Sun’s path, June to December

Blogging this because I have to do it one day…

Sun’s path, June to December (and instructions) [via @christt].

Shake a shake a shake a tail feather

You haven’t experienced true joy until you’ve watched this cockatoo dancing to Ray Charles [via nicolas].

Cassini’s continued mission

Some truly incredible pictures of Saturn and its friends.

The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants

The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants.

The Day the Saucers Came

The Day the Saucers Came, by Neil Gaiman.

Stone Buddha on my bedroom wall

Stone Buddha, rasterbated

Original, rasterbated.

j-star 08, Holotronica, and Pierre/Gondry at onedotzero_adventures in motion at the BFI

Here are some words and some (mainly excellent) music videos for you.

The above is the gorgeous video for the equally beautiful and gentle song “Omstart” by Cornelius. It is one of two things I saw three weeks ago at the British Film Institute which particularly caught my eye/ear. The other is this 1998 video, “Deadly Media” by Hexstatic:

Actually, that’s a lie; several other vids caught my eye/ear to a similar if lesser extent…

I’d gone to London to see Bash, to hear Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie talk about Lost Girls at the V&A, and to go to Bash’s flat-warming party. On Sunday afternoon she had to work, so I was at a loose end and popped along to the National Film Theatre to catch j-star 08, “the latest and most inspiring music videos, motion graphics and shorts from some of japan’s finest moving image-makers and young talent” — part of the onedotzero_adventures in motion event taking place that weekend. I rather like shorts, and music videos, and the Japanese aspect promised an interesting time. While the results were mixed, I wasn’t disappointed.

On the way in, I noticed a “Holotronica” exhibit and, while scoffing at the hubris of an artist claiming to “devise” a term, and while unimpressed by the 3-d aspect of the display, I did rather enjoy the music playing as I walked past: the Hexstatic piece linked above. I thought it was a bit old-fashioned, but good for it — and of course now I see it’s 10 years old, so that makes sense. The use of vocal samples was reminscent of JMJ’s pioneering and wonderfully cheesy yet still compelling Zoolook (the video for which introduced a young me to the lovely word “Djibouti”), and the audio/video link made me think of Lasse Gjertsen’s modern classic Hyperactive.

The j-star show was very enjoyable, though a bit tedious in places. Many of the shorts were too long, and it was very very CGI heavy: only a few pieces weren’t entirely CG, and it often felt like it didn’t add anything, or wasn’t used imaginatively. The Cornelius video above was the standout exception, indeed the best thing in the show — thoughtful, subtle, and making the most of the total possibility of CG without just being a bunch of flashy effects. A number of other vids were just flashy effects (usually to some generic breakbeat music), a few were “in love with the underlying model” (exposing wireframes, etc., which is cute but ultimately empty) and some were cartoonish, and kinda fun but not soooo amusing. On reflection I think my enjoyment was often coloured by the music as well, of course. With that in mind, a few (non-exhaustive) comments…

Three of the pieces which weren’t totally CGI were excellent. Kosai Sekine’s video for Maledict Car by Jemapur used real world footage and imaginative symmetry to very good effect, I thought — and the music was great. K+Me’s Screaming Dance by Leonard de Leonard was very good fun and again had the advantage of a rather stonking tune. Finally, this Nike cosplay ad by Kan Eguchi is classic Japanese madness, and utterly awesome. The other vids with a substantial reality presence were Junji Kojima’s video for You-you-you by Polysics, which I quite enjoyed but didn’t find beautiful, and “Evening Before the Hangover” by Ichiro Sato, (I can’t find it online) of which I wrote “Alien disco, but so what?”. It was a cute joke, but basically dull.

Clear Skies In May by Tetsuo Suzuka was beautiful, imaginative, classical, and beautifully typographical. Well worth a look.

There were two 8-bit nostalgia trips, only one of which I enjoyed. Yosawya San by Tsuyoshi Hirooka & Yohei Ito was great: musically interesting, and a very cute video. Compared to the other (below), it seemed truer to the 8-bit gaming tradition, and with some really imaginative touches, perspective, etc. (Look out for the Go game on the TV screen.) The other, Hideyuki Tanaka’s video for Ram Rider’s hello_8 bit edition seemed more lego than 8-bit (in the video, anyway), and was about 2 minutes too long; I didn’t like the music though, which can’t have helped — although on reflection it was truer to the 8-bit tradition than the other offering, so there you go. Well, there it is: you might enjoy it, but I certainly didn’t.

