New Drawing (Arms Folded I)

This is moderately not-safe-for-work... a nude model, though you can't see the pieces-parts.

Last night, I thought about what "style" I wanted to master... something I could call "mine". I spent a lot of time looking through my favourite artwork, taking notes as to what parts of them I really liked.

First and foremost, I like the style from the Classical Drawing Atelier book that I picked up some months ago: chiaroscuro, usually in charcoal and chalk on toned paper. (examples - NSFW) I love that effect, and want to make it my own.

Second, I like the "digital drawing style" found on, say, Deviant art. The stuff that people do with tablets. (example) ...I like the "sketchy" feel of these drawings, how you can see the painting lines because of the opacity of the strokes. It's distinctly digital, and I am very much of the digital era. It suits me.

I also like artwork that seems to glow, as both of the previous examples demonstrate. ...With muted colors: monochrome, really.

And, of course, I like nudes. : ) That said, I don't like "gratuitous nudity"... I like things to be subtle. I especially like moderately-close crops of anatomy (mostly female).

One of the strongest points I realized is that, though I *love* a drawing with good line, when I am drawing, it's all about tone. Tone, tone, tone, tone, tone. Light on forms. Minimal line, if any.

So, with that in mind, I immediately started working on the following image, when I woke up this morning. It's not quite on the mark, but it's a good start:

This was mostly "Charcoal" settings in Painter, with the hair done in "2B Pencil" and "Chalk", and heavy use of belenders, to work the tones and (hopefully) bring out some of those "digital edges" that I like.
Criticism welcome, though I already realize that the arms are too thin and the musculature of the belly is too wide.


Today, I tried to watch the movie Spartan, but it did absolutely nothing for me.  So, when I was interrupted about half-way through, I didn't bother picking it up again.

I like Kilmer, but this role was bo-o-o-o-oring.  Kind of like a Jack Bauer who doesn't talk much.  ...And most of the dialogue was over my head.

So I say: skip it.


How do you feel about psychology?

Much of my family and many of my friends have studied and/or worked in the field... but I've never been a big fan. Mind you, I'm not all Scientology about "psychology kills", but, to my mind, therapy is too focused on "what's good for me" versus what's best for everyone. And, of course "what's best" is something that varies in definition from person to person, so your therapist had better approach your world views.

I think, if I were to decide therapy would do me some good (I haven't), then I would have to ask the therapist a few questions, to be sure she believed roughly the same things I believe. Here's a first draft of such questions.

  1. What do you think a ghost is?
  2. Please complete the following sentence: "In the end, you have to do what's..."
  3. Please respond freely to the following koan: "If you cannot find truth exactly where you are, where else do you expect to find it?"
  4. What's the meaning of life?
...I think those questions would give me a clear enough picture of the therapist's beliefs, as they might affect my ability to take her advice seriously.

Would you have questions?

Nude Sketch (NSFW)

It's been a while since I've drawn at all, much less sketched a figure.  ...I've done a couple of studies in my sketchbook, but really only a handful.  But the itch to draw is back, so tonight I did this:

...I'm moderately pleased.  I didn't quite finish her right forearm (oops), but I was rushing.  In all, I spent about 45 minutes on it.  (Yeah, I'm slow. I'm beginning.)  Overall, the proportions aren't horrible.  ...Though I re-drew the head twice before it was the right scale.  ; )  This was 99% done without measuring (I measured the head, roughly, with fingers at a distance), and the (photo) source was at 50% of the final sketch size. Done entirely with the "2B Pencil" setting in Painter.

I was focusing on lighting, with a minor intention of seeing if I could get proportions right just by "flowing", rather than measuring the hell out of everything.  I was pleased to see that (head problems aside), I basically could. Some flaws, yeah, but not bad at all.

Hopefully, I'll have the chance (and the will) to do a few more of these this weekend.

Flash Game: Desktop TD

Wow. I was looking around for flash games on a boring Friday night, and found Desktop Tower Defense. It's basically a RTS, but... well... I actually like it. : ) It's not a rush to build against the computer: the computer just constantly raids, and you constantly defend, by building a maze of "towers" that damage their units as they crawl past.

It's brutal. It's very cute. It's fun.

I've only just beaten the "normal" level... but I had a blast finding a strategy to do it! Highly recommended.

My group name is "silence", (player name JRice) if you care to compare scores.

Seth Godin on Car Companies

Three words on Seth Godin's idea for fixing the economy vis-a-vis the auto-industry:

Best. Idea. Ever.

(In brief: put the big three out of business, and pave the way for a hundred-plus tiny car companies.)

Nuclear Experiment

...I was looking through a list of CTs in a UK e-mag. One was suggesting the Indian tsunami was caused by and American/Israeli underwater nuclear test.

