Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A thought I've been entertaining about growing up:

it's a ritual of being brought face-to-face with ones' deepest fears.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The virtue of long lines of sight:

2) Something must exist beyond each human's manipulation because people learn to cope with reality when reality is different from their imagination. If the reality is the same as the imagination, there is no escape from falling into solipsism. In extraterrestrial communities, everything can be virtually controlled. In fact, technically nothing should go beyond human control even though this is psychologically bad; however, some amount of "unpredictability" can be built in within a controllable range. One way to achieve this is to generate artificial unpredictability by means of a table of random numbers. Another way is to allow animals and plants a degree of freedom and independence from human planning. Both types of unpredictability must have a high visibility to be effective. This high visibility is easier to achieve in a macrogeometry which allows longer lines of sight. Something must exist which grows.

3) Interactive processes generate new patterns which cannot be inferred from the information contained in the old state. This is not due to randomness but rather to different amplification by mutual causal loops. It is important for each person to feel able to contribute personally to something which grows, that the reality often goes in a direction different from expectation, and finally that what each person takes care of (a child, for example) may possess increased wisdom, and may grow into something beyond the individual in control. From this point of view, it is important personally to raise children, and to grow vegetables and trees with personal care, not by mechanical means. It is also desirable to see plants and animals grow, which is facilitated by a long line of sight.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

the tlc5940 and arduino, some preliminary remarks:

now that the analog synth project is sort of done, thoughts turn toward the same design but as a sequencer-controlled analog synth. Forgo pots entirely and build a complex analog synth using LDRs; THEN control all the LDRs with LEDs driven by a serial LED driver (MAXX or Ti) from the arduino.

Also control an LCD display (sparkfun 2x16 serLCD), and use a pot and two or three buttons to program the whole thing. I bet it could be done with one button and one pot.

The programming would be annoying, because each beat would have about 10 or so parameters, but it would be very versatile. Saving data after shutdown may be an option, with primary goals being beat programming and arbitrary sequence length (for nontraditional tempos), with a ’hit’ function that previews a beat while working on the settings.

So experiments begin with the MAXX and Ti drivers- 16 leds with 4096 levels should be enough... (They’re very easy to daisy chain too)

Anybody have any experience with the sequencer programming part? I guess it’s going to be an array of variables with length n set by the number of beats programmed. It’ll be fun to look into the whole thing.

Ooh, ’reverse’ loop and manual triggering as well.

Got the first part, TL5940, all set up. (MAXIM 7221 doesn't do the pwm thing, so it has fallen from favor)

Amazing piece of hardware! IC plus 3 components controls 16 individual LEDs, with 4096 shades from off to full on. (they'd also control motors or servos) the best part is these LEDs don’t even need limiting resistors. It doesn’t care about the forward voltage of the LEDs either, so low voltage red ones can be used right next to 4+ volt near-UV LEDs, completely nekkid, with one leg in +5V, and another into the TL5940 with no care in the world!

The programming part looks great too, the code library makes it simple to address each LED and tell it what fade it should be. fade durations can be set too: fade up/fade down for envelope controls... each LED can fade up/down independently of the others in software as well.

Now to get the nice red backlit LCD display connected and figured out a bit.

Worked out a way to get as many controls as needed from a single pot: use it as a voltage divider. Then the arduino can do X if the voltage is below a certain point, and Y above that point. The pots’ range can be divided up as many ways as needed to allow scrolling through options...

one pot, one button, with at least ’set’ ’forward’ and ’back’ with a twist of the pot, for each value being accessed in the sequencer.

Once the hardware’s built, the software can be updated without touching the soldering iron. This, to someone familiar with analog stuff, is mindblowing.


so the arduino and 5v TL5940 will be one board, controlling a 9-12V synth circuit on another board via LEDs and light-dependent resistors.

One other thing: the arduino analogread () is only half the available resolution of the 5940s 4096 shades, so I think dividing the pot again will help: a bit north and south of center, it will take 2048 (the middle value) and add or subtract one, repeatedly. Further toward the ends, it would do it faster and faster, allowing the user to controllably scroll through all 4096 brightness values without dealing with the limits of the analogread () pin.

