Saturday, January 31, 2009

Procedurally generated landscape: islands

Procedurally generated landscape from pterandon on Vimeo.

What's cool about this one is that the pools of water-- the depressions between the hills, eventually become hills in a sea full of islands. No, I don't understand this function at all-- I'm just plugging in parameters and making pretty pictures. Again, made using the f_hetero_mf function in povray.

The original 640x480 video is at Vimeo. I did some reading on the internet and folks were saying that Vimeo is better for letting you upload larger images. This one might look better at Vimeo.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Blurry fireworks

Here's another video by Flickr user Striatic, again, attribution creative commons licensed.

This one is of fireworks, taken with a defocused camera

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

You, two hundred friends, a snowy cliff, and a herd of buffalo.

Sounds like an interesting mix?

I heard a podcast of the Canadian science show "Quirks and Quarks". It talked about the practice of indigenous peoples on the plains of northwest Canada in the harvest of buffalo. It made reference to this place.

They spoke of how for centuries, indigenous people, armed with little more than sticks and animal skins, were able to get hundreds-strong herds of buffalo to run off of cliffs each fall. They said buffalo are incredibly strong and not stupid. But the Indians were able to get them to congregate with a long series of tricks, starting with camouflage. They'd have one man dressed up as a buffalo calf, and then stage an attack on the "calf" by men dressed in wolf skins. Instinctively, the buffalo would try to rescue the baby. Eventually after so many similar tricks, there would be so many beasts congregated together that the herd couldn't stop once they came to a cliff.

It was one more reminder that older cultures were not STUPID. There is a danger of our becoming so proud of the technological accomplishments of modern society that we can assume that the prior generations just didn't have the intellect to do these things we can. But I guess the technological advances of each generation are predicated on access to those of the generation prior.

The Indians did some amazing things in a truly inhospitable environment. How many modern humans could do such a thing? Is human intelligence immediately translatable to any and all problems? Suppose aliens were to take 200 Ivy League PhD's and threw them on that plain? Suppose aliens took 200 expert plumbers, mechanics, and carpenters? In a year or two, would either group survive just as well in harvesting the buffalo? In my thought experiment, I'm guessing yes. Accomplishments in book knowledge and a building trade might do well for helping you harvest buffalo. But what about modern stupidity?

For but one example, look at the 2008 elections. I've blogged before that I thought it incredibly stupid that some 21% of poll respondents thought Sarah Palin was qualified to be Vice President AND Joe Biden was unqualified. These are dangerous folk. Reasonable folks might say that charges of being unqualified were unfairly leveled at Palin; they might say they'd prefer McCain over Obama. But it takes partisanship to a whole 'nuther level to believe Palin IS and Biden ISN'T qualified. In my thought experiment, I'm wondering what would happen if aliens took 200 of these Palin-yes-Biden-no respondents, and say 200 McCain voters who said Palin-yes-Biden-yes to qualifications, and put them on different hills. Would their worldview eventually have to mesh with reality?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An R-rated blog?

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

Created by OnePlusYou - Free Dating Sites

With no recommendation, I saw a link to this site on some blog and went to see what it would say about this blog. It says this blog is R-rated. I guess I've tackled some pretty tough subjects, but always thought I stayed away from outright licentiousness. Anyway, be warned!!

Slower procedurally generated landscape

Here's the same file from yesterday's animation, just slowed down a bit.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Procedurally generated landscape

This was made with povray. I started with the noise isosurface, then turned it into steps, then came up with a unique texture for each step. Then I animated the sysytem by putting the frame number into the equation for the y component of the isosurface. Another one with higher resolution and slower movement now rendering.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Maldives, at last!

My wife and I went to a timeshare presentation. One of the things that suckered me into signing the paperwork (we later canceled) was the idea that we could save up our timeshare points and vacation in the Maldives. Here's my consolation prize: a video of the shoreline in the Maldives by Flickr user nattu, which he was kind enough to put under a Creative Commons license.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My first Python program!

Below is my first Python program that I wrote from scratch to solve a problem I had. I was working with my son to come up with prime numbers. We got up to 100, and then our brains just started hurting when trying to figure out whether 101 were prime or not. Then I fired up a spreadsheet program to answer the problem. It was only a little bit more helpful than doing it by hand. Then I realized that Python could to it.

