AI Art Generator

posted in: Art, Fun, Fun and Games, The Tools | 0

Surrealism at its most tech?

Maybe.
Artificial intelligence is all the rage these days, especially the newish “generative adversarial network” variety. Generative adversarial networks, or “GANs”, really came to public attention, and mine, with the This Person Does Not Exist website that generates uncomfortably believable portraits based on machine learning through observation of other photos. It’s fascinating, but also a little disturbing.
Now, with the same technology, you can make art that is unique and based on computer generated output from a GAN at Artbreeder. Artbreeder makes more than portraits and can generate landscapes, creatures, albums covers and, yes, portraits. It can be totally random, or you can combine things from a list of photos or, for some options, change settings to effect the outcomes. It is free, but you’ll have to make an account that’s connected to an email address. And, you’re restricted to 25 downloads. The landscapes and portraits are the best, though, if you’re wanting to make a kind of abstract monster, that comes out well, too. You can see some of the things I’ve created at my profile page, but I definitely encourage you to set up a free account and play with it yourself.
It’s a fun, if surreal, way to waste a little time on a Friday afternoon.
Enjoy!

Paint Simulation

posted in: Art, Fun | 1

I love free, weird, art-related stuff on the internet.

As you might have guessed since I share it here incessantly. Maybe it’s got to do with the fact that I was always encouraged to be practical as a kid. Or maybe it’s that I somehow ended up befriended by the world-renown artist, Mark Flood, who constantly encourages my crazier and more creative impulses. Either way, I’m always on the lookout for an art-related time-waster for a Friday afternoon when I should be working.
So, this week, before I share my artistic distraction, let me remind you that I was never a painter and am an absolute clumsy oaf. But, I never let that stand in the way of having fun with art, and neither should you. So, thanks to Boing Boing and David Li, I share with you “paint”. It’s a pretty incredible paint simulator that really gets a good, wet, well, painterly look to it. I felt like the brushes were hard to control and the overlapping paint was a bit of a mess, but that makes it the perfect thing to kill time without getting too serious about an end product. And, to me, an absolutely fun way to spend a few minutes on a Friday afternoon.
Enjoy!

Intro To Darktable

posted in: Art, Fun, Photography | 1

Incredible, free photo management and editing software.

Although, lately, I seem too busy to take many photos, I do love it. The problem is, I like the photography and the end result, but not all the software steps in between. I work on computers all day long and I get a little tired of it. And, I try to do all my work in the camera, not in post, so, I’m not a big Photoshop user, like a lot of photographers are. I generally use the much more focused and lighter weight Lightroom software from Adobe. It’s specifically designed for photographers and editing and managing photos. I feel like it’s a lighter touch.
But, even though I feel it’s a good bargain, not everyone can afford the monthly charges from Adobe to use their software. So, what to do? Well, as I’ve mentioned on my blog before, there’s a great alternative that’s free and open source called Darktable. The interface is very similar to Lightroom and mostly the functions are all the same. Best of all, though, it is free. If you’re not sure about it, though, because, like me, you distrust anyone giving anything away, spend a little time today to look at PetaPixel’s Comprehensive Intro to Darktable. It shows you everything you need to know from downloading to a pretty good and detailed walk through of the whole software and its capabilities.
If you’re a photographer, of any level, it’s worth it to at least take a look.
Besides, if you’re reading my blog on a Friday, you can’t possibly be doing anything more important!

Human Echolocation

Yes, that’s humans using echolocation to navigate in the world.

It’s like a superpower, only for real.
When I was in college, I minored in Psychology, which meant that I got to mostly take the “fun” classes and skip statistics. Though, of course, I took a different statistics course for my major. And, of course, my idea of “fun” may not match up to normal people’s idea of what makes psychology fun. The last psych course I took, and my favorite, was Physiological Psychology, and included a lot of study on how our senses worked and fed into our intelligence and the evolution of human intelligence. It was absolutely incredible and, for me, a lot of fun. I’ve been told that most Psychology majors hated it.
One of the things we talked about, naturally, was intelligence in other creatures. My professor studied dolphins and their intelligence at one point in his undergrad work, so we talked about how their use of echolocation most likely enhanced their relative intelligence. That, and my fascination with bats, let me to write a final paper that involved a LOT of echolocation and how it all worked. All of which is to say that I’ve read a fair bit about animal echolocation and have always found it interesting. So, you can imagine how excited I was when I saw this article on Boing Boing about human echolocation! Yes! Humans using passive and active echolocation to navigate! It’s incredible! And, the video gives you the basics of learning how to do it yourself!
Just the thing to see and try before the weekend!
Seriously, it’s real and it’s cool and definitely worth checking out!

