Tricks 2005

Halloween Costumes 2005

Two rolls of 120: One HP5+, one Neopan 400, Xtol 1+1 12 mins

Since the G1 gave up the ghost some weeks ago I've been loaning my DSLR to Rebecca most every day — a prime reason that there've been so few new digital pix here since September. And my backlog of undeveloped film has grown again — shooting almost exclusively with the Bronica.

BTW, wearing high heels and spiderweb leggings under your robe does not constitute a "jedi hooker" costume, and the council will hear about this.

Posted October 31, 2005 | Comments (2)

31

485_8508.jpgI noticed that my jeans were loose, and on a lark tried on a pair of 31-waist jeans, not really expecting to be able to put them on at all. Amazingly, they fit! And they feel good. And to complete my silly self-adoration, they make my legs look a lot better than the size 34 (and even size 36) jeans that I've had lying around.

I'm surprised? Yeah, I'm surprised.

I guess it goes hand in hand with the recent discovery that I could wear my old surf rash guard, or the college-vintage jacket I wore to the local Mensan Halloween party on Saturday night (drunken pirates arguing superstring theory and fractional-spin Fermions — gotta love it). Back to my early Hawaii sizes, before the spam musubi overtook the swimming (and before moving back to the mainland almost killed all physical activity other than typing).

While my BMI is hardly in the underweight range, according to demographics I'm apparently in the slimmest 11% of the male US population... a somewhat disturbing factoid, to my mind. I doubt I'd be rated as anything beyond "average" in any other country, but here in the land of Super-Sized it's another story.

While I'm happy snuggling myself into a spandex shirt, I doubt, however, that I'll take Rebecca's excited suggestion for a body wax. Even my vanity has some limit.

Yeah, right.

Posted October 30, 2005 | Comments (0)

Charlier Cut

This past week I've been learning the Charlier Cut, a one-handed bit of playing-card flourish. Today after I failed at it using Pokemon cards, a friend showed me a different one-handed cut she knew, whose origins and name she couldn't recall. I struggled with it, trying to remember the placements of the fingers she'd so rapidly and dextrously deployed, the pattern of twists and reverses. The cards kept scattering on my lap or springing in all directions across the table

An hour passed, and as I was busy talking to someone else the cards were there in my hand, rolling back and forth, and I realized that I'd executed a host of perfect cuts, one after another, semi-consciously and most importantly without looking or thinking — just letting the shape of the cards, the natural motions of my hands and gravity handle the rest. Stop thinking and let it flow.

If I looked at what I was doing, plop the cards were on the floor. So I walked around Vallco mall, letting my mind worry about navigation and shopper-avoidance while my thumb pushed the top half of the deck around, down, around down, around, down....

When I got home I broke out a pack of Kems — too slippery. Fancy-pants cards are not needed here. A $1.19 Long's Drug deck worked great. And now the Charlier: pinch, drop, push, snap, pinch, drop, push, snap... and as long as I didn't look, I could execute it over and again. I can be so cool, if I can just stop being so self-conscous about it. Stop analyzing, stop feeling like I' a spectator of my own actions.

The obvious metaphors for my return to single life keep hovering over my mind, mocking me from just out of reach. Stop thinking about it, let fingers and gravity do their natural work. Bwaaaahahahaha

I hate the obvious metaphors.

Posted October 29, 2005 | Comments (0)

Calling Dr. Me

I'm not a real doctor, but I am really me. I got a session accepted for the IS&T/SPIE Electronic Imaging 2006 conference, coming up in January. In an unusual move for me, this will be a purely-tech talk — I might try blowing a little art smack, but it is what it says: "Image Processing on Parallel GPU Units."

Oddly, my acceptance letter came addressed to "Dr. Kevin Bjorke." Never knew it was that easy.

I'll also be a speaker at GDC in March — giving a production-centered presentation titled "When Shaders and Textures Collide."

