Thursday, June 30, 2011

Las Conches June 30

Another small-n-schmutzy map from the forest service. More growth to the north and it's spread onto sacred Santa Clara tribal land:

The ominous black fingers around Los Alamos are the past Cerro Grande fire boundaries, so actually a good thing as that area was recently burned out and less likely to go full bore again.

Having the first cats-n-dogs rain here at EarthSchip right now, so maybe relief is on the way.

I mycells spent all day at the Toyota dealership waiting for Bubba-San's brake$$ to be fixed, so again all work and no play for the dull boy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Las Conches June 29

New day, new map. For some reason they have this posted on NMFireInfo in a tiny little ever-changing window so you can't recognize anything and it changes to a slightly different version before you realize you don't know what it means. I found that if you "View Image" and then hack off the excess from the jpg URL you get a bigger map. This for instance (click for more):

Looks like it's still sneaking up on LANL and almost has the Pajarito Ski Area surrounded, but grew more to the north and south. Right now I can see a goodly plume from what must be the Bandelier burn on the south-east side. And the wind seems to be picking up from the west again

We'll just see.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Las Conches June 28

The wind changed last night for a bit and it looks like it blew the fire to the north instead of into Los Alamos. It did grow a bit to the east and if the wind changes back to from-the-west Trouble could lie ahead:
Here's approximately the same thing on Google Maps where the confluence of the blue-green areas in the upper right above is the intersection of highways 4 and 501 marked with the arrow. (For some reason I don't seem to be smart enough to embed the map here, so you'll have to point'n'click).

The Santa Fe County Fire Dept has deployed one wildland and three structural engine crews (all volunteers, although I think they will get paid eventually) in mutual aid. Fortunately I'm too weak and infirm to participate, but someone has to hang around the station here just in case....

Monday, June 27, 2011

Las Conchas Wildfire...better map

My fire chief just sent a better image of the map I posted. It's from IR mapping this morning at about 03:00 June 27:

I was right about Hwy 4 being the north boundary. Los Alamos is just beyond the top-right corner and the Rio Grande cuts across at the bottom-left corner. It's spotting (those little dots) to the south-east whereas the wind yesterday seemed to be from the south-west, maybe it was from the west...

Las Conchas Wildfire

So we have a second fire going. This one is in the Jemez Caldera -- across the way from the Sangre de Cristo's Pacheco fire -- and down wind of Los Alamos. The good thing is that the 2000 Cerro Gordo fire burned out a bit of the intervening land. The bad thing is that thunder storms -- not showers -- are predicted for the rest of the week.

I finally got around to shooting a little video of my UndMill on the deck around noon yesterday and then went out to lunch. The new fire started smack in the background of my video, so I guess it's my fault somehow. Here's the plume at around sunset last night (20:00, June 26) after it had burned for 6 or 7 hours, the sun is directly behind the smoke, more or less west-north-west from my house:

And here's what it looked like around midnight. Flames were just cresting the ridgeline above Bandelier on the other side of the Rio Grande river. Los Alamos is off to the right about 3 more fire-lengths, where  I estimate a "fire-length" to be about three miles:

This morning it was within one mile of the first LANL buildings. This is a mostly useless map from the NM Fire Info site. I can't distinguish any landmarks except I think the north side is along Highway 4 and Los Alamos is somewhere just off the east (right) side:

In the event that some dipwit tosses a cig out the window on any of the roads near my house I packed a bag and put the bunny on notice that he might be subject to a grab-and-run operation...backing up data now.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pacheco Fire

This last week, because the smoke cleared from Arizona's Wallow fire, we've been having our own little party in the Santa Fe National Forest. (un)Fortunately it's on Forest Service land so most of the S.Fe City and County folks don't get to play -- the county Black Canyon Handcrew responded on the first day, but I'm not sure they are still deployed. It started around the far reaches of the Borrego Trail where the power lines cross and is traveling up the north face of Santa Fe Baldy -- away from town if the winds hold from the SW. It's on really rugged terrain so access is limited to very healthy hikers. Over 600 personnel are deployed and their base camp is in the muni-rec-area out west of town by the dump. A dust devil blew through yesterday and took out the mess tent. It could be the Rapture, as promised.

