and parcel of using it.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Notes on my Write-in Campaign for the EC of ACM SIGGRAPH as of January 31, 2016

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As many of you know, I have been trying to influence the Executive Committee (the EC) of ACM SIGGRAPH for many years, and as you may also know, I have been a complete failure in doing so. Apparently SIGGRAPH at the national level is a tightly-held cartel of “right thinking” individuals and no one else is welcome.

I have written many posts on my blog (www.globalwahrman.com) about what the issues are and what I would do, and if you would like that background the two most relevant posts can be found here where I discuss my campaign platform and here which is the first post from 2012 that started this effort.

As SIGGRAPH has ignored my request for information such that I could try a write-in campaign for the EC for this year, why we simply push it off to next year and see if they ignore me as well for next year. They can do this indefinitely, and I will still be here, trying to be a voice and being ignored and abused (or at least, that is my point of view, I bet that the EC might have another view of the same events).

But one thing has changed, I no longer feel that I have the resources to do this on my own. Choosing computer graphics & animation as a career has without doubt destroyed my life and impoverished me, and if I am going to do “the right thing” and basically do more charity work, then I need to be minimally funded.

I was originally planning to use the referendum of getting appropriate write-in signatures as indication of support, but I now think that I will see if I have support for this by seeing if people want to fund me. If insufficient people want to fund me, then that is a clear statement that I do not have such support and I will drop it. Believe me, if I had the money I would do this on my own, but I dont.

So I will review and assess what I think the minimum budget of this not-for-profit charity endeavor will be, see if it needs to be registered as a charitable organization or whether it can be done informally (and thus save quite a few legal fees) and then put it up as a www.kickstarter.com project or via another service if one appears more correct for the kind of project this is.

You could do me a favor by reading the background on this effort and forwarding off a link to this to as many people as you think might be interested. And do the same thing again when/if the Kickstarter/whatever project is initiated.

Is this worth our time and money? I am not sure, but it might be. We will let people vote on how worthwhile they think it is with their comments, if any, and with their wallets on Kickstarter when/if that project is initiated.

Thank you.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

My Platform Should I Run for the Executive Committee of SIGGRAPH

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For many years I have attended the national conference of SIGGRAPH and been amazed that as far as I can tell the conference is totally unaware that there is vast unemployment in this field and that those who have managed to continue working have had to move overseas to do so. Yet SIGGRAPH keeps on pushing the field as a sensible one to go into without knowing or caring whether or not these new people will be able support themselves or their families by doing so.

I happen to also believe that computer animation is unusually blessed or cursed with the intangible glamour of the various entertainment industries which acts as a lure to the unwary. (1)  I can tell you that when I made the choices to go into this field I had no idea, no one told me and I did not understand, that I was going into a niche industry and very likely would experience long periods of unemployment.  Had I realized that, I would not have gone into this field. Such a choice would have been completely irresponsible on my part.

And yet we keep on encouraging young people to go into this field without a hint of caution even though we do not even know the size of the disaster that has already occurred.  I believe that this is both irresponsible and morally wrong.

After years of complaining and trying to figure out how to change things I came to the conclusion that the only way to be heard was to become a member of the Executive Commitee of ACM SIGGRAPH (the EC).  Although the EC is nominally elected by the membership of SIGGRAPH, in reality to be allowed to run for the EC one must be approved by the Nominating Committee and the Committee lost no time making it clear to me that they had no interest in my contribution.

There is however in the By Laws of ACM SIGGRAPH a provision for write-in candidates to be nominated and were I to wish to persevere it would be through this mechanism. Unfortunately, the details of this mechanism are undocumented as far as I can tell, but a friend has done a lot of work and seems to be able to extract the needed information from the relevant people.

Were I to run a write-in campaign for nomination, I would need approximately 70 signatures of people who were both current members of ACM and of SIGGRAPH. Those signatures would have to be on a form that is of yet undefined and whose original is provided on paper, as I currently understand it.

The number of signatures would not have been a problem "back in the day", but now most of the people I know who work or have worked in computer animation are not, to the best of my knowledge, members of SIGGRAPH as SIGGRAPH has worked very hard to make itself completely irrelevant to the production community. It may be one of the ironies of this campaign that I am able to get a dozen or two "new" members for SIGGRAPH as most of the people I know who would support me in this foolish endeavor would have to become members to do so.

