Monthly Archives: July 2010

Going Cross-Eyed From So Much Reading

Friday afternoon Nefarious and I finished reading The Half Blood Prince, which took us less time than the — 42:37 hours for that one — since we read faster and it’s a significantly shorter book and we completed it inside 27:51 hours. I’m sure that number will shrink too, because right now I haven’t gone through the video to make sure it’s correct, and I’m sure there are videos of playing games and other non-reading activities in the pile. We watched the matching movie tonight, and our “reading comprehension” activity was identifying all the major ways in which the movie diverges from the book. There are a lot, and it’s actually pretty surprising how significant these liberties are. Perhaps she wrote the “make it fit in two and a half hours” script — down from five hours if not more I’m sure — but if not I’d be kind of pissed off about the changes if I was her. I can see why she insisted that the final book be shot as a two-part movie, so as to ensure as much accuracy as is achievable…


I don’t know what we’ll do when we get through The Deathly Hallows which we read after the movie — in part to distract from the potentially nightmare causing scene of the Inferi (scrawny horrible water-logged pale gollum-zombie things). We turned out all the lights to make it even more fun…

Afghanistan IED Data Visualization (plus my life)

The first thing I need to mention is this video I made based on the Afghanistan IED data that got published via Wikileaks. Others have already been doing their own visualizations (which is how I got started), but I decided to brush off my memories of the tool I wrote ages ago (that link just gives you the idea, I didn’t bother tracking down anything better) that built animated geolocated-data map videos that showed web usage around the world and so on (it was sort of neat watching the users swing around the globe, sync’d with the sun) and apply it to bombs in Afghanistan.

You can watch the video here, but do yourself a favor and view full-screen it at 720p over on YouTube — I rendered it at 2560×1440 so the bigger you can view it, the better it will look, and it will be so much easier to see map details like roads. If you don’t have time to watch it all, then you should watch the last bit, because in 2008 and 2009, the bombing gets much more intense…

The map itself is a modified version of one that I grabbed from the NATO website that was easy to work with because it has clearly labeled lat/lon markings, and more importantly, the projection is flat and aligned with a grid, so setting up a scaling system to translate the points is easy. When the bombs go off, they can be green (no casualties of any sort), yellow (injuries only), or red (people were killed), with the casualties being recorded both in terms of “enemy” kills, and everyone else (both allies and civilians — in hindsight I should have had three columns).

Anyway, hope it’s interesting to someone. Feel free to repost it, feel free to modify it, feel free to ask me for data sets and source code… whatever… As always, enjoy. Hopefully it is not too buggy, and double-hopefully if it is, the bugs are not of the visible sort!

Edit: I just saw (thanks Lou) that the Guardian has posted a similar and in some ways much better visualization of this same dataset, which you can view here. That said, I’ve downloaded the full dataset (the entire war, not just IEDs), so I’m analyzing that as I find time and energy, so I’ll post something much more interesting when I can.

* * *

I’ve been doing loads of programming. My carving/bump-map editor is coming along very nicely, with a great number of the routines written. At this point I just have a couple to do and I’ll have something quite useful that I can begin physically testing. I must concede that the work goes more slowly than I’d like, and some days I get almost… no… literally nothing done because I just can’t think straight. The positive synchronicity there is that Nefarious has been visiting her grandmother for the last week, having a great time with her, her cousins, and her great-grandmother as well. Before we dropped her off, we spent the day hitting the beach and then the hotel pool and waterslide when we retired for the day.

prince-edward-point-trip--ari-and-caitlin-swimming-at-little-bluff-1 prince-edward-point-trip--ari-and-caitlin-swimming-at-little-bluff-3 prince-edward-point-trip--ari-and-caitlin-swimming-at-little-bluff-4

prince-edward-point-trip--ari-and-shannon-at-light-house-1 prince-edward-point-trip--ari-with-a-captured-snake prince-edward-point-trip--caitlin-and-shannon-at-light-house

I’m quite curious as to what I was looking at in the final photo.

When Nefarious got back from the County today, one of the the things we did was to go and visit Shane so he could take some final measurements of my left leg since we’re starting the tattoo this weekend. I’ve mentioned before that’s it’s a sort of Iron Sky (Nazis UFOs) meets Hell Boy (Nazi Occultism) meets Blood and Snow (Nazi Zombies). It’s a big project, and it’s been some time getting started, so fingers crossed that Shane, who has a new child occupying his attention much more than my leg, will be able to find time to get it done this fall. Here’s a couple teasers of the sketches that don’t at all do it justice, but continue to give you an idea of where we’re going.


Of course effort is being taken to be clear that this is a sci-fi tattoo, not a neo-nazi tattoo!

When we were at his studio (after a long walk through Kensington market and China Town because my mental map had him at the opposite end of the Dundas-College/Bathurst-Spadina rectangle than in reality), Nefarious was quite interested in the skulls and which ones were real and which were not… Shane inherited some of my skulls when I stopped selling them (I think with BME’s redesign, my old “Skulls For Sale” webpage is finally dead — which reminds me of what an incredible resource is), and it’s quite amazing how these skulls went from enduring a dubious start, being most likely grave-robbed, passed around academia for a while, and then ending up on my particularly trashy, tacky webstore… and then finding their way into Shane’s hands, who has worked to “purify” for lack of a better world, and by inserting these exact skulls, with care and respect, into places of honor in dozens if not hundreds of custom tattoos, he’s added a fascinating end stone to these mystery men’s biographies.

