13 March 2012

Some stuff that's been happening

[1a] Wow. That Black Keys show was amazing. Even the songs I wasn't familiar with/don't like as much were great. I never thought to myself "okay, finish this song and get on to the next one." I don't think that has ever happened at a concert before. (I have not been to a great deal of concerts, but Special Lady Friend has, and she felt the same way.)

[1b] The concert was also excellently produced. I was especially impressed by the visual they projected onto the screen above and behind the stage. It was a combination of abstracted, filtered live video of the performance and an impressive collection of abstract video clips combining visual noise, photographs, rendering & editing artifacts artifacts, functional animation, and other effects. I would play any of these backgrounds on the wall  of a gallery. I'm always a fan of abstract animation and video, but these were particularly good.

I don't think I did a good job of explaining that. This still from a previous concert doesn't really do it justice, but it does show one of the more Pop Art-influenced pieces.

Anyone know how they manage this kind of thing? I'm guessing maybe VVVV is involved, but I have no idea.

[2] The afternoon of the concert I happened upon the site of a class Craig Kaplan taught at Waterloo a couple of years ago on Non-photorealistic Rendering. This meshed up nicely with the visuals at the show. I'm very interested in this sort of thing. My final project report for the graduate Graphics course I took turned into a sort of manifesto about how computer graphics should focus less on photography and spend more time thinking about painting, drawing, design and sculpture.

[3] Speaking of which, my decrease in blogging output over the last couple of months has been in large part because I've been spending more time working on art. In addition to a couple of projects of my own I've also been following along remotely with a course Brandon Morse is offering on digital art. He puts each of the assignments up online, so I've been doing those on my own. Morse is, by the way, one of my favorite artists right now, and he just happens to teach at UMD.

[4] Another reason for decreased blogging is that I've been trying to focus on reading more books and spending less time jimmy-jacking around on the internet. In order to do so I've been tracking every book I read so I can calculate how many pages per day I'm getting through.

Last week Stephen Wolfram produced a widely linked blog post which analyzed twenty years of data he's been collecting about his life such as what time of day he's sent several hundred thousand emails, and how many steps his pedometer has recorded each day. I'd love to have that kind of data to play around with. For now I'll have to deal with my hand-updated log of books and similar statistics (which movies I've seen, how many times I've been to the gym, etc.). I know that long-term relying on manually updating these lists is perilous, but for now they're all I have.

[5a] Another thing that I've seen linked around in various places lately is an iOS app called Caffeine Zone. You tell it how much caffeine you have and how fast, and it runs the pharmacokinetics to figure out how much is in your blood stream 24 hours into the future.  It's pretty fun to fool around with, but I would really love it if there was a way to export the data to an archive so I could look at my caffeine consumption on a monthly or annual basis.

[5b] I actually first heard of Caffeine Zone from one of it's co-develoeprs Frank Ritter at a Cog Sci conference last fall. He was making a very good point that what makes for a "good" cognitive model is primarily socially determined. We know, for instance, that caffeine affects response time on various tasks. Psychologists go out of their way to report and control for things like the age and gender of their subjects. However they make absolutely zero attempt to control for their caffeine consumption. We know that caffeine matters, but it's socially accepted among modelers to ignore it.

(Sidenote: Extend this observation to finance and climate models as you see fit.)

[5c] Does anyone know of a good, entry-level introduction paper to pharmacokinetics? Since I can't export data from Caffeine Zone I'd like to create my own database to track long-term usage. I'd also like to incorporate other drugs besides caffeine (principally SSRIs and amphetamine salts) so if there's a generic form for these functions, even if I don't have the exact parameters, I'd love to know what they are.

I should have mentioned that along with Stephen Wolfram's analysis, my desire for data logging is inspired in large part by the Feltron Annual Reports. Designer Nicholas Felton has been releasing these "reports" about his life for several years now, and they're absolutely beautiful.
99% Invisible did a very nice episode on them last year. You can listen here.

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