Yeah, you know what? You guys are right. That was a dumb idea. Forget I ever brought it up.
Yeah, you know what? You guys are right. That was a dumb idea. Forget I ever brought it up.
My cousin Samantha is in the psychiatric ward as a result of an ongoing manic spell.
I'm not going to go into the details of it in this public space, because she should decide for herself, once she's done being manic, how much of it she wants to share. Apparently she's been saying and doing some pretty wild things.
I called her up in the hospital and we had a very interesting conversation. She sounded very lucid and optimistic. This is what mania does: it's the opposite of depression: it makes you think every idea you have is an absolutely fabulous idea, so you decide to just try to do all this crazy stuff because you think it will work great.
If that's insanity, it's insanity that I could use a little bit of, you know? In controlled doses.
Update: I checked her MySpace page. It seems she's out of the hospital, finally. But reading some of the stuff on that page has made me more worried about her.
I knew Samantha pretty well until about 1997 when I moved away to Chicago. She was the cute little baby girl of the family. But it's been ten years, half her life, since then, so now she's this wild person I barely know. In 2004 her brother Bobby, my cousin and close friend, died, and I don't think she's been the same since. I offered to buy her tickets to Chicago sometime so she can meet some new people, see some new places, and she and I can get re-aquainted.
Brief summary of stuff I've been up to lately (more detailed posts to follow)
Stuff I'm going to be attempting to get done in the near future:
In serious news:
In completely frivolous news:
Yu-Gi-Oh, the Abridged Series. This is the best fan-parody-dub I've ever seen of anything. It takes Yu-Gi-Oh, a horrible toy-commercial anime based on a collectible card game, and reduces each episode to 3 minutes, give-or-take, of solid MST3K-esque hilarity. I've never seen the original, but this still made me laugh so hard I choked on a french fry.
The RpgNet "Creepiest Person You've Gamed With" thread. This discussion thread has been going on literally for years and is now up to something like 4,500 posts, making it something of an institution. There are lots of good stories in there (and by good I mean fascinatingly disturbing and horrifying). Thrill to tales of creepy girls who think they are vampires in real life, GMs who turned out to be drug dealers or child molesters, the Brazillian police death-squad role-players who brought tequila and hookers to the game, and the guy who voluntarily pooped his pants because he didn't want to stop playing RIFTS long enough to go to the bathroom. Gross! Thanks to UCJAS alumni John, who I met at ACEN, for introducing me to this sanity-endangering black hole.
There was a great chunk of space, towering light-years to a side. It wasn't cubical, it was much longer from top to bottom than the other ways. Amber lines, like laser beams, pencil thin and perfectly straight, demarcated its boundaries. Within the rectangular space many planets moved in a stately dance, but they were dwarfed and outnumbered by a menagerie of vast, geometrically intricate, artificial structures, created by some race which is to man as man is to a bacterium. I passed through the space from top to bottom and bottom to top, observing the patterns. The night was crowded with metallic behemoths, yet there was no danger of collision for the cosmic dance was perfectly planned. Precise vectors stabbed across millions of miles, and mathematical glyphs the size of the moon burned upon the face of the sky, describing the frictionless path of each object. The artifacts had no names, but I knew each one by its geometry, and I recognized them like old friends, and I knew the purpose of each one's creation, though no human tongue could describe it. It was a scene of such cold beauty as to make me weep.
I was no frail human being, but a glorious robotic creation perfectly adapted for this space. I had a corkscrew tail made of golden solar-sail material which I spun gracefully to propel myself between and among the mighty superstructures. At the front of my body was something like a flower, with petals of energy-collecting panels. With these, I collected starlight to power myself, and the excess energy that I stored I could transfer to planets that needed it. There was one star I loved in particular. A small star it was, but brilliant white, burning with a pure and holy radiance. It was my star. As I passed through the shadow of an insignificant blue planet to my rendezvous point, I anticipated the feeling of my star's light upon my solar panels as one might anticipate the feeling of a lover's touch. As I passed out of the shadow I opened up and unfurled my petals, but my joy turned to horror as I saw that my star was dying. In the brief moments it had been out of my sight, it had become a cancerous, hateful red giant. It was packed closely together with a great host of other red giants in a sort of globular cluster. The giants in this cluster huddled unnaturally close, shining their baleful red light into our domain of space from far outside it. Pregnant with the threat of a supernova chain reaction, the cluster seemed to foretell the doom of the universe.