Anyway, it ain't goin out until the rains come. Pretty much all the fire-fighters can do is try to contain it by "cutting-line" and "burning-out" in it's path and hope that it doesn't throw spots further than can be reached in time.

I've been taking a picture around 4 or 5 pm every day or so, pretty much directly north from my house but I have to walk around the intervening hillock to get the view. This one is June 18 a couple hours after it started. Notice the black, heavy-fuel driven plume on the left:

Then June 19, it looked like it might be calming down a b it:

And on June 23, maybe it's sorta under control?

Nope. Today, June 25, it seems to be rip-roaring again:

Fire information, such as it is, for larger wildland fires in New Mexico can be found on NM Fire Info and somewhat more extensive data for National Forest incidents in NM is on InciWeb which sometimes also has a useful map.

Now we're waiting for the Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Modest Proposal

( I want to get this In Writing, Signed and Dated, so when someone finally does it we know I Thought of it First. This will subsequently be abbreviated and tagged: IWSDITIF).

I've had the idea to found an Art School for some time now. It should be in one of the downtrodden old-style cities, maybe Detroit? It would grant MFA degrees in all the usual suspect fields, drawing, painting, sculpture, music, new-media, performance, yada, de nada. It would have a residency program for one or more (funding dependent) recognized artists who would be selected by the student body, and maybe (again, funding dependent) a shorter duration visiting artist program. Small studio spaces and necessary equipment could be provided, sort of like the "maker-facilities" that are springing up in more populous regions.

The innovative features are:
  1. It would only offer classes in restaurant service and management;
  2. It would be funded by real-estate developers.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Artist's Statement

As an artist you will eventually feel the need to make a statement. There's a couple of ways to go with this.

You can make your own Instant Artist Statement:

My work explores the relationship between new class identities and urban spaces. With influences as diverse as Blake and John Cage, new tensions are crafted from both traditional and modern layers. Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by the ephemeral nature of the human condition. What starts out as vision soon becomes debased into a tragedy of greed, leaving only a sense of nihilism and the possibility of a new synthesis. As temporal impressions become clarified through emergent and critical practice, the viewer is left with an insight into the limits of our condition.

Or just use Charlotte Young's:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Currents -- June 2011 -- Santa Fe

Random impressions of the second (hopefully) annual independent video/media show: Catalog available from:

Including web and off site performances there were 71 pieces, some by multiple artists -- way more work than justice could be done in the show's ten day duration.  The organizers, Parallel Studios, must be commended for their breadth, depth, and commitment.

All the pieces in the show had an {on,off}line video component, other areas of art-tech were not represented. The larger cohort was classed as single-channel -- good old video tapes for those of us who remember porta-paks -- but there were also a number of large-scale or multiple-head projections, and some few constructions. Many of the projected works reacted to viewer presence or motion. Some verged on the interactive -- I reserve this classification for machines which elicit and use viewer feedback rather than "merely" responding to their presence -- it's an arbitrary distinction and a slippery slope once made. I didn't explore the web and performance work and thus can't comment on them.

In the projected work one could make a distinction based on the screen. A number of pieces used unusual objects as an abstracting device: project video on/through stuff. As Art Experiences they were variously successful in a visceral -- read: "trippy dude" -- way. I think simply because it was simple, I liked the windmill generators projected onto a complicated corner of the building (Tiffany Carbonneau) -- but generally it's not my cup'o'tea. The responsive installation pieces were more interesting. Aside from web-based stuff all of these were large-scale projections -- Is this necessarily necessary? Do abstracted projections not lend themselves to user input? Maybe next year.