More Low-Budget Scifi Shorts

posted in: Art, Fun | 1

More video shorts in the low-budget scifi vein.

Thanks to technology, low-budget does not mean low-quality.
I learned that when I took the chance and invested in the Ghosts With Shit Jobs film project on Kickstarter. So many of those projects never finish or don’t bear the promised fruit that it really was a risk that nothing would come of it. Instead, when I got was a cool, indie DVD and the joy of knowing I encouraged a really creative person’s vision and career. That artist, Jim Munroe, is kind of a creative genius, in my opinion. I learned about him via his fantastic graphic novel, Therefore, Repent!, and he’s followed up with other movies. Check out his websites for more details.
But, I’ve already told you about Ghosts With Shit Jobs last week! This week, I have a new creator to share with you, gentle readers! His name is Pete Majarich and you may already know him for his work at A Movie Poster A Day from 2016. But, today, I want you to take a look at his one-man, scifi short, featured at Lost At E Minor called The Visitor. He filmed it with just a Mavic Air drone and a knock-off astronaut helmet from eBay in the deserts of southern Utah. It’s very short, but very powerful, and just the thing for a quick break on a Friday.
Check it out!

Nigerian Scifi Movies

posted in: Art, Fun | 1

Technology has really opened up possibilities for independent film makers.

The great thing about the internet, and technology in general, has opened up a world of opportunity for both creators and consumers. When I was younger, the barriers to entry for the creative world were pretty steep and, in some cases, virtually insurmountable. But, now that so many people can get their hands on relatively inexpensive electronics and direct access to an audience via the internet, that paradigm is shifting. For instance, the self-publishing world has really exploded, pumping the markets full of cheap ebooks. Granted, their quality varies wildly, but at the price-point of some of these, more people are willing to take a risk on some new author than ever before.
The same, as it turns out, is true for video and movie production. It seems like more and more people are making movies of all kinds and sharing them directly with viewers, either through their websites or via a service like YouTube. Again, the quality varies significantly, but for a 10 or 15 minute movie, I’m definitely willing to take a look. In fact, I backed two movies on Kickstarter myself, the sadly unsuccessful Tube Open Movie, which was a total failure, and the actually really fantastic Ghosts With Shit Jobs, a wonderful scifi movie about a future where the Chinese economy outstrips our own and giant spiders wreak havoc.
This week, thanks to Boing Boing, I’ve got a link to a collection of Nigerian science fiction shorts. Boing Boing shares their ‘showpiece’ film, Z:The Beginning, but the Critics Company YouTube channel has a lot more where that came from.
These short films are definitely worth a look. It’s a whole other set of thoughts about the future than we’re used to seeing in the West. And, a great way to waste some time on a Friday afternoon!
Enjoy!

Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music

posted in: Fun, music | 1

A semi-visual guide to electronic music history.

