Monday, March 29, 2010

Blender is not that hard, K3D is coming along.

Gentleman, choose your weapons. It's a level playing field today, the sun is high and the media blimp is up there also proving once again that elephants do fly.

Among all the 3d graphics applications there is no best best ones. You can see this better on the Linux platform where folks are articulate and picky. The underlaying math either does it or doesn't and that is veiled by a thin GUI layer. Without a doubt the so-called best is thought of as the one where you can tweak everything but the name. But wait, there is another, so suave and sophisticated, you only have to gesture and it's done. Who shall hold the title as the best all around 3D graphics application is anybody's guess. OK anybody, it's your guess, you've got 30 seconds and the clock is ticking. tick, tick, tick...........wait he's going back to get his pencil. He's writing something, holding up a sign. "NOT ENOUGH TIME!

I know that. Here in the Linuxville guide ch√Ęteau where the idea has been to survey, see what's out there, has come to realize the GUI is the "interface" or the "in your face", it's what's behind it that matters, mostly. Maybe the GUI is a little shack sitting on an immense catacomb of capability. Maybe the GUI is a 27 bedroom mansion with a matching basement. If you want 2D graphics, you can hit-n-run with a paint program, or get serious with a photo editor. 3D gives you no option, you must move in, stay there for a while and learn the secrets.

Hey, Mr.rno, you been messin wid K3D, how's it going? Well there's some work slowdowns, because the documentation to go further is not user friendly enough. There is too much I have to figure out to really do something. Even if I spent the time some things are awkward for a noobie-won. K3D is not bad for making model geometry, but gets laborious beyond that. I will keep poking at it to see if what's there will suffice.

I also am poking around Blender 3D. Folks need to stop saying the Blender interface is difficult to learn. True there is a lot of interface, but you don't use it all at once. The big thing with Blender is that there are video tutorials that show and tell, making a text and picture tutorial a pain in the eye socket. I have viewed several beginner tutorials and I feel pretty good about learning Blender.

So if you are wanting to model in Blender, you shouldn't be bothered by all the stuff for animation, unless you are doing animation. The secret of using Blender 3D is using it. The videos let you hear the interface explained, seeing it in action takes away the complexity. All those experienced Blender users are making forums buzz and video tutorials and models and games from the community make Blender a force to be reckoned with.

What would help Blender is not the shortcut keys on each command button, but using something like Conky. I encountered Conky in #!Crunchbang Linux. Conky is a heads-up on screen display that shows CPU temps, speed, etc and a text field which can list keyboard shortcuts. This is so cool and handy.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hey, give me a break, I'm working on it!

You want to venture into the graphics world and being a free radical, you choose Linux as your platform of choice. Despite all the clamor and acclaim Macs and MS have in graphics you proceed down the proverbial "road less traveled."

Being a graphics person requires a basic understanding of art in general. A good sense of composition, color and some drawing skills, puts you in the park. It requires impressionable visionary skills but not to the extent of a photographic memory. For now a good enough mind set is OK, you can obsess and be a perfectionist later. Now if you are wanting to be a digital graphics person add to this the patience to follow through procedures.

We'll use the Jedi metaphor to illustrate. Once you get the hardware (light saber, digital pen or mouse) and the wardrobe (full length hoodie bathrobe), you must learn to use the force. While learning the force, you get the moves, think like a Jedi thinks. Once you know, you know, it all becomes intuitive. Then you don't think, just do or not do, there is no try (don't look at me, I also am a noobie-won learner).

It is like this for everyone. Pick up a pencil and draw, that is one thing, drawing well is another. Now add color, light and shade, considering foreground and background. Even using traditional media requires procedures, with computers it is more so. Computers do not automatically draw what you want. They process instructions that an artist/programmer puts in. You may push the draw circle button, know that the draw circle program activated by you, is a program. All digital art software is a collection of programs that sit under the means of your control, a GUI or graphical user interface or typed in instructions. The GUI makes drawing easier but also awkward because you must understand what it does, how it works and go on from there. This is where the term CAD (computer aided design) comes from. The force may be strong in you but the hardware and software must also be your allies.

The popular Mac and MS PC platforms have lots of graphics applications with a long train of experienced users. If you go that way, you could go far. I recommend not being so platform dedicated, be open to what you have access to, as skills are transferable. I also keep close tabs on graphics applications that are able to run on multiple platforms (Open Source), they insure a level of freedom of movement that is well appreciated. Also note that Open Source programs are not commercial so they are not advertised or marketed by a for profit company and most likely are free. You may not be aware of them or realize that the quality and usefulness of Open Source Software is quite high.

One problem with Linux graphics is always in the number of experienced users. For instance while Blender 3D has a huge following, other very useful graphics apps have smaller communities. This results in less documentation, less tutorials, less examples and less chance to be applied in a professional capacity. It could be a great program but the developer is too deep in his work, too far down the road and/or too busy to help a noobie-won. A community of users thus has users at various stages able to both asks questions and supply answers. The community in Linux is vital to learning anything.

So here's the thing. With computers, the promise is repeatable results and tweakable input so that different results is possible. The caveat, once you learn the GUI (graphical user interface), you might be stuck in that program (Blender folks know this, so do Photoshop folks). This is OK, if this program is your tool of choice.  Just don't let familiarity mess you up, there could be better stuff waiting in the wings, but under exposed, getting bad press (from you) and just starting to have a viable and flourishing user community.

OK, lets get practical. I am looking at K3D a Linux graphics application. It is in active development and is starting to have a user community. Right now there are not that many tutorials, especially video tutorials. This is further frustrated by the many cut-n-paste internet K3D name drops by folks who are not actual users themselves. They always mention the name but repeat descriptions they found on the developer's site. Actual users promote good software to other users. Their enthusiasm and curoisity and creativity causes the same to rise up in many want-to-bi-wons. They become noobie-wons and the process goes on when they show what they can do with tutorials, finished work and bug fix suggestions, etc.

