Bette, Germinal, 227

Is it worth saying what you actually think more? I try to be honest (situation allowing) and sometimes that gets me in trouble and sometimes it doesn't. But then I'm a white man and that gives me the privilege in most places. I also find it a good way out when I can't read the room very well. Just a hard reset button. I'm tired after driving home at the weekend through the night. I know very well that I need at least seven hours sleep a night and any romanticism about being able to pull of four hours sleep is long gone. I stick to my hard rule of waking up at the same time every day but I'm not very good at going to sleep on time which creates a sleep deficit. Anyway...

It's alive!

As promised last week I'm going to bring back the Ongoing Collapse. It's a good project and people seem to like it so it's probably worth doing. Well, stage one is done so the easy bits are out of the way I guess. Renewing the hosting ( proved tricky since I don’t know where it is. Over the last few years the hosting has been bounced around to various folks and though I still own the domain I didn't have the patience to go around hunting down whoever is supposed to be hosting it at the moment (clue there is nothing at the domain). I was going to go for but for some reason it won't assign the domain properly so instead I got the extremely catchy

You can go over there right now to have a look at the holding page if you like. The key stylings are done and some super basic d3 is implemented to just basically draw that red line across the canvas, but it all resizes nicely and should work on mobile too. In fact it looks even cooler on mobile.

Anyway the core of it's done, it's up, styling's done. So next stage is going to be really hard and it's going to mean re-building all the scraping and archiving. I'm not sure how to do that. Last time I used a PHP scraper being pushed by a CRON job into an SQL database every day. It works ok as a storage and retrieval method but the scraper was bad and any time someone re-styled their page it lost all the data and glitched out. I'm going to look back over the code from the last iteration and see what's salvageable but I'm up for suggestions of better approaches.

After that is implementing the visualisations. I never got that far in the last iteration, I want to set it so that if your mouse hovers (or thumb clicks) on a particular bit of data in the text then that graph is either highlighted or appears. Again, I've got d3 in the build and ready to go so that's just a case of playing around with some examples to find something that works.

Blogging regular

I set a recurring reminder to post a blog every Wednesday and have set up a note to just write things down in and then form them up into a post. This is supposed to be on Wednesdays but tomorrow is packed and I thought I'd do it today. 

Term's over so it's the strange twilight of the university where everyone gradually goes off on holiday and very few of us are left in the building. It means there's some breathing room so I trudged through all my emails today to pick up anything I might have missed. There's some new projects coming up soon and I'm trying to figure out a mental calendar of the next six months and how everything's going to fit in. 


Another YouTube recommendation. Girlfriend Reviews. Basically it's someone reviewing what it's like to live her boyfriend who plays video games. It's very funny and has resulted in me an Santo saying 'hol up a minit!' around the flat a lot which is a good indication of strong cultural impression. Most of them are about video games and derivations thereof but this one for the Star Wars: A New Hope came out the other week and it made me snigger a lot so I'm sharing it with you. 

Equinox (Plantoir, Ventose, 227)

Bring out your dead.
I ended up talking about blogging a lot recently. It seems it just won’t die. Some students I was supervising said they really enjoyed my blog and I was kind of shocked. I just use it to update people on what I’m up to rather than anything intellectual and then I was speaking to Nicolas Nova about it and the value of writing etc. All of this stuff is like canon for creatives and academics but it don’t make it fun. As I’ve said before I don’t particularly enjoy reading or writing. I always see a value in it and get myself in a good flow but I don’t ever relish it. I like video games and YouTube. Maybe I can share a channel I’ve been watching a lot recently with each blog? Ok new feature.

*Interruption* Channel Recommendation
I was holed up ill a few weeks ago and the recommendation algorithm started pushing up car restoration things. i don’t mind admitting that I like cars, I think some are really beautiful objects and they’re mechanically interesting. This was after a stint of videos on the science of Formula 1 which were fucking fascinating. Anyway, I found this guy - B is for Build - who restores and modifies cars in his garage and I just really like him. He has a positive attitude, doesn’t show off or make a big fuss, does some really good evaluating of the problems he’s facing, how he’s making decisions about stuff and considering what he wants to achieve. It feels very much like being in a design project, with him discussing his process with us and reflecting on the lessons he’s learning. Plus you get to learn about different bits of a car and how it all fits together. It’s not demanding and the time lapses make me sleepy which is a bonus when you’re sick. So check it out if it sounds interesting, I’d recommend watching the playlists as you can see a whole build evolve.