Posted October 23, 2005 | Comments (0)

Hacked-Up Life

Empty Desk = Empty MindI had meant to spend a couple of brief minutes this morning writing about how incredibly busy I have been in recent days, how fragmented it often seems as I leap between multiple tasks roles/mental frameworks/whatever hat-related-metaphors. Funny thing is that I was too busy to get to it. Well, not that funny.

The five computers (sharing four monitors) on my desk (plus the hidden sixth one, used to snap the pic) are only the start — the snap doesn't show the other three computers on my workdesk at home (augmented by the traveling Dell as #4) or the Tivo or the kids or the actual physical 43 folders sitting next to the kitchen phone or the developer events or the time spent trying to prove to myself that I am actually a social person or the workouts or the latest stack of books that's been growing and spreading in the space around my bed (still no time for Happiness BTW).

By happy (?) irony, the bloglines today are full of quiet whispers about this New York Times article called "Meet the Life Hackers" which specifically addresses the topic of attention scatter. I love their description of the work of UCI professor Gloria Mark: "she set out to measure precisely how nuts we've all become."

I've written here in the past about attention being the great scarcity item of the current age — specifically about it as a limiter for the potential growth of services and social networks like flickr. There are only so many minutes in the day, only so many of them can we spend switching between contexts and on emotional refractory periods (unless we prefer to avoid all emotional involvement in any of our tasks), and we are all stuck — like it or not — facing our own internal Dunbar number (whose effects I watched vividly some years ago at Pixar, when it grew to 200 employees and then bifurcated the workforce into two buildings...). You can only have so many active friends. You can only read so many blogs. At some point even the best content, in excess and without structure, reduces to valueless noise.

(Art-world aside: this factor may be a key one in distinguishing the work of Chris Jordan from that of Ed Burtynsky — Chris embraces the noise. But that's another post!)

You can use other human readers as a helpful filter, a la del.icio.us and now flock but even then there's a danger, as evidenced by the recent swell of support for "Web 2.0" followed by a new murmuring undercurrent of concern over groupthink, driven by too many people reading the same RSS feeds at the same time. A crowd does, via simple evolutionary process, filter noise — but when you follow the crowd, you're — following the crowd.

What's not entirely clear to me is whether this is all a bad thing. Perhaps in the spirit of Lakoff (or even neuro-liguistic programming, whether you buy its whole package or not) we should consider the framing provided by our language. Is the simple term "interuption" a negative or positive one? What about "news"? "Surprise"? Is it better to be "scattered" or to be a "busy bee"? What was that about idle hands?

Posted October 21, 2005 | Comments (0)

NV.IDIO.TS 2.0

I started using a new del.icio.us account recently, specifically to share GPU-related research and resources with developers and co-workers.

Why a new account, rather than some handily-unique tag? Mostly so that the account could be shared by my colleagues, separately from their or my personal accounts.

If you're interested in these sorts of resources, compiled by a group who really are the best in the world at these things, subscribe...

... and if you're really keen on them, add a badge to your web page or browser.

Posted October 20, 2005 | Comments (0)

Margo Davis Workshop

John ErhartThis past weekend was the Margo Davis "Photographing People" workshop, offered through UC Santa Cruz and given nearby in Palo Alto. This was actually the first sort of photo class I've taken since my brief distribution semester back at CalArts...

Margo is a well-known B&W portraitist and creator of the recent book and gallery show Under One Sky. The course brought in students of varying interests, levels of experience, and backgrounds; and she was great at being inclusive and attentive to all.

Margo is small and very kinetic — watching her work with another student as a subject, and then in her suggestions to my own shooting, I came to appreciate how that same (inate?) kinesthetic and spatial sense could be (and was) reflected in her way of posing subjects, moving the camera, etc.

I was happy with the experience because I learned a lot of things that I wasn't really expecting to learn from really everyone there, including the formal characteristics of what Margo describes as "edge of the forest" lighting, which is what I used for the portrait at right, of activist and co-student John Erhart.

I'll try to post some other photos from the workshop to flickr in coming days, under the shared tag margo_davis.