I usually read and view all the pictures first and look for tutorials that explain the interface and tools and then how to do something to start me drooling. Accomplishing something is how it's done. If you have used other graphics apps you have a leg up. I have but mostly 2D, so 3D is an eye opening experience and requires a little more umph!

Here's my screenshot to prove I have started.

The window in the middle is a preview rendering with no settings yet. In the online docs is a file called Simple Work Flow Example. It explains how to do what I have done above only using a cylinder and tapering the top. By doing this a few times and reading the text over and noting the changes in the parameter sidebar, you get the gist of what's going on. Forget technical perfection and accuracy at first, play. Play, never lose the ability to play. Play progress and play some more. When you ask why, you are ready to learn and advance. Then comes what if, now you are starting to use the force.

OK, get K3D and play, I don't want to sense any disturbances in the force.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

when tech looses its luster

Boring! I've heard both kids and adults cry out. Adrenalin and thrill seekers want more, anything less is boring! Video media is the rage, especially immersive 3d. You can feel like your are there, that is, all your senses say you are there. But today we have a poor man's version of a holodeck. You put on the glasses, stare intently and hear from every corner of the room. In your high priced home theater you can buy chairs with servo lifts that pitch and tilt and sub-woofers that hum, rattle and growl sending the immersion experience to the brink of real. The Omni-max thing with surround video and sound. There you are standing on a mountain peak, the snow is blinding, the wind howling, only the air smells like popcorn and it's way too warm in the room.

Lets change the scene from a home theater setup to something more refined. You have a large dining room. Put up rear projection screens on four sides, minus the entrance. The projectors are short throw to save space. A small round 4 seat table or a square of Astro-turf and the picnic spread is all you need. Oh yes, a computer capable of coordinating 4 video feeds. Your schedule is busy, you get home late, the sun has already set. You walk in the room, recline, sip a drink, some finger food. Your eyes open and see trees and a lake and you hear birds. The air is scented with greenery and its cool breeze is whispering or your favorite piece of jazz playing in the background.

My fantasy? The room is quite, a lit tilt disc controller in the middle where I stand. I put on cyber gloves and shoes (Wii eat your heart out!), hit the cuff button to start the sequence. The music plays, the images tear across the screens as if flying, down river, through the Grand Canyon and across the galaxy. The music or the sound dips and soars with my movements. I can even paint on my screens precisely drawing or splattering arrays of color and I can have it in the foreground or the background with other video layers in front of it. I can record it all.

Now that I did all this virtual stuff, I got to go out and get bored with the real thing. It's not so bad, a tad bit unpredictable, I might get to like it. It's therapy for my media addiction called MISO or Media Induced Sensory Overload. Treatment includes living with all media shut off for long periods and talking with real people. Whole families are often effected thus family outings are key.

Believe me, you don't want the gov to step in, I saw a home red tagged and locked. The family was taken to a shelter with lower technology till media immersion timers were installed in the home. It was bad, a mud slinger unit was found as they were sports fanatics. They watched football, car races, soccer, off-road biking and ATV racing, etc. The kids came to school looking like Charlie Brown's Pig Pen and the dad a corporate exec, always looked like Indiana Jones. The glazed eyes only blinked when a dirty, blood stained hand was waved.

There is a new book out to retrain mothers to let their kids play without helmets and kneepads. The sandbox replaced with a mud box and satin green lawns replaced with sticks and stones. One frantic mom was arrested, she had a arsenal of kid protection devices. A rack of fire distinguisher sized sprays for disinfect, bug bites and sun screen. She got caught when she brandished a band-aid gun. It sprayed disinfect, pain suppressant and dispensed a wound dressing so fast, the kid had to recant his ouch statement, midstream. Coaches complained everywhere, "insubordinate kids" they said, "we say feel the burn and they say "why!" What ever happen to "shake it off, work through the pain?"

What is next? Sweat suits with built-in air bags for contact sports, bikes with welded on training wheels or gyro stabilizers, 911 becomes iOn-Star? Play by play medical monitoring where they don't have to ask you what your medical emergency is, they know before you do. "Mr. rno your heart rate is elevated, are you....... or  are you blogging?" No, no, I'm Jediatric and my metaclorian count is too high!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Electric African and the Techno HUT

I have an on going story developing in my head. If you are a Black person with art and technology in your DNA, it is probably in your head also. I call it the "Electric African". He is a diaspora person, can't tell his exact origins besides the obvious. His history and his genetic path is twisted and convoluted, but in any case, he is the sum total, here in the present. His education is varied, with holes and gaps. Lucky are ones like him who master a narrow track in the schools of credentials. The broad education is promoted but not honored here.

Life has tugged at him from all directions, he meets the call yet watches his back as he sorts through mis-information and mis-direction and the hidden agenda of others. They strive to keep him ignorant, not by keeping education from him but holding him off balance by uncertainty. A broad education is useless when specific skills are required and demanded (or is it?).

He battles the world out in the open, a hopeless war. He secludes himself and while resting commits to fixing the world with the info he is sure of. The world ridicules and mocks this kind of people. Nerds and geeks and such they call them. They are not outsiders like criminals, no, they are insiders. Too far inside. Too serious they say, lighten up, party, have fun! Under their breath, that nerd was Black, is there such a thing? How did that happen? They almost say out loud, "this one is an anomaly, but not important enough to be bothered with." I would have been happy if they just said it among themselves, but they said it to my folks, my neighbors, my teachers.

