Showing posts from January, 2008

Words in the Ice

Algorithmic Art (art made by machines) is a lot like digital frost.

I think almost every photography book has a picture of frost on a window pane. Frost is a mechanical process and is quite well understood but the imagery it produces never seems to lose it's allure.

There's no Jack Frost or any deliberating influence involved, it's just a simple, natural process of water crystalizing (freezing) on window glass. The frost patterns develop as more water vapour adheres to the edges of the growing formation.

The ingredients of frost are simple. The ingredients of algorithmic art are fairly simple too. Although some algorithms may be difficult to construct, they're simple to run. Similarly, water molecules wouldn't exactly be easy to make oneself, but once made, they run themselves.

Like the mundane process that creates frost patterns, these images were made with the block wave distortion filter in KDE's Showfoto (part of the Digikam project).

It's just a distor…

When Eyes Move in Retrograde

Retrograde. That's not a city in Russia. It means to move backwards. Usually in reference to the path of a planet (orbit) in the night sky when viewed from Earth. The backwards movement doesn't really occur, it just looks that way when viewed from Earth.

Retrograde is an illusion. The retrograde movement of Mars for instance, occurs because Mars is orbitting the Sun and not the Earth. The path of Mars starts to slow down and move backwards because of the relative movement of the observer on Earth. Neither planet orbits the other, but rather they both orbit a third object, the Sun.

Retrograde then, occurs because the relationship between the two planets is confused by the observer. The astronomers on Earth used to think Mars orbitted the Earth and therefore expected it to follow a path that moved it smoothly around the Earth across the night sky. The predictable but unexplainable retrograde movement that occured was easily solved when the Sun was shown to be the object t…

Journey to Mercury

In the spirit of Sindbad, I went on a voyage and just recently, returned. It was a digital voyage. Not really a voyage I guess, but I left where I was and out of curiosity went somewhere different and then here I am again.

I journeyed to the edges of minimalist window managers and desktop environments in Linux. While doing so, I often experienced a completely black screen (call it a desktop) from which I was only able to send messages to the system by way of a run dialog opened with the keystroke alt+F2.

Like a sailor whose map is the stars and navigates better at night than in the day, I found that a simple run dialog was often more efficient (and certainly much simpler) than desktop icons or menus. Better still was the boolean search feature in Thunar which would allow you to access any icon in the /usr/applications directory.

As I continue with my tale from strange lands, I discovered the near ability of the Opera browser to replace all the functions of my operating system with th…

It's Here


Planes, Birds and Fish

Back in the early 90's, I went through a 3 year phase when I wanted to become an airplane pilot. In addition to taking flight training in Ontario, Canada (where I live) I also "studied" in Phoenix, Arizona and Hoxie, Kansas where I took some cropdusting lessons.

During this time I became acquainted with some of the aviation "culture" including the juvenile, false bravado and machismo attitude of many pilots (particularly new ones). Aviation culture also included the habit of using the metaphor of birds to refer to airplanes.

I was never really comfortable with this bird analogy for planes, although, like birds, planes fly and planes have wings. Birds however, incorporate a lot of movement into flight unlike planes which are extremely rigid and also extremely smooth and streamlined -- more like fish, fins and swimming than birds, wings and flying.

In fact, one sunny morning at the Scottsdale airport in Phoenix (it's always sunny in Phoenix) I was doing my re…