Monday, November 29, 2010


In the ongoing narrative of complaining-about-the-thesis-on-my-blog, I finished writing the thesis about two weeks ago.  Then I started making some new figures, which ran over by a few days, and American Bird Day took over before it got wrapped up.  

While visiting a state that is round on both ends and high in the middle, the cold air has been quite refreshing.  Not much work has been done on this trip, but I realized the way of holiday life can be summed up, shampoo-bottle-style, as "visit.  talk.  eat.  repeat."  After a week here, I really miss getting work done.

Friday, November 05, 2010

No Magsafe for You!!!

The furball is obsessed with unplugging the magsafe cord from my laptop.  She has unplugged it about 10 times in the last half hour.  In other news, two-year old figures just got updated to have better notation.  Exciting, huh?

241 Addendum 2

Another thought: Something tells that next near will be very different.  Moving this aside will free up a lot of energy, thought, and irritation.

For example, writing these blog posts is about 1000% more efficient as adding new details to a thesis that has an audience of four people.  Because this is creative and fun and that is not.  Another that is, but that's a story for another time and place.  

Back to that coffee…

241 Addendum

Back to sucking up a lot of time:  250 pages of tenth draft rewriting is really inefficient.  I'm realizing that I'm spending about 80% of my time reminding myself to concentrate and only 20% of my time actually writing or making new figure or new examples or whatever it needs to be that is going into this.

I'm going to go break all my rules and make some coffee after 5pm, so get today's work cranked out, since I gave myself a deadline.


I have not written anything substantial here in a while.  I have two entries going, that have been in progress for weeks, but the never ending thesis has been taking up a lot of time.  Or, I should admit, sucking up a lot of time.  

Rewriting material that I've rewritten about ten times before is exceedingly mind-numbing.  Especially when it's about 200 pages of such material.  But I'm now revising the final three chapters, which are revised from the papers they're associated with.  Two of those papers have had about about ten drafts (with the eleventh drafts next up after turning in the thesis versions).  The hardest part is that the mental concentration to stay focused on something exceedingly boring drains a lot of creativity out of the work.  It would be much more fun if this were a first writeup, but so it goes.  

There's two upsides. 

Overall, the whole document was outlined in less than a week and then put together in first draft form in about six weeks.  That was more fun.  The revisions will come to about three months of work.  There will be two more rounds of revisions after this, but they'll be significantly shorter.  Overall about 4 months of work (the first draft was done part-time).  

And the quality of this will be the highest of all the write-ups.  Even the eleventieth-ninth drafts of the papers that get submitted to siggraph 2089 will still be constrained by page length, so some things will just be hard to follow.  The thesis has the freedom to be arbitrarily clear.  

I may or might start writing a bunch of nonsense here to keep writing momentum going for the next couple weeks, which is the final stretch.  I planned some travel for Thanksgiving, so that's the ultimate deadline, as I'm not taking this with me.  If only these things had real deadlines.

And I'm not proofreading this entry today.

And you an track the page length on facebook.  Yeah, that's what those numbers I've been posting all year are all about.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

TI Thesisdesystem

Fast paced day.  Wake, breakfast, exercise, planning, out the door, reading Dr. Silex's Lovecraft collection on the way to Treasure Island.  Thesis distraction--I mean music festival--day one.  Very electronic.  Highlights:  Phantogram (they were fun), !!! (also fun, I'm into playful music these days), Kruder and Dorfmeister (amazing electronic set), deadmau5 (a lot of fun to dance to, and an awesome stage show), and LCD Soundsystem.  The latter was probably my turning point for going, especially since they're hanging up the hat, and I haven't caught them live before, using silly excuses like working on my thesis.  A very enthusiastic crowd--it made me very aware of how much Toronto music fans stand around, watch, and do nothing, for the most part.  A short, but very good, set.  Long trip home, dinner, and off to make today's requisite thesis "result" before bed.  A "result," for the coming week, is a single motion, analyzed using four different algorithms and making all the figures and videos that go along with that motion and those four algorithms.  Tonight is running.  The current top rule in the get-it-done game I'm playing with myself is that a new example has to be finished every day until they're done.  There's a lot more than I thought I would need for it to be solid, but so it goes.  I'll probably get a fourth paper out of it now.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

whiteboard art history

toronto, 2010.  found on a whiteboard in my old office after the siggraph deadline had passed.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Music Switching