No one understands how or why I do what I do. I am compelled to do it. It's not a profession because that goes in a different direction, a different end. I must stay the course, despite my wobbly footing and the uncertainty that troubles me. And why can't I just accept what others have done with their reasoning and projected outcomes, I just don't know, but I see it differently. Few will listen, few invite my view. Are there others like me? In a world of communication we are kept apart by thought.

So he keeps to himself, buys a property and collects cast-off building materials. A silo because Africans have built graineries for centuries. A quonset hut because Blacks and quick shelter became indispensable in WW2. Cargo Shipping containers because today we import everything and Blacks were imported in the past. He fashions a dwelling by blending the forms together, calls it his HUT (Habitat for the Urban Terrain). He laughs because this Techno HUT is designed by a non-architect Black diaspora man at a spot where all his understanding converges.

It was a solitary pursuit in his mind, unbeknown to him these Techno HUTs began to appear globally in every place Black diaspora have been scattered.

I chose architecture because that is the info in me, what is in you? Perhaps you have passions and skills not required by your jobs and rather than let them languish and be forgotten, you covertly dabble and what if and say one day.............

........the Techno HUT will touch down.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

video in the land of the watchers

Steampunk, the art of sliding forward and backward at the same time. No, not MJ's moonwalk, steampunk is realizing the future via the past. Like building a laptop PC into a typewriter. If you seen the movies  Casper the Friendly Ghost, Jules Vern, The League of Extraordinary Men, or Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, you know what I am talking about. Sci-fi what-if art. Take an old oscilloscope cabinet and put a LCD screen in it's face and keep all the original details of the old cabinet.

Today I did something that had that steampunk feel to it. I watched The Day the Earth Stood Still on DVD. There were two in the box, the first was the original made in 1951. That was the year of my birth and I saw it in the theater probably about age 10 or so. Then I saw the other made in 2008 with Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly. Technology changes rapidly, people change but it's like geological time. Both movies are very cool!! The comparing the nuances in acting and sensing the attitudes of the time they were made and what the technologies were and such, great fun.

My Ubuntu box has two video media players. The standard Gnome desktop player called Totem and VLC (VideoLan) an open source multi- platform media player. I always thought media players were a strange sort. While they can be used world wide there are different formats and codecs, some proprietary. This means some can't be included in the standard download for certain countries. Totem is just a movie player, VLC is a media player, does movies, audio playback, audio and video stream capture and receiving. VLC will run on Linux, Mac OS and Windows. With Linux in the distributions software repositories, the codecs are downloaded in sets, depending what the media player is based on. Totem uses Gstreamer codecs (good, bad and ugly). VLC has a more open plug-in architecture for third-partyware. It comes with most of the codecs, but I had to get the library to play commercial DVDs separately.

I like broadcast TV less and less as I get older. What was shameful when I was younger is now flaunted with disregard. This is why I like DVD's and think about having a PC plugged into my livingroom TV. Accepting bad stuff as good stuff is unacceptable and the slow slide to smut is not entertainment, but if you watch it all the time you'll never notice. I have wondered why folks wouldn't allow it to come through the front door, but through the TV is OK. Oh, it's virtual smut, it won't hurt you. Turn your head, I'll tell you when it's safe to look. I guess the best would be to have the ability to download the stuff you like in the background and view it when you have time.

There you have it, steampunk, movies, movie players in Linux and ethics in one blog. Man!

rno the artist unplugged

As an artist I find myself in continual development from many sources. This was not fully possible when I started on this trek. I used to go from library to library to find the book other libraries didn't have. I read magazine after magazine. And I did this because in college, the art history course I was in was stuck on the virtues of Roman and Greek art and architecture. I kept saying in my mind, this is not relevant. For perpetuating the flavor of those cultures in todays world maybe it was, but my heart kept saying "not relevant." Our present culture owes a lot to those early Euro civs, but after becoming aware of Africa, my origins, I could not have rest.

The media always has a shaded view of Africa. It is not that they are hiding stuff from us but more of a not mentioning because of no interest on their part. So when our national interest is disturbed, there is coverage. If the human atrocity meter rises too high, there is coverage. Any achievement or advancement or development on the African continent, it is not news. Over the years my view of Africa was uneducated, primitive natives. I had the same view of American Indians here, only they were uneducated savages. Tourist all want to go to Africa to see natives. It was the same for American Indians here.

I won't go deeper into the bias that has flavored life in the US since the get, we all know. And once this kind of flavor is institutionalized (it is deep in the dominate culture), it takes generations to ferret out and dilute.

The internet came to my rescue. The net allowed me to see history (art, social, national) from many different points of view. The most important questions for me was untwisting history. How stories, even histories, are told eventually becomes the guiding force for human worth, development and progress. If you are told your ancestors were slaves and you are the son of slaves and add to it a kind of loathing weightiness as if slavery was for lower lifeforms, guess what happens to the people who must receive this story, this history? I have lived with the weight of this, even though Civil rights events were going on during my youth.

Young kids should hear untarnished history. My realization is that history is unappreciated until you have lived some. Older folks all appreciate history. But kids should hear history because it is the shaping force. American history has a lot of lies, if we can expose them and fill in the blank spots, we will raise up an intelligent and thoughtful generation. It is our history "story" that has damaged America. We have a saying about history repeating itself. Actually we perpetuate the lies and tell kids it is their right of passage to repeat. I am so amused at how as adults we know the truth yet resist. We lie with boldness and tell the truth with uncertainty. We know what kind of kids the lie will produce, we are not sure what the truth will produce. Yet in our hearts we want kids to be more enlightened, not just smarter. And we also are afraid of that. I have heard parents say, "he didn't learn that from me!" I am talking about the good stuff.