The unfortunate thing about reactive video projection installations is that they tend to bring out the inner-dancers in the audience. This distracted from the impact of the pieces in this show, especially during the opening with many a dancer in attendance. On a subsequent visit I was able to subtract the rest of humanity and see how things actually looked. Three of these pieces, all along the back wall, stood out.

Dandelion Clock (John Carpenter, Santa Monica) was quite beautiful, wisps of dandelion snow flying away from and around one's motion with a bit of a mind of their own.

I am the Light (Lenka Novakova, Ste-Marthe), perhaps the most subtle video feedback I've ever seen, made blips and circles when one passed and then fell back to a simple uninteresting spot of light awaiting the next unsuspecting victim -- this piece was conceived with dancers in mind so I guess I shouldn't complain too much.

Nervous Structure (Cristobal Mendoza and Annica Cuppetelli, Venezuela/Detroit [!??]), a set of well-lit horizontal stripes in the corner wiggled inexplicably when one passed -- a minimalist structural installation enhanced with reactive light. It also seemed to stymie the dancers.

After a number of attempts at avoiding one of the dancers I caught up with her in front of a single-channel display of abstract blobs. She made a few grand attempts to have an effect on it but moved on when it showed no apparent desire to cooperate. So at least some lines were blurred. Later I visited the Site show across the street. One video projection looked very much like the Dandelions but was disappointingly un-reactive to my inner-dancer.

One of the single channel projection pieces, Fold (Surabhi Saraf, San Francisco), was just mesmerizing.  A young woman folding her laundry, repeated in 96 small frames each running at a slightly different speed.  The simple motions and colors of women's-work-never-complete washed back and forth across the screen with a background of ambient sound. This might not work on a small screen so a large projection was necessary to the overall effect.

Some of the display only pieces were too didactic or narrative for me. Others just require too much time to absorb. Most of them would probably be rewarding if one could grasp the thread, either by sitting with them or having someone explain them -- back in my day we had young Red Jacketed Explainers for this exact purpose. Also a number of displays sequenced multiple short pieces and one had no way of knowing what one was looking at until one lasted through the credits for each. Perhaps a thumbnail of the significant imagery on the attribution tag would help?

And the music that is required to accompany any non-installation video -- because, well, you can add sound to video, right?  It's almost always an electronic synthesis. Sometimes it is generated by a process related to the image and sometimes it is just altogether unmotivated. Most of the time it is superfluous. Son et Lumiere is so '60's, no?

But minus my niggling negativity it gives me faith that the future of Art and Technology is not so bleakly MTVish as I thought.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Failure to Manage

Among my many horrible failings is the fact that I can neither produce nor consume Management. I have only the usual problems with giving or following -- with the exception of RTFMing --  instructions that make sense (to me), but I am just not able to participate in motivational gymnastics. I have no Command Presence and react negatively to Team Building Exercises.

This has repeatedly impacted my ability to work and play well with others. Every tech-company for which I worked claimed to have "dual track career ladders" such that one could rise to an equivalent prestige and salary in either Engineering or Management. But that was HR Theory 101. In Reality 2 one had to be a "team leader" or some other such nonsense and eventually became mired in playing corporate politics. Given my Command and Team failings this invariably led to my experiencing the one-true-emotion: Frustration.

Even now, self-exiled from that corporate world, I suffer from being Differently Managed and generally have to keep to myself. It has taken some years for me to come to understand a key fact about that world which explains quite a bit of my misery: I was working from a completely different business plan than that of upper management. I thought that we were all there to make products that would make our customers lives, or at least their businesses, work better. However we were just necessary cogs in the real plan, which was to make The Company look valuable so it could be sold (or IPOed, or cashed out somehow) thus profiting the original investors. This small, startling, detail explains so many seemingly stupid decisions made during my tenure in that other world that it is almost unfathomable that it took me so long to grasp the thread. It also -- to my simplistic mind -- explains much about the American Economy as it stands today.