I go through music buying-and-listening phases.  I will suddenly stop listening to everything I currently listening to, start a new itunes playlist, and start buying new music.  It's refreshing and absurd and nostalgic, because with all the moving I have done in the last decade, I start to associate music with times and places.  Most playlists have names things such as "tronto09" or "eville05," meaning they have the music I bought while living in a particular place in a particular year. Here's a run-down of the current spree:

Lady Gaga is 80's Genesis.  Yeah, that seems kind of absurd, but in my head, they're the same.  Both are well written pop music.  Have have many things I don't much care for.  And each is written in a very different style, they're people who really get pop music and push its form around in interesting ways.  Oh yeah, my having this is Tom's fault.

LCD Soundsystem:  The only reason I started listening to LCD soundsystem has to do with mentions in print by both Trent Reznor and Stephen King (although they were made years apart).  I picked up Sound of Silver while reading Under the dome, since King uses it as a soundtrack in an early part of the book.  I once read a review that called LCD Soundsystem  "electropunk hipster nonsense," which is about the best description I've heard.  But it's fun.  "You wanted a hit" is my favorite.

Weezer:  They took off when I was in high school, and I was listening to them a lot during the blue album/Pinkerton era, so they're one of those bands whose music I buy without ever hearing it first.  And "Tired of Sex" was covered by Wild Willy and the Wonder Weevils.  Enough said about Wild Willy and the Wonder Weevils.  I just picked up Hurley, and while it's really irreverent in parts, I really like it.  It also has the obigatory "Viva la Vida" cover.  Every popular band should cover Viva la Vida.  Especially if they don't like it.

Aphex Twin:  I bought two Aphex Twin albums about 10 years ago, and they've come and gone, but been regularly played, since then.  I just picked up Selected Ambient Works 85-92, which is the best I've heard.  It sets a certain mood extremely well.  I think it's my new favorite music to have on while on public transit.

Brian Eno:  Music for Airports.  It's music for airports.  I've been playing with Bloom  and Trope, his iPod app collaborations.  

Tom Petty:  Feels very classic.  New Order Joe was visiting in town, and laughed when I told him it was Tom Petty's "new" album (Mojo).  It reminds me of David Bowie's Heathen, going back to what a particular musician does naturally, but in a fun way.

Also picked up:  Jack Dangers, Nusret Fateh Ali Khan, Orbital, more Aphex Twin, Gorillaz, and new music by Meat Beat Manifesto, Marcus Eaton, and Trent Reznor & his Happy Fun-Time Band of the week.  But I haven't listened to them enough to say anything meaningful yet.  

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ghost waves

san francisco, 2010

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

marin headlands, 2010.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Outside Lands and a Grey Whale, otherwise Known as Time Management

This "phase" of this blog is turning into a reflection on finishing the phd thesis.  It's actually quite anti-climactic; the real story is in everything else.

Last week I wrote an entry about Outside Lands, the two-day music festival held in Golden Gate Park.  As mentioned below, I procrastinated on looking up a band name and didn't get around to posting it.  Written in the past, it seems silly to post it as its own entry.  And I make the rules here, so here's an "embedded entry:"

A week ago Friday, while perusing weekend happenings, I discovered this two-day concert called outside lands.  I never make it to the whole show for these festivals; it's more of a get-back-into-what-the-rest-of-the-world-is-listening-to thing.  And long days of music outdoors is always relaxing, whether it's classical (rare), metal (rare), or something in between (most things).

Al Green was amazing.  He does things with his voice that few even try.  Social distortion was fun, and their Johnny Cash closer was a great burst of outdoor energy.  Furthur was unexpected, since I've never listened to the Grateful Dead.  One of those random omissions; no real reason.  The music was great, and they played quite a while, which was a great close to Saturday.  Their cover of Time, was, of course, a fun surprise.  Some of the best music was on the smaller stages.  Favorites were Aterciopelados, from Bogota, and Beats Antique.  Each was far more original than many of the headliners.

