Friday, June 28, 2019

Python 3 Virtual Environments and Numpy


Memo to myself.  These computers are no good.  I told you, but you wouldnt listen.  Now here you are, old, broken, poor and infested with Python version skew problems. Now listen to me for once and run to a virtual environment. For each project that uses python, create a virtual environment with 

cd project directory; python3 -m venv target-dir

Start the virtual environment with source target-dir/bin/activate

Install appropriate packages with pip3 install package-name

Next time maybe you will listen to me and not give me such a hard time.  I am only trying to help.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Future Visual Effects


This post will evolve over the next week.

The question of the moment is this: if you could guess how visual effects will evolve over the next 5 years, what would you guess? Ones answer could be about technology, or about the business, or the creative vision of the project or about any aspect of the field.

I have asked several friends to weigh in here. Feel free to send me email or leave a comment here with your thoughts.

As an example of something that I was surprised about has been the vast volume of visual effects done with computers. Producers have been able to save money on otherwise useless writers, often saving several hundreds of thousands of dollars by merely adding another 10 or 20 million dollars of pointless visual effects. The scope of work is breathtaking.

I will kick this off with two fairly obvious ones:

1. The various efx palaces will push forward on the photorealistic human character, an area where great progress has already been made. A pandora's box of silliness will result from this, more than we already see.

2. AI/Machine Learning will be applied rigorously to all areas of the production pipeline both to create new techniques (e.g. deducing 3D motion from footage) but also to help reduce the work load of these vast projects. Expect literally hundreds of examples of this over the next few years. Technical footnote: the big players have all the advantages here, as we often find. The reason in this case is that they have the data, or can generate the data on their next big project or two. And Machine Learning is heavily dependent on having a lot of training data.

to be continued.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Conference Plan that Didnt Work


The hope was that once things settled down, and I had built some sort of lab/studio (done), and done some new work (done) that I would become a full member of ACM with access to their digital library (done) that I would attend a variety of conferences (not done). As a classic auto-didact,  the thought was that I would be able to meet new people and get up to date on a number of important fields. Such fields might include computer vision, machine learning, color theory, planetariums, advanced puppetry, Roman archaeology and so forth.  I did this sort of multi-conference attending when I was much younger and starting out so it seemed reasonable that I might do that again when trying to craft a new career. I might not be a member of those fields in any way beyond attendance, but that felt useful. Perfection was not required.

But there were some fatal flaws with this strategy and I have not been able to execute.  The reality as I understand it is described below.

1. It turns out that many of those those who are able to attend more than one conference are generally professional academics and they are expected to have grants to mostly cover the costs of this activity.  In some cases, these people are participants at a high level and may have some or all of their fees waived. But even when the fees are not waived, of course being a participant, even in a small way, can make the experience more valuable.  One friend who is a full professor of CS goes to at least 6 conferences a year (Or maybe it is six conferences in the year I was trying to keep track.  I know he plans to go to fewer in the future, not sure why, but a straightforward guess is that it is too disruptive to his other work. )

2. Those who have a real job are generally expected to attend one conference a year and those fees and expenses may be convered depending on the details.  A very few are like my friend CE who goes to perhaps a dozen conferences a year in association with Planetarium work (he guesses about 1/2 dozen).  Another exception is my friend MH who represents a very large and well known animation and theme park company at various conferences to encourage young people to develop in areas of interest to the long term vitality of her field(s).  A third exception to this are people who are in the "research" departments of a large corporation and they may go to as many conferences as the professional academic, above, but instead of grants the corporation pays the way.  Thus one may find at these conferences a fair number of people who are sponsored by corporations and not the university.

3. Then there are students.  As full time students in the field they receive generous discounts and opportunities, but this is only (theoretically) for full time students and not for others associated with academia, such as Adjuncts.

4. Finally, there are individuals, perhaps with a loose affiliation with some company or institution, but generally self financed.  These are people who have perhaps won the lottery, or inherited wealth, or simply done well earlier in life and can now afford to indulge their desire for self-study.