Anyway, before I got the big picture I wrote a novella about my End Days which insomniacs may find useful: The Company.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Day Without Welding
is like
A Night Without Moonshine

Making some chairs that might not blow off my deck:
There. Done. Now need to use them:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Coincident Feedback

A salient feature of Cybernetics is Feedback -- (one of) the first cybernetic applications was using error signal feedback for tracking military targets. Cybernetics' coffin nails were hammered by the 1969 Minsky/Pappert book Perceptrons which proved that a feed-forward neural net could not implement an XOR operation and was thus not a universal computer. It is ironic that a neural net with feed-back connections can implement such an operation, and that cybernetics -- which gave rise to the first neural nets -- was based on feedback.

Anyway, I want to talk about something else: The Sonic Arts Union. This was a group of musicians who "banded" together in the 1960's to do, among others, electronic music. Each of the four main members made pieces based on audio feedback. Now, audio feedback is not cybernetic feedback, but all of these compositions were open-ended and interactive and interaction is a feedback of the cybernetic kind. Here's a brief compendium:

  • David Behrman -- Wavetrain (1966)
    See also:
    Pretty much straight audio feedback via piano strings. Behrman made one of the first interactive electronic environments: Runthrough which used dancers passing between arrays of photocells to mix the music. Plus he composed the music for the Cuningham dance Walkaround which featured a Duchampian set designed by Jasper Johns.
  •  Gordon Mumma -- Hornpipe (1967)
    See also:
    A "CyberSonic" instrument driven by a modified french horn which excited the acoustics of the room. This was perhaps the first example of man-machine-environment interaction.I studied and worked with Mumma at UCSC in the '70's, so I'm a fanboy.
Thus there is more to feedback from the 60's than one might think.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Media Art was the Booby Prize

For me, most techno-art devolves into a catalog of effects that someone found they could generate with their synthesizer, video camera, or software package. It's a lack of constraint, in any number of senses. I think this is the result of the1970's commercialization of the efforts of earlier electronic art hackers. What could have been a new aesthetic sensibility became Digital Media Arts. More. Faster. Easier. But not necessarily: Better.

Two years ago I discovered, mostly by accident, that there was an alternative. There were a number of efforts to integrate Cybernetics and the nascent field of Artificial Intelligence into the Arts. Jack Burnham's Systems Art was the most formalized of these. It all happened just before I started studying this stuff in college and, by virtue of being in the California Livin' backwater of Santa Cruz, I was never notified of it's death. I dug in a bit and found a plethora of material: Schip's Systems Art Area

In a strange coincidence, the Systems approach to art faltered at almost the same time that AI took a turn to the symbolic top-down approach which gave us Expert Systems but nothing like a Human Intelligence. It was  another 15 years before AI restarted from the behavior based bottom-up, and -- coincidence again? -- Artificial Life research took off on its short flight of fancy. A-Life also faltered due to, among others, making too many un-supportable claims, which is really  -- in another strange coincidence --  the job of Art not Science.

For a somewhat different take of where we are and what we need to do I've written YAM (Yet Another Manifesto)...I just can't figure out how to implement any of it. Yet.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Career Ending Moves

Wednesday night -- after spending 4 hours driving a tanker around a burned field east of Stanley in the dark -- I realized that by moving to S.Fe I initiated a career ending trifecta:
  1. No more software engineering (took one year and good riddance)
  2. Failed at robot research (took five years and too bad)
  3. Complete disconnect from the art/sci/tech world (took ten years and who cares) 

In order to cement #3 above I have written a second-opinion review of  The Due Return, S.Fe's Summer Rave Installation: Lost in Space-Time -- A D-Ticket Ride. I'll never work in this town again.

In trade I have met a few [emphasis added] new and lovely friends, gained a food-snob rabbit companion, and become a volunteer fire-fighter. In the summer when the wind is not howling it sometimes seems worth it.