Talking Dog

posted in: Fun | 0

Hey, that dog can talk!

Okay, so not literally, but pretty close.
I have a friend who has this idea he calls “the talking dog theory”. It goes like this. Dog lovers talk to their dogs as if they’re people who might answer back. And, what if those dogs could talk back? Would we care what the dog said? Or would we be so amazed to get a response that we’d sit with rapt fascination, thinking, “How incredible! This animal can talk!” So, what if we applied that to people in a meeting that were annoying us with the banalities? Instead of getting annoyed with them, maybe we should simply be amazed that that animal can talk!
Well, amusing anecdotes aside, what I have for you this week is an actual talking dog, sort of. I’ve seen this multiple places, but I’m sharing the link from BestLife, about Stella the “talking” dog. Stella’s owner is Christina Hunger who is a speech pathologist. She made Stella a “sound board” with some common words that her darling doggie might want to know, like “out” and “ball” and “play”. Then she set about teaching Stella what the buttons all met. Now, Stella uses the sound board to “talk” to her owner and tell Ms. Hunger what she wants. The video is pretty remarkable.

Honestly, though, I don’t think I want to give my two dogs any more encouragement to try and tell me what they want. Lily would always be hitting the buttons for “hungry – feed – me” and Penny would be always asking for “out – squirrel” or “rub – tummy”. And I know what they want already.
In any case, great videos and fun, even if you’re not a dog lover! Though if you’re not a dog lover, I’m not sure I’d care for your opinion anyway.

Enjoy!

Like The First Time

posted in: Fun | 0

When was that word first used?

When I was in High School, I remember being fascinated by the idea that James Hilton’s book Lost Horizon was so popular that his invented paradise, Shangra La, entered into the public consciousness and common usage. That may have been the first time I realized the power that an author may wield. And, here’s the thing, that happens more than we realize. I think we’re taught that English is this monolithic thing that is static and fixed, but it’s not. It’s not at all. New words are being added to our cultural vocabulary all the time. Eventually, they get added to the dictionary, mostly as a recognition of language that’s already in use. Sometimes, though, we can know who coined a term, and when they did it, like “cyberspace”. That was first used by William Gibson in a short story titled “Burning Chrome”, published in Omni Magazine in 1982. That story, along with Frank Herbert’s Dune are what made me want to be a writer, before paying bills drowned that creative impulse almost completely.
But, all that aside, my point is, every year, writers add to our English vocabulary. Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler can tell you what new words were added in what year. Go, look. Even if you don’t find it as inspiring as I do, it is occasionally fascinating to know how long some common words have been in use. For some it’s longer than we realize, but for others, it’s not as long as you might suppose!

What makes a safer knife?

A sharp knife is a safe knife.

I know that doesn’t seem to follow, but, trust me, it’s true. When I was in Boy Scouts, one of the many things I learned is that a sharp knife is actually safer than a dull knife. A sharp knife is less likely to snag and jump when you make a cut, and therefore, less likely to get out of your control when using it. Also, a sharp knife takes less effort to use, which also makes it easier to control. But, if you should mess up and have an accident, a sharp knife makes a cleaner cut. Trust me on this; clean cuts heal faster and better than messy, jagged cuts. I have plenty of both kinds to know the truth of that!
I bring this up because two of the holidays most focused around food and, therefore, the kitchen are just around the corner; Thanksgiving and Christmas. I fully expect that most of my readers, few of you as there may be, will find themselves in the kitchen carving a turkey, a goose, a ham or some other delicious and festive meat product. That means, gentle readers, that there will be knives. And, if you’re like most people that means a carving knife that you likely haven’t used since last year at least. So, before you grab for that dull, under-used blade, now would be a great time to sharpen it. Not sure how? Well, thanks to our friends at Boing Boing, I have a link to a video on the basics of knife sharpening. It’s about 30 minutes, which is probably a bit longer than is strictly necessary, but it covers pretty much everything. They even have links there for whetstones of progressing fineness of grit to really get a good edge on that carving knife. The one criticism I have from my time in Boy Scouts is that the video shows him drawing the blade toward his body and in short strokes. I was taught it should *always* be sharpened *away* from the body and I was also taught to use the longer strokes he uses for the last phase of sharpening. But, I will say, his technique of using a sharpie to see where you’ve sharpened is pretty smart. Though, I’d have use the acetone over the sink, not my whetstones. And, after going through all the trouble of sharpening the knife and all, when you wash the acetone off, do it by hand. Dishwashers tend to dull knives because of all the banging around that happens.
So, you’ve got plenty of time and few excuses! Go sharpen up before it’s time to carve the turkey!

NaNoWriMo 2019

posted in: Art, NaNoWriMo | 0

Start writing now!

Although I won’t be participating again this year, I do want to remind everyone who might be interested, that NaNoWriMo starts RIGHT NOW! If you’ve ever had the urge to write a novel, this is the month to give it a shot. Started as kind of dare in 1999, the goal is to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in one month. It’s not easy, but it is doable. In fact, there are some notable novels that came out of NaNoWriMo, including The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which sold so well it was even adapted into a movie. So, your dreams can come true, but you have to start writing.

Good luck!

The Horror of Corporate Life

posted in: Art, Fun | 1

Literally, horror rooted in corporate life.

On a bad day or week, the endless, repetitive drudgery of corporate life can seem like an endless horror story. I mean, we’ve all felt that from time to time, right? And, for those of us who seem to work harder and harder for less and less return, it can sometimes feel like there’s some hidden class of people, a separate breed in a way, that get ahead regardless of their work ethic. When we’re faced with the occasionally terrifying idea that the eldritch horror of our jobs may be something that no one else understands, well, it’s easy to think the corporate world may be some kind of cthonian conspiracy.
At least, this short film Corporate Monster seems to agree. And, it’s a fantastic way to celebrate both Halloween and your corporate servitude.
Enjoy!

AI Art Generator

posted in: Art, Fun, Fun and Games, The Tools | 1

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!

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