But we are talking about art and design here. The internet has allowed me to see the art and design of other cultures, especially African. From the top to the bottom of Africa, with and without the Euro influence, African art is pretty impressive. And although I can not directly have a cultural tie (been in America too many generations), I can feel some empathy. Not because of the events of history but because there is a sensibility in the way I think about art that is akin to the ways of Africa. This is expressed in a simple statement I heard in an interview of an African craftsperson. He said, "I just want to make beautiful things." This artist was not in the Euro art tradition of schools and galleries and expositions and art as a part of human accomplishment or art for fame or art as an investment or art for historical reference and documentation. He just wanted to make beautiful things.

I myself do abstract, non-object art, decorative. Many black artist do faces, the human form, black faces, black persons in life. While I think drawing and painting black people is wonderful, I am not that kind of artist. Perhaps with abstracts, you can not tell what color the artist is, that is OK with me, why should you care? That's rhetorical! Many of the stories we tell as artist have nothing to do with color as a race marker and sometimes that kind of art perpetuates the lie. Even in my abstract, I should have references to my past, my origins, my struggle to overcome, or to protest, pay homage to or to praise, or to hope. Well, if those things happen in my art, I will not force them to exist, they will just be there. If you recognize them in my work, that is the message it speaks to you.

Abstract art is like jazz, many black abstract artist have said this. I first heard John Coltrane and the critics said he was angry, expressing anger, Archie Shepp and others. The times were angry with civil rights and such. They thought for sure these musicians were the voice of the times. No, the anthems for that time was "We shall overcome" and "Lift every voice and sing". Jazz was not angry voices, it was pent up creative energy being "freely" released. Motown on the other hand was about a finely cultivated art form moving toward wide acceptance. It was saying we ain't no gull dang minstrel show, we don't shuck and jive, we are respectable high quality entertainment. We raise the bar using our own faces (not in whiteface). Motown was my right of passage, jazz was my liberation. Jazz was about how we black folks do things, camaraderie and one-up-man-ship at the same time. Even today when I walk through a store, I nod in appreciation to every black face who acknowledges hello. It is within even if that other person has other thoughts, or a challenge or a delusion. That "jazz" is inside and I can see it. I only see that in a few Euro folks, here and there. I don't understand that and perhaps it's just my bias, yeah, I got some too.

Today jazz is so watered down in the media. Coltrane on the radio turned into nightclub jazz into smooth jazz into elevator music into popular vocal music. Now I hear jazz radio late at night and mostly it is mainstream, the heady avant-gard stuff is so rare it is practically gone. It is the same for abstract art. There is this dime a dozen attitude and a we can tell which Euro artist influenced you. So blacks drawing black faces is original and blacks drawing abstractly is copying white guys (who studied black guys).

Then you got to fit into some style, school of art, some movement or historical reference or.......... I'm telling you, if an artist is burdened with this kind of stuff on the front end, there is no art on the back end. I will reveal the art process one more time. There is this person who discovers by whatever means the ability to create and goes about doing that. He or she acquires skills and gathers whatever views that form their world view and reference information that flows through their senses. It all converges in the mind and flows out into what ever media is being used, wither a dream or paper or canvas or camera or computer, a building, clothes, etc, etc, etc. You see it, hear it, and go, "oh, wow, that's art." Simplistic.

Why I do art the way that I do? "I just want to make beautiful things."

Monday, March 08, 2010

get off it and get with it

There are plenty who describe Linux with all the techie flavor and the smell of singed circuit boards to boot (that's a pun, son). I, your Linuxville guide, am not here to give the you the technosis but the play by play. Living with Linux is possible.  "Ah man, Linux ain't so great, they ain't got no good games." No, Linux has no Xbox, or PS2 or Wii or MS or Mac games, but does have lots of Linux games and how would I know, I don't play many games anyway. So, I don't say much about what I don't do much, OK?

I am more like a backyard mechanic only my passion is art and architecture. Hey, I said passion, not obsession! You try building what ever building pops into your head. Making paintings is cheap compared to buildings. The architectural idea is a way of visualizing building possibilities. If one gets the chance to build a dream house, then that is icing on the cake. My major problem is that I see so many possibilities and regard architecture as art. I usually do the reverse of good design practice by putting the form above the function. I like creating a space then defining what you can do in that space. I see no diff between a tent, cabin or warehouse loft. It is just a space to figure out how to live in it. The really only critical thing is utilities and services, the rest is open to your whims.

In my exploration of form I have fallen in love with several semi-prefab situations that have been used in my lifetime. Quonset huts, geodesic domes, grain silos (short ones) and now cargo containers (tall ones). If you use them by themselves you can only go so far, but if you can combine them, blend them, you begin to form many interesting possibilities. So I never say I am going to live in a quonset hut or any of the other forms alone. That to me would be boring and simplistic. Cargo containers are square no matter how you stack and wrap. To take the emphasis off the cube warms the form, humanizes the form so that it is more inviting.

I can see a roof garden, solar arrays, glass here and there. The form itself is a stack of cargo containers and a silo split in two and put on each end. Simple and exploitable form. 

In this idea the quonset houses the open half and the containers the more private spaces. But who is to say how you live in this kind of building.

