Thursday, September 22, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and it's very, very powerful: I'm Still Here | By John Wall.

Digital Foundry reviews AI imagine generation programs: Just how good are the new wave of AI image generation tools? I also think it's interesting to note how quickly these programs are improving. It's stunning, really.

From Chris M., and it's amazing (taken during the earthquake): 2022/09/18 (Tuned Mass Damper) of Taipei 101 Skyscraper.

From Wally, and this is an excellent watch for architecture nerds (and anyone interested in building structures): The Ronan Point Tower Disaster 1968 | Plainly Difficult Documentary (the documentary mentions the Great Storm of 1987). This is adjacent: How Racism Turned Chicago’s Cabrini-Green Homes From A Beacon Of Progress To A Run-Down Slum. An excellent read: Equinox

From C. Lee, and I think it's utterly ridiculous: Despite their influence and extensive access to information, members of Congress can buy and sell stocks with few restrictions. This seems to happen "suddenly" quite often: Another Russian exec’s body found following mysterious death. This is both strange and scary: Cancers in Adults Under 50 Have Increased Dramatically Around The Globe. Watch out: Scientists explore chemistry of tattoo inks amid growing safety concerns. This is odd: Anti-diarrhea Medication May Help Treat Core Autism Symptoms. Keyboard nerd alert! The Obsessive Pleasures of Mechanical-Keyboard Tinkerers. These are amazing: Watch & Optical Repairman Creates Miniature Sculptures From Old Parts

Perplexing

On the way back from Ann Arbor last Sunday, I was listening to the Michigan State student radio station in Lansing. A very pleasant sports talk show was on, and three students were discussing Saturday's football games. 

Then one of the hosts said that Bo Nix was the Daniel Jones version of Cam Newton. 

Almost a week later, I still have no idea what that means. It haunts me.

The Min-Maxer

A close friend called me and said she was going to be late for dinner because she was taking her daughter to the Apple store at the mall. 

"Ooh, the food court," I said. 

"Oh my god," she said. "Congealed sauce buffet."

"Only a novice would say that," I said. "There are two optimal times to go to the food court: 11:30 and 5:30. All the food is fresh for the lunch and dinner rushes, and it's delicious."

"The only thing more disturbing than you eating at the food court is figuring out the best times to eat at the food court."

"Min-maxing the food court is just good, common sense," I said. "Also, try the bourbon chicken at the Asian place. It's fantastic."


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Cancelled

There's some kind of construction project going at a house on a cross street near where I live. 

It's the closest cross street, and there's a trailer parked on the curb. Behind it is always a huge black truck. It's been like this for weeks now. 

In the back window of the huge black truck are white letters at least a foot high: "PRO-AMERICA," and below that, "ANTI-BIDEN."

Okay, then. 

Driving or walking past this truck every day is annoying. What kind of person is so desperate for attention that they use their truck to yell at everyone? 

That's a rabbit hole that no one should go down. Believe me. 

Yesterday, though, I had a sudden revelation. No matter how loud this guy is, now matter how much he screams, my quiet, little vote is going to totally cancel his out. 

Even better than that, I'm sure he's too lazy to find out which judges to vote for (because they won't have a party affiliation on the ballot), so it's not just cancelling, it's cancelling+. 

Realizing that was a happy moment. Keep yelling, jerk. 


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Submission

A friend of mine sent this blurb from the back of her bottle of hair gel:
The Tresseme mission is to create a disruptive path forward so women can lead the way in life and style. 

She said she had enough hair trouble without her hair gel being "disruptive."

Like many of you, I find marketing gibberish fascinating. I agree with her, though. Why have disruptive hair gel? This is more appropriate:
Tresseme will force your hair to submit to the authority of the state.

Now that's marketing.


Monday, September 19, 2022

Art, Again

Grand Rapids has a big art contest called "ArtPrize."

There are hundreds of places around downtown where art is displayed, both inside and outside. I went to one of the larger venues and looked around. 

I don't pretend to know anything about art. 

Most of what I saw was honestly crap. Literally, I saw three paintings that were cat portraits. Perfectly fine cat portraits, mind you, but still. 

Anything can be called "art," though, so it was all art, including a worn cardboard box with some kind of mission statement attached. 

There was this, though, and I thought it was beautiful:





This was a huge piece, too, at least ten feet wide. 

I wonder if some artists get tired of having everything called art, when they spend their lives creating art? Art that is perhaps significantly more substantial than a cardboard box with a mission statement?

The history of art is filled with both extreme gatekeeping and no gatekeeping. Impressionism? Not art, at first. Surrealism? Absolutely not art, at first. Abstract art? Same. Art drawn on a computer? Don't get me started.

Eventually, though, they were all accepted.

On the other end is a fierce philosophical defense of art that claims anything can be art. It's a defense against non-artists who want to claim the ability to judge what is art (and thereby limit it). 

I think it's not unfair to say that as personal expression, anything can be art. That doesn't mean it's good, though, and it doesn't mean it isn't disposable. 75% of what I saw on exhibit was totally disposable. 

