movements in an office building

2014-07-03 11:43:18

a gnome at desk area
the janitor at second floor lobby
a computer at cubicles
a gnome at ground floor elevator
the janitor at cubicles
a computer at cubicles
a gnome at desk area
the janitor at second floor lobby
a computer at cubicles
a gnome at ground floor elevator
the janitor at kitchen
a computer at cubicles
a gnome at second floor elevator
the janitor at second floor lobby
a computer at cubicles
a gnome at second floor lobby
the janitor at second floor elevator
a computer at cubicles
a gnome at second floor elevator
the janitor at ground floor elevator
a computer at cubicles
a gnome at second floor lobby
the janitor at desk area
a computer at cubicles
a gnome at kitchen
the janitor at ground floor elevator
a computer at cubicles
a gnome at second floor lobby
the janitor at second floor elevator
a computer at cubicles


movie roundup 2

2014-05-31 14:48:24

Only Lovers Left Alive

Do see this movie. Again and again. It's perfect. I loved every single dim, morbid second of it.

The Black Cauldron

This movie could have been so amazing. It definitely has some amazing visual sequences but the characters are largely irritating and the story very shallow.

Grand Budapest Hotel

I didn't like this too much the first time through. I found the violence off-putting and got kind of tired of M. Gustav. The second time, however, I loved it (especially M. Gustav). It helped to know when the violent parts were coming.

Chronicles of Narnia part 1

I found this movie unwatchable. I turned it off halfway through. I expected to have the most trouble with the source material's intense Christian allegories but the movie itself was just hollow. The CG animals were cute and Tilda Swinton was, of course, great. But it's nowhere near enough to save the rest of the movie.

Lilo & Stitch

I enjoyed this movie, thus proving that I don't hate fun. The plot makes little sense but that's okay. Also Stitch was cuter when he was evil (or more accurately, Chaotic Neutral).

Hunger Games parts 1 & 2

I expected to hate these. Instead, I adored them and immediately read all the books.


dream: penetrating the city-hotel of UK town

2014-04-19 18:49:36

I am a some kind of cyberpunk agent-for-hire in Pan Asia. The waves have long since covered up the United Kingdom and I have been hired to infiltrate "UK town," a sprawling, walled, hotel-like city founded decades ago by refugees.

There is a wing of the complex dedicated for use as a nursing home. Old british women dress in neo-victorian garb and sit in holographic sun rooms and spend their days writing letters to the "prime minister." They are actually corresponding with an AI who writes back to them of romance, politics, intrigue, and passion.

My employer has determined that one woman in particular is conversing with the actual prime minster of the UK, a shadowy and secretive figure. He is, for some reason, enamored of this old blind woman and she and she alone receives actual honest letters from the politician.

It is my job to get into this woman's room and steal any letters I can find so my employers can use them to pin point who and where the prime minister is (I elect to not find out why).

I wear a long tweed coat and dodge many dressed-up butlers carrying tea trays made of a plasticine silver. I enter the first elevator I see for the nursing home complex and begin pressing the buttons according to some arbitrary protocol. Such arcane annoyances are the law of this place and, as far as I know, I hit all the elevator buttons in the right order and uttered the correct pleasantries to the AI monitoring the car.

Unfortunately an alarm sounds. A cyborg (who looks just like M___ M_K____) with surgically attached sunglasses marches in and informs me that this car is set up for a certain Madame's funeral procession and that I have failed to follow proper funerary protocol. He tells me that I will be "instructed."

He pulls from a thick keyring what looks like a transparent stick of RAM. He shoves it into the slit in my forehead and I am subject to a searing pain throughout my head. A vision starts in my brain of some poorly adapted biblical story about "the funeral of Job" and I am unsure how long it goes on.

When it fades, I come to and see him rip the RAM stick out of my forehead and walk off. I quickly get into a different elevator.

I make it onto the proper floor and find a nurse who is going to visit my target. I convince her that I am a nephew who has come to check on the woman's cat. The nurse lets me into the woman's room.

I quickly find the cat "carriers," giant chocolate-shell easter eggs wrapped in garish green tin foil. I crack the nearest one open and there is an unseeing, switched-off cat robot inside. To placate the nurse I busy myself with plucking an intricate pattern of hairlessness into the cat robot (who looks a lot like my cat U___). Luckily the old woman is blind and lost in a fantasy "outside" in the holographic sun room.

The nurse leaves and I quietly rifle through faux-wooden bureaus and drawers all while listening to the old woman have a conversation with herself about flowers and tea. I find reams of correspondence with the true prime minister and stuff it all into my coat.