Posted October 13, 2005 | Comments (2)

As If I Were Surprised

From the Merc: Silicon Valley Hurting for Culture

"A majority of regional leaders believe Silicon Valley is losing ground in its ability to attract a creative workforce, in part because of an inadequate cultural environment, according to a new survey."

What seems evident from my silicon valley cubicle is that there are biases within the question itself which point a finger directly at the reasons for this perceived lack. The purpose of the arts is not to enhance the creativity (read: economic value) of the general workforce.

Here's one economic indicator, however:

"Silicon Valley fares less well regarding professional art venues, at least in budgets. The survey notes that although the South Bay now has triple the population of San Francisco, that city's non-profit arts economy is approximately three times larger than the $107.3 million budgeted by the 111 non-profit organizations who responded to a related 23-question survey. In fact, the combined operating budgets of the San Francisco Symphony and the Opera alone exceed the total budgets of the 111 South Bay organizations."

Posted October 08, 2005 | Comments (0)

No Excuse

DigitalProductionsCardkey

I keep telling myself that my perpetual smirk came from a diving accident about five years ago. Today I found this old cardkey for the DP Cray lab. Another theory shot to hell!

"Senior Technical Director" w00t!

Posted October 07, 2005 | Comments (1)

What's On My Treo?

Okay, I've succumbed to the meme, and already seem to be in a mood for lists. My Treo is an oh-so-not-2006 model, a Treo 600, but T-Mobile doesn't support the 650 (at least, they didn't when I bought the 600).

Moving more apps online belies what's going on with the phone, I've come to realize. The presence of a simple web browser doesn't tell you a thing about the flickr and rojo and rabble accounts that may be lurking wirelessly out of sight. But here's the list anyway:

Replacements:
Initiate was a whim purchase last week. Well worth the trouble as a replacement for the regular launcher.
Xiino likewise replaced Palm's "Blazer" web browser for the sake of its speed.
SnapperMail supplanted Palm's anemic mailer and works with my gmail account.
EasyCalc not only rocks, it's on SourceForge
Hi-Note replaces the Memo pd, is heirarchical, and has drawing tools. Sweet.
Wired:
iPedia is a dedicated, fast link to WikiPedia. Always handy at the museum to be able to casually observe: "Yes, this Corsus et Callirhoe is all very nice but really you know Fragonard just painted what he thought the judges would like so he could get into the Academie — I don't really buy all that later eulogising by Diderot." Or the ability to figure out just what OMFUG means.
Causerie for IM -- you can spot me on AIM when using it as "DeepEyeSeven" or "BotzMobile"
Adobe Reader is worthwhile when you're too tired to fetch a book. Currently I keep a full copy of David Hurn's and Bill Jay's On Being a Photographer loaded.
Documents to Go & HandZip
I still haven't decided about Hand/RSS
Noah Lite is my quick dictionary when I can't hit Wikipedia.
Tired:
Building this list, I realize there are apps I never use, like DiddleBug. I'm sure someone loves this app but it, and a few others, haven't been too compelling for me. I'll leave them out.
Pix:
Foto Timer is indispensable to my darkroom work — the series of segments, corresponding to different parts of each process, make all the difference in keeping my results consistent.
Sadly, GoPix no longer works for me on the Treo, after long faithful service on the Visor.
pCAM & pCINE are lens calculators driven by PocketC
Pickem tries to suppress the cheezy camera artifacts. Then again I like the cheezy camera artifacts
Qset lets me control the quality of camera pix. I leave it at 85, mostly
SplashPhoto has a better viewer than Palm's, but I still use the Palm camera app
Misc:
Portable Keyboard I thought the external keyboards were just pretentious coffee-house affectations until I tried one. HUGE difference, it really transforms the use of email and Hi-Note, even SMS — and it does fit in a (large) pocket.
OmniRemote I used to use this a lot at Square, but not so much any more.
TinySheet is crucial. Not great for huge spreadsheets, but terrific for tracking stocks, keeping track of car data, lens tables, and it's Excel-compatible.
My Learn Alpha is always loaded with Kanji. Not thaty I can read them worth a darn.
Games & Entertainment:
Alchemy!
Bejeweled
Hold'em
GTuner sounds loud and a bit annoying but it does let you tune your guitar any time, any where.
pTunes consumes most of my 1GB SD card — it plays un-DRM'd MP3's. People complain about the battery usage but it doesn't bother me a bit. No trouble. Plus, pTunes works through headphones or in a pinch, the built-in speakerphone speaker — a feature ipod doesn't have.
I got a copy PalmaSutra a while back, when I was using my Visor Platinum. Can't say I actually access it much but I leave it loaded on the Treo for a sort of sentimental wonder: with each page of instructions there's an extra area for writing notes. One can imagine: "#43, The Nail: Difficult to reach phone."
Posted October 06, 2005 | Comments (0)

