Poetry, music, and color

March 5, 2008 at 3:08 pm | Posted in artsy, computers, design, literature, music, programming, school | Leave a comment
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[poem visualizer, designed by me]

One in the morning isn’t always the best time to embark on programming projects of indeterminate length and scope. I learned that last night when, after having spent most of the afternoon and evening on a take-home midterm for my visualization class, I was beset with the dilemma of the extra credit problem. “Design your own poetry visualization,” along the lines of Poetry on the Road. This is a series of graphic designs commissioned each year by the Internationales Literaturfestival Bremen, designed by a team of professional graphic artists led by Boris Müller. The two things that immediately struck me about these graphics were 1) their juxtaposition of visual complexity and conceptual simplicity, and 2) their obvious requirement of a vastly greater number of hours — and sheer programming virtuosity — than the 24 hour maximum allotted for my midterm.

I must’ve been struck with temporary amnesia, or just had an acute attack of masochism, because I promptly forgot about the 3 problem sets that I had been saving up my sleep-hours for later in the week, and proceeded to bang away at Processing (coolest programming language ever) for the next 3 hours. The result, humble by the standards of any legitimate computer artist — but hopefully not of my exam grader — is this, a grid of colored squares representing “The Wasteland” by T.S. Eliot. I chose the poem mainly because it was long enough to really show patterns in my algorithm, but not so long as to crash the program. (although I would like to run Paradise Lost or The Iliad through, just for kicks.)
Continue Reading Poetry, music, and color…


February 26, 2008 at 12:23 am | Posted in artsy, books, computers, design, geeky, internet, school | 3 Comments
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Community of Variation
[via Context Free Art Gallery and Community of Variation]

For a computer science assignment last week I wrote a program with a friend in Scheme that generates sentences using context-free grammar. By specifying a few basic rules for parts of speech and including a simple word list, you can get some remarkably coherent results — coherent, that is, in a strictly grammatical, minimalist sense. There’s actually no attention paid to the meaning of the words used, or to their relationship with each other, a consequence of the grammar being “context-free.” We had a few laughs using our program to generate bogus math proofs, but instead of puzzling you with a slew of inside jokes and insomnia-induced geekiness, I’ll point your way to a much more impressive — not to mention amusing — application of the same algorithm, this time used to generate an entire scientific paper. You can even put your own name down as an author! Here’s an example passage:

We question the need for digital-to-analog converters. It should be noted that we allow DHCP to harness homogeneous epistemologies without the evaluation of evolutionary programming [2], [12], [14]. Contrarily, the lookaside buffer might not be the panacea that end-users expected. However, this method is never considered confusing. Our approach turns the knowledge-base communication sledgehammer into a scalpel.
[Stribling et. al (PDF)]

Not too bad for randomly generated babble, is it? Continue Reading Context-free…

Made for me

February 9, 2008 at 3:01 am | Posted in design, harvard, internet, programming, rambling, school, science | Leave a comment
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[via flight404]

I love shopping week at the beginning of every semester, because it is a time of beautiful leisure and carefree distraction.

Okay, so I skip class for a couple days. But consider this–other, much more ambitious students will go to 20 classes that they don’t end up taking. And guess what? I also end up not taking those same 20 classes! I’ve effectively simulated Ivy-league-grade ambition by sitting in my room and surfing YouTube, and nobody is the wiser. A pareto-efficient transaction of sorts, between myself and The Man. (Maybe you question the correctness of my econ verbiage here. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I never sat in on any econ classes.)