On the cartoony side, it probably suffices to just mention Usavich – Beware of Dance — the first of three Usavich cartoons, and quite funny (I wrote “Tyres goes disco bunnies”, meaning Tyres from Spaced), but by the third I was really bored of them.

Afterwards, I took a saunter round the BFI, experienced and enjoyed The All-Seeing Eye (The Hardcore Techno Version) by Pierre Bismuth & Michel Gondry, and, wrote on a wall. I can’t remember the details of whose installation this was, but projected onto this wall/whiteboard was a cartoon view of a town, on which we were invited to draw “where you live” using the available coloured pens. I found a suitably rectangular collection of roads and drew a simple commutative diagram encapsulating commutativity of function application, which felt like as a good an explanation of where I live just now than anything else I could think of.

Then I went back to Bash’s and cooked a mighty vegetarian lasagna for the six of us there present.

To conclude: a great day (and weekend!), and one which made me think it might be worth living in London (for a while) after all.

Frances the Cat Finds Enlightenment behind the Couch

Frances the Cat Finds Enlightenment behind the Couch.

The Fall

The Fall — oh my, that’s a wonderful movie. You should totally go see it. A load of us went to Taliesin for it tonight and universally lurved it. Just… oh, wonderful.

Here’s the interview that made me want to see it, and here’s the trailer (which is mildly spoilerish, but the joy of this film isn’t in the plot, but in its heart, and its eyes).

Sings beautifully, too.

Frances Keenan, weaver. Mad skills.

Photos: Budapest with Alexa, March 2008

Here, finally, my photos of Budapest, from the week I spent there with Alexa at the end of March (as mentioned in an earlier post).

Yes, it’s really taken me three months to get back to tagging and naming them. You can’t really blame me: I did it once already then half the data was lost — such an experience is extremely disheartening. Stupid data.

Choice cuts:

The Alexa's tree St Steven's Basilica 300 stairs later Hammer On Alexa, slightly furrowed of brow Interesting graffiti First Alexa triptych More Alexa disdain Window arm, Margit Telescope eyepiece World Heritage Noncy! This way to the Labirintus Fisherman's Bastion, reflected (1) Happy Window Face... Peter Mansfeld Memorial (6) Kwak suds Andy drinking Kwak Budapest Fringe Festival, wobbly Alexa Approacheth, at the Fringe Magma Fire Theatre at Budapest Fringe Festival 2008 (2) Magma Fire Theatre at Budapest Fringe Festival 2008 (8) Magma Fire Theatre at Budapest Fringe Festival 2008 (14) Alexa on a Jetty Aggressive dog statue

First Alexa triptych

Andy drinking Kwak

Alexa Approacheth, at the Fringe

Portrait of a Kitteh

Portrait of a Kitteh

Big Ideas (don’t get any)

Big Ideas (don’t get any) — Radiohead on the old-tech; awesome and then some [brunns].

Sinclair ZX Spectrum – Guitars (rhythm & lead)
Epson LX-81 Dot Matrix Printer – Drums
HP Scanjet 3c – Bass Guitar
Hard Drive array – Act as a collection of bad speakers – Vocals & FX

On a personal note, I’d just like to say what a joy it was once again to not only hear, but also to watch, a ZX Spectrum loading some bytes attached to an 80s television. It’s been too long…

Late April Keepalive Ping

Heyup.

Lots going on, but blogging sorely neglected. Partially I’ve been busy with work, partially I’ve been busy with going away.

Three Big News Items:

  1. I properly completed and submitted my MPhil thesis; more on this later (including a PDF for anyone masochistic enough to want to read it).
  2. I went to Budapest for a week; photos later. They’re on flickr now but awaiting tags and descriptions; I had done those things but lost them by not listening to the nagging voice telling me not to use crappy software that doesn’t save its state (yes I’m talking about you, kflickr). Executive summary: great city, well worth a visit.
  3. I have a new job! Starting in August, I’ll be a Research Assistant working for Harold Thimbleby on a three-year project on formal tools for analysis of and design for usability, particularly on small devices. Again, more on this later.

There’s a fourth Big News Item but I’m keeping it under my hat for now.

So, lots for me to follow up on, but for now I’d just like to draw your attention to the latest clutch of lovely photos from Bash, who’s sadly been laid low by a bad cold for the last little while.

And stuff Marigold ninja Blossom in the sun How things used to be The lone seagull flies alone

Adam, my nephew

I love this woman

Bash in grurple

… and have done for five years.

