Monday, March 12, 2012

Loss of Function

I wrote this a few years ago and was recently reminded of my non-prescience. The failure of the Raspberry PI folks servers under the stress of a botched launch-day load brought it all back. They hacked a fix by removing all active content from their website and just serving up static pages containing actual information. I can't imagine how everyone survived not being able to flame other people's comments. But I was re-reminded today by an article about some GawkerGeek: Have online comment sections become 'a joke'? which may trigger a big backpedal in site mechanics.

Emailigent Design
In the Beginning God created the ones and the zeros that there might be data upon the face of the earth. In this data his subjects found information and from the firmament of the user partitioned file system BBN produced electronic mail, that their chosen people might communicate amongst themselves even though they be not all in the same room at the same time. And God looked and was well pleased because, by any common measurement, much information was exchanged.

These early Users were blessed with the opportunity to evolve the email system to fit their needs and desires. ARPAnet line-oriented teletypes became Wyser character terminals with random addressing which made the using of Mail all that much more fulfilling. A few of the chosen were granted the power to bend mh to their will and thus became sendmail gurus worshiped by all their bretheren, for it was only then that Messages could be re-ordered and saved to arbitrary folders, which was seen to be a great good as they had been fruitful and multiplied unto the ends of the earth. And, by most common measurements, much information was shared throughout the globe, all the while using 1200 baud dialup.

But one day a snake slithered through the Parc into the academic grove of Elm and Pine and up the Apple tree. And that beast did offer the issue of POP and Eudora a bite of the knowledge of GUI. Thus were MCI and Compuserv linked to the Internet and HTML, with all its fonts and sizes in both bold and italic, was injected into email. The Outlook seemed grim as executives everywhere woke up to find their memos appearing to be more professionally composed and therefore, imposing. Yea, though it was at 9600 baud, by most common measurements, the same amount of useful information was transmitted. 

And in this way it came to pass that a great wickedness was loosed upon the land. The people worshiped the false idols of variable-width fonts and in-line images and the imagination of their hearts was no longer pure. Through the Gates of ISDN and 28Kb modems were unleashed the twin scourges of Spam and Attachments, and thus the chosen people were driven from the garden of communication delights into the online world. But even then, by most common measurements, the same amount of useful information was available, it just required more filtering to be found. 

For now, behold, email was available to all the peoples of the earth and Word was made manifest and distributed indiscriminately, thus fulfilling Bloat's adaption of Parkinson's Law of Work: Software expands to overload available capacity. And the population began to mock the chosen with photos of their pet rabbits and multi-megabyte movies of other people's grandchildren. Thus was Plain Text forever lost amongst the myriad attachments that were forwarded throughout the net. And so, by most common measurements, about the same amount of useful information was received using a 100Mbit connection to a 2GHz Pentium containing 500MB of memory and a disk greater in size than all of the early adopters combined. 

The moral of the story is this: Anyone who believes that a perceived quality of design is evidence for, or against, the existence of an Intelligent Designer, has never worked in the Software Industry.

© 2007 M. Schippling

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I applied for, and more amazingly, was accepted to do an installation in the Axle Contemporary mobile gallery during the ISEA conference in September (mostly in ABQ but spreading out through NNM). Axle is the really swell idea of two local guys who had an extra truck lying around and turned it into an itinerant gallery to show local artists, and the overall theme of the conference is Machine Wilderness. Thus I should be in good company:
 I gotta fill this van with, well, something. Packing peanuts came -- almost, after ping-pong balls and balloons -- immediately to mind. Of course, I can't just leave it alone so it has to be kinetic and even responsive to viewer input somehow.

That's a lotta peanuts. So I'm leaning towards fleshing it out with hot air...a bunch of fans to keep things moving and a few sensors to make the fans do stuff when folks are around.

Wednesday I got an acceptance email from the conference folks (I heard from Axle a couple weeks ago so I wasn't taken completely by surprise) which asked for a description and high resolution photograph of the work, by Monday, so I cobbled together a Bricoleur's Conception:
We Are Experiencing Some Turbulence
After all my whingeing about Art and Science* and how they should really go hand in hand I'm thrashing about on how to rationalize this.

First there is the idea of random behavior and how we perceive it, which has been a bit of a focus for me lately.

Then there's self-organized criticality -- rice piles and the like -- but they're not so easy to setup and control (strangely enough?). However I realized that it's really just the surface angle of the pile that's of interest, so I can build a slope that will encourage some avalanche behavior.

Then, while poking at self-organization, I, again, found Cosma Shalizi's articles which mentioned turbulence and the Reynolds number. That lead to this nice gif from wikipedia:
Then. While talking it over with my friend John Miller concerns about static electricity raised their ugly head. So I might have to work lightning into it as well -- or add anti-cling sheets in the mix.

So. There is hope that the experimental process will lead to an interesting combination of the above which can self-start-and-run in late September temperatures. And be more than just didactic or entertaining. Stay Tuned to this Tag...

* The whole Art/Sci/Tech thing has been another of my ongoing concerns. Ending with Systems Art in the 1970's I think the ideal of A/S/T integration has deteriorated into MTV. But that's a different story. Of concern here is that most, if not all, group projects fall into either the artist-gets-access-to-cool-toys or the scientist-gets-access-to-cool-presentations categories. There's not a lot of actual collaboration involved. And most, if not all, artist-conception-of-science projects are either critiques (usually a good thing) or scientism -- taking on the trappings of bubbling test tubes and the like -- with no real understanding of what goes on beneath the surface. There are exceptions. Hopefully my effort here may provide an example.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Local Color VII -- Kicks on 66

Police notes, March 6, 2012

(Something to which I look forward for my upcoming birthday celebration...)

Lawrence Vigil, 60, 804 Alarid St., was arrested at McDonald's, 1621 Pacheco St., at noon Sunday after he was found drinking rubbing alcohol mixed with Powerade. The report also said there was an open warrant out for his arrest for failure to pay fines.