Why should you bother to go through this trouble merely to make me eligible to run for a “position at large” on the Executive Committee?  In other words, even if the write-in campaign is successful, I would still have to run for election.  The best answer I can give is to itemize what my platform would be should I run for office and let you decide for yourself.

Let me preface these platform notes by saying that many people I have talked to who are more knowledgeable than I am about how SIGGRAPH at the national level actually works believe that there is either (a) nothing SIGGRAPH can do in any of these areas and/or (b) SIGGRAPH should not even try.

Let me also note that apparently the EC of SIGGRAPH thinks that it is not important that several thousand people (the number is unknown) who were undoubtedly encouraged by SIGGRAPH to make the questionable choice to go into this field. I would be a minority of one on the EC and likely have very little or no influence.

I would however be a voice for the disenfranchised and be certain that their plight was at least discussed at least to some small extent.

So were I to run, I would run on the following platform (certain to be revised).

1. To the extent possible, see to it that the program and events of SIGGRAPH do not encourage people to go into this field without a good understanding of what the possibility of employment in this field is.

2. To the extent possible, attempt to understand what the real employment in the fields associated with SIGGRAPH actually are and what the current unemployment is.

3. To the extent possible, make it possible for those who have dedicated a substantial portion of their career to this field are enabled to attend the national conference. The current rules and procedures do not in any way go far enough to permit this.

4. To the extent possible, make allowances for those who are unemployed or economically challenged have access to the full body of SIGGRAPH publications without fee or at a reduced rate.

5. To the extent possible, address the issues of ageism in computer animation, at least by having reminders at relevant conference events of the illegality of ageism as it applies to employment.

6. To the extent possible, attempt to assess the amount of hardship caused by the off-shoring of computer animation production to other countries and what remedies there may exist for this.

7. In the likely event that no suitable remedies exist for the problem of 6, to the extent possible see what can be done to train members of SIGGRAPH for other fields where employment is possible.

8. To the extent possible, encourage and try to organize outreach programs to try and encourage industry to create jobs that need the skills that computer graphics and animation provides.

A few more points and then we will wrap this up. It is not clear to me that I can afford to be a member of the Executive Committee should I be elected since I am so chronically un- and under-employed. However, we can probably cross that bridge when and if we get there, and something can probably be worked out.

It is equally unclear to me whether my efforts would result in any tangible benefit to anyone and whether or not it would be a good use of my time.

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1. One year SIGGRAPH has a panel celebrating 25 years of Rhythm and Hues.  The next year R&H is out of business, 1000 people are dumped on the street, and SIGGRAPH says nothing. Dreamworks lays off all of their Nothern California studio, but SIGGRAPH does not notice or mention it. Last year, SIGGRAPH had a presentation about 30 years of ILM. Not a word about all the people ILM has laid off as they downsized. A young person attending SIGGRAPH might draw the conclusion that this was a glamourous and rewarding field to be in and that unemployment was not an issue. Pixar is huge, right? It never lays off people, right?


Monday, January 25, 2016

How (Not) to Bid A "Rescue" Project


Some of you who read this blog, now or in the future, may have the misfortune of being an independent and bidding your own projects. If so, you have my sympathy or you might not, depending on whether or not you are good at such things. It seems as though there are at least two types of people in this world, those who are good at bidding projects and those who are not.

What makes the difference is not altogether clear to me, but two indicators of those who are bad at bidding projects include being a “nice guy” and having “low self esteem”. But that is not all that is going on because in fact I know some people who are very nice and can bid projects. So its not so simple.

Nevertheless, this post is targeted at those who are self-confessed lousy at bidding projects and consistently get themselves in trouble because of it. In fact, the trouble that you can get into can destroy your career and possibly your life, as has happened to me.

The situation is as follows.

A friend or colleague calls out of the blue. He or she needs your help on a project that has gone south and at the very last minute he/she calls you to help. Of course they do not have any money. This is sometimes called a "rescue" project.  What do you do?

There are three possible solutions.  One is you say no.  But in Hollywood, one is not supposed to say no, unless one of two things is true.  Either you are busy (or committed) on another project or you named your price and your price is too high. In either case they hate you, or they may. Thats just too bad. Thus you set your price high, and if it comes through you live with it.