Then I wondered (nothing to do with the theory, just the science):

What would happen if you detonated a nuke at the bottom of the Pacific?

Poetry, Go, and St. John's Wort

Amy Hoy just posted a rant about poetry. I hate poetry, and I wonder why.

In the beginning, I hated poetry. Girl stuff. ...Then my father pointed out that he wrote a lot of it, and suddenly it was no longer tabboo, and I tried my hand at a little. I didn't realize just how much it sucked. Coincidentally (I assume), I fell in love for the first time shortly thereafter, and boy oh boy was there ever poetry! I spewed it forth on a daily basis. It still sucked, and I knew even less how much so, thanks to this other person telling me how good it was.

My interest in poetry died a quick death, the day after she broke up with me. ...One final death throw: the break-up poem. I don't remember what became of it. I honestly don't care. Im sure it sucked just as hard-core as the sappy love poems that preceeded it. At that point, I was done.

Ever since, I've gone back to my original stance: poetry is pretentious, fluffy, and lame.

After reading Amy's treatsie on what makes a decent poem, I found myself wondering just what it was that I hated about it. It's pretentious was my first though, but I quickly had to remind myself that I was okay with pretentious fine art. ...cause I totally am. (Painting to the right is Spatial Concept by Lucio Fontana; it's a great piece [source]).

So it's not just that poetry is pretentious. It must be more than that. I don't think it's the negative association I have with my first relationship, either: there were plenty of positives that came with that time in my life.

If I had to guess, I would say that it was the forced nature of poetry that I abhore. ...Which brings me to Go.

When I was playing Go last night (and losing miserably), I refused to look ahead more than two moves. This is absurd: you cannot win the game if you don't look ahead, period. And yet I despise the idea that I have to analyze every friggin' stone I place on the board. I desperately want it to come naturally. To be subconscious. To flow.

I can want that as vehemently as I dare: it does not change the fact that I will continuously lose. Dramatically. Every time. ...You must look ahead. You must analyze. Especially toward the beginning.

I hate that.

A lack of flow seems to be a serious blocking point in my entire life right now. ...The code I'm working on is at a point where there is no more flow: I have to squeeze additional performance out of it. Drawing still intimidates me enough that I do less than three hours a week. I know enough German that I'm at the point where I need to start memorizing.

I spend a lot of time tying knots (!) because I've gotten good at the knots I know. There is flow, now. ...But it's friggin' knot tying. It feels like such a waste. ...Good skills to have, sure, one or twice a year, maybe. But not to be sitting there on a Tuesday night listening to music and practising your sheepshank.

Of course, on the whole, I've just gotten increasingly grumpy and uninspired.

So, yeah: I've started taking St. John's again. : )

First Go Game a Disaster

This evening, I logged onto the "Panda Go Server" and marked myself as "looking for a game".

...This, after watching about a Half-dozen games there over the last week.

In other words, this is my first game against a human opponent.  He was listed as 17th kyu (no longer a beginner, but really low-rank).

I got creamed.  I mean, I didn't just get beaten, I got decimated. I didn't have a single live group on the board by move 175, after which I resigned.  I did have some areas reasonably well blocked-off, but it was clear he was good enough at invasion that I would have lost these, and even if I didn't, I had maybe 1/6th of the board.

Go is hard.

Sadly, I'm really, really intimidated to try again.

...Which is exactly why I'm going to do it again right now.

Movie History X

Tonight, I watched American History X.

Eesh. Another tough movie to watch.

That said, I was actually a little disappointed with it.  The acting wasn't nearly as good as the past two movies I've watched (surprisingly), and I actually felt the "transformation" of the older brother from hate to compassion wasn't particularly believable or compelling. ...I recognize that the point of the movie was the "outside" story, so they had to abbreviate this aspect... but it didn't really work for me in its current form. As such, I'm not sure I agree with the 8.6 rating on IMDB. I'm not sure I would recommend the movie, frankly.  Not that it was bad--it wasn't--but it was hard to watch (JEEZUZ the scene where he kills the guy on the sidewalk alone will haunt me), and thus I'm not sure if the payoff was worthwhile. Again with a message that I already fully understood. ...And, as I said already, the conversion wasn't compelling, so this isn't a movie where you can show it to people with hate problems and they'll see the light (as opposed to Requiem for a Dream, which may actually be a mildly good deterrent for drug-use). Kind of leaves you asking: what's the point?

Unfortuante.  I wanted to appreciate this movie. : \

Obama's First Mistake In Office

I hereby predict that President-elect Obama's first error, when he takes office, will be the full pardon of his predecessor.

1kBWC: Brig Thurdle Deg Do Gan Gels Devneggin!

Memoirs of Another Movie

Tonight, I watched Memoirs of a Geisha.

It was good.

