Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Powers

So I have finally bought an Inkling.

What is an Inkling? It's a product by Wacom- makers of fantastical tablets for digital drawing- that is an actual real life pen and sensor combo that digitally records sketches. This is different from the AMAZING Livescribe pen which is great for text and audio (for, say, lectures or meetings!) but only works on special paper (the science behind it is really neat). Wacom works on any paper and is basically magic.

The Inkling came out around this time last year and it was for about 5 seconds a big hit. And then it imploded. If you see side-by-side comparisons between the original sketches and the results it's wince worthy horrible (especially by people who don't respect the requirements-- like line of sight between sense and pen for one thing). If your style of sketch is a single pure line, this is not the product for you. Luckily I am more forgiving. When using a pen, I do the scribbly sketch style (not as well as some) but enough scribbles that the occasional drift looks just fine.

The Inkling product is lovely, compact, and just what I need given my apathy these days for scanning in artwork. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all my digital doodles though. I feel that my posting of many sketches in college helped me maintain artistic momentum, which I desire, but I lack the copious quantity of angsty posts to go with them. Am contemplating a tumblr account for just images... (although the odds of me posting an image without going "blah blah blah" are rather slim.)

The images are recorded at stupid high resolution- click on the above image of the Hugz Monster and then download the image to see the full scale of what maybe a 3"x3" sketch on paper. At least you can see that the lines are pressure sensitive as advertised. I've found that routinely reducing down to 12% brings the image down to near (enough) the original size and looks best.

I've consciously decided not to post side-by-side comparisons. The originals look better then the digitizations, but dwelling on that is not productive. I need to just focus on working with what I got.

I enjoyed using it at last night's gaming session- I always doodle during them and it's cute to be able to access the results so easily. Game sketches are often low on quality but highly pleasing to me for the memories they trigger.

I've taken to carrying it with me all the time now so anything is possible.

Along with the Inkling, I am always and even more so carrying my Kindle around. Have I ranted here yet about how much I love that damn thing? (joking- I know I have) Made super good use of it during my recent trips, travels, and not-working-ness. I hope that the sketching and reading can be tied together... For example, a doodle covering my "Ugly Boys" reading (as opposed to my "Red Women" selection)

  • Immortal Lycanthropes - I absolutely love the style of writing in this- grab the Kindle sample and you'll see what I mean. Ugly characters make me smile. The world and story were interesting, the action fast paced, and the conclusion cute and neatly tied up. (avoid being spoiled at all costs) This is a stand alone novel about a young boy and shape shifters. No romance, just action and fun writing. Recommended!
  • Warm Bodies - around the time I saw the horrible World War Z trailer, I also saw a trailer for the movie adaptation of this book. It looked cute and I had the time (12 hours on a plane back to be exact) so I grabbed it. It's amusing and fun like cotton candy. The ending is rather sloppy and doesn't make that much sense, but that's not the point you're reading it for. Zombie/Human RomCom story. Recommended for die hard zombie or cute YA romance book fans.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fall 2012 Europe trip

Upon recent reflection, both Adam and I are somewhat appalled with how much travel we've done this year. That sort of life style isn't really "us" and I think we both look forward to doing less next year. As silly as that may sound.

This most recent trip was mostly due to Adam needing to go to Munich, Germany for work and then to Lyon, France for a conference. It was a great motivator for me to finally quit my job (something I'd been talking about doing for quite some time) and away we went for 3 weeks in late October to Europe.

A lovely collection of photos from the trip has been posted to my Flickr account over here.

I could have many comments on the trip in abstract, many of which I wrote down in order to help myself sleep, but a fragment of what I wrote summarizes it best -- "This I think about frequently when I'm across an ocean. It doesn't feel right, but no one wants to hear that." I had a good time, but not a great time. So lets focus on the highlights:

  • Munich, Germany : 10/21 to 10/26 & 11/4 to 11/11 : Downtown feels like a giant shopping mall. There are great museums. I went on a bike tour and it was fun. Sadly the weather was shit.
    Bike Tour! Beer! Drama!
  • Strasbourg, France : 10/27 to 10/28 : We showed up and it was snowing. Balls. The cathedral there was lovely in the snow however and climbing the next day with improved weather was delightful. Two days/one night seemed like the idea duration for a visit. We went on a boat tour- it was touristy but warm and therefor fun. It was great to get the chance to visit a place we passed up during our 2006 Europe tour.
    So excited! View from the water
  • Lyon, France : 10/28 to 11/1 : As much as I can love a French-speaking place, I loved Lyon. It reminded us both of Seattle. The weather improved for the first time and I enjoyed my chance to walk about. Turns out museums about printing aren't the best idea... it's just like reading a text book smeared throughout several rooms. Informative! but sadly not well suited to the medium. I reconnected with my childhood love of Special Effects.
    Beauty For Nate Church on a hill
  • Switzerland is awesome. Best non-English speaking place yet. Looks like Colorado with French countryside draped over it. So damn beautiful, I can seem myself going back another time. Turns out start of November is a terrible time to visit. The 4 day Swiss pass worked out perfectly for us.
    • Geneva : 11/1 : shitty natural history museum, perfect science museum! Pretty town
      Sock Probability! Rebecca has arrived Cuddly
    • Montreux : 11/1 to 11/2 : We stayed up on the hill that night and learned two things [1] Cheese fondue is definitely a thing in Switzerland but not chocolate fondue. Insane [2] It is possible to eat yourself ill with cheese fondue. Luckily I know my cheese limit.
    • Zermatt : 11/2 : Trains are awesome! Mountains are awesome! Everything is made of happiness and joy. And really expensive.
      Awestruck Adam's so high!
    • Bern : 11/2 : Bears! There is a bear park! Best balance between bear happiness and humans' need to gawk that I've seen. Cute town!
      Contemplate Switzerland
    • Lucern : 11/2 to 11/3 : Sometimes just walking into a hotel and asking for a room works out really well. Cute tiny natural history museum, lovely bridges, fantastic transit museum.
      Transit! Swiss clocks Touching
    • Zurich : 11/3 : lame
    • Stein am Rhein : 11/3 to 11/4 : Adorable tiny little tourist towns appear to be the right speed for Adam and Rebecca. Riding cows is great fun. It's hard for farmers in Switzerland. Train back to Munich was hell.
      Rejoice! Tails