So I fired up a text editor and wrote this little program. It works!!
//begin Python program

for i in range (1,1e3):
    for j in range (1,i):
        for k in range (1,j):
            if j*k==i:
    if isntprime==0:
        print i
print "The number of primes less than "
print i+1," is ", primecounts

Friday, January 23, 2009

What I'm listening to these days

I've found one collection of music that is just weird enough for me. It's got a mix of downtempo and light electronica tracks such that it makes just the right background music for work or 'puting.

It's the Monotonik 2006 Archive, from the net label monotonik. At 380 Mb, it has enough that it all seems new. The current page for the organization is here, but features different, newer music. The 2006 Archive is available as a torrent from the aptly-named site, From the web page for the collection:
[BEAUTIFUL, ELECTRONICA, NET.LABEL] One of the longest-running net.labels in existence, Monotonik (around since 1996!) specializes in downtempo 'idm'-style electronic music, and presents the 9 releases that make up its 2006 output so far (up to June 2006), including albums and EPs by New Delhi FM, Yuppster, Ernesto Aeroflot, Wavespan, Sabi, Planet Boelex, SinQ, and Izmar. If you're a fan of headphone-centric electronic music, you won't want to miss out on this!

There's also a page for monotonik at, but it features different stuff at well. The Internet Archive however at least has a flash player to allow you to see some of the music before you download. The one collection that struck my fancy was the "2006 Archive". I also have the "Archives-Vol-1", but it's not quite as cool.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Misadventures in SecondLife

I spent a few evenings playing around with SecondLife a few years ago, I just found these screen grabs on my hard drive.

In the first image, I was wandering around some town, and suddenly found myself in a really seedy section of town. My character, the blonde guy in blue, wandered in to this really weird group of folks. The guys were dressed like goth ninjas and who knows why that woman is kneeling. Anyway, having stumbled on to a place where I knew I didn't fit in, I got a big kick out of the idea of pretending I was a lost tourist from Kansas. I started asking questions about where to find the local coffee shop, etc. I didn't get much of a reaction out of the other folks, but I had a great LOL to myself in the way I was trying to tease these people. (Hopefully there's no way to be killed in SL.) I wonder if that's the most fun you ever get out of it.

In this one, I was playing around with character design and a linux version of SL. I never could figure out what I was doing wrong, as some of the files for character design actually were downloaded to my HDD with the SL binaries. I ended up with pitch black skin and pants of a color scheme that looked like the underwear was on the outside. I wandered through some rooms and ended up at a ballroom dance. Again, I got some LOL's just pretending I was a guy with severe skin disease at the dance, it was funny even without talking to or dancing with anyone. (I didn't know how to operate the controls properly and wasn't interested in "starting anything" online anyway). Another interesting thing to note is that the womens' dresses did not have any collision detection with the men's pants. Note that the men appear to be standing inside the ladies' dresses.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lake Washington Fish Ladder

Here's an interesting video posted by the famous flickerite Striatic of the Lake Washington Ship CanalFish Ladder. I just love all things fish and so had to post it. The colors make for a psychedelic effect, even if only B&W. Thanks, Striatic, for making this creative commons licensed!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

One man to overthrow revealed.

The blog "U2 Sermons" had an interesting post that pointed to a discussion of the lyrics to U2's "Pride."

I found the song's tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., to be inspiring, even if I were unable to understand a few lines. Most confusing was the stanza:

One man caught on a barbed wire fence
One man he resist
One man washed on an empty beach.
One man betrayed with a kiss
Now the song just kind of throws out references to Jesus and/or King, and doesn't really warn you which is coming when.

Let's take the lines in order of easiness to figure out:
  • #4: Jesus was obviously betrayed by a kiss, by Judas "on the night in which he was betrayed".
  • #1: This can be a generic reference to suffering at the hands of the military: obviously Jesus on the cross, but maybe also King & segregation.
  • #2: Jesus, he resist; King, he resist.
  • #3: Washed on an empty beach. Who??

The "CADRE" discussion reminds us that Jesus pointed to his death and resurrection as the "sign of Jonah".
"Then some of the scribes and pharisees said to him, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." He said to them in reply, "An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the Sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights." (Matthew 12: 38-40).
So, one man washed on an empty beach could be a reference to the story of Jonah, which is a reference to Jesus' death and resurrection.

For decades now, I'd sang the song with great emotion, and just kind of assumed that it meant something inspiring, but never exactly quite how or why. Now I know.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Japanese intersection

I'm posting this video by flickr user emrank of a busy Japanese intersection because it's cool, and it was posted under a creative commons license.