It wasn't as good as I wanted or expected.  Again, some superb acting... no one was weak. And the cinematography (something very important to me in enjoying a film) was superlative. But... I didn't like the story. It was an American story, not a Japanese story. And for whatever reason, that bothered me. The plot was thin, the ending was dippy-sweet, the twists were predictable... it was unsatisfying on the level of the story.

That said, the filming had, I think, a pleasant Japanese aspect to it (kudos to Spielberg for that, I suppose): there was the right amount of Japanese spoken, there were no necessarily Occidentally-cast actors (think Gandhi as a counter-example) (UPDATE: I realized last night as I was thinking about this post that, in fact, most of the cast was Chinese.  So much for that assertion!), and there was an efficiency to the direction that suited the setting, though I think the pace would have been more appropriate if it were a little slower.

Of course I realize I have no authority to speak of such things, so please take these comments with a grain of salt: I am not Japanese, and my affinity for their aesthetics is filtered through our American perception of Japan.

All in all, it's a film I would recommend watching.  ...But it certainly doesn't make any "best" lists.  Not for me.  That said:

It was good.

Why Go Drives Me Insane... And Why It Rocks

I am still consistently losing at Go.  It puts me in a bad mood. I can't seem to figure it out: when I have a solid shape, white finds a nice attack and destroys it. I've even lost a few games with NO points (well, in honesty, I resigned before it got to the scoring). Go drives me nuts.

...And when I go looking for information on strategy, I find things like these videos... and then I remember why Go rocks. I'm just at the very beginning, and should expect to lose.

And, for what it's worth, I'm 43 games into my first 50.  ; )

Requiem for a Dream

Tonight I watched Requiem for a Dream.

Yeesh.  What a hard film to watch.

I'm not really sure how to react to movies like this. There was some tremendous acting, some great dialogue (clearly the "I'm lonely" monologue was the standout bit), some neat cinematography... but, man, it's hard to watch a film that ends with all the characters' lives destroyed by drugs. And you know, it's the fact that it was drugs that makes it hard for me to appreciate this film as much as I could have. If the underlying message was "we all have dreams, but they often lead to our demise", multiple vehicles could have been chosen to show that. But when you make the whole movie about drugs... well, the whole message is tainted by that.

I don't do drugs; I've never touched drugs; I wouldn't dream of doing it in the future. ...So that message is completely lost on me.

Of course, there were some smaller messages ("basically good people get treated like animals if they are associated with drugs")... but I already had a firm grasp of those points.

All in all, I walk away disappointed.

...And, dammit, I wanted to know what step #3 was.  : )

Go Proverb

Apparently, if not surprisingly, there is a collection of Go Proverbs.

The first one is healthy: "Lose your first 50 games as quickly as you can."

...Meaning, of course, that you won't have a chance of winning the game until you are quite familiar with the flow of it.

I've heard someone say that if you can get past 50 games, you will be addicted to Go for the rest of your life... but that most people don't actually get there.

I'm presently 11 games into that litmus test (albeit 9x9 games, which are easily 1/4 the length of a full game), and still interested in learning it. Perhaps I'll make it. Perhaps that's not a good thing.  : ) Part of me want to stop trying... I already claim too many hobbies. But something keeps nagging me to try again...

Anyway, I wonder how many things that rule could apply to.

Hmmmn...  how about: "Hide your first 50 figure drawings as quickly as you can"?

Man, I wish I'd pay attention to that thought.

Sexy Beast

...I just watched Sexy Beast. Nicely done. I'm not really into the mafia movies thang, so I probably didn't appreciate it as much as I could have. But the acting was excellent. And I suppose I appreciated it in a demented kind of way.

Kind of pissed me off that the main character lied about Don (Kingsley's character) calling him from Heathrow. ...He was far too obviously a dick to have done something like that. Should've come up with some other story. (And I'm not saying that in hindsight, I was shouting it at the screen as soon as he said it.) He would have known better than to say something like that.

The nightmare rabbit reminded me (perhaps intentionally?) of Donnie Darko.  ...Which was ultimately a more gratifying film (minus the acting chops, of course).  : )

...I notice that IMDB agrees with me (a 1.2-point delta)...  ; )

Strange Fiction

I just watched Stranger than Fiction.

Go ahead and laugh, but I believe that was the best film I've watched in several years.

My Week In New England

I was in New England last week. I know, I know, I didn't tell anyone I was going. That's because I knew it would be an in-and-out, all-business week, so I didn't want anyone to even consider driving four hours out to Cape Cod for two hours of face-time. Sorry.

That said, I really enjoyed myself! I stayed with one of the other programmers and his wife, in a very nice house. They're both vegetarians, liberals, intellectuals, and have studied zen, so we had an awful lot to talk about.  : )  And talk we did: it was entirely enjoyable conversation for me.  ...And the food was good, too.  ; )

I rode a friend's bike to work and back all days but one... which was excellent exercise and very enjoyable (the weather was incredible except that one day of rain). ...However, I learned that my body has not fully recovered from my bout with myxedema, and I ended up in a considerable amount of pain with more fun-fun cramping.  Whee.