I manage to escape the city and go to stash the letters in my locker in a filthy subway only to find that my locker has been wrenched open and looted. I wake up feeling pissed off and cheated.


when you were in my machine and I was in yours

2014-03-24 15:35:28

I'm halfway through Indra Sinha's The Cybergypsies.

Among other things it details a "pre-internet" group of computer enthusiasts/addicts/users. The most striking thing about them is their disdain for the Internet, which at first I could not understand at all.

After reading more (and playing some Uplink), it started to dawn on me. They mourned for the loss of the direct connection between two machines. The "physical" connection between one modem and another over a copper wire. There was an intimacy there shared by all those who dialed into the same BBS or MUD.

With the internet, I can still SSH or telnet somewhere--and, indeed, have basically the same experience--but now our data is mediated by the Internet, a labyrinth so immense and entangled as to put any Creten maze to shame. It delivers our data for us through some dizzying number of hops. It plays with us an ironic game of "telephone" that, by the graces of TCP, tends to give us what we wanted.

That computer-to-computer intimacy is replaced by a swarming, unfathomably large horde of troll-faced minotaurs.

Interestingly, the type of interaction afforded by BBS-dialing has gone nowhere: I can open up a terminal right now and telnet or ssh to any number of interesting places. Such means of networking have simply fallen out of vogue among mainstream computer users.

As the web becomes more and more commercialized, censored, gated and banal, look for me not on a blog, not on Twitter, not on Facebook, but on some machine out "there." I'll be hiding from the information apocalypse behind a telnet connection, sitting in a well-described garden, reading plain-text poetry, waiting for you to utter a "say" command.

I might even brew you an imaginary pot of Earl Grey tea with a few Lapsang leaves tossed in.


tweetbots

2014-01-31 10:40:48

I wrote my first twitter bot in 2009: willsburroughs. Will made random searches on Yahoo, picked some random results, and slammed bits and pieces of them together as messily as possible.

Will was happy and so was I. It felt important and fun to be writing such a thing; in fact, the experience in part led me to my undergraduate thesis and its resulting software (prosaic).

My second bot was also named for a William: shakesbot. It tweeted plays by Shakespeare line by line, prefixing each with the current speaking character.

Both bots died when the Oauthpocalypse came. I was so distraught by this that, instead of simply re-adjusting the bots to work with the new API, I abandoned them. I don't know why I reacted so viscerally to this event. I think it amounted to a betrayal: Twitter had, until that point, felt like the early web for which I have so much nostalgia.

I didn't write another Twitter bot until some time in 2013. I didn't actually make one public until this month.

The Oauthpocalypse seemed to symbolize a transition away from anarchy and bot-love for Twitter. I just assumed that bots would be explicitly forbidden with the new API. I didn't bother risking more creations in the face of presumably draconic terms of service. I realize now that I was foolish. Bots have never been more popular, oauth or not.

Making a bot is certainly less convenient with oauth, but all the same possibilities exist. I've found that using Adam Wynne's twitter-api library for Clojure is great for coding up bots right there in a Clojure REPL.

I love Clojure but as bots are ultimately long-lived processes I'm wondering if it's the best choice (I'm not too fond of long-lived JVM containers all over my cheap cloud servers). Clojurescript compiled to work with v8 might be a good alternative, as might Hy or Chicken.

I'm happy to be returning to this art form.


have you heard my startup pitch

2014-01-24 10:30:08

they walked together by habit
in only filthy coveralls
with little more sense than a rabbit
speaking of defunct protocols.

the stuff began to twist and writhe,
spilling over and draining out its side.
this was a most illicit enterprise
like netsites in roma provide.

they flung it into the gulf:
a pillow upholstered in scalp.
hands stained like the muzzle of a wolf,
they resumed kicking along the whelp.

like businessmen draped in the pelt of an art nerd
they turned their backs on this poisoned world.


dream: aaron swartz pilgrimage

2014-01-21 10:17:20

A______ and I discover that Aaron Swartz's parents have moved out of their house in MA and are selling it. They have kept Swartz's childhood bedroom intact, though, so that it can be transferred wholesale into a computing history museum.

We decide to make a spiritual pilgrimage to Swartz's home to see his bedroom in its original state before it is moved.

We drive hours to MA and, in the middle of the night, park behind the large 3 story house and (as non-invasively as possible) break in. The house is very empty and ready to move on the lower two floors; on the top floor, however, we find Swartz's childhood bedroom.