Now over a couple of blogs I have given you some good ideas to use cargo containers with other semi-prefab building forms. The results are interesting spaces and lots of design possibilities. I don't care if you use them or not. The point is that you dream and design differently. The point is satisfying spaces and wonderful forms. The point is that architecture is not just for the rich and famous or for the corporate world. We don't have to equate domestic architecture with cereal boxes or force average people to live in surreal boxes. Using the forms we already have but neglect to use, we can give everybody an upgrade.
--subject shift!!--

Hey Linux folks, you gonna let them get away wid that? I'm talking about the task bar. Yeah, I know, Mac has that animated icon bar and big icons that are actually running miniature apps and Mac OSX is the desktop to copy and emulate and borrow from. What about Vista/Win7? Oh, they only got Aero, no wait, ribbons (sic), they got ribbons.  Look again, that ribbon on the desktop is a taskbar. It's a better, more useful taskbar than what's standard in Linux, the desktop pager. In fact the Linux pager has not been upgraded since the beginning. It still switches desktops and shows a teeny, tiny miniature of the windows on that desktop. If you got composting activated, you can alt-tab and get...........look, I can put a panel on all four sides of my screen and hide/expose them with a mouse move. We have used document thumbnails for centuries in our file browsers, why the heck can't we put them in our pager? Maybe because the MS ribbon taskbar is open window oriented and the Linux pager is desktop workspace oriented. You can have many windows open on each desktop workspace, where as in MS Win, it's about managing just open windows in one workspace. Which is better is a matter of how you work with it. The puzzle is when you multi-task, what is the fastest way to your data and if running apps in different windows and different workspaces are able to interact and look good too.

So, here is Linuxville the personal PC becomes the means for an active creative life. Sometimes it ain't pretty, sometimes pretty funny but mostly pretty interesting. If I have more time and inclination, I will progress to finess of presentation and maybe even 3D. I might even make a movie out of my avatar, "oh, someone did that already!"

Saturday, March 06, 2010

it started with a push of a button

I found a convergence in the force. Everybody's is getting metaclorian treatments, shots and patches. Metaclorians, the little cyber buggies that exist in technology users. Too few and you're a hunter-pecker, too many and you are a technophobe (geek, nerd, guru, wizard, hacker, cracker, iPodalist, iPhonamorph, Blackberry addict, Palmist and textologist.) You never know what you will become. It is getting so rampant folks with too many are given to hand gestures. They wave the hand and stuff happens, including getting a reactions from me.

An FDA (First Digital Accessory Inc. (what'd you think!)) clinical trial locked a man in a glass box with a solitary pushbutton until he feverishly pushed it in hope of accomplishment. The button does nothing. In the mind of the pusher, it was evoking powerful thoughts, the brain activity was off the chart. The scientist came in one night and found the box shattered by thought, so they thought. Surveillance video showed that the button got stuck and the pusher started pushing all the surfaces of the glass. He escaped, leaving a trail of finger indents down the hall. News reports flashed (no thanks to Adobe) stories of kids being pushed down and cats off the fences and cars down the street and shopping carts..... The public outcry was so dramatic, someone even wrote a song about it. "Gawl dang the pusher man."

People started imitating and mimicking, pushing each other in jest and with intent and saying when they agreed with another "I'm pushed" and when cornered "don't push me!" Pushing became a popular marketing tool and political tactic. Soon there was treatment centers for cronic-pushers, because scientist isolated the genome that started this whole thing, "Hey, haven't we seen this before, yeah dude, I'm pushed."

Meanwhile a "grassroots" movement started to resist being pushed. They offered an alternative lifestyle. These folks would force themselves beyond hunt and peck, even though they could touch type (one button only required one finger). Methodically and meticulously they limited hand gestures to fork holding and waving hello. It is rumored some uttered sound in a kind of speech, you see talking was lost with texting. Forget plastic surgery, the going thing now is vocal cord stimulation and atrophy repair and elocution classes.

The saving grace of the entire world came with the invention of the keyboard which have more than one key on it. Folks could now use more than one finger. Their lives became more fulfilling and fruitful because now they could use the whole hand instead of pointing the finger.

I think it is amazing with all the DNA science and such, the most damming evidence is still a fingerprint. Ever wonder why the single most popular laptop PC security device is the fingerprint reader?

What about that guy who escaped the FDA? His finger poking is so advanced and his mind so twisted, he went underground. Rumor has it he is the cause of water-line fractures across the US. Records show a family history starting with a man with his finger caught in a dike. I see kids all over with fingers up their noses (I never did that, got a Kleenex?). He is so legendary we gesture in his honor "flippin the bird" we call it. He is known as Big-Foot because Big-Finger is so distasteful. Industry, even NASA has celebrated his contribution, what machine doesn't have a big red one finger driven panic button?

Think I'm coo-coo!, what about that painting by Michaelangelo, you know the one where God is reaching down with one hand, finger extended to touch a human hand with finger extended. Michael, what did you see? Oh, you splashed paint in your eye, have to wipe. Yeah, I'm pushed!

come on, laugh, push the button and laugh!!

Linux is fine, the world is whacked

Linuxville is a virtual place where everybody is fine with Linux. It's the rest of the world that's nuts. Take hardware, my wonderful 15 inch HP LCD monitor just slowly croaked. The blue power button still lites but fade to black is not a desktop effect I wanted to see. Guess what I replaced it with, a big CRT!?! Now the hum of eddy currents and the cathode ray tube radiation penetrating my face is added to the hum of the PC box on the floor. A symphony of hums in a tone I can't harmonize with. The LCD was at least 5 years old, the CRT is 9 years old. There is no instant technology in there. It clanks and clicks at refresh and when I hit the degauss button the lint stands up and I can feel a wave of neutralizing energy as the screen jostles then settles down. Makes me feel like, "Hey iGor, hand me that beaker but don't push that but.....awk!!"

If my LCD was 5, so is my PC and even though it runs flawlessly well perhaps I should begin dreaming of new stuff. I want a laptop with some graphic power and a couple of LCD displays so I can recycle the CRTs. But they work so well. But they are energy pigs and space hogs.