But if, God Forbid, you dont set your price high and you try to do their project, then you will be in a situation where you are late and do not have the resources to complete the project. Then you will be called irresponsible and quite possibly crazy. That is what has happened to me.

Take for example a project where my “friend” calls up with six weeks left in a two year schedule. He wants a solution crafted from the GPU, this is in the years before programing the GPU was as straightforward as it is today. You can read all about it in this post: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished in Computer Animation.

I got no money for my efforts and my friend slandered me for 10 years and does to this very day. My friend has worked at all the very best companies, including Disney Imagineering, Google and Nvidia. I have not had the pleasure, no doubt because of his slander. Or not, I will never know.

What should have happened is that I should have said something like (a) I would love to work on this project, (b) but it will take at least 16 (sixteen) weeks and cost not less than $100K, of which half of that is due up front, and which is not refundable. (c) After examining the project, I may determine that it will take longer and cost more, which the client is free to accept or not, but if not, the project is over and any moneys are not refundable, (d) we will use my contract, not theirs, and (e) it is up to the client to allow enough time after my deliverables to integrate the GPU code into their system. (f) If they need my help with that integration or if they need any modifications then that will necessarily be extra, and (g) the client will own all rights to the delivered code but I retain the right to do similar work for others without restriction.

And finally (h) I make no warranties about the fitness of any code delivered for their project and payment will be due whether or not the code is useful to them.

If I had done this, then probably the client and myself would have been better off.

Its just business you know.

One more thing, that I think needs to be emphasized.  Its their project.  They got themselves into this crummy situation, its not your project.  You have no obligations unless you let them sucker you into it.

Now of course many of these same principles also apply to non-"rescue" projects as well, as we will discuss in later posts.

The Mystery of the Erudite Comment and Other Blog Notes


Every once in a while I get an indication that a far flung audience reads my blog. The evidence is nothing more than an erudite and informed comment by someone I do not know on the relevant post that the comment refers to.

Then nothing.

Silence.

How is it that the comment always seems to come within a month of my posting it? It is likely that the commentator has found the post from Google, in which case one might expect that the comment could come anytime, and not just immediately after I post it.

I am pretty sure that whoever is reading my blog, few of them are my “friends”. Every once in a while I get an indication that a loyal friend is reading, but mostly its just dead silence.

My conclusion from this is as follows: First that it is just happenstance that the comment came soon after I posted it. Second, that whatever value I get from this blog, and I do get value, is not because of my friends reading it. Whoever is reading it, if anyone, are probably people I do not know, for the most part.

The Russians are back and they are very welcome. At least someone is pinging my blog, whether or not anyone is reading it.

Nevertheless, I hope that it is a net benefit to whoever does read it and I hope they will continue doing so. The thought that people in my field would give a hoot what I think or how I am is idle fantasy, I am sure.

In other words, to any of you who are considering writing a blog: I encourage you to do so but not because of any short term benefit, or encouragement, or fame in this world. Whatever value it has, in the short run at least, involves your own moral improvement that comes as a result of making the effort and the hope that somehow this work will help make the world a better place, in the unforeseeable future.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Non-Stimulant Treatment of ADHD


We are taking an extended sabbatical from stimulant treatment for my severe ADHD and anxiety disorders. There are several reasons for this, but two of them are (a) dealing with the controlled substance laws in this country is an incredibly annoying process, filled with the worst kind of quasi-legal bullshit designed to make the process disagreeable and I am looking forward to a break, and (b) it is only fair after 20 years of treatment with stimulants to see what else works or does not work.

If it does work, then it will make things like travel both inside and outside the country much easier.

There is no good time to change medication in this disease, there are only less-bad times, and this is probably one of them.

I can't say that I am very pleased with the medical system in this country. And no, none of this is likely to be covered by health insurance, assuming I even get health insurance with Obamacare.

For those who care enough to learn more, and I doubt there are many of you, here is a link to an excellent discussion of the non-stimulant alternatives. There is something that is mentioned at the top of the article which I would like to emphasize because so many of my friends and people at large do not want to hear it. For this disease, stimulants are by far the best to treat this disease. They are all controlled susbstances.