Homebody

Tonight, perhaps for the first night in a while, I managed to stay home mostly, save for a jot to the market. It let me knock-off the last bits of several library books that I'd been lingering on, but that are now due to return to their many homes across the state:

  • Masahisa Fukase: The Solitude of Ravens
  • Robert Adams: From theMissouri West
  • Robert Adams: What We Bought
  • Dianne Arbus: Magazine Work
  • Andre Kertesz: Diary of Light 1912-1985
  • Terry Hope: Fine Art Photography: Creatring Beautiful Images for Sale and Display
  • Kathryn Marx: Photography for the Art Market
  • Harry Benson: Harry Benson's America
  • Michael Kenna: Night Work
  • Michael Kenna: Calais Lace

All photo books, heh — I didn't actually expect that this time 'round. And most all of them books I've had out before. Guess I just needed the company of old friends.

A few nights back I purchased Seligman's Authentic Happiness and even signed up for his web program but so far I haven't had time to even start on authentic happiness, just my usual ad-hoc franken-happiness.

Posted October 05, 2005 | Comments (0)

Memento

The last few days have been something of an information whirlwind. Tonight's end was something of a respite, going to the PhotoAlliance session with photographer Alec Soth, whose quiet, vulnerable portraits are information-dense but still: quiet, to be absorbed at a human pace. I look forward to his next book, Niagra, on the subject of love at the Falls...

While a fan of Soth's photos I was unaware of how he presents himself, having only seen John Perkinson's portrait — I wasn't expecting him to be nearly as cheerful, approachable, and self-deprecating in person as he actually is. And within that was still the thought process, the awareness of the he called "photography's natural sort of melancholy ... beauty fades, people die, and photography tries to hold on...which has a kind of sadness."

Soth said his primary theory about photography is: that photography is essentially non-narrative, it fails at storytelling because unlike a novel, it lacks the inexorable "drive" of a novel, to proceed page upon page. There is no such engine in photography. What is the engine in photography, then? The reflection on the life experience of the photographer. As an illustration he chose the end of Robert Franks The Americans, Frank's family asleep in the car, exhausted companions on Frank's personal quest through America and along his own road of loneliness and longing.

(Soth later said that photographs suggest narrative — in this way they are more like short poems, a metaphor used by other photographers as well. Even me)

"Dream Big," he wrote in my copy of Sleeping by the Mississippi.

Having wine & pretzels afterwards, I also met David Maisel, whose work I have admired, and Linda Connor, fresh back from India, and whose photos I had seen and written about just last week.

My box of unprocessed 120 and 220 rolls is approaching capacity. I need to do some souping.

Prior to the Soth talk, a flood of computer information in the form of the San Francisco leg of the Autodesk 3DS Max "Get Real" tour over at the Metreon, promoting the new version 8, the works of lots of Max users (often going to the these events is worth it just to watch lots of great demo reels), and they started things off with a crowd shocker by announcing Autodesk's acquisition of Alias. (And then, while we were munching on that information, piling-on the demos and features of the new Max. I missed a fair bit I think, as I was busily poking emails into my phone... but I was very happy to see how much asset-management has come to the fore in the current suite of Max improvements).