For graphic folks the rule of the pinkey is to buy a game machine or similar. Games are mostly about graphics power but I think depending on the kind of graphics you do, the video card needs to be considered. CAD graphics is more about precision in virtual space and games is about speedily moving but mostly interaction while moving. There are cards for CAD and cards for games and cards that sort of, kind of, do both. Laptop users need an above average laptop for graphics work but not necessarily a gaming laptop. Video graphics folks should buy a game machine (perhaps like Alienware!).

I know if I buy a big screen, it better sit in the livingroom and get channel 5. So for my studio I want a digital video projector so that when I got the urge to blow it up I can. The other things for me is the Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet and a couple of bookshelf hard drives. Why? A friend just called me, an upgrade download just hosed his Vista laptop. I am telling you, the operating system should sit on the main drive by it self with the applications, you should keep a fresh install copy on a jump drive. Your precious data should be backed up on a portable drive. The operating system and personal data on the same drive is asking for trouble. Gee Arno, aren't you glad you use Linux!?, don't you wish everybody did? Yeah, but no! You do have a choice.

This is where I can boast the virtues of Linux. In my 10 years of adding security updates, Linux got hosed once or twice. With win95/98/98b/XP, several times with each version. Friends who have moved on to Vista are getting hit and there is more to come with win7. Why? because using Win OS changes the OS. The more you add applications and anti-virus and security tweaks and stuff, the more the registry changes. Updates from MS comes not anticipating the "amount of change" internally to "your system". If all the registry chickens don't line up the rooster doesn't crow (system fails to boot). It maybe one number off, how would you know? Ah yes, the BSD (blue screen of death).

Murder by asphyxiation of the digital cortex (cpu). Crime scene tape wrapped around the computer. "I tried everything to resuscitate it, even deep hard drive stimulation." "There was nothing you could do at this point Mr. Arno (should have taken preventive measures). Must have been an untreated infection or glitch. Was there any signs?" "Yes, but I thought is was a trimmer in the force, I mean power fluctuations." "We'll have to perform an autopsy."

"Mr. Arno, your system is whacked, we'll have to reformat your drive (erase your memoirs) and re-install Windows. That will be many dollars and 39 cents." I'm thinking, making a backup of the last working system install is too much trouble.... and/or setting that last working system breakpoint date is........ and coping my personal data and pictures to CD/jump drive/other hard drive is.........then all my tweaks and settings and....."Hey, why 39 cents???" "Tax, title, license, and learner's certificate, we'll train you to do......." "Man I've been at this for years, I don't need no class, no geek training." "It's geek habit user reprogramming Mr Arno. It's completely voluntary, an unfunded mandate for ID thief and personal loss prevention. It's this or neural implants via iPod web casts for 6 weeks!" "I ain't got time for this." "Yes, my young padawan learner, that is why you fail, there is no try, only do or not do and pay me." "Or pay me!" The call from the end of the counter (bluish guy, short, wings flapping like a humming bird). "What kind of PC, yeah, Nubian I think! We let the fate decide, I have a chance cube!" Man, a hack with one dice, the ways of the farce vs the ways of the force, I just want my PC fixed like it was, darn, I forgot the red shoes, can't go home. "Mr. Arno, take the blue pill (buy a new system) or the red pill (reformat and install), see how far this rabbit hole goes." Name is Arno not Neal." "Sorry, thought we were doing movies."

Thursday, March 04, 2010

the practical of radical

I am always startled to see something out of context, it evokes a strong reaction in me. Putting a child's potty in the livingroom might be accepted with ease, an adult's urinal in a public place is embarrassing and outrageously out of place (done with artistic intent). Some artist are committed to shock art. Architecture can be shocking when "that building" is placed in the context of other buildings. Is it a centerpiece, a catalyst for change, an eyesore or the proverbial sore thumb? It was a progressive idea, an engineering marvel whose meaning and purpose is lost in the eye of the beholders. Quick, someone call the PR and the news station we need to educate the people (until there is a collective sigh). We need spin, we need spin here!!!

OK, get a grip. Where would car performance be without drag racing, road racing, stock-car racing. I grew up dreaming of George Barris custom cars, he made luxury in cars standard. Today even trucks are well appointed. Many times in design there is a fore-runner, one who dares to break free, bend the rules and explode the square or cube in our case. Tell me when folks start putting trees in the home as house plants, huh. Or when did folks start converting garages and basements into comfortable living spaces. I am tempted to convert my garage into a personal gym because I got the space and the community gyms are too expensive, crowded and a sanitary hazard.

In my old neighborhood they got all upset when prefabs started being brought onto the street. They were the same size as the stick built homes and sat on full basements (because the building commission required it to limit prefabs on slabs).
These prefabs were factory built, some of the features were cut back to fit module production, but really nice and really, really livable. But the big advantage was the cost was cheaper and finishing faster for the owner. To this day I gasp when I see a stick house being built. I go "What, no panelized construction, no finished house section on a truck??" They bought from the first little piggy, I bet.

There is a design gap where it is not profitable at all. Well moneyed folks never had a problem. People who are tight buy and take what they can get, whatever. The group with improvement aspirations are full of high demands and empty promises. They can not afford the ritz and don't want the grits. I know this is true, when you see the houses on my old street you'd agree. The lots are tiny and shallow for the big houses and while they are dramatic inside, height can't make up for useful space. What is useful space? That is the space between the floor and the furthest reach of your fingers. Oh, I just love high ceilings! Is that an echo? echo? echo? Please don't speak up I can hear myself think, several times. Slightly lower profile, yet same useful space, fewer building materials and a tad larger lot makes comfort dollars for a family is well spent.

