Abacus Noir

Self Wright

The World of Tomorrow

The 700-foot-high Trylon and 200-foot-wide Perisphere, at the center of the fair.

I came across the old footage of the 1939 World’s Fair, which was promoted, at the time as “the world of tomorrow“, talking about the magnificent world of twenty years from now, of 1960!

Ironically, this fair co-incided with the outbreak of World War II, but in my opinion, the optimism within did prevail longer, probably up until the 1970s (there was a follow-up fair in the mid-1960s!).

There is an immensely positive message here, of how the future had to be better.

When people talk about how “it’s time to build” again, I think this — recapturing this lost optimism — is the only way to mean it in an unambiguously good way.

(Through) A Scanner Darkly

I had written previously about how 2006 was a year with a lot of great movies.

Yet, since I was going by what came to mind then, there was one important omission: “A Scanner Darkly

If you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t believe it starred each of:

  • Keanu Reeves (a long way from Bill and Ted, shortly after the Matrix trilogy, and before John Wick)
  • Winona Ryder (for me, she will always be Lelaina from Reality Bites, 27 years ago now, and under-appreciated until her recent role in Stranger Things)
  • Woody Harrelson (old-timer familiar to younger audiences from Hunger Games and No Country for Old Men)
  • Robert Downey Jr (right before he entered the Marvel-verse as Iron Man, became Sherlock Holmes)

I would say that the movie was “prescient” given its portrayal of surveillance, drug addiction, all themes in the world today, but then I’d have to say that the book was even more prescient.

The style of the movie is animated-but-not-animated, using “digital rotoscope”, which combines the live-action is “painted over”, which creates an impression of … well, you’d have to watch it.

The movie is based on a a Philip K. Dick book of the same name, from 1977.

From the Kirkus Review for the book:

Much of the straightforward narration is theatrically bad, yet dialogue and internal monologue carry a cruel (and cruelly funny) conviction. And the larger plot is brilliantly hinged upon a consciousness split by two insanities: the Kafkaesque charade of secret self-surveillance and the terrible advance of irreversible brain damage. Flawed, almost too grim to take, but stunningly realized.

Yes — no doubt you’ve seen a lot of surveillance in movies, by now, though I’d guess you haven’t encountered self-surveillance.

From the Guardian Review:

It has the feel of the apocalypse about it, a sense of these being the last days

At the nadir of his despair and double-agent confusion, he wonders whether the agencies spying on him through their scanners have a clearer idea of who he is than he has himself. He has surrendered himself so totally to the service of the state that the authorities now have a godlike insight into him: godlike in its power, that is, but with a very human malice and caprice.

Heh

Minor trivia:

  • Something I learnt today: the audiobook for this is narrated by … Paul Giamatti !!
  • There are other Philip K. Dick novels made into movies,

Rediscovering Disco

After dipping into movie soundtracks several years ago, I haven’t actually returned to any other consistent “genre” (I know soundtracks aren’t a genre, I lack a better word, and music stores do treat them this way).

That is, until on my birthday (recently, sometime last week) I scrolled through random items, looking for something “I hadn’t heard in a long time”.

Which led me to this playlist.

Favorites:

  • Stayin Alive
  • Rasputin
  • That’s the way
  • Y.M.C.A.
  • Don’t let me be misunderstood
  • Funkytown

The majority of these tracks are from (by a few years) before I was born 🙂 And I enjoyed them.

Simple calculator in Rust

Sometime last year, I had tried writing a parser for basic arithmetic to drive a simple calculator in Scala.

To follow-up, I decided to try writing this in Rust.

I looked at some parser crates, settled on peg (it seemed simpler than … pest).

The code is here.

The core of it is this parser section:

peg::parser!(
grammar calc_parser() for str {
    rule number() -> i64
    = n:$(['0'..='9']+) {
        ? n.parse().or(Err("bad num"))
    }

    rule whitespace() = quiet!{[' ']*}

    rule operator() -> Operator
    = op:$(['*' | '/' | '+' | '-']) { Operator(op.chars().next().unwrap()) }

    rule paren() -> i64
    = "(" whitespace() n:calculate() whitespace() ")" { n }

    rule factor() -> i64
    =
    n:number() { n }
    /
    n:paren() { n }

    rule term() -> i64
    =
    n1:factor() whitespace() op:operator() whitespace() n2:factor() {
        eval(&op, n1, n2)
    }
    /
    n:factor() { n }

    pub rule calculate() -> i64
    =
    n1:term() whitespace() op:operator() whitespace() n2:term() {
        eval(&op, n1, n2)
    }
    /
    n:term() { n }
}
);