Prior to that, I'd stopped for a few minutes to buy some gifts, and wandered into a bookstore out of random curiosity... always looking for good art books. A photo of the Dalai Lama reminded me of a different book I'd heard of but not seen (in fact I wasn't 100% sure it actually existed!), but whose title had entertained me: If the Buddha Dated. I didn't find it, but a saleswoman helped me look, and while she was at it and after we shared a drink and chatted and I special-ordered the books and we talked for a while more about offshore-software-development security issues (she surprised me by being an expert security analyst and coder, besides volunteering at the bookstore), animation, the EFF, Violet Blue, spiritual quests, the alleged existence of a town called "Pleasanton," and evil. I'm a little nervous about the evil part...

...anyway the chat did a tremendous amount to lighten my day, which was coming in from a blast of other comprehension-overwhelming web and work experiences, writing shaders, the Google Office announcement, shuffling family issues for Rosh Hashanah, and a big pile of amazing data and links on my del.icio.us and cross-references from my bloglines feeds. I've been developing some personal ideas about computation, experience, the embodiment of thought and mobility, concepts of the self and its relation to others (aka "communication").... and reading a lot of material that skirts around the edeges of my vision but nothing that addresses it squarely. I feel a manifesto on the subject — maybe a definition of the subject as I see it — coming up at some point in the near future.

As I was driving away toward the Metreon, it struck me that I'd had similar experiences multiple times in the past week or so — unexpected, personally-meaningful and connected conversations with attractive, smart, interesting women — in which I hadn't thought even once to take pictures. What the hell is wrong with me? The possible ramifications on the topic of "Why I Make Pictures" flipflopped through my mind all through the hour-long drive back to the Silicon Valley.

Posted October 04, 2005 | Comments (0)

Adams & Company

Friday saw the members' reception for the new SFMOMA Photo Exhibit, Robert Adams: Turning Back. I missed my friend Graham but did run into a pair of double former colleagues, Matt Pharr & Craig Kolb; like myself veterans of both NVIDIA and Pixar (though I'm still at NVIDIA every day, thank you). As it happens, Craig's wife Corey is one of the curators for photography, and besides having mysterious powers over the bartenders, she also introduced me directly to Sandra Philips, senior curator of photography, whom I'd seen at events but never met (Sandy had introduced Eikoh Hosoe last week, for example — a role she regularly assumes for PhotoAlliance, which I had thought was simply due not to her official station but to her obvious personal knowledge and appreciation of, and friendship to, Hosoe).

As for the show itself, I found it... difficult. The photographs were sometimes terrific — the first handful got me excited, and here and there others did as well, but in the end I couldn't help but feel that it couldn't match Adams's greater and earlier works, particularly What We Bought (amazing at every level) and From the Missouri West. While sharing many of the same subjects and Adams's characteristic use of naked, mid-day light to augment the bareness of the land, in the end I was left wanting something more, both something more in terms of purpose and principle (Adams has already photographed and written eloquently on many of these same land-use and historical topics), and also in method, these photographs looking much as his earlier ones had, though with a stronger sense of the vertical and frame-edge exit points, perhaps informed by works like Friedlander's Stems and Sticks and Stones. Most of all, these new photos, while perhaps similar meditations, seem far less personal. In the previous works I felt that Adams explored the environment and point of history in which he (as we) were embedded, part of a very individual experience. While these new photographs are each specific (as photographs usually are), the themes seem over-arching and addressed socially, rather than to Adams as a sole observer.

I'll go back another time, to see if my perceptions vary.

The other photo galleries had also seen their displays refreshed: a number of new acquisitions, not particularly surprising but worth getting in front of the public: a pair of Loretta Lux portraits, one of Simon Norfolk's Afghan landscapes, etc. I was also struck by a trio of Gene Smith Pittsburg photographs, at once characteristic Smith in their printing and tonality but surprising to me in that they were all landscapes. And every one good.

Some other smaller exhibitions opened over the past week, they'll each get their turns: new Burtynsky at 49 Geary, Michael Kenna just down the street at the deSaisset, and another PhotoAlliance talk, this time with Alec Soth, on Tuesday evening.

Posted October 02, 2005 | Comments (0)