Things that keep me high

We’ve been having a nice week, with the highlight probably being a visit to a friend’s cottage on a gorgeous stretch of sandy Georgian Bay beach, which we spent most of our visit lounging upon, Nefarious spending as much time as she could in the surprisingly warm water. If you’re wondering why I have a cane in the water, it’s just because Nefarious wanted to go out deep after I was tired out (I didn’t initially look this silly), and I joined her so that she could go out further than would have been safe on her own. Even with all the pain — which grows more substantial every day, something that is hard to believe is possible, and the potential for imminent demise — boy oh boy do I still spend most of my time happy and appreciating what a lucky hand I’ve been dealt in terms of the experiences I’ve had and the people in my life. Please don’t ever think I’m whining about health issues (that said, they do suck!).

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I love the picture of Caitlin and I, and made it my new profile picture…

Nefarious, who has a fun week coming up visiting relatives (starting tomorrow with a waterslide excursion), insisted that I post this photo here. She was fondly reliving memories about cooking crepes as the cutest two year old ever back when we lived in Mexico, most of all how much fun the flipping is I think, so today she made them for Caitlin and I almost entirely on her own. I did some of the grunt work of mixing the ingredients, but she did everything else — assembling the batter, pouring, cooking, and flipping the crepes in the pan, and all that — on her own. And of course the post-frying carving of a plate of them into this be-hatted skull. It’s a wonderful thing, just as satisfying as a good report card (which I’m happy to say her hard work has earned her), seeing life skills develop and applied.


I’ve set up streaming from my movie/music collection to everything in the house — the PS3, which powers the television, as well as our iPhones and Caitlin’s iPad — so tonight I think we’re going to baptize it by watching “Africa’s Last Taboo,” a horrendously disturbing documentary about being gay in Africa (it’ll get you the death penalty in a dozen or so countries, with their murderous anti-gay movements being well funded by mainstream American churches who can’t get away with executing local white homosexuals). It’s on my must watch list.

That reminds me, I was out for a walk with Nefarious today and some annoying fundies approached us and tried to push tracts into our hands, so I said thanks but no thanks on account of God being a myth (politely though since I don’t want Nefarious to think it’s OK to mistreat someone for their beliefs… even if they are not just ignorant but supportive of great evil) — which seemed to give my daughter the giggles. Because she’s been raised atheist, but with a good knowledge of the stories and faiths of many different cultures via story telling that is expressive of the richness of religious tales, it’s quite surprising to her that anyone would actually believe the stories are real.

Anyway… Other than spending some one-on-one time with Caitlin this week, I’m hoping to do substantial development on a zBrush-esque tool I’m working on for creating height/bump-maps, which I plan on using on my CarveWright CNC router. I haven’t found any good freeware tools that are optimized for bas-relief sculpting, so I’m happy to contribute this effort. You can click to see where I’m at with a screenshot… I won’t embarrass myself by telling you how much time I spent drawing all the icons, nor will I further embarrass myself by telling you just how much I enjoyed that time spent. I actually have a lot of other tasks I need to do also, so fingers crossed that I have the strength to do a satisfying amount.

Not a bad run

I don’t mind paying taxes to make sure there’s a welfare system, and I don’t mind accepting a small possibility of burglary in order to allow martyrs like Colton to keep our fantasies free. I guess it was always a story with an end, but I would have liked to see him find his place in the islands rather than a prison cell. While Caitlin and Nefarious were playing with a family of swans at the beach today I made this little tree spirit and left it there. I hope it’s discovered by a child with a plenty of imagination.


Homeschooling Software: Addition Worksheets

I made this application in order to write some printer routines (I’ve never needed to create software that printed anything directly before, let alone doing things like print previews), but it’s also a pretty useful program for teachers or homeschoolers for printing math — addition — worksheets. You can tweak the settings to allow for any difficulty level, and it automatically arranges everything in an optimal pattern for your printer, assuming I’ve done everything right.

Download it here: zenmath-add.exe (just run it)

Nefarious helped me debug it, by doing a few sheets of math with an eye for finding errors, and she found a mistake in the sheet below in the way that hints were given for carry digits. That’s been fixed in the download link above.


Feedback on bugs is appreciated, when it’s all debugged I’ll give it a permanent link, because I really do think it’s useful. As always I’m happy to share the source code and will post the final version when the time comes.

Other than that, Caitlin got me some wheatberries and soaked them for me, so I’ve been making delicious salads out of them which I find easy to eat… I’m still having some trouble with nausea and while it’s good that I’ve lost forty or so pounds (not that anyone can tell because having a big beard masks the weight you carry in your face I think), it’s also not so good. I dropped Nefarious off at a friend’s house today and her mother asked me, “how are you feeling”, and you know, I get that the question comes from a kind place but I wish people would never ask that. I don’t like having to lie and say “oh, fine, thank you,” or whatever nicety the social contract demands — it’s not as if I can say “fucking awful, do you mind hitting me on the head with that axe over there so the pain will stop?” But anyway, yummy wheatberry salad, made with said grain, along with cranberries, walnuts, green onion, shredded carrot and radish, a mix of all sorts of beans, lemon, chutney, and various other things. So delicious.


I also whipped out my limited sewing skills (last used to sew clothes in high school) and repaired “Big Dog”. Nefarious thought he was looking a bit thin, so she cut him open to add some more stuffing, but didn’t really get as far in her planning as how she’d close him back up. She has a giant bag of thread/thin rope of different colours, so she found some that matched his fur and I closed the wound. He has a bit of a scar from the surgery, but no longer has a scary hole in his neck.

Plus I gave him a tattoo.



And finally, other than that, a little advice…