Here’s what a sample session looks like:

Enter an expression, or 'END' to quit:
45
Answer: 45
Enter an expression, or 'END' to quit:
8 * (7 + (9 / 3))
Answer: 80
Enter an expression, or 'END' to quit:
4 * ( 5
Calculation error: ParseError { location: LineCol { line: 1, column: 8, offset: 7 }, expected: ExpectedSet { expected: {"['0' ..= '9']", "['*' | '/' | '+' | '-']", "\")\""} } }
Enter an expression, or 'END' to quit:
END

Well, this is cheerful

Continuing an MIT study from 1971

Subscribed to r/solarpunk just to have a counter-weight of optimism.

News Extracts: 16 Jul 2021

A shocking trend, that is easily missed


A perspective on a sort of change in culture and art, using Michaelangelo as an example

Generally interesting links – Jun 2021

An early hyper-text from the 90s

Science(-Fiction)

Japanese scientists have induced the jellyfish to repeat this transformation at least 10 times in a row—allowing a polyp to grow into a tentacled adult medusa, before subjecting it to stress (for example, a needle prick), and watching the process begin all over again. In this way, a single jellyfish—hypothetically at least—might be induced to live forever, cycling endlessly from young to old and back again.

The immortal jellyfish has something that humans have sought for centuries: the answer to eternal life. But to them, it is nothing. Workaday. Simple creatures, they may not even know they have this prize. Certainly, what with their rejuvenation coming during periods of pain or suffocation, they will not enjoy it. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “One has to pay dearly for immortality; one has to die several times while one is still alive.” I’m sure that jellyfish would, if they could, agree.

Hypertext

Society

History

Tech

Monthly recap (Jun 2021)

Within Muir Woods

Major updates

  • A trip to Muir Woods

Minor updates

  • Got a covid test (negative!)
  • Dealing with some ants and cockroaches at home
  • Patio work at home (tiling)
  • Got some cards for Father’s Day 🙂

Watched/read/played/made

  • Rango (for the third time)
  • First (An unexpected journey) and second (The desolation of Smaug) Hobbit movies with Tara
  • Watched several episodes of Teen Titans Go with Tara (yes, odd)
  • Season 3 of The Kominsky Method
  • Beowulf (the 2008 movie)

From an older time

I came across this plaque while on a trip last week.

Plaque before Gualala Hotel (it has my shadow on it, and some of the text is hard to read)

We were staying at Gualala, and were eating at Upper Crust Pizzeria, which was really good, and so we returned to it. Next to it was the “Gualala Hotel”. This plaque was in front of it.

At first, it was something I scanned through, and it did seem of some minor historical interest, and was about to walk past when I read the last few lines again.

Dedicated September 29, 6023 (2018)

I did the math.

6023 - 2018 = 4005

I vaguely remembered something involving 4004 BCE as a pre-deep-time possible “time of creation”, and … yes, that checked out.

James Ussher picked late 4004 BCE for this event — though this wasn’t very different from Newton’s (yes, that Newton) estimate of 4000 BCE.

Okay.

The last line adds:

Credo Quia Absurdum

”I believe because it’s absurd”

The “belief” here isn’t about the hotel, surely, but rather this “timeline”.

It could be an inside joke then, mentioning this absurdity? Or, since it’s meaning is ambiguous, perhaps an expression of faith?

The second-to-last line read:

The Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus

This being a group given to pranks and satire, I favor the humorous interpretation.

Still, this was an interesting find 🙂

Tomoe River Paper

A few years ago, when I first came across it, it was hard to find a notebook that I liked that contained Tomoe River paper.

It’s thinner than any other paper, it’s strong, and it doesn’t bleed through. One of those “you believe it when you use it” things.

My best option, one that I still use, and can recommend is the “SevenSeas” notebook from NanamiPaper.

If that sounds obscure, it’s because this used to be the only way: an “independent binder” procuring the paper, and assembling a notebook.

However, it is much easier to find alternative today.

JetPens carries an alternative, the Kanso Noto (320 pages for $20)

GouletPens carries another alternative (160 pages for $16)

More than any of this, searching on Amazon (the very definition of mainstream today) shows a bunch of results (will not link to any here).

No more excuses not to try out this pretty remarkable paper 🙂

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