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Some basic mental warmups

Am back in Munich for another week. Switzerland was exceptionally lovely and fun. More words and photos on that later.

Have finally started spending some quality time with my laptop, trying to kick my brain back into shape. Decided some simple math/graphics projects would be a good warmup. I know that I'll need to tumble into the interview circuit at some point soon and I know I *can* be good at it... but it (at least the white-boarding part) is definitely a skill that I need to retrain up.

On a whim I was interested in animating vines unfurling/growing. Some basic Googling failed to provide me any existing algorithms so I had to figure out what I want. Turns out the Logarithmic spiral [x = aebtcos(t), y = aebtsin(t)] is what I wanted (as opposed to the Archimedean spiral) and so I waded into battle against Javascript, logarithms, and trigonometry. As I put it to Adam last night, it felt like I was doing one pound dumbbell curls with my brain. It was hard (despite being simple) but I felt good when things finally fell into place.

Used jsfiddle when working, which was pleasing. Here's the link in case this iframe doesn't work...

If you go to the Result tab you'll see the demo curl I made. Am still struggling to wrap my brain around what all of the parameters do/mean but this widget makes it a little easier. Next step: cleaning up the code and diving into b-splines (which, I will confess, I have already found helpful code/algorithms for here, for the vines)

Interesting (to me?) to look back at the little things I stumbled over:

  • Omg- trig! Bane of my high school math experience! The problem I ran into here was that I wanted to rotate the spiral so that I could hold it's "tail" in a fixed position. (left alone it just spirals around the origin). That meant I spent *at least* half an hour trying to solve for θ (x′, x, and y being known) : x′ = xcos(θ)-ysin(θ) I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to isolate that fucking θ... the key to success was realizing I was solving for when x′ was 0 and that sine over cosine is a tangent. Sounds simple, but that took some time...

  • I swear, every time I look at the canvas element and then look away, I forget everything. Another (smaller) stumble I had was keeping everything on the canvas... turns out that when you've got logarithmic stuff, things just fly off the page with astounding speed. Took longer then I'd like to admit to figure out what value I need to scale to and then to remember/realize the scale method call had to happen before the path. (turns out putting the scale right before the .stroke() doesn't get you much). Also had to remember to scale line width. If you check out the equation for the spiral you'll see that the value a is supposed to scale it... which I realized later, but found that the animation was smoother when I let the canvas scale it rather then squishing the equation myself.

  • Pinning x=0 to one location was pretty neat, but wasn't actually the look I wanted (the spiral sat atop the point rather the to the right of it as I hoped) so I had to add in a "tail". The fact that I STILL can't figure out how to just solve the equation for a value when x is, like, -50 or something shames me but... whatever. I just manually added a fixed number of "steps" and computed that end point. Lame, but some times programming is about finding a solution and moving on rather then dwelling on the optimal solution mid-project.

  • As I move out of jsfiddle and try to make this code usable, I'm finding Javascript Function Invocation Patterns to be a fun/helpful read. I feel like I know most of it, but it has helpful points/gotchas.

In other news :

  • I am now 29.

  • I saw Skyfall last night. It was pretty sweet. Highly recommended if you're an action/Bond fan. Best Craig!Bond by far, plus evil!Javier Bardem. That man is golden, no matter how bad of hair-cut you put on him! Vague internet rumors of Idris Elba as a potential future Bond make me happy and maintains my interest in the franchise. I loved Noamie Harris in this film as well, she plays kick-ass so well (see: 28 Days Later)

  • I rode a cow this last Sunday.

  • I wish I didn't like Taylor Swift but damnit, I do.

  • The US Presidential elections. Need I say more? Adam and I will be up, watching late tonight, as the polls close in the US. We both voted before we left. GO VOTE. I WILL THINK LESS OF YOU IF I EVER FIND OUT YOU DON'T VOTE (of course I'm pro-Obama, but having things/people I don't like pass/win is much easier to swallow if there's high voter turnout. Then that *really* means "the people" want such a (stupid/silly/evil) thing... but when (stupid/silly/evil) things pass/win with low voter turnout it's just... really fucking depressing)