5. Not that I make mistakes, but if I did, here is a short list of some of them in conceiving this plan. The first mistake was to think I qualified for any discount, which, as an individual and independent I do not.  The hope was that an association with a university would be enough (e.g. adjunct) to qualify for a discount but that is incorrect. The second mistake was to underestimate what the real costs of attending would have to be, including travel, hotels, meals and local transportation on top of the full conference fees. The third mistake was to underestimate my aversion to travel because it is so expensive and for other, less rational, reasons.  And the fourth mistake was to underestimate the costs of my other activities which meant that I have less resources than expected.  

But if not this strategy, then what replaces it?  

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

I Called My Congressman Again Today

I called my Congressman's office again today, I try to make them laugh. I pointed them to the front page of and suggested that any other president would be impeached (or at least it would be in motion) just for what is on the front page today. It wont do any good, I know, but it lets me feel better and hey, I know that they do add up what the phone calls from constituents say as some sort of informal poll, so maybe every little bit helps.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Riviera Theatre in Santa Barbara

Father's Day and Still No Picture

Its Father's Day and I still dont have a picture of Dad.  Elaine and I chatted and she says that she talked to my dad a few times and he had a nickname for her. Some Goddess.  She is trying to remember which one.

Thank you Elaine for cheering me up.

[Update: my friend Yayoi has found a picture and I will need to look at it and maybe process it first]

Thursday, June 13, 2019

What the Law Says

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 744; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(K), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Its Not Your Imagination: Things are Completely Crazy


Nope you are not wrong.  The government is broken, the constitution failed, the judiciary is stuffed with right wing nuts, everytime Trump opens his mouth he begs to be impeached or arrested, and everytime he does that, some Republican violates any sense of integrity or reason and supports whatever insane thing Trump is using that moment to either make him feel better or to distract attention from his other crimes or to keep gaslighting his supporters.

At the end of the day, we have to accept that something like 40 % of the voting Americans (note, not 40% of all Americans, but of the pollster's best estimate of who will vote) are OK with this.  The Trump supporters are loyal for one of several reasons, the majority reasons being: 1. The are racists, or 2. They are stupid, or 3. They are lying to steal the money or 4. They are nutty Evangelical Christians.  Or more than one.

We are all tired of this shit.  But we have more to go before we can start cleaning house.  Its sad, I think the Russians achieved their goals of lessoning the faith that people of America have in their government.

Monday, June 10, 2019

My Facebook Progress


The new policy is an old policy: avoid being so negative on Facebook. When people spread ridiculous stories I no longer pour cold water on them.  Who am I to tell them about reality and so upset their day and make them hate me?  What has it gotten me?  Nothing.  

But it has been hard, very hard to keep me from posting bad news or correcting stupidity. People dont want to hear it. 

A 15 year old invents a perfect test for cancer. Hardcore Republican delegates wont vote for Trump to be President at the Electoral College. All women will now vote progressive and that will be the end of the Republicans. R.E. Lee was a traitor who beat his slaves.  Anyone who supports Lee is a racist.

Good luck with that.  I hope you and your love ones depend on that cure for cancer that the 17 year old Muslim girl in Afghanistan invented.


Saturday, June 8, 2019

Camping Test #2 at Ventana Big Sur


As part of the Steve Gano memorial, I chose to camp in Big Sur and save $200/night.  The only camp grounds available were at the Ventana Campgrounds which are part of the incredibly glamourous and expensive Ventana Inn.  I had stayed at the Ventana Inn once 25 or so years ago and it had not been nearly so expensive but since that time it has been acquired by some ridiculous management company and now it is just for the 1 percent.  The camp ground however was merely $100/night and that was affordable and my best deal.

Various things were learned and it was a valuable if not entirely comfortable experience.  In no particular order: 1. It took about an hour to put up the tent, and that went well, 2. The tent worked although I was cold because I had too much ventilation, 3. I did not enjoy crawling in and out of the tent and plan to get a new tent with room to stand up, to walk into, and to have extra room around me, 4. I may or may not get a cot, 5. The sleeping pad was warm enough and comfortable but like everyone else I would always slide off of it and it was difficult to get things organized, 6. I needed much more battery life, 7. Damn bugs were attracted to any lights and they freaked me out, 8. The stove worked very well, 7. By far the best food was food that came in little packets you could boil and then dispose and also Top Ramen noodles, 9. I had lots of trouble finding things: too many things were in bags that looked alike, 10. It was annoying finding the bathrooms because they were not well marked until you knew where they were, 11. The closest bathrooms were for the elite and not the proletariat, 12. You bought tokens for hot showers and that worked well but there was no place to put your clothes or sit down, and yes 13. weird animals really liked that water. This is the countryside, after all. 

