Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Nick on ‘brick: Another look at 2001

/tap /tap

Is this thing still on?

Apparently.

I’ve posted previously of CinemaTyler’s excellent but breathless exploration of 2001: A Space OdysseyParallaxNick takes a more leisurely and historical look at the same film. It is less about the filmmaking process and more on its origins, development, context, and implications.  Nick’s videos about astronomy are well worth the watch.

Youtube Channel: ParallaxNick

No good deed: Youtube deletes Jeff Quitney’s channel

At one time there were several Youtube channels that found, cleaned-up, and uploaded public domain training films and other documentary-style educational videos for a grateful audience.  wdtvlive42 and Historia-Bel99TV were summarily deleted a couple of years ago.  This week the hammer fell on Jeff Quitney who had presented over five thousand films that he had spruced up.  Youtube does not seem to have an appeals process.  They first demonetized him based on (most likely spurious) copyright claims against music that was part of a few of the soundtracks.  Now, his channel has just disappeared.  Fortunately he has at least partial backups at Bit.Tube and Vimeo.  His goal is to ultimately have everything restored but that will take considerable time.  I’ve linked to him many times and have found at least temporary replacements from the Internet Archive as well as from other Youtubers.  Still, it is a shame what happened to him.

Periscope Film of Los Angeles still exists, providing watermarked films from their commercial library.  Let’s hope they remain and grow.

Addendum 7 April 2019: Looks like he’s making Vimeo his go-to site for old and new videos.  Click the image to go to his Vimeo page.

Click the image to go to Jeff Quitney’s Vimeo Channel

Nonstandard deviations: Donald Bradman’s staggering average

The 1950 British Council love-letter to cricket gave glimpses of the 1948 Ashes matches between Australia and England where Sir Donald Bradman concluded his storied test career.   The crowd at Lords and possibly even the English team wanted to see Bradman leave on a high note but he was dismissed quickly for no runs.   In a sweet coincidence,  Australian science journalist Brady Haran has just released a Numberphile video putting that match in context of Bradman’s body of work.

Youtube Channel: Numberphile

Doppelgaenger: GE on Management

Management and Leadership are booming cargo-cult businesses.  Certifications in both can be had for a fee regardless of aptitude or ability.    Universities have created valuable profit-centers in this ‘market’ around their  charitable cocoons, touting their programs in airports, magazines, billboards, and online advertising.  Just about everyone in the modern workplace will either have to take a course in some aspect of this or be talked at by someone who has.  The material, to be charitable, is dumbed down to  irrelevance.  The examples are always shiftless or cantankerous employees not fully committed to the bottom line.   Orwell had it right

When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial, atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them.
— George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

The old General Electric company recognized that developing managers means more than a handbook of HR-approved cliches.   This Capraesque short film does not solve but at least acknowledges the crushing bidirectional pressure aspiring and reluctant managers have faced and continue to face.   The protagonist is literally beside himself with stress and gets some medical help.  The ending is refreshingly ambiguous.  Sports fans of a certain age will recognize a young Heywood Hale Broun, long before his coat-of-many-colors phase.

Channel: Jeff Quitney at Vimeo
(New link added 2/2/20 following Jeff Quitney’s remastered upload to his Vimeo pages)

Channel: Pathescope Productions at The Internet Archive
(Link updated 3/22/19 following Youtube’s deletion of Jeff Quitney’s channel)

 

Industrial Chic: From when copying was new

There’s a category of Youtube channel dedicated to fixing up old mostly public-domain videos from Prelinger and similar archives and making them available to broad audiences.  Jeff Quitney is one of the best at this along with Bel99TV and PeriscopeFilm.

Here’s a little bit of 1965 techno-cool courtesy of Xerox Corporation.