On a side note, I wonder what sounds could be made straight off the 16 fully controllable PWM ’voice’ pins on this IC.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The problem with 'what do you want to do?':

...is that nobody knows what they really want to do until after they've done it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Saturday, July 9th, 2005

3:26 pm
back from texas

My connecting flight from chicago dipped through remnants of a tropical storm near manchester. I watched the beam of landing lights shine off into clouds whipping by as sheets of water flew into an engine outside my window. The strobe at wings' end illuminated droplets, freezing them in random positions for an instant. The light was so brief that they weren't streaks; just points of light lingering in my mind where drops no longer were. Somewhere down below in the storm my future wife waited for me, with our future child slowly cooking in the oven of her womb. I was gladdened by the thought of that little being gestating in a soup of newly won happiness. Caprice.

She drove me home and we talked of the impending wedding, impending child and the unfolding joyous change in our lives. The next day she left for work and I took the flat of lettuce and squash someone had left on the tailgate of the truck and laid it on the damp edge of the driveway. I loaded the truck with trashcans (punched holes in them to let the fetid water out) and bags from the kitchen, loaded the Chihuaua and the Boxer into the passenger seat and drove to the dump to find it already closed. Returned from my jaunt of airing out trash back and forth through town, I prized the rusty mass of an ancient meat cleaver from the end of the old board in the barn, and with the flat of rootbound plants, ducked between wires around our small garden. I dug holes with the rusty blade and planted squash and rows of green romaine lettuce, disturbing the odd worm or grub in the process. Beans were blooming, small green tomatoes hung on vines, and I tossed inevitable rocks I turned up into the meadow. Above me, clouds of the spent storm hung, and mosquitos whirred around me languidly. Beyond the clouds, the sun shone and icetrails of passing planes doubtless hung. Above them small metal cans we'd flung into space spun endlessly, and beyond, wordless stares of countless suns were lost in the blue of sky above clouds.

The world? A droplet shaken from the bill of a crane, in a quiet swamp, catching moonlight.

(taxonomic specimen from the archives)

I don't know if this is true about men,

...but the happiest and most self-assured women I know have mercifully short memories.

Given the deep flaws in emotional memory, I don't see why this wouldn't extend to everybody.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Here's a thought:

If 'the market' places more value on scarcity, doesn't it simply keep people from what they think they want?
Marketing is the creation of this perceived need in order to keep the object of it from the people who are convinced they need it.

'No such thing as a free lunch', indeed.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I feel somewhat neglectful,

But I am learning to stop worrying and love this situation!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

8 weeks in:

A pace is becoming apparent, and it's something unfamiliar: forgetting about being in a hurry. There's plenty of time.

Unconsciously, the schedule has let out a sigh and smeared itself across the calendar.

(like the water spilling over the watertight compartments in the titanic?)

But seriously; get a few things done here and there over the course of an entire day unmarred by having to lease the old brain out for 8 hours to try to reassemble it enough to be productive after 5. Ah, take a break to sit in the sun in the back for a while.

What an incredible luxury that is. I don't know anything about what's called the 'slow food' movement;

but is there an equivalent 'slow life' movement? Is 'getting by' at a slower, more contemplative cadence possible?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The twin disasters of 'closure' and 'self-esteem':

A quick note, trawled without credit from somewhere online:

Individuals scoring high on need for closure are likely to quickly grasp closure by relying on early cues and the first answer they come across (Chirumbolo, et al., 2004). The need for closure is also said to lead to a very narrow information search and a higher tendency to use cognitive heuristics when it comes to finding a solution to a question (Van Hiel and Mervielde, 2003).

In studies on creativity, individuals rating low on need for closure produced a larger frequency of novel solutions that motivated and inspired others in their group. Low need for closure members were more productive and outcomes of projects were rated as more creative (Chriumbolo et al., 2004).

Some researchers have reached the conclusion that a desire for simple structure is the true cause of cognitive closure (Neuberg, et al., 1997). Others predict that stressors such as time pressure lead to a tendency to stick with a given strategy because of a heightened need for closure (Kruglanski, et al, 1997).