I admit that being open about the treatment of this disease has never done me any good and can only do me harm, as I am an easy target, but it was a goal of this blog to be open about these matters in the hope that my experience may help others.

The downside of this experiment is that I may experience anxiety disorders, panic attacks, tell people what I think, and seek out stimulants off-label due to craving not satisfied by the non-stimulant medication. Should that happen I will probably return to stimulants quickly.

There is some hope that if I had a stable place of employment doing work I loved with people I liked that then many of these perceived problems would go away and the medication, which will be necessary for the rest of my life, would stabilize.

Dear Friends.  Any discussion of these issues seems to bring out odd responses from people. Very odd responses. I have no idea why this is, possibly it is their own fear of being abnormal and different from the masses.  But if you are one of those perhaps it would be best not to read this post, or posts of this type.  I love you all and always will but please understand that this is a touchy issue for me, I probably should not be talking about it in public, but I do so in the hope that it will be helpful to someone.  Be gentle with me.

Thank you.

11/23/2016 I am keeping detailed notes on my progress with Atomexetine.   Anyone who wants to read these notes should email me.

11/24/2016  OK, so let me rephrase this  Extended sabbatical from stimulants may become very brief sabbatical.  To say at Atomoxetine is not satisfactory is like saying a hog is piglike.  Wow, what a disaster.



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished in Computer Animation


In the following discussion, the primary Antagonist is someone many of you know, but not all of you. He will not be named in this post. He is a well-known computer graphics pioneer who lives in California. The Company is not well known except to a few, but is a well-regarded “special services” technical design company who is known for its Dept of Defense clientele. Its two founders are each of them charismatic, brilliant, and successful. They are also located in California. The person is someone I would have called a good friend. The company, a desirable company to work for.

About 10 years ago, my friend calls me up to help him out on a project that is about 6 weeks from delivery. But they do not have anything working yet. What he wants me to do is to use GPU programming to take two stereo images and deduce a depth map from them. I have just started learning the GPU which my friend well knows, and I have never tried to do depth correlation from stereo before, although I am aware that it has been done and that it is well known to have problems.

It also turns out that my friend, who is working for the above mentioned company, does not have much money, so it will not be a real consulting rate. So I tell him that I will look at the problem and get back to him. In the mean time they send me a contract which I put aside because I am not going to commit to this project if I can not do it well, nor am I going to charge him.

I wish to emphasize that at no time did I commit to this project and that from the very beginning I doubted it was possible. The only thing that might have made it possible, given that any program written would then have to be integrated into their larger system, would be a program that was already written, and just needed a little refinement. Otherwise, there is no way the larger deadline could be made. (See Note 1).

Now I of course am very disappointed. I would love to work with my friend, this is the first time he has asked me, and I would love to work with this company. But for that to work, obviously, our first project would have to be successful, and I see very little odds of success here.

So I look at the problem and discover that programming the GPU back in the pre-CUDA days is much worse than I thought, I could spend weeks just figuring out how to get floating point data in and out of the GPU. So, I call my friend and tell him I can not do it. Maybe two weeks has passed since he first called me, if that. Not only that, but I have been talking to him every day or maybe every other day during this period so he knew how things were going, which is to day, not well. They do not pay me anything, nor should they, no obligations were made on either side and no contracts signed.

But as we all know, no good deed goes unpunished.  The question is only when and in what form the universal cosmic "reward" for trying to help my friend gets paid back.

Fast forward to today.

My friend, who works thereafter at every blue chip company in silicon valley you can think of, never once offers to help me get an interview or find a job for me, even though he knows I am looking. So, finally I ask him why and he explains that it was because I failed so badly on the above project, the project that I did not commit to do and which had very little chance of success. And furthermore, to add insult to injury, he says that company thought I was crazy. Why? Because I did not sign a contract committing to a project I did not think I could do and for which they had very little money?

And so, it appears that my friend has held a grudge all these years, God only knows who he told, and how many jobs or projects I have lost because of it. In fact, I wonder if the whole thing was just a play to blame the problem on the consultant. Both my friend and the company could say that they relied on a contractor but he failed to deliver what he promised even though I did not promise anything.

So what is the truth here? What is the lesson? The first is that no good deed goes unpunished, I should have just said no, up front, not I will look at it. And second, that I wonder whether I actually do have any friends in this industry.   And the third is to wonder whether I am really a victim or not?  How much of this is my fault, how much is no fault of my own? To offer to look into a problem, is that a bad idea?  Perhaps.