Radical design in my old neighborhood was there, two log homes, both nice. There was also the two built by a foreign builder, both with attached garages and one with the entry over the garage so that a curved stone stairway ascends up. Man, that's got to be awkward and it looks weird. Now we know what not to do. In my thinking, radical means not conventional. Factory built homes are not conventional, they would be if we thought of replacing existing energy and maintenance hog housing stock with efficient, sustainable homes. We are vexed with two thoughts, a house must exist for at least 100 years and be paid for by the time we die. We console ourselves by saying "it's a classic", Paul Revere would be happy here". I saw beaming at exclaiming "it's a century house" and cursing "it's bankrupting me with upkeep cost." "I can't keep this up and pay it off too!. I am Paul's great great grandson, I need to keep it in the family."

I think the container home is practical but add some other kinds of structure so that others can have at the cheap boxes too, and we can have variety of form. Imagine a street full of stacked boxes, doesn't look like homes. Looks too cold, austere, modern. I'd go for a warmer contemporary look by adding some curved forms. As far as prefabs go I'd find a way to repro the container form so that features can be added to facilitate modular building and finishing. Then, you can buy new container like box or convert actual cargo containers. We have the technology, we already make mobile homes and prefab houses, not much diff? The factory becomes a necessity with the volume of the need. As long as the homes are high-end homes demand will be low. Start replacing mid to lower range homes in existing hoods, you will have to build more home factories.

If homes were more autonomous and self sufficient we wouldn't have to stack and huddle them to share resources. Space between homes and neighbors is fine with me. What's a little tree between me and thee? It's a park and your house is not blocking the sun from the east. Oh, did you suffer the misfortunes of unsubsidized rent and unregulated utilities when ones more fortunate can know mother nature's got their back? No, mine is against the wall, the wall is cold, the shadow of your satellite dish buffets me. Ah, yes, reception is sweet yet I feel for your plight. Take this Pringle can antenna, tap my network to watch PCTV till my cable comes...........and if it's well with you, perhaps you can buy cable too. Yes, and bread we can break for lunch, perhaps a fast break on yonder b-ball court. Is that a challenge? Me thinks you wish revenge. No, my intent is fair and neighborly, but if pink slips is your wager, I'd pass for a bat to deal swiftly with your dish. What if I win my roguish neighbor? Why you get to keep your precious dish, of course, till I find another challenge and spare me the Pringle can. Hey, I try to recycle when I can.

the serendipity of simplicity - combitechture

Oh man, it can't be that simple!! It just can't be! Oh but it is! I watched the movie, "Eddie and the Cruisers 1 and 2". Eddie was a driven rock-n-roll dreamer looking for a pure sound that would sustain itself and resonate forever in your heart and be memorable. I had to laugh when Rick Diesel who flaunting his technical skill and manual dexterity was told to take his ego tainted music and stuff it. The music is not for you, it's for them, Eddie told them all. Many hot shot musicians have been bridled and told to slow down and actually play the music they are playing. Listen, feel the spaces, the silences as well as the sounds. Oh, you like the head banging wall of sound do ya! I can't help you.

You think this doesn't happen in other disciplines? We barely survived the eye candy wars when the best desktop was the one that mimicked Fantasia. Hey you must buy our video card and added memory just to power our user interface desktop effects. Desktop interfaces are quite workable today Gnome and KDE are pleasant, Macs and Windows 7 is nice also. A good looking and responding desktop is of great and lasting value and as an added feature some adjustments to tweak the look and feel for a more edgy and personalized outcome.

One of my latest pre-occupations is thinking about cargo shipping containers converted into homes. I think many of the designs are fine but..........."I am trying to exhaust the square in my work", artist kind of thing is going on. It is like the government regulating corn crops by insisting on a certain strain of corn because it is scientifically the best. Mono-culture thinking says only use this stuff.

The cargo homes today are mostly cubes, stacked cubes. We are still getting over cubical living in the office why do we think living in cubes are fresh and modern? So many designers would take one or two cargo units to make shelter for poor or disaster stricken folks, that is fine. Then they will double those same units, stack them in a different way, add glass and covered walkways and call it a custom luxury house. We are cargo home designers, we just use cargo containers.

I guess I am sort of a idea integrator sort of guy. I was in love with quonset huts, geodesic domes and grain silos as soon as I saw them, and now cargo containers. I see no reason not to mix them for variety and interesting living spaces. My view goes like this. The forms or shapes are simply appealing similar to basic shapes of art (sphere, cube, cone, cylinder). Then the parts are larger, each piece encloses more space. (Try that with a brick.) Fewer pieces means probably more economic per square foot. Then the possibility of round corners without loosing valuable floor space. Yeah, you could do the Frank Gehry thing, (no offense Frank!) but I am talking about homes for the neighborhood not a statement of wild imagination meets architectural accomplishment. Exploding the box is like fishing with dynamite sticks. It's exciting but I can't hear and I'm eating fish chunks. Then the one size sits all, ticky-tack, change the color, reverse the design, development formula doesn't do it either.

If the envelope is restricted (50 x 150ft city lot) and the resources are bordering on not sustainable and not green (wood products, plastic products, steel products) and the finances are limited (wage loss, tight banks), you don't want to flaunt. I get riled to see well heeled folks "buy up" cargo containers to build cheap palaces of stacked cubicles, replacing container doors with floor to ceiling glass, the mark of architectural wealth and adding cantilevered walkway covers.  Two folks and a dog living in a 3000-4000 square foot cargo container palace stack while struggling folk buy cast-off second-hand regular homes of the old standard technology. I keep hearing a guy on TV, "don't waste your money!"

The thoughtful design of balanced choices, homey curb appeal with upgrade possibilities, durable and good value for the buck for both buyer and bank. Perhaps steel quonset structures and grain silos and geodesic domes could add flavor to our quick and easy cubic living. But blend them into each other and change them. Do Boolean addition.