I know sometimes when I share things on Friday, I’m a little late to the party. This week is no exception to that, but since this made the rounds a couple weeks ago, and the zeitgeist has a short memory in social media, I’m just going to share it again anyway. Seriously, you may have missed it when it came around, or already forgotten it, but this site is really good.
The quest to find new music has been something I pursue periodically. When I was in school, I wasn’t all that into music, really. I mean, I hung out with music majors in college, but that generally meant listening to jazz or someone from music history, not something contemporary. But, I read something once about how people get stuck in a musical genre or time-period and never expand their regular listening past that focus at some point in their lives. It sounded to me like a prescription for dying inside and becoming an old man before my time. So, vowing to cheat death, at least when it came to my inner child’s musical tastes, I’ve always sought out new music. And, by that I mean, music that’s new to me. That quest has led me down many a dark, internet alley in search of something new to groove to and resulted in a music collection that ranges from ABBA to Rob Zombie to Mongolian hard rock to hymns on the ukulele to, well, you get the idea. It’s pretty varied. But, I’m still always looking for more.
That brought me to Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music. It is just what the title says; Ishkur’s very personal guide to electronic music. But, let me tell you, it’s fabulous. First of all, it’s got a great interface that shows you how he breaks out the genres and the time-periods they were in. But, if you zoom in and click on a segment, it starts playing Ishkur’s, again, very personal, choice for the “best” of that genre in that year. When it starts playing, the information is displayed at the bottom of the browser, for your information and education. And, if you click the circled “i” icon, you can get a real education about the genre you’re listening to at the moment.
Whether you’re looking for new music or not, it’s definitely worth a look.
And, it’s a great way to warm up for your weekend!

Life Calculations

Just what is the cost of wasting time on Facebook?

One of the things that really impressed me in my college Economics classes was the idea of “opportunity cost”. Now, thanks to my ruthlessly practical upbringing and my father’s background in business and economics, I knew full well what “opportunity costs” were well before I got to college. I don’t think he ever called it that, but I grasped the concept early on. In fact, as I reflect at the theoretical half-way point of my life, preparing for my official mid-life crisis, it occurs to me that the greatest losses in my life are not financial or material, but lost opportunities and lost time. Really, for me at least, those two things are intimately linked. Every lost opportunity was lost due to me wasting time in some way. Of course, that’s a pretty ephemeral thing to try and quantify. It’s a little like trying to prove a negative event, which, if you haven’t attempted to do, trust me, is quite a challenge.
So, you can imagine how excited I was to find Everyday Life Calculators on the OMNI Calculator website. Here, finally, I could measure things like the cost of social media in real, measurable terms of money not earned and books not read, among other things, when I was wasting time on the social media du jour. (Which for me, lately has been Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t judge! You’re wasting time reading my blog!)
So, now, before you spend all weekend getting jealous of the curated lives you see on Instagram or Facebook, calculate how many books you can read instead. Or how many calories you can burn at the gym. Or how much practice time you can get in on the ukulele. Yikes!
See you next week, when I’ll hopefully have something more motivating and less shaming for you to play with.
Enjoy your weekend!

Astronaut Aptitude Test

posted in: Fun, Red Herrings | 1

Could you cut it as an astronaut?

Last month was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, which means that I’m about as old as our modern space program. Or, as I like to think of it, I’m a child of the space age. That seems much more palatable than being almost as old as NASA.
In any case, for the past month or so everyone has been talking about space and the Moon and possibly returning to the Moon on the way to Mars. All that got me thinking about how every kid’s dream was to be an astronaut when I was little. We all thought we’d somehow be able to go to space by now. And, I mean, everyone would be there, as regular as air travel is now, like they were in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sadly, it takes a little bit more than just booking a ticket to get into space, and I probably wouldn’t have ever been eligible. But, in the spirit of dreams and our hopeful return to the Moon, this week, I’m sharing a link to The Astronaut Test, so you can see if you have “the right stuff” to qualify as an Astronaut Candidate. The questions are drawn from the actual, official NASA Astronaut Candidate requirements and tests.
Why not take the 15 question quiz and dream of the stars while you take a break from work?

Augmented Reality Pets

posted in: Art, Fun | 0

Not all uses for technology are recommended.

Look, I love technology and all the incredible things it can do for us, but even I know that too much reliance on some of it can really be a problem. The potential of augmented reality is pretty awesome, but, like anything, it can go awry. And, I’m sure you’re wondering what that has to do with my regular Fun Stuff on Friday post, right? Well, this week I have a free, short film for you about the upside, and potential downside, of augmented virtual reality “pets” titled Strange Beasts. And, yes, it is fiction, but it’s pretty good especially for being a short. I won’t spoil it by revealing too much, but definitely go check it out.
What else are you going to do to waste time on a break on Friday?

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