I so deeply regret getting involved in Computer Animation, and I wish I had never left RAND. It was a mistake for me to do so and I pay the price of that mistake every day.
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1. Furthermore, in the following years as GPU work has become more and more practical and desirable, I still advise people to not think that they can tack on the GPU part at the last minute. A GPU is not a panacea, it has its own strengths and weaknesses, all of which are much better understood today than then, but even so, exist. I am a big fan of using the GPU but not in all cases, and it has to be used with sophistication and insight, and most of all, you have to have time to make it all work together with the main program, at least in many cases.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Flawed Approach to Man From UNCLE (2015) or Will They Ever Learn?

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About half way through the Warner Bros film “Man from UNCLE”, Illya Kuryakin tries to make the case for a Russian architect having designed and built the Spanish Steps in Rome. It seemed out of place somehow in the movie I was watching, but when the movie was over I realized where this anomaly had come from.

It would seem that the one character trait unique to any of the characters in this film that actually had its origins in the original TV series was this particular running gag. Whenever some invention, or creative work, was part of the story, Illya would always explain how it had actually been composed, or invented, in Russia. This running gag, used once, the names of some of the characters and the title of the movie itself were the only references to the original show to be found in the movie.

You might think that if you were going to bother to do a reboot of a 1960s TV series, that you would want to carefully review and select elements from the original and use them in a reboot, doing a best of, as it were, and make a contemporary entertainment product that properly also captured and moved forward what it was that made the original show notable.

Furthermore, you might choose to do this and do it well not for the sake of creative integrity but for hard core business reasons. The success of your roughly 100M $US investment depends on creating a powerful version of this property, to both get the original viewers, the teenage viewers, and as many of the inbetween that you can. There are models for this sort of thing, where it has been done successfully, and where it has not. And what we learn is that where it has not been done well, the movie has flopped. But when it has been done well, the marketing has been straightforward and the movie has been successful.

The lesson is, do it well or not at all.

The good news is that a certain amount of this can be checked before production begins. You can make use of a time honored but now sadly neglected feature of the traditional cinema which is called “the script”. Yes, you can write a script and have it reviewed by people who know the original, as well as by people who know modern action movies.

Having done this, it is also useful to cast actors who bring the script to life, and for that matter, a director who has a feel for the property. This is your job, I emphasize, your means of making a livelihood, and it is always good to remind the studio executive of their supposed expertise.

So what do we get instead? What we get is a script that ignores UNCLE, has the conceit of being a backstory to the TV show which if that is the plan, they badly fucked it up. It uses none of the anticipation and recognition, setup and payoff, available to them. The actors cast are boring, unlikeable, uninteresting. It is in places beautiful, yes it looks like a yacht advertisement from 1960s Italy, but who the fuck cares? Thats nice and all, and it would be a wonderful touch if they had a script and some actors with passion, but without them it is just a bunch of pretty pictures.

But if every silver lining has a cloud, the reverse is also true, and there is some silver lining here. Because the lead actors are so fucking boring, the women of this piece completely capture the movie. We have exactly two of them, one is a 20 year old who is completely hilarious in a scene where she tries to get Illya drunk, to dance, and to sleep with her. The other is 40 something Italian billionaire and femme fatale who jumps Napoleon Solo and then drugs and tortures him.

Yes, the parody of effete Italian manhood is entertaining, but whats the point?

Almost none of the elements that were notable about UNCLE were in this movie. No NYC tailor shop with a secret door, no THRUSH bad guys, nothing.

Its not enough to say that you are going to reboot a property, you have to actually do it well or you should save your money and make another Die Hard movie or something. As it is, it is all a giant waste of effort, of money and of an opportunity.

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1. You may wonder, as I have wondered, what the word THRUSH stands for. If UNCLE stands for United Network Command Law Enforcement, then surely THRUSH stands for something as well. At a Westercon years ago I came across a “bible” for the original UNCLE. A bible is the guide issued to all the writers of a TV series to give them enough background to write, or propose, a story for the series. In it we learn that THRUSH stands for Technical Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjection of Humanity. Well it sounds a little forced to me, but its ok.