Shadow glassware

Wine glass tumbler

Foxy troopers

All of a sudden, stormtroopers are sexy. Evidence…

Foxy stormtrooper 1 Foxy stormtrooper 2 Foxy stormtrooper 3

(This last from this fantastic page of Darth Vader helmets — check out the Statue of Liberty one…)

And while we’re on Star Wars imagery, I’d like to remind you to stay on target.

Cold beauty

Thin worship — harsh but beautiful (decreasingly so to the right, I think). I wondered why the photographer used the Haskellish term foldr1, but the answer is prosaic and on the front page. Yowzer.

So: humans may be capable of cold startling beauty but so too the sea.

Both via [ffffound], spamming my RSS with notable pixels.

Random beauty/design samizdat

I have know idea where/how she came across this, but Bash sent me a link to some really beautiful images (including the cover of a Lisp book). There’s even some Richard Scarry in there, ftw.

Gimboland sidebar now shows Bash’s photos

I’ve modified the sidebar so it displays the last 5 photos from Bash’s flickr photostream rather than mine. I haven’t uploaded any photos to flickr for forever, and Bash’s are just better anyway. Tis an honour.

The first images of the Earth from space

The first photos of the Earth from space, taken from a captured German V2 rocket in 1946. Cor. [longnow]

Aside: again with the pagination!

Bash’s BoxingDay Bimble

Bash and I spent Christmas in Callington, at my parents’ house. It was, for both of us I think, a much needed (though in the end too short) break away from the accumulated pressures of Swansea – even though I was working on my thesis I certainly came back refreshed.

On Boxing Day, while I slaved away on chapter two’s lovingly delivered description of the Common Algebraic Specification Language, Bash went for a mooch around Callington with her camera. The results show Callington in the most interesting light I’ve seen… All crumbling walls, flaking paintwork, strange corners. Classic Bash, in fact. :-)

I won’t pick out several, because it’s worth looking at the whole set — as much as I love filling my blog with little square snippets of her work. Instead, just one, my favourite, well worth viewing at a high resolution and/or using as wallpaper. Its subtle beauty reminds me of this classic piece by my beloved Brandon Bird.

the painted branch

What Bash did with her Sunday

Bash cut her hair today. Photos (mainly by me) here.

(Photos of the Circles of Sound gig should be forthcoming soonish, but she’s got about 500 to wade through – ’twas a good night!)

Emo Bash Mohawk down Easier than shaving a goat The serenity of the recently shorn II

Minus

I have a new love; she is a girl; she fills the world with beauty, sadness, and utter disregard of the laws of physics. Her name is minus, and she starts here.

Waves of happiness

Lots of things have been happening to me outside of computers lately, which is one of the main reasons I haven’t written anything here. I suppose Facebook has also been pressing my online contact buttons. Anyway, here’s one of those things.

Yesterday, I had my first experience of something called Five Rhythms dance. It’s hard to describe, but in short, you might say it’s moving meditation, set to music (ordinary, popular music, though thoughtfully chosen and sequenced), journeying through five phases called flow, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness. A complete sequence through all five is called a wave. Well, yesterday I was at an all-day workshop here in Swansea, with a theme of male/female balance, in which we went through three waves: two before lunch, flowing together seamlessly (or was it just one? it feels like it was two, but it is a blur, I admit!), and then another, slower (deeper?) wave in the afternoon.

I’m finding it quite hard to write about, because what I want to express, I can’t, really. I suppose I could say it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, but that somehow sounds throwaway and doesn’t really capture it. It certainly feels like it’s going to have been a very significant experience – it’s definitely opened up some doors.

As someone who loves anyway to dance, and in particular rejoices at the moments when the music and the dance take you out of yourself, out of caring who’s watching, out of thought and out of the moment, well, I just loved it. It was easy and challenging, and familiar and surprising, hot and cold, fast and slow, I could go on…

I’d worried, in hearing about the process, that the music would be some half-baked new agey nonsense incapable of moving me. I was completely wrong – it was singularly excellent, including a number of pieces I recognised (Massive Attack’s Protection and Art Of Noise’s Close To the Edit are two staccato pieces I particularly remember), and much else new. The James Holden Remix of The Sky Was Pink by Nathan Fake (as I found out afterwards) was where it hit the peak to me, at the start of chaos in the final wave. You can hear it on Youtube, but you’ll have to imagine satisfactory bass and a transcendent mental state, I feel. (I’ve just bought it on Juno — my first paid-for music download evah!)