The first thing we do is attempt to determine if the rumours of a hidden wall compartment behind an unfinished wall-mounted Go board are true. We deduce that there is no such apartment, and the board works via magnetic Go pieces that are attracted to the back of a great big metal shelving unit on the other side of the wall (not via a device hidden in the wall).

His bedroom is full of books, gadgets, and ephemera. A______ suggests I take a book--just one--as a holy artifact. I agree and begin to hunt through the shelves but nothing seems right.

I hunt and hunt and leaf through many books and get increasingly anxious about being caught. Finally, a wall of posters and postcards catches my eye; there is a postcard with a picture of a gothic castle in black and white with small crows drawn in with heavy black ink. Text at the bottom reads: The beauty of poetry lies in the prosaic.

For obvious reasons, I take this as my artifact and slip it into my bag. We sneak out and drive hours back home to A_____.


dream: facebook hates your face

2014-01-07 12:16:48

I am at a family gathering around christmas. Several aunts, an uncle, and my (in actuality, late) grandfather are there.

It is somewhat the future.

I have a newish smartphone and am taking selfies with my family. I notice something strange; in the photos, everyone (my aunts and I) looks a little different. Our skin is more glowing, or less-wrinkled, or generally younger-looking. Our hair is less gray.

In my dream I realize I am lucky to be around my grandfather. He does not understand selfies but I convince him to get in some with me and an aunt.

I keep taking pictures but his head will never appear in them. Just an empty collar. My aunt and I are there but have the strange airbrushed look.

I get curious and start googling for this symptom. It turns out that the camera software on my Facegooglebook smartphone is "airbrush only" in which, for each human in a given photo, facebook scours the internet for every single picture of that human and constructs an "idealized" version of their head. This is considered a feature or improvement.

Since my grandfather has only ever been old on the internet Facebook decided it was best to just leave his old, wrinkled face out.

I get furious and start writing blog posts about how awful this is. I rant about Facebook's ageism and how it enables a culture of self-hatred and terrible body-esteem.

I realize that it's too late and that all software is proprietary and that things can never change.


dream: ran out of clones

2014-01-05 12:38:08

I'm eating lunch with A___, A______, _, and S____. We're sharing cut vegetables and veggie burgers off of a paper plate. Our table is situated in a tall tree next to a walkway on some kind of academic campus. One of the veggie burgers falls to the ground and I am saddened.

Someone comes down the walkway and tells me that an old friend, K____, may be dead because he has run out of clones. He was always into heavy drug use and apparently making several clones with shared consciousness and doing reckless things was his most recent hobby. Unfortunately, it seems that he forgot to make a backup clone.

I resolve, with A_______, to go to his "mastermind," a computer that, in theory, handles the manufacturing of his clones and stores a rough, stripped down version of his psyche. We walk through a strange building full of college-age people taking classes in saunas. We emerge into an unfathomably large area completely stuffed with spaghetti-wrapped escalators. Suited business people go every which way.

Finally we reach a dorm tower that overlooks a soccer field. At the highest floor there is a long, dim hallway. At the end, an African student tells us, is K____'s mastermind. We walk into the increasing darkness.

I notice that A___ and M__ are here. A___ has to go get a frightening medical procedure to remove a terrible parasitic worm infection; the worms are choking all of his organs, including his brain. M__ is afraid and doesn't want him to go, but understands he'll soon come under the control of the worms. I feel bad for eavesdropping and sneak away (though A___ notices me and kind of shrugs).

We reach the mastermind. It's a computer terminal in a dark room, as far as we can tell. I speak with it and find out that it sort of has K____'s mind in there, but several others as well. It's trying to produce clones but it has produced so many that the clone genetics are mutating and the clones come out half-formed or otherwise useless and flailing. It would seem that K____ is as good as dead.

Instead of watching more pathetic half-alive clones crawl out of the darkness we go to a window and pull back the shade. We can see the soccer field, where a game is going on. The home team is losing 1-0.

The home team is all student-run and is coached by a trio of scared looking underclassmen. I see them call a timeout and conspire with one another. One of them convinces an old man to come chat with them. For some reason I recognize him as a great and famous but retired pro-soccer coach. He sits down with one of the students but is sucked up a chute; to my surprise he pops out of the ceiling by K____'s mastermind and is dragged into the darkness by mechanical hands.

K____'s mastermind booms out, "I am a soccer god. I will lead our team to victory!" The wall with the computer terminal splits open and a robotic queen ant the size of two semi-trucks bursts forth. Her gaster is glowing brilliantly and from it I can hear the moans of many other minds absorbed into her.