And then there was this cut, like the place where a commercial break would go, and then there was just a manatee swimming happily through the ocean while some kind of theme song played, indicating that everything previous was the teaser for the episode? Maybe the manatee was a different dream, though.
OK, so Stephen has been bugging me for info on the cool project I mentioned a while back.
I'm hosting the project on Google Code. Here's the homepage. You can check out the code anonymously. You'll need Subversion installed to do so. To run it, you will need Python 2.4 or higher installed, as well as the packages wxpython, pysqlite, and sqlobject. The download URLs for these packages are all in the readme document. If you have all the prerequisites, then here's the command lines to check it out and run it:
mkdir rchi-zui svn checkout http://rchi-zui.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/ rchi-zui cd rchi-zui python zui.py
If the above paragraph made no sense to you, don't worry; just wait a couple months for me to produce an easy-install version.
But what is it?
It's a prototype ZUI (Zooming User Interface) with tag support, aimed at webcomic creation. That is, right now, it's not good for much of anything, but my goal is that it will eventually become The Only Application I Need to edit webcomic scripts, scan in drawings from my scanner, crop, rotate, resize, and touch up images, add speech bubbles, shading, color, gradients, and sound effects, make backups, paste text into speech bubbles in various fonts and formats, save the results, preview them, edit html, preview that, and upload the final version to my web server.
Because the existing tools suck and I am sick of using them. Photoshop is too expensive, GIMP has a horrible UI, and GraphicConverter is lacking advanced features (layers) and doesn't have proper word-processing support either. And even if I did have Photoshop, I'd still have to switch back and forth between that and several other applications, doing the annoying work of importing/exporting/saving as different data formats/copying/pasting in order to get data between applications. That sucks. I want everything in one app.
That's not all I want. I want to be able to do all my image-editing work with my right hand on a mouse or tablet and my left hand on the keyboard. So everything needs to have keyboard shortcuts that I can hit with my left hand.
Wait, there's more. I am very demanding. I want to be able to browse all my files in this app too, so I don't have to switch back to the Finder. I want to be able to put tags on everything so that I can easily find image files by searching on tags, so nothing gets lost in a folder hierarchy. I want to be able select multiple files at once and manipulate them as a group, including performing advanced image-processing on them as a group, and transparently copying them to my web server space, whether it's on the same computer or a different one, to the exact URL I want, and have the new files automatically integrated with my HTML templates and my CGI scripts and my database backend and my RSS feed.
Is this an ambitious project? Hell yeah. In The Humane Interface Jef Raskin proposed an idea for the ZUI, or Zooming User Interface, which would eventually replace the current GUI model. This project is an early prototype of that idea. Eventually I want to be able to do everything in one environment, so that there's never any need to switch between windows. There's just an infinite space which I can navigate around, and zoom into, infinitely deep, like a fractal. And in this space, all functionality of every piece of software I have installed is available to me at all times, through some kind of natural language input, so I don't have to hunt through menus for it.
Enso is attacking that idea from one direction -- giving you all your commands all the time through natural language input. ZUI is another part of the puzzle.
Ultimately, I would love to have a ZUI with good voice recognition and a multi-touch interface like the one demonstrated in this video (thanks Ian for the link) so that I can reach onto my screen, grab objects, and drag them around, while painting with my fingers and speaking commands to the computer.
But for now, there's a lot of advances that can be done even if we're stuck to a mouse and keyboard. I've already got the zooming and scrolling and tagging and searching working pretty well in my prototype. The "drawing tools" are currently limited to a crappy pencil and a crappy eraser; they're just a proof-of-concept, but they work. Everything else is in its very very early stages.
If you're technically inclined, you can download the thing right now and start playing with it. If you want to help, just email me and I can add an account for you on the Google Code project so you will have the ability to upload stuff.
If you're artistically inclined, email me and tell me what features you would ideally want to have in a ZUI for organizing/searching/browsing/creating/editing/manipulating/transforming images.
You've probably seen this already, but: Potentially habitable planet found. YAY SCIENCE!
In unrelated news, here is a video of Cookie Monster's First Ever Appearance. It was in an IBM training video, believe it or not. In the late 60s, IBM used to fund something they called "coffee break films" which they would show in-between serious videos in order to keep their engineers awake. And they hired Jim Henson to make one. And then later Cookie Monster became a regular on Sesame Street.