Via The Handy(Jam) channel at the Internet Archive.
(Link updated 3/22/19 after the deletion of Jeff Quitney’s Youtube Channel)

Art from compromise: pyCustoms inspects Python packages

Consider technical computing.  Matlab is expensive but simple: One function per .m file – send a function inputs, get outputs.  Python’s adherents claim that it can supplant Matlab for most scientific purposes.  Reality, as usual, is more nuanced.  Since Python supports objects, classes, namespaces, and a lot of other funky features, Python tools are chock full of them.  Pick a package – numpy, scipy, matplotlib, or any of the ‘batteries included’ standard library.  It is difficult to figure out how to pass inputs to something and get outputs, assuming that thing is a function and not an object with methods, a class, a module,  or something else.  Documentation is often lacking so there will be multiple visits to StackOverflow, Usenet and Google Groups, and mailing lists.

I wrote some experimental Python spaghetti code, pyCustoms, to take a Python package, figure out which of its modules connect to which other modules, and then to recursively list each module’s builtins, classes, functions, submodules, and a bunch of stuff falling into ‘none of the above.’  I also sent the results into graphviz to visualize the results and perhaps gain some insight.  It was one compromise after another, figuring out ‘good enough’ when ‘ideal’ wasn’t convenient or  possible.  The firework-like graphviz output was fun to look at although not practically useful due to the large amount of zooming and panning needed to see details – what you see is all you’ve got.  I may use the plain text output from the pyCustoms algorithm in the future to figure out the lay of the land before studying a package in any detail.

The pyCustoms code is on Github in a Jupyter Notebook.  Here are the graphviz outputs for numpy and matplotlib.  Each image links to a PDF.  Zooming and panning works better in a standalone PDF reader than in a typical browser PDF plugin.  Right-clicking should permit downloading the files.  I normally use the Skim PDF reader for Macs but was surprised to find that Acrobat DC did a better job for these graphics intensive files.

matplotlib

numpy

Monolith Monograph: The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey

A young filmmaker dives deeply in five parts into the technical and artistic innards of his (and one of my) favorite movies. One wishes that he spoke a little slower and left some breathing room in his edits but it is an earnest, meticulous, and illuminating effort. The engineering alone that went into 2001 is awe-inspiring. Did Kubrick sleep during the two years it took to make?

Via Channel CinemaTyler

A pitch by any other name?: Jupyter’s narratives

The IPython Notebook has evolved into the Jupyter project. This free, open-source hook into many different programming languages simplifies some types of software experimentation. Jupyter’s advocates have attracted some generous institutional and foundational funding to develop the tool. The project has posted its winning proposal touting it as the “Engine of Collaborative Data Science” and ramming home the “computational narrative” as the means. Authors write notebooks with embedded data and code for a variety of audiences and interested readers can run computations for themselves.

It isn’t clear how this will work for complex algorithms that require a lot of computing power. Notebooks can be static presentations in those cases but then they have no advantage over a conventional report. The current Notebook doesn’t have the tools for real software development or algorithm analysis. Savvy users recommend not relying on them beyond certain limits. Variable inspection, debugging, and change control are all on the roadmap for the new JupyterLab and the project’s claims can’t be addressed until we see how well these work. Every addition will require screen space which will mean less space for the data and visualizations. It might in time be as convenient as the current (not-free) Matlab User Interface but it will take work to get there.

Yes, this is the funded scope and if it existed, they would be proposing something else. The Principal Investigators agree that other Notebook interfaces have been around for a long time but imply that cost and proprietary architectures have been the principal roadblocks to their impact. The Notebook metaphor itself is left alone and that’s puzzling. There should be plenty of data (ha!) on how prior interfaces have or have not revolutionized the areas they claimed they were going to revolutionize. The proposal does devote detail to the enabling technologies, the support of large companies, and the future constituency.

But, it is the word ‘narrative’ gets my hackles up. It sounds disturbingly similar to ‘pitch’ and the pitch culture is dangerous. People can be led down a bad path any number of ways – yellow journalism, Powerpoint, or just outright demagoguery. Groups can lie just as well as individuals and Notebooks, like vaunted social media, can just as easily be co-opted for b.s. Data-driven decisionmaking is resurgent yet cyclical. It ebbs when the data don’t match the preconceptions – the internal narratives – of the ones with the money. We may, as a society, have gone past failsafe in handing over control to the unworthy.

JupyterLab: Building Blocks for Interactive Computing | SciPy 2016 | Brian Granger
Watch this video on YouTube.