The giant ant queen breaks through the wall and spreads huge purple satin wings. Before she can reach the soccer game and claim victory, though, huge police dragons fly in and attack her. We watch her flee to a nearby super-highway leaving a path of destroyed cars and angry police dragons. I wake up.


dream: damon and dead gods

2013-11-27 08:54:08

I meet a strange man in a dilapidated farmhouse while on anniversary vacation with A_______. He offers to pay me thousands of dollars if I secretly sneak up on Matt Damon and take a photograph of him with some secret lover. He wants to hire me since I am just some rando and not a well-known paparazzi. I agree because it seems totally worth it.

We get lat+long coordinates from the strange man and head there. It is evening. Damon is in this dock/pavillion on a giant lake at the bottom of a rocky cliff. We park at the top of the cliff and work on figuring out how to hide ourselves and what our plan ought to be. I end up wrapping myself in a black towel and taking A_______'s point & shoot camera and climbing down some rocky ledges for a good vantage point.

At first I watch Damon seemingly set up for his lover. He puts out wine and goes for a swim. A strange APC arrives and armed men as well as some kind of ghastly, suited, skinny creature make their way down the cliff escorting a clearly restrained woman. I curl up under the black towel as they pass, picking their way down a rocky path.

Damon greets and begins talking to the suited man. The woman is put down in the center of the pier. I try to take pictures but am worried about what is going on. More people arrive; this time, it's strange squat twin men wearing yellow and blue striped space suits complete with Buzz Lightyear-style head bubbles. Inside they are both bald and wearing dark welder's goggles.

The spacemen get into canoes and paddle out into the lake. Meanwhile, Damon and the suited man open a great chest and pull out a huge book. A book that's as big as Damon's torso. Its binding is a deep red and the cover is a confounding and non-euclidean pattern in maroon.

A light emanates from the lake. It's the two spacemen, who have set themselves up equidistant from each other and the deck on rocks. A beam of light is coming from their chests and I can hear them chanting in some language so quickly it is impossible to understand them.

The light pierces the book and behind it a giant orb starts to form. It is silvery at its core and shrouded in red mist and energy. Damon and the suited man look very, very pleased.

Suddenly my patron appears next to me.

"We must stop them. I'm sorry I have lied to you, but I needed evidence of their treachery. I didn't think they would attempt the entire ritual this night but it's up to us now to put a stop to it. The whole universe is at stake."

I believe my patron but am not sure what to do. The book is now floating in mid-air and, along with the orb, is glowing brightly. The spacemen are chanting even louder and faster and their chest beams are blindingly bright.

My patron leaps down onto the deck and starts wrestling with Damon. I hear Damon screaming,

"It's too late! You've lost!" The night sky suddenly rips open and the entire horizon in front of and above me becomes a glaring Hellscape. I see flaming mountains and the husks of dead planets floating above strange peaks. Unbelievably large god-things start climbing out of this sky, setting their long legs into the lake. The lake water hisses and turns foul.

The gods are skinny and long-limbed and black as pitch. Their skin is rough and crusted. Their heads are like old, worn brooms turned upside down. They moan with a roar that deafens.

I run down the rocky path and jump into the water, swimming as fast as I can to a spaceman. I climb on his rock and shove him into the water, interrupting him. I swim to the other and knock him down. I pass by the very leg of the interloping god-thing and am afraid.

My plan seems to have worked, though, and as the spacemen's connection with the book and orb breaks the gods are drawn back into their sky-portal. I swim back to the deck in time to see that Damon has called upon his personal army: a crowd of hardcore straight-edge teens. I get on my phone and ask every one of my facebook friends to come fight Matt Damon. My friends all do battle with the straight-edge kids and in the chaos I grab the giant book and run up the cliff.

I meet my patron.

"You have done well. We have stopped this madness for now." I ask him what the book is. "It is a true book of Genesis. Nothing like the old testaments that you humans cling to, but the actual word of the god-things transmitted to cave-dwelling prophets thousands of years ago. They were insane, and snippets of their prophecies were mis-interpreted and shoved into what your christians call 'the bible.' Damon and his ilk re-created this book by resurrecting these insane old prophets and extracting their thoughts. The orb is a quantum computer that was parsing the book and using its secrets to open the portal. The spacemen are highly trained cyberspace cosmonauts who were programming the quantum computer via optical transmitters in their chests."

I ask him what now.

"We are done, I guess we'll just throw the book into the lake." He does so. I meet up with A_____ M_____, a friend from college, and we drink beer at a nearby bar.


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