Are there some kinds of art that computer-generated art can't replace? Absolutely, and thank god. All the disposable stuff, though? Totally replaceable. 

Given how much momentum these art-generating programs have now, I think it's going to happen much sooner than anyone expects. 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Friday Links!

Ugh, what a week. 

Leading off, a fascinating read: How an enormous project attempted to map the sky without computers

From Chris Meadowcraft, and this is excellent and thoughtful: I made a comic book using AI generated art in Midjourney.

From Wally, and it's quite fantastic: Thérrarium : A Lord of the Rings inspired Tea Machine. This is very close to what I expected, and it's much, much worse for self-published work: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics (book sales). I'm betting on the parrots: Humans and Cockatoos Are Locked in an ‘Arms Race’ Over Trash

From C. Lee, and it's amazing: Perseverance Mars Experiment Capable of Producing as Much Oxygen as a Single Tree. This could be huge: Synthetic Milk Is Coming, And It Could Radically Shake Up Dairy. This should be no surprise: Politics Trumps Health in Montana. Even worse: 60 Percent Of Americans Will Have An Election Denier On The Ballot This Fall. I'm sure they were just doing their own research: Elected officials, police chiefs on leaked Oath Keepers list. I had no idea: The fight to keep little-known bacteria out of powdered baby formula. An excellent read: Barbara Ehrenreich, Explorer of Prosperity’s Dark Side, Dies at 81

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World

The dating world, that is. 

When you write a profile, you get to add interests (on Match, at least), and you select from hundreds of available ones. 

I read a profile last week and these were her interests: billiards, card games, darts, chess, circus. 

There was a coherence to those choices until "circus." That's what took it from eccentric to genius. 

I've also noticed that there are an incredible number of women who want to hike the Camino de Santiago (about 500 miles, from France to Spain). It was in a movie or something. It's a pilgrimage to self-discovery, I think. 

I'm not against self-discovery. I try to do a bit of that myself. The problem, though, is when everyone wants to do the same thing. That trail is going to look like Golden Corral at Thanksgiving.

Oh, and if you are on a dating app, here are two very common-sense notes:
1. Do not use a picture that is publicly available on the Web. If it is, anyone can just right-click on the image while in Chrome and find the original source. This means your full name will be exposed, and someone can easily find all your personal information from there. 
2. Do not give out your personal phone number, for the same reason. It's far too easy to find out everything about someone from a cellphone number now. Just block your number when you call. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Towel (2017-2022)

I got my booster on Thursday morning and headed straight for the golf course. I figured I'd feel like hell on Friday (I did), and I wanted to play before I the booster blasted me.

I told Eli almost two years ago that I'd replace my golf towel if I shot even par for nine holes. It's not a golf towel--it's a kitchen towel--but a towel is a towel, right? 















It's a dog's face, though it's hard to tell from the angle I used. 

I've been close. Really, really close. I can't even remember how many +1s I've shot for nine holes. I definitely choked a few times. 

More than a few times.

Anyway, I decided to try a new course, because I'm too deeply rutted right now. I saw my golf glove last week and parts were dark from sweat, but other parts looked almost new, and I realized my life was just like my glove. So I resolved to work hard to use the white parts of my glove, metaphorically. 

This course was no longer than my home course, but it was pleasantly different, with lots of water, trees, and sand. A bit more difficult, but in a crafted way. 

Plus, it was empty. I didn't see anyone else the entire round. It was the most pleasant round of golf I've had in a long time. 

I was +5 after nine, mostly because I was unfamiliar with the course, but I'd started hitting the ball very well, and my putting was so much better (thanks, VR). 

Then, on the back, I just started hitting every single ball flush. 

I had a five on a par-three because I had a fried egg lie in a bunker, but improbably I birdied the next two holes, and I was even par on the back after five holes. 

I was already tired, because there seemed to be a hundred-yard-plus walk between every green and the next tee box, and I was pushing my little hand cart with my clubs on it. I tried not to notice.

I had a six-footer for par on 15. Made it. A five-footer for par on 16. Made it. 

Hit a wedge to twelve feet on 17 and missed the putt. 

The mental focus was so demanding, so much more than I've used in sports for years. I wasn't missing anything, though. Everything was down the middle of the fairway and into the center of the green. My approach putts were all long, but every second putt was in the middle of the hole. 

On 18, I flushed another drive into the middle of the fairway and put the approach about thirty feet away. I was so mentally exhausted that I couldn't believe it, and that length putt was not what I wanted to have. 

I put it six feet past. 

Lining up the putt for par (and to par the nine), I had thoughts in my head. About my age and the loss of athletic competence. About Eli. About why I'd never been able to do this, and how many putts I'd missed on a green like this to finish +1 instead of even. 

Then I stepped up to the ball and stroked it into the center of the hole. 

All my disappointment about golf, about how good I might have been if things had been different, just melted away. It was such a happy moment, a little joy stolen from the unrelenting march of days. 

It wasn't a hard course, but that didn't matter. What mattered was I executed every shot and kept my nerve in situations where I'd lost it in the past. The monkey on my back was gone.