"The pushing of the people, I love it all so much." -- Peter Gabriel.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Leatherback turtle covering eggs

I found this amazing video of a leatherback turtle covering her newly laid eggs. It's interesting how primitive this creature looks. And it's so rugged and tough looking, yet we're intruding upon one of its more vulnerable and tender moments. Thanks to Flickr user Paul Mannix for offering this to the world with a Creative Commons license.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

BART shooting: are any of us safe?

Please find enclosed a video of the shooting of an unarmed man lying on the ground by police of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District. I heard about it through an article in The Nation and was pointed to a story at AlterNet.

If the shooting itself weren't poignant enough, this one little detail really gets my dander up. From The Nation article:
"Following the shooting, according to an excellent report in Alternet, BART police tried to confiscate all the videos taken by witnesses. They failed and three clips videos made it to YouTube, where they were viewed hundreds of thousands of times and eventually picked up and played by the news media, bringing the story national attention."

In my mind, this is the greater outrage than the shooting. I can almost understand the mindset of the cop who might have fired in the heat of passion. There was an angry chanting crowd who was increasing the tension for the police. What is less forgivable are actions of the police officers who were reportedly tried to confiscate tapings of the shooting. It is far harder to find a motivation for doing so that is not merely sinister. They had a much clearer head, and did something to obstruct justice for the man who was shot. I'd like to see them prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

From the AlterNet article:
"And you see another officer nudge him on the shoulder and ask, 'Why did you do that? What happened?' And the officer who shot the boy was like, 'I don’t know,' just looking at him like he couldn’t believe what he had done."

I'm pasting below two of AlterNet's requested actions that concerned citizens might undertake. I'd also ask for an investigation into the attempt to confiscate videos of the events.
2. Contact BART Director Carole Ward Allen and demand that: 1) The officers involved be taken off duty without pay and charged and fully prosecuted; 2) There be an independent investigation of the shooting that includes a review of training and hiring practices; and 3) BART establish an independent residents’ review board for the police. Call her at (510) 464-6095 or e-mail the BART board of directors at

3. Call the BART police to complain about the officers’ conduct and demand immediate action -- Internal Affairs: Sgt. David Chlebowski, (510) 464-7029,; Chief of Police Gary Gee, (510) 464-7022, Call them toll free at (877) 679-7000 and press the last four digits of the phone number you wish to reach.

Also pray for the family of the victim, Oscar Grant

Friday, January 16, 2009

The marching bots of Capastrono

A series of marching robots. Wait a minute, each one seems to have more and more difficulty with the walking: What's going on?

Made with povray 3.6.
Answer: the robots on the left that come into the screen are actually smaller, yet have to transverse the same stride length as their bigger kin. That's one of the cool things about povray, in that so many things can be parameterized.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Blender cloth simulation

Uploaded by pterandon

I found this old posting sitting on my account at dailymotion. In it I simply show how one can make a sheet fall on and off a sphere or a human head.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bahama beach video

Here's a video by Flickr user acme which shows a beach in the Bahamas. The waves are really interesting. They look strong enough to let you know you're in the ocean, but not actually strong enough to hurt you. Thanks to acme for Creative Commons licensing the video for all to share!

Revenge is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord

Revenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved; but give place unto wrath, for it is written: Revenge is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord

Here is some amazing footage from Al-Jazeera on Israeli attacks on the civilian populace of Gaza with phosphorous bombs. The interesting thing is that we see leaflets dropped in part of the attack. Do they contain a warning? It's interesting how some homes along a narrow path might get a few hundred, with much of the city getting less. And what is the purpose of the leaflets? Do they tell all civilians to get out of the way? Do they specifically tell Hamas militants to stay put but civilians to take cover, so that only bad guys will get hit? Or is the effort to punish entire peoples? If so, we know what God has said about that.

This video is provided by the Al Jazeera Creative Commons Repository to show footage you wouldn't otherwise see of the conflict.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

We Came, We Saw, We Danced with Robots

While searching for my name, I found one of my old IRTC anims on someone's site.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Ambient Occlusion in blender

For this image, I turned on Ambient Occlusion, with 4 Samples, the Raytrace mode of Ambient Occlusion, and Both (lightens and darkens). For the materials, I practically turned the Spec in the Material to zero. In the Render settings, I turned on the Shado and Ray buttons.