One completely unexpected issue: Big Sur has weird cell phone reception.  My campground had reception (it was part of the Ventana Inn, after all) but the Big Sur Lodge and other places did not. This was unexpectedly inconvenient.  How far we have fallen from grace!

But the worst issue was that I had tremendous anxiety trying to get to sleep and I dont know why.  This is the second time this has happened to me when on little test trips and I dont know what it means. In this case I happened to have my ADD/ADHD medication which I could misuse to get to sleep but that is not recommended even if it does work well.

In conclusion, it was a valuable test but we need to consider different equipment and more tests.  Possibly even resorting to staying at hotels and not camping most of the time.

The anxiety/medication thing is worrisome.

The Gano Memorial


The Steve Gano memorial was organized by Gretchen Schwartz Gano and Kristee Rosendahl. They did a fabulous job and I learned a lot about Steve.  In attendance were dozens of people I knew but many times dozens more I didnt. It was Michael Naimark who pointed out that these were two nearly disjoint communities: alumni from the Architecture Machine Group and from the Apple Advanced Technology (Multimedia?) Group.

It was held at the Henry Miller Library, at the Nepenthe Restaurant, at the Big Sur Lodge and another place I dont recall.  I met some very nice people, most of whom I will never hear from again.  We had some small world phenomena.

Among the people I knew (or met there) include Peggy Weil, Jane Nisselson, Scott Fisher, Sally Rosenthal, Nancy Hechinger and Fabrice Florin.

The whole thing was very distressing to me.

Thanks again to Gretchen and Kristee for doing such a nice job.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Avengers Endgame Meta Review


Being rewritten.

Spoilers for Avengers Endgame, of course.

Avengers Endgame has come and almost gone having left in its wake an astonishing number of rumors and reviews, not to mention a boat load of money.  When so many people see a movie, it is natural for some of them to like it and some of them to hate it.  I have read many of these reviews, at least the ones in English, and I have also read many of the speculation and rumors before the release. So I want to go over a few things before we get to the movie itself.

1. Many of the rumors and speculations that were published on the net were flat out fabrications. There is definitely some weird psychology going on here.  Maybe they are the moral equivalent of right-wing or Russian trolls who lie to get a reaction?  But if so, what is their motivation?  On a political topic it might make sense, but for a superhero movie?  Maybe they just want attention. Maybe "because they can".  I dont know.

2. Avengers Endgame is intended to finish off the first three phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which, love it or hate it, has done very well for itself.  The point of this movie is to deal with a major cliffhanger involving the very fate of the universe (!) as well as tie up a number of loose ends and bring to a conclusion many character arcs created in the previous 22 or so movies. So far so good. What therefore is the point of someone reviewing this movie who has not seen any (or at least most of) the previous movies?  What is the point of someone reviewing the film who hates superhero movies?  In the former case they are not going to have a clue what is going on and in the latter case they are going to hate the movie because they hate superhero movies.

The point is, why waste our time?  We already know you are going to be confused or filled with elitist disgust or both, so maybe you could spare us this?  We get it already.  Your review could be maybe two or three lines.  Or maybe you could do us the favor of disqualifying yourself up front? No of course not.

3. Endgame is an imperfect but enjoyable movie.  For those who like their SF tight, this is not that movie.  The more you reflect on the "unsnapping", where people were and how they got to the field of battle, the less it holds up.  Pym particles in general and in specific (oh really, one vial of Pym and we transport an entire intergalactic army?  Hmmm).

4. But at the end of the day, they hit their marks, and some of that is brilliant. Thor and his Mother. The phone call from the wife.  On your left.  Captain America and his hammer.  For that matter, Thor retrieving his hammer. Avengers, assemble.  They are totally sincere which is not the case with the Star Wars abominations.

They deserve credit for their sincerity.

Its a superhero movie, kids.

Now Is The Time To Propose Your Project to Netflix


Do as I say, not as I do.