I was so tired I could barely make it to the car. 

I stopped and bought a new golf towel, of course. A nice one, too:



Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Fighting for Big Things

Carlos Alcaraz is a tennis player, and he's only nineteen, but he said something very wise last week after winning his semifinal match in the U.S. Open: "It's amazing to be able to fight for big things."

I thought it was surprisingly profound, particularly because he didn't say it was amazing to win. It was amazing to fight to win. 

This distinction, naturally, made me think about Eli 20.1. His life has been defined by his fight for big things, even when he was small. He didn't always win--he often lost, actually--but he always fought.

His dreams have always been outlandish. He wanted to play professional hockey when he was 10.0 (and for years after that). He didn't, but he fought for it like a professional. He had the attitude of someone who does make it, and I think that helped him in countless ways when he wanted to fight for other, big things. 

Now he fights for big things and wins, often in outlandish ways, but I think much of what makes him successful is that he was always able to shake off the discouragement of losing. Maybe not right away, but it never discouraged him from continuing to find big things, and to fight for them. He never thought losing was a judgment of his worth, which is very, very difficult to do.

At least, it always was for me.

I have so much respect for his attitude. I try to be more like that myself now.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Behold the Magnificent

The strip mall next to my little golf course is magnificent. Feast your eyes on this collection:
Rosary Book & Gift
Uniforms
Sudanese beauty salon
Allstate
International supermarket
Hobby shop
Rent a Center
Thai restaurant
Temp agency
Spas and hot tubs
Global gifts
Mexican candy store
Mexican restaurant
Outlet store (of what, unknown)
Brazilian jiu jitsu
Nails and spa
Boutique and beauty
Escape rooms
Top tier grooming (male? female? who knows?)
Smoke shop
Buffalo wild wings

A person could live for weeks without leaving the confines of this strip mall. I could get a job from the temp agency, buy my uniform, make money, enjoy multiple restaurants, stay well-groomed, buy gifts for the holidays, take up a hobby, take up smoking, buy a hot tub, buy insurance for the hot tub, and learn how to defend myself if someone came to steal the hot tub. 

When their brazen plot failed, I would hand them a piece of Mexican candy in consolation.

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Friday Links!

This is a tremendous interview: ‘I was promiscuous – that’s murder on marriage’: Loudon Wainwright III on sex addiction, booze and family feuds

From C. Lee, and it's clever with a wink and a nod: Fixing famous paintings with AI. And on a more serious note, Allen Varney sends these amazing upscales: Sierra Game Screenshots Upgraded by AI.

From Wally, and it's an excellent read: The Collectors Who Save Video-Game History From Oblivion. For you grognards: Grant’s Top 10 Solitaire Wargames – 2022 Edition

From Chris M., and it's really not surprising: America Is a Rich Death Trap: For citizens of a wealthy country, Americans of every age, at every income level, are unusually likely to die, from guns, drugs, cars, and disease.

Excellent links from C. Lee. First, and this definitely depends on your approach, it's ‘A Decade of Fruitless Searching’: The Toll of Dating App Burnout. Anyone who said in the last two decades that climate change isn't real is looking very foolish now: Zombie ice from Greenland will raise sea level 10 inches. This is bad: Authy has been hacked, here is how to protect yourself. I'm very skeptical of cellphone provides and home Internet in general: T-Mobile Misleads Home Internet Customers, Employees Say (Update). This could be huge: Scientists Find a Simple Way to Produce Hydrogen From Water at Room Temperature. This is both cool and very funny: Budgie art. Prescient: Shakespeare, always ahead of his time.

The Illusion

There are very few skills in life where you can feel like you have the skill when you don't. 

Sports? Nope. Writing? Absolutely not. Carpentry? I don't think so. Guitar? Try again.

The list goes on and on. There is one skill, however, where you can absolutely fool yourself. 

Singing. 

I'm a terrible singer (and Gloria might have been worse). I can't hit a note. I have a tiny vocal range. I'm legitimately awful. 

In the car, though, with a song playing, I can sing along and somehow, it's magical. To my ears, it sounds like I'm absolutely in tune and just killing it with the singing. 

Then I turn the radio off and try to keep singing by myself. Oh, the horror. 

In the shower it seems like I can sing, too, because of the unique acoustics. I can't, though. 

I really, really can't.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Boosters

The Omicron booster has an EUA from the FDA (insert your additional acronyms here), so let's get boosters, everybody. 

I was able to easily get an appointment this time. I could have gone the first day they were available (today), but had a scheduling conflict, so I'm going at 9:30 tomorrow. 

I think many people just have COVID fatigue right now. They're sick of reading about it, sick of hearing about it, sick of taking any precautions. And I understand that, but improving your chances of living is a compelling reason to keep paying attention. Certainly, it's not like it was even last fall, because the hospitals aren't overflowing, but being willing to spend fifteen minutes to get a booster still seems like a good use of time.

Also, get used to hearing "mosaic-8": Fighting current and future coronaviruses with a single vaccine.

Also (also), this: Powerful New Antibody Neutralizes All Known COVID Variants


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