I’m feeling very different after yesterday, about a number of things. If I had to pick one word it would be “calmer”, but it’s also a sense of being more centred, more accepting, more flowing, more connected and (frankly) more alive. A reinvigorated sense of connection with everyone and everything else – for which I’m sure I can largely thank the group, which was (trying not to sound too much of a hippy, if that’s not too late) just utterly welcoming, safe, nurturing, open, opening. If the purpose of the day was the explore male/female balance, it certainly worked for me. Gah, incredible and indescribable!

Though I have written many, words fail me. There we are.

If you want to find out more, and in particular if you’re in Wales and want to try it, here’s Alan Withers, the teacher (workshop dates here, and there are weekly classes in Swansea (clashes with Shiko, alas) and Cardiff). If it sounds at all interesting, I’d say go for it – only good things can happen.

Oh, PS: Shiko should be busking somewhere in Swansea town centre this Saturday, hopefully, as part of Oxjam. More details when I know them. Come gives us your ears and money!

The Catsters

The Catsters — twenty category theory lectures on Youtube. Looks like they start with monads. Also: ++cute lecturer ftw! Aha, it’s Eugenia Cheng. Lucky Sheffield.

xkcd + goats = dresden codak

Gorgeous, wistful.

See what I mean?.

But start at the beginning.

3 magnets + 40,000 pendula + 2 hits of acid = wow

Movie here. Psychedelic!

visualising the motion of 40,000 pendula under the influence of 3 magnets using Haskell. Shiny.

What’s going on here? OK, so it’s not 40,000 pendulums “all going at once”, because obviously they’d bounce off each other. ;-) What we have is a 200×200 grid (ie 40,000 pixels), and for each pixel we define a pendulum. At a given time, a given pixel’s colour represents the corresponding pendulum’s distance, at that time, from each of the 3 magnets (the pixel’s RBG components represent the three distances). Each pendulum’s movement is affected only by the magnets, ie the pendula are independent of each other. Hey presto, psychadelica-a-go-go.

A not-camp-at-all weekend in London

Two weeks ago, we spent the weekend in London, to attend a civil partnership ceremony (I call it a wedding as, I’m sure, would the happy couple) and a house-warming. The wedding was on Friday morning, so (after giving up on trying to find reasonable rail tickets) we drove up Thursday night and stayed with Jason & Sid, whose party was on Saturday. The wedding was lovely: Robin & Oliver, South-African compadres of Bash’s who came to ours (front row/right in this photo), so we were very happy to return the honour. :-) They made a lovely couple, and the ceremony was very touching. The wedding took place at Old Marylebone Town Hall (“Reception Room”) – a very nice venue, with lovely officers (though marginally and amusingly haphazard a couple of times), followed by reception at The Groucho Club. I shudder to think how much it cost them, but the food and wine were both delicious and copious. No, we didn’t see anyone famous. :-)

We milled around Wimbledon on Saturday, wombling on the common and browsing expensive charity shops. In the evening, the house-warming party… Continuing the geeky tradition begun at New Year, some of us did some programming: this time on the classic Amstrad CPC-464 at the top of the stairs (Jason is Very Retro). This being a bit old and light to run a python interpreter, Jason and I knocked up a simple BASIC program to print “Welcome to Jason & Sid’s party” at a random place on the screen every 5 seconds. We even had to RTFM.

It wasn’t all geekery, of course: evidence here. My choice cuts follow.

Will, Bash, Andy Rena doing the chicken dance Crafty smirk Me and the missus Jo worship Lush I left my heart in syntax error Exactly what it looks like Oh, you! Gorgeous Martina I have no idea

All known bodies in the Solar System larger than 200 miles in diameter

Here’s a super-cool (and very very large) image: All (known) bodies in the Solar System larger than 200 miles in diameter. Via the recently unveiled Long Now blog.

I received my Long Now charter membership card this morning. The envelope was beautiful – square, dun cardboard, a big Long Now logo, pretty American stamps, a San Francisco postmark, understated address labels… I was really impressed. Unfortunately, I was much less impressed by its contents, my “limited edition, individually numbered, stainless steel Charter Member card”. Flimsy (in fact, slightly bent), and fingerprinted, it really didn’t have the expected feel of, well, longevity. I was, at least, expecting something thicker and less bendable. :-)

Zoetica

Zoetica

Found while rambling. Yowzer.

Bash, Singleton Park, 2003

Thumbnail: Bash, Singleton Park, 2003

She so foxy. 4 years ago now, mind! Oh, but still foxy. Don’t hit me, Bash. Ow.

That is comedy.

Sayaka

Sayaka – gosh [via Bash].

Thanks, moderate spender.

Robot beauty is just… incomprehensible.

Bash, while watching Futurama