Empire of the Sun I should say something about.  They were definitely…interesting.  Costumes and danceable electronica and an interesting light and video show.  But after the 5th song that was the same, I needed a reprieve.  I once had MIchael Jackson's Dangerous on in the car while driving my mom, since I was paying attention to rhythm a lot at the time, and it seemed pretty mom-friendly.  Halfway through she told she was tired of hearing the same song on repeat.  It caught me off guard, but I expect this was the same effect.

That's that entry.  Then I wrote this one, about a film I saw.

I rented Collapse the other night, since I was looking for a documentary that makes you think (about something other than quaternion math).   A man collapsing as he studies collapse.   I'm getting distracted away from movies a lot right now, since I have far too much work on my mind, but his emotional moments pulled me back in.  

i really liked the talking head staging set in a dark room.  It really tells you that this film is about him, and not so much about the story he is telling, although that gets your attention too.  The story is a theory of the in-progress collapse of western society.  Many points I agree with, but his expected conclusion I do not.  Personally, I think some people will put up with hardship of a growing world with limited resources, while others will jump at the chance to innovate.  The innovation is happening now, but it's crawling.  When energy loss really starts to affect a lot of people is when it will take off.  

After that entry was written, I rented The Man from Space, which was also really good.

Watching these is becoming a late-night mental release from the far--too-constrained mental efforts of rewriting the related work section of my thesis.  It was long and rambling.  I cut it in half in terms of length, and that's with more content included.  

Two days ago, it occurred to me that the real reason putting a thesis into a finished form, instead of scattered bits of writing, is hard, is that it's boring me out of my mind.  Finishing the related work had to be the worst, which I completed today.  There's still a few references to add, but the structure is all the way it should be now, and it stands as I want it.  That said, the creative work on this is long since done, so it's come down to time-management mind-games that I'm playing with myself to keep it moving.  

A few days ago had one of the most fun time-management mind games.  I ignored the thesis, I rented a car, and I took off to do four random hikes, without much of a plan.  Surprisingly, I saw a whale breaching off of Point Reyes (it's not the season for it).  I don't know that I've ever seen a whale, but I was endlessly fascinated by them as a child, and seeing one unexpectedly was really great.  

The other excuse for the trip was to draw.  Not to create drawings, but to draw.  Having done it intensely in the past and having set it aside while I was in the "thesis trenches, " as I call last year, it was way overdo.  They were fairly bad drawings, since it was more about the act of moving a pencil around on paper and picking and choosing what to show.  Landscape gestures from the top of Mt Tam.  I made a few more today.  It's a mental loosening-up, in a way.

That all said, the next part of the thesis will move more quickly, probably taking a week, and then the revision will be half finished.  Then there's some fun things to do. 

And to make the context of this entry even stranger, it was written a couple days ago.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

heat wave

I have an unfinished post that is a week old, but I'm procrastinating looking up one word for it.  So I'm going to move on until I deprocrastinate on that looking up that word.

We're having a very short heat wave, but hot enough that it threw off my writing routine today.  I've fallen into a good rhythm of writing for a couple hours after breakfast, getting some exercise, than heading out to a cafe to write again for the afternoon.  I've set myself an aggressive deadline, so there's occasionally a third stint of writing in the evening.  It's probably the least rewarding piece of writing I've ever done, but also the longest.  The combination of an aggressive time frame and a strict routine seem to be about the only way I'll get it finished though, so that's the time management game of the moment.

But I was sluggish through my morning writing.  Then I drank about two gallons of water while exercising.  I took a shower and still felt sluggish.  Something was up, so I checked the weather.  It said 96.  I thought it was a cached value from the trip to Florida or something.  No, it was 96.  Being an east--coaster, the lack of humidity threw me off completely.

Unfortunately I don't handle heat well for mentally intense work, so writing went nowhere after that.  After getting through one paragraph in a half hour and reading that the heat wave would last two days, I decided to toss it aside til the temperature drops.  It's like day and night.  The last time this happened, a cold front blew through dramatically to end it, and it was like suddenly drinking three cups of coffee.  Experience tells me to wait, since that breath of fresh air will kick everything back into gear, and that'll probably get me caught up  in a day or two.