My mantra, you are not advanced until technology is pushed down into the strata of average people. Cellphones and cars are cheap advancement, homes don't change for 50 or more years, they are always behind the times. We practically live in the past. It's ironic, we buy more and more cellphones and cars and now we want to live in the boxes they are shipped in. Then we don't want to change the boxes because it's cool and sheik (rhymes with "geek"), quick and easy. We are too lazy to really be creative in domestic architecture saying the quonsets are for ww2 vets, silos for farmers and geodesics for hippies and now cargo containers for the shipwrecked and the hip. We consume and have discovered the box it all comes in. We aren't a square people, no, we are cubic baby, 3D!

My thought playground will help you see a little differently, take note please:

I want to go inside!

 The rooster roof or mohawk roof.

 The day the earth stood still!

This last house has 1st floor containers, 2nd floor silo.
Yeah, I know, corny but cool.

I'm just giving you enough for you to get in trouble. In 3D, with some landscaping, etc, etc, etc; it will be different for you. 

You can even add a pitched roof if you must, I myself would like to see something different and more useful. You can add the stuff to preserve life and space in the box, Dropped ceilings to hide mechanicals and/or raised floors, spray-on insulation paint and thin thermal blankets/thermo barriers from NASA spin-off products. You can add solar panels, skylights, etc.

It is not the fanciness of form or fineness of materials, just what's a tad short of the cutting edge, the sweet-spot nobody wants to admit to. Now that you have the basics, go get Frank G. and fly.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

a nerd cluster of homies for business

One thing you can do in Linux that I have yet to see with other operating systems is the ease to link computers together to work as a bigger computer. It is called a cluster. We've done it with humans for years and it works sort of OK. I have always marveled at the word "think tank" and have wanted to be a part of something like that. Governments and institutions are good at clustering, nerds are not because we are free radicals, but can you imagine the power of a nerd cluster?? Linux was born from this kind nerd clustering, look at Ubuntu Linux. It is quite an orchestrated effort to converge and whittle down all the scattered talents, motives and views into a process to pursue a focused goal and carry it out.

Call the cluster what you want, a think tank, a focus group, a small business, support group or homies. The idea is that no one man can wear all the hats, see all the angles and do all the work. You need others with the same goal and also support people, staff. We have made it more than difficult to start a small business with our laws, regulations and requirements. And because of our idolizing the individual, we have to waste too much time going at it alone. The hardest thing in the world is to find a like minded person, then the both of us surrender a portion of our "I am the show" to collaborate. It is exasperating to prepare all through schooling as an individual, be pressed to individual achievement, accomplishment and expectation only to surrender to a team effort. Ever wonder why kids in sports fair better than others in business, a team is a cluster. Sports add the clustering dimension to schooling.

Where would the sports star be without the other team members sitting on the bench? If he messes up, some crazed spectator might pick up the bench and whack him with it. Guys on the bench keeps this from happening, ha ha!

What I am looking for is some folks who want to form a design cluster. I am interested in interior design concepts, decor, artwork, home design but I am not a interior designer or architect or a drafter in those fields. I sort of dabble with ideas and that is the excitement. To collaborate on some projects would be very cool.

So there it is, I am an individual who wants to cluster. A nerd cluster of homies for business in the direction of my interest.

Monday, March 01, 2010


"I'm not a nerd, you're the nerd! You with your white shirt and slide rule and thick black spooky looking glasses. And you can't explain things without going into detail. Oh everybody is normal except you, you nerdy dude." They spin on their heels, nose up in the air and in a fluid motion whip out the iPod and the iPhone and become oblivious to the world around them, iTexting and iBopping and iYaking. "Yo, dude, you get my text?.........."  "Actually my shirt is gray and it's a pen in my pocket and my glasses are pewter, PEWTER! and that's profiling and you can't even see yourself!", I yell back in a fuss.

I cross the street to almost get hit by a guy staring intently at his GPS instead of DRIVING HIS CAR. I turn into a building, the elevator, then a room with people sitting in a ring. I am motioned to speak and calm down to deliver, "Hello, My name is Arno and iNerd!

Ah, the techno life is with us all. I'm not here because I have a nerd ailment, but because the ones who don't admit to nerd like behavior are giving me nightmares.
I am awake, I touch things, see things and am deeply interested in stuff and I am always tripping over nerd zombies. Think your not a nerd? Nerds are the result of fact filled education and the regurgitation test regimen. "Hey man I don't speak in strings of facts!" No, you just speak because you must, having content is just something added if you actually had it on your mind. It has become the way you express yourself. If you had a beat behind it, you'd go off and lay down your rap.

What ever we do as nerds, we like to hear ourselves, see ourselves or get into stuff with the caveat, "Don't interrupt me when I am in my world!", "Don't touch me when I am in the zone." You know I like basketball, but when Michael Jordan goes into slow motion...........I walk into Office Max to make a purchase, whip out my credit card to make a killer buy, time slows and the world rotoscopes to a different angle and even the guy in the back of the store grins and nods as I make the slide. I leave the store beaming and when I get home I do the online survey to re-live the experience, all the while the imagined sound of cheering crowds fill my mind. Arno, snap out of it!

I'm glad we don't wear cartoon voice bubbles so that others can see what we think or say. I would be embarrassed, you would hit or kill me. I would close my eyes so I wouldn't hate you. You would say over and over, "Man, shut up!"

Of course most cover their propensity for being nerdy by saying they are savvy. Hey man, what's savvy? What's saaaaavvvvvy?

Don't blame me, I am compelled to tell the condition we all live in, after all iBlog.