So anyway, I’ve decided to keep a record of thoughts and things as the week goes by and then try and publish at least once a month and maybe no-one reads it but then it stops things I would just say to myself in the kitchen disappearing into the ether.

It’s also hard to know what to say on here and Twitter dot com. I’m in positions where I’m responsible for a lot of plans and people’s work and it’s not that there’s much that’s secret but it’s either only relevant to a handful of people or it’s just a bit sensitive and I like keeping people’s confidence.

Bring back the dead.
I’ve decided to bring back Ongoing Collapse. I decided a while ago when I got the domain notification and people keep mentioning it or asking what happened to it. What happened was that it was really badly built when I didn’t know what I was doing (I still don’t) and used some dodgy CRON to PHP scraper to SQL database to browser pipeline which hardly ever worked and was completely unmanageable. Anyway, the maintenance got to be too much and I flogged off to some other folks who passed it around like a vintage car that needs twice its value in repairs and it ended up back in my lap.

So this morning I was thinking in the shower about how I’m going to rebuild the interface with gnarly D3 or P5 stuff and build a custom API (so that others can use it if they want) and hope for the best. I’ll try and document as I go as I don’t really know what I’m doing and my Stack Overflow profile is already trash. I was kind of inspired by hanging out with Joana Moll a bit recently (she’s great) and remembering what it was like when we all just used to make little browser-based experiments. I can’t promise a deadline as there’s a couple coming up and I reckon theres a solid week of work to do but maybe by the end of April it’s up and running again.

What I need from you is new references to bits of data - doesn’t matter whether they’re APIs, websites, whatever, anything I can scrape and any tips you might have on building good working APIs. As with the old Ongoing Collapse I really want it to keep rolling. Last time people sent in bits of data they wanted to see and I did my best to find them. Any tips on a good pipeline to scrape data, keep an ongoing record of it (say, daily) and then publish that to a browser would be A+.

I don’t know if I told you, I’m co-authoring a book with some colleagues. We’ve been doing it since 2015(!) and are in the final stretch. One of my co-authors had a bebe which gives us some deadline leniency but I’ve spent a lot of this week going over chapters. It’s actually pretty good. I always have that thing when I do any project that I hate it at first and then you look back and it’s like ‘you know what, that was pretty good.’ So yeah, it’s pretty good. Just hope the editor agrees.

Impakt videos
Impakt, who as you know are my favourite media arts organisation, have published videos from the mini-festival held at the beginning of March. I did a talk for them about interfaces which was bringing a couple of things together. I did a summary of how future interfaces are shown in science fiction, pivoting into the magic and Haunted Machines stuff and then drawing them together with Harry Potter and how magic is visualised in that. It was one of those talks where things that you’ve been working with for a while kind of come together quite neatly. Anyway, check it out.

I also moderated a panel which was quite interesting. It began with a performance from Marianna Maruyama which was brilliant. Well worth watching, really funny and clever. I definitely want to get her involved in some future things. And I met Veronika from Ars Electronica who I’ve emailed with a bunch of times and never met, she was lovely. Impakt just has a real knack for finding funny, interesting and good-humoured people. I love those guys.

What else
I’m driving up to see my parents this weekend which is cheaper and easier than train travel and it feels like a cop out but the last few weeks have been a bit of a drag and me and Santo need to have a mini (and quite sedate) adventure. I haven’t had a drink fifty-two days today (and consequently no cigarettes or late-night taxi rides). It got to a point before Christmas where I was just looking forward to drinking every day and spending crazy money on food, alcohol, cigarettes, taxis. I’m not going to bang on about it but I’m pretty cheery that I just cold-turkey'd something that I knew was just going to balloon into a bigger problem and was at the root of a lot of other things I was unhappy with like being cranky all the time, getting bad sleep, eating like shit, never exercising and spending too much money.

Oh yeah
I also decided to do a render each week. No promises. I used to do digital sketches which are a bit more intensive to set up whole animations but an image is probably manageable. Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I make up weird settings and try and imagine what they’d be like. One of them is the inside of a hemisphere that’s a desert and I try to imagine the horizon to go to sleep. So I thought I’d try and actually visualise it.

Set up as two spheres, one inside the other, one as light source one as surface, flip the normals so the surfaces face in and then subdivide. Three times seems to work, more than that was getting strange striations in the texture.

Ok I can't get it to work in time today. making the texture work at that scale crashes Blender. No render today! Good start!