Now, about rhythm.  This more freeform, fun writing, just comes out fine.  I think it's the entertainment value of creating it, while the "day--job" writing requires concentration on many more things, most of which have nothing to do with the writing itself.  It's mostly concentration to say no to every distraction that calls out your name.  Like the top of the door that just might need to be dusted, because cleaning that would be more entertaining than the day job writing.  It really doesn't need dusted, and that next paragraph needs to be put together.  Do that about 600 more times and you get to be finished!

This entry is lacking in much real content, but it really much more of a tool, to make Friday's writing resume.  It's about rhythm.  A light-hearted stretch between longer, less fun stretches that make you want to do strange things like dust the top of the door.

I am not going to go dust the top of the door now.

Friday, August 13, 2010


I went to siggraph for three days this year, rather than the full week.  I tend to get exhausted at siggraph--it's non-stop learning, catching up with people, socializing, seeing incredible ideas, and sneaking in a few hours of sleep a night.  I took a 6am flight down to see most of the morning sessions and decided that shuttles are still too much of a waste of time (it took well longer to get from the airport to the hotel than the duration of the flight).  

There were two big topics at the conference I was interested in.  The first is controllers for character animation, mostly in terms of walking.  The big trend this year was the use of simplified physical models, especially inverted pendulum models, to plan and control the motion of more complex articulated characters.  Having seen some of this work grow to maturity behind the scenes before it was published, it's nice to see a large portion of the field thinking the same way about a problem.  In coming years, if the presentations become more concise and the ideas are generalized to more types of motion, this could start to have a big impact in the game world.

Fluid simulation is the other area that work that really caught my interest.  Surface tracking is a big thing, using geometric processing steps interleaved with simulation steps.  The detail looks great, although some approaches are somewhat conservative in terms of trying to keep things from breaking apart.  There's also interesting work on adapting grid resolution and non-grid domains for specific simulation steps to increase detail.

The electronic theatre was great this year.  Some years it feels gimmicky, but many more pieces were quite original this time.  Some favorites are The Light of Life, Loom, The Lost Thing, Poppy, and Upgrades.

Emerging Technologies can be hit or miss, but there's usually one or two things that are really really cool.  I only saw about a third of it, but a friend pointed me to a voice-responsive zoetrope from Disney, which was made using hand drawn expressions on ping pong balls.  It has the right mix of hand-made originality, technical wizardry, and charm, which probably makes it the most fun thing I saw all week.

Of course, siggraph has parties.  Since we started our own a couple years ago, I've become less interested in finding them as opposed to helping put one together.  We handed this year's organizing off to UBC, who did a great job.  The number of people doubled again, which is good, and quite amazing considering the small group on a patio that it grew out of a couple years back.  

One final thought: The food choices near the conference center have significantly improved since two years ago, although I did end up on one walk with someone who stubbornly believed there had to be something good a little further away too.  He was proven wrong, of course, but most people have to see downtown LA culture to believe it.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Deface Book

I'm taking this blog off the Facebook broadcasting.  I feel it's good to have it in public, since it constrains my writing, but I've come to have an odd behavior pattern with Facebook.  Basically, I don't want that many people knowing what I'm thinking or doing on any given day, at any given moment.  It used to be amusing, but now it's kind of strange.  It might be that in a sufficiently large crowd, I'm always quiet.  Hence how many blog posts have been written in the last year.  So while you're more than welcome to read or not read it, I don't want to throw it at you.  

But it's an overdue blog post, at a time when I'm spending a few days reorganizing a lot of life logistics to get a really really big project moving again and wrapped up.  So there's a lot on my mind.  And I'll write about it in coming posts.  Or I won't.  That's the beauty of the blog.  I can abandon it for weeks, or months at a time.  But it's always there waiting for itself to be revisited.  Kind of like Lisey's story.  I've been reading it in parts since 2006.  It's probably one of the most-traveled books out there, in that it's been all over the world.  I take it on every trip.  Some trips I read it on, others I don't.  It's actually quite good, but I'm enjoying it enough to _really_ take my time with it.  

I might or might not write about running, tar balls, siggraph, oysters, lists, music composition, and the strange act of working at home for a while.  

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Saturday, March 06, 2010

More Trees

As requested by Pete C...bad CG trees.  Apologies to Patricio and Gonzalo.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Monday, March 01, 2010

used skulls

san francisco, 2006


yosemite, 2005

Saturday, February 27, 2010