TITAA #15: Jobs in VR, AI search engines, Tutorials
I am liking Chris Ried's Generative Arts Collective newsletter on procedurally generated art. I found the work of David Mignot, example above, in a back issue. I really love procgen cities and buildings.
DALL-E code and notebooks came out! You might enjoy Ryn Murdock's (@advadnoun) Aleph2Image colab notebook, a follow-on to his CLIP-BigGAN ("BigSleep") that I linked to last month. Here are some images I generated with it for "a tarot card of The Fool" [ETA: pic lost in move from Tinyletter] and "the ruined castle on the hill":
The model has a tendency to insert text when it's not sure what to do, and you can see we got a painting signed by "-Hill." Also, at least 2 and possibly 4 different ruined castles are fighting for space here.
Self-Organizing Textures from distill.pub has very interesting eye candy, as usual for their articles.
Same.Energy - an AI powered image search engine; lots of people shared this! The "about" page says it's similar to CLIP. I don't think it works better than Google Images for some searches; e.g., here's my "castle" search and note there are no controls like Google's to limit to photographs rather than vector. The display is definitely prettier since it's using a masonry layout and has no text captioning.
There's a cool Image Search Engine for Film Content ("owl" works well, "breakfast cereal" less so).
This Monster Mash paper with live demo (and code) where you can turn a traced image into an animated 3D character in the web browser is magical. I was about to go down some time-consuming Blender paths to try to create some 3D content for a project at work. Now I just need a photograph. I suppose I can use one of the AI search engines!
Funprogramming Processing tutorial with lots of code.
Claus Wilke's new R Datavis course materials.
Curran Kelleher's React/D3 Datavis Course.
NLP: SpaCy v3 videos for beginners - good, growing set of YouTube video tutorials on using SpaCy's new version for NLP operations, from Applied Language Technology.
An excellent geoviz course, "Introduction to Geospatial Raster and Vector Data With Python" from The Carepentries Incubator (thanks @tdhopper). Also some new geo infovis training material in R from Maarten Lambrechts on Flowingdata!
These notebooks by Olivia Vane on how to create waterlines on maps (and animate them) are amazing. These are waterlines around the Isles of Scilly, which maybe don't come out well in this small format, sorry:
Games / VR / Fake Jobs
Still in love with the VR headset! It gets me out of the apartment. It was also (ahem) a gateway purchase to upgrading my gaming PC recently. What the hell, I can't spend money traveling!
I'm enjoying Virtual Virtual Reality, while also finding it a little, uh, prescient? You play a gig worker, hired to do various things for sentient AIs that want human labor. As a person who spends non-trivial amounts of time reviewing, rating, and labeling input and output to AI algorithms, this is... weird for me. And then there is the secret underworld that is unionizing the human labor, in the shadowy back rooms of the virtual. Uh. Timely?
I haven't played Job Simulator yet which kind of freaks me out despite the humor; and I'm weirdly entranced by Cookout: A Sandwich Tale, this short-order cook sandwich making game with rude customers - but it seems more suited to multi-player. I don't really know if my friends want to make sandwiches in VR with me. Maybe if they were cakes? I was promoted a short-list of VR games about simulated jobs recently and I backed away slowly but I'm still thinking about it. Is it relaxing and fun to do someone else's job unpaid, for no stakes?! Yet, there must be stakes, or you can't win?
In non-job games, kind of, I really like Time Stall, which features a crowd-funded spaceship populated by falling-apart robots who need human help. Your role (job) is to save their captainbot when some of the server bots go crazy and start shooting up the place. You set up physics puzzles in a frozen time -- like aiming uncorked champagne bottles at falling robots -- and then start time and see if they deflect the bad guys and various falling debris. It is cute and funny, like most of my favorite games so far!
I'm still comfort-bingeing through True Blood (s5 now), don't judge me. I took a break to watch season 3 of The Sinner on Netflix, which enjoyed while finding psychologically intense, as usual. (I have liked all of it. Matt Bomer was excellent in this season.)
SF: I read book 2 of the Carls duo by Hank Green, A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor, and thoroughly enjoyed it as well. (I loved book 1 which ended on a sad cliffhanger.) This one takes on alien intervention and a creepy VR-ish startup. There is a lot going on, but it was fun and felt strangely timely. Probably because so much is about the world changing and grief, with a large dose of social media life.
Fantasy: I finished the Queen of the Tearling fantasy trilogy (the original 3) by Erika Johansen and really loved them all. The first one has a wobbly start including a few scenes in which you might conclude this is a YA romance fantasy series, but woahhhhhh Nelly it is not that! There is a lot of darkness, including self-harm and child-harm, vampirism, ghosts, slavery, black magic, and even time travel of a sort. We learn how the Utopian experiment went so wrong, and there are religious politics. Recommended if you like darkish fantasy.
Fantasy: Comet Weather and Blackthorn Winter by Liz Williams were very cozy British fantasies - modern day, full of pagan magic and ghosts and parallel worlds and traveling people and shape-shifting and bleak moors and standing stones and pubs and holidays. I liked the family of magical women and their house in Somerset and it made me truly miss the English countryside. But again, there is tons going on here, and don't expect it all wrapped up tightly and explained.
For thriller/mystery fans, I rec The Broken Girls by Simone St. James. This is a 2-mystery story in which a journalist in Vermont starts a piece about the ruined girls' school on the grounds of which her sister was murdered; and she discovers an old mystery involving a ghost and a missing girl in 1950. A page turner.
I'm not doing the pasta feta thing, but I am doing the sheetpan feta thing with tomatoes and chickpeas, via SmittenKitchen.
One grand boulevard with trees
with one grand cafe in sun
with strong black coffee in very small cups.
One not necessarily very beautiful
man or woman who loves you.
One fine day.
-- "Recipe for Happiness" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Hope you are doing okay. At least spring is coming? Drop me a note if you like this, or even buy me a coffee :) Share with friends!
All the best, Lynn