Ah! But even without me once having to go outside, that perfect someone or something (but actually some thing) still strikes me like a thunderbolt between the eyes. Continue Reading Made for me…

Worse Than Heroin

January 15, 2008 at 2:19 am | Posted in blogging, design, geeky, internet, music, procrastination | Leave a comment
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My internet addiction has recently gotten much worse, but probably because in the last month or so I’ve discovered more useful and profoundly interesting sites than in the past 10 years of websurfing put together. Some of this may be from having glued my eyes to a screen for 12 hours yesterday working on my Computer Science 50 final, but I can’t help but feel as if I just woke up from a long nap and realized that the Internet isn’t about shitty frames interfaces and 2-page personal sites anymore. Here are some of my favorite new discoveries (which probably aren’t new by any other sense of the word — I just take a while to react to things as trendy as computers):

Hype Machine. Basically a way to sample any song you ever wanted to hear about (and even a lot that you never did). Sooooo good. This is where I first got into dirty electro rock pop, by recommendation from a long-lost friend I found on Facebook (appropriately enough). Now I can’t get enough.

Lolcats. And apparently loldogs too, as of a few days ago. Probably impossible to explain–you’ll just have to see for yourself.

Design blogs (Skelliewag.org, N.Design Studio, kevadamson.com). My desperate procrastination-cum-rediscovery of “art” (i.e. doodling on sketchpads and trying to impress friends with likenesses of trees) earlier this semester has morphed into something horrible and grotesque. It’s worse than a heroin addiction and almost as expensive (okay, so a trip to Utrecht won’t set you back as much as fetching some Blue Magic, but I haven’t even gotten into painting yet…). It’s mutated through a “silly Illustrator drawing” phase, to a “silly real-life drawing” phase, culminating in a “passive amazement at other people’s much more talented drawings on Illustrator” phase. The weird appeal of drawing is easiest to explain to a 4th grader and probably most difficult to anyone who has gotten themselves into any sort of real profession, especially one that involves a lot of following orders and deadlines.

Webcomics, and comic-like ridiculous internet memes. (xkcd, dinosaur comics, gapingvoid) Alright, XKCD has been ruining my GPA for months already, but it was only recently when I looked over a list of participants at ROFLCon this year that I realized I was missing out on so much more. XKCD is still the classic for me, an extremely relatable (to me, which means it won’t be for most of the rest of the human population, unless you enjoy reading this blog) blend of math/science/computer geekdom with the sort of high school sentimentality that you never really manage to purge from your thoughts. Think that’s weird? You probably don’t want to go down the list. None of these comics are conventional, and some verge on the downright Dada (see white ninja for an example of how no amount of nothingness can be made into humor).

Good old personal blogs (a friend, an artist/fellow student, a bunch of funny fellow students, a funny random blogger, another designer). They’re just getting more and more powerful. Yeah, I know, people have been raving about the amazingness of personal publishing, viral blog posts, etc. for years, but I guess it never really struck me how remarkable this was until now. I used to trawl through blogspot or wordpress for ages and not find anything I liked enough to return to…now that I’ve gotten a point of entry to the world of the “serious blogger” (red flag: it’s hosted on <artsyobscurename>.com as opposed to the plain vanilla <user>.wordpress.com accounts), following their blogrolls is taking me places I’ve never gone before in my life, for example to the eye surgeon, to get my poor eyeballs replaced.

I apologize if this post has ruined your productivity for the rest of your life. No but seriously, I do need to rest these eyes. By reading this incredibly interesting article about internet memes, that is!

Vector Portraits, Z & L

December 23, 2007 at 11:00 pm | Posted in artsy, design | Leave a comment
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Two more vectors

December 9, 2007 at 5:02 pm | Posted in artsy, computers, design, silly nonsense | 1 Comment
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As you can see, I haven’t gotten a lot of work done this week. These are the first two of 5 vector portraits I’m doing of my roommates (plus myself). They’ll all be integrated into some kind of poster/decoration eventually…



Some of the line drawing is a little dubious, especially the parts on the second image where I had to make up areas that were cut off in the reference photograph. This is probably where it helps to be good at drawing in real life.

What I’m learning about time management skills

December 4, 2007 at 11:58 pm | Posted in artsy, design, geeky, humor, life | Leave a comment
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Illustrator > Homework.


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