Meanwhile, The growing expectation placed on schools and parents to boost pupils' self-esteem is breeding a generation of narcissists, an expert has warned.

The end product: depression?

Thursday, March 12, 2009


It's been about a week since I popped this cherry.

I've descended from a retreat to the windswept alps of New Hampshire where some friends and I hiked across the moonscape and emptied our heads for a few days.

It was 40 yesterday, and now it's 20 and windy, and the little boy has pinkeye, but hopefully he's recovered enough to not have daycare call me to collect him early. I've got a book to work on and a house to clean and probably should be looking for some kind of job but I don't need that kick in the nuts just now.

So yes, the book. I'm fully aware that I am not an author, and I understand what real authors keep telling us pretenders.

So what.

Writing is something I've been passionate about for as long as I could form sentences, so why not work on cheesing out a book while the professional world has decided it has no further use for me? At the very least I can say I tried while pumping gas after the severance runs out.

Yes, it was inauguration day, I was driving to work listening to all the hopeful people on the radio waiting for the big event, and a tear even crept from my eye at all the exuberance. Two hours later, I was driving home, ditched from the career I'd had for the last 13 years, with a tear creeping from my eye at the thought of having to go through the utter horseshit of pretending to be interested in something less interesting than what I'd been doing.

Gar put it right when he got me the position way back when, by telling me that this wasn't something to quit from in two weeks when it got frustrating. Of course within two weeks he was dead, and I was trying to figure out how to sink or swim in an organization that had finally taken me on after two years of applications.

I bit down on my pride, learned to suffer through the monotony of the 9-5, and struggled with the fact that good ideas were not necessarily what innovation was about. Often they took a back seat to politics, and of course expediency. 'We're not building a grand piano/stealth bomber/rome!', etc. As the company and technology matured, we got bought and sold to repeatedly larger and dumber organizations, and our management was replaced over and over again by people brought in by other people who did not understand the fundamentals of our products. We'd lost our way.

Then the economy shit the bed, so we began losing our jobs: not the people making the bad sales projections, or the ones manipulating the stock price; but the ones who knew how the products, customers, and industry, worked. The slide was long and painful with ever more poorly thought out ideas to expedite for month after painful month until their progenitors in the corner offices took the time to understand that their misinformed notions had failed.

It's all moot when you're sitting there in your cold kitchen in february with your ex-wife telling you she needs money, the COBRA paperwork demanding money, the daycare needing money, and the house a mess and the groceries unbought. The tipping point came when I flipped open the nice corporate blue dossier sent to me by the 'career transition team' my former employers had thoughtfully signed up for me on my departure. It was an entreaty to 'foster a sales and marketing approach' to finding a job; to become a 'product' to be 'marketed'.

Something snapped, and besides the futility of shaking my fist at the silent heavens, I decided there had to be a way to scream my rage at the stars. At about this juncture I began joking with a publisher friend about writing a book about it all. We laughed about potential titles and left it at that, but over the next few evenings I found myself laughing about it some more, so I began writing.

Proposals, tables of contents, chapters; it's all forming up, which is interesting from the standpoint of somebody who's unsure of how the book will end: it's evolving; it's ALIVE!

So this blog will keep track of progress and whatnot, but it will not be a reflection of the books' contents nor will it be written in the style I'm using for the book. This will be a raw and unedited brain dump from the mind of a newly divorced dad who got laid (off).

Now to find out where all this is going next.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Clearing of the decks:

Coming out of a month of being laid off and six weeks of the divorce being finalized; trying to see the forest for the trees but remembering that I've been wrong about the whole thing before. Writing a book, I hear from the hive mind that a blog is obligatory. So here, gentle reader, this is for you; by being for you, of course it's for me, too. Nice how things like that work out.

Who knows, in a year or two this may be another dead patch on blogspot; I can't say I care. I'll be wherever I am then, and this will be what it is.

More about the rest of it later. There are a lot of notes to put together to allow a good public slaparound.