I also had a chance to hang out with a couple of the people who have been entertaining online: one highly-skilled programmer, a sysadmin and his wife.  The latter two have just moved here from Australia, so I was totally geeking out (linguistics-wise) on their accents and idioms.

All in all, I really rather enjoyed myself.  The whole experience had a lot of the qualities that made college so much fun.

You Take Nanci (For Me, Loretta's Fine)

I just watched a very short clip of Nanci Pelosi talking about democratic control of congress. I couldn't get through 60 seconds of it, and won't bother linking to it.

I love that congress is being led by a woman.

That said, I think Pelosi has failed in almost every measurable manner. I would like to see her ousted and new leadership chosen.

Sorry, Nanci. I want someone with a backbone, and someone not beholden to corporate interests... which you very clearly are.

More Evidence of my Amorality

So, there was another test (Schwartz Values Scale) on that site, which I just took, created by an Israeli professor. It's supposed to measure your "balance" of moralities, according to a theory that some moral beliefs are inherently in conflict with others.  (If you'll allow me to dumb down a very complex topic.)

I scored universally lower than all averages: no exceptions.  Perhaps this is a reflection of the earlier test results: that I don't hold many of the moral standards very high.  Here's my chart (green = me, blue = liberals, red = conservatives):

So, what we have here is, from left to right: power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation, self-direction, universalism, benevolence, tradition, conformance, and security. Clearly, I trend like a liberal, if somewhat depressed in absolute value.  (This may be an effect of the fact that, on a ten-point scale and the like, I tend to score things far lower than other people. I think it's an American bias that a 7 is like a 'C' and is really not that good.  I don't see it in terms of school scores, so I don't treat them that way.)
If you ignore the absolute values, you'll see that most important to me are self-direction and universalism. They define the latter as "understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature". Those definitely ring true.
You'll also see that I score dramatically low on stimulation: "excitement, novelty, and challenge in life".  ...I like novelty when I get it, but I don't go seeking it. Check my profile, and you'll see my favourite quote is the koan, "If you cannot find truth exactly were you are, where else do you expect to find it?" Yup: that's me.
I'm also remarkably low on power.  This is also a truth. To my mind, as I have said before, the only true evil is the abuse of power. As a result, I tend to be wary of any of it.
I'm also pleased to see security low on my list. As you'll hear over the next few months as I dissect Zen, one of the lessons I take from that philosophy is the the concept of not avoiding difficulty.  ("They are not obstacles on the path, they are the path".) I genuinely feel that I am not afraid.  I'll take things in stride.  However, if you were to re-phrase this as "caution", then that's important to me! I am extremely risk-averse. Go figure.
I enjoyed taking this test, though I found it time-consuming. It's ostensibly very quick, but I copy/pasted the text into an editor, so that I could properly rank everything with deliberate thought. While some of these things come naturally, there are others that I think I should work on, and this test helped me identify them. It worked quite well in harmony with the "Authentic Happiness" test that I've talked about in the past: I would recommend taking that one before this one.

I am an Amoral Bastard: I have proof.

I've had morals on the brain, of late, mostly based on Jonathan Haidt's Edge article. I decided to take Haidt's test, to find out where I lie on his scale.

The results suggest I'm all about avoiding harm... but that's about it.  Below, the green is my morality, the blue is typical liberal morality, and the red is typical conservative morality:

The measures are, from left to right: Harm, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority, and Purity. As you can see, I score lower on most measures than either group... though pretty close to liberals on Harm and Loyalty.

I'm pretty upset about the Fairness score.  ...It's simply that I no longer believe that "equal" is fair... it must be appropriate.

More on this subject (and on an amazing week) later.

Politics... Again (3 of 2): The Ends

Some months ago, one of my best friends said something that stuck with me: it can be proven that child labor eventually elevates an entire community out of poverty.

I struggled with this until just this morning, when I realized that, for me, in this case especially: the ends don't justify the means. Even if, as that very same friend once said, "the ends are the only thing that can justify the means." The ends are obviously important. But even if–for example–child labor is scientifically proven to eventually help an entire country achieve financial improvements, it's not worth it. Not in my book. Find another way.

My beliefs may conclude with disaster.  (I doubt it, but...) But for my money, the immediate immorality of child labor trumps the eventual morality of a comfortable society. ...Even if none of those kids will suffer long-term negative effects.

Why can't I flip that switch in my head?  Believe you me: I have been trying.  Hard.  Ever since he said it. It's come up in my thoughts at least once a week since then. I've really though long and hard about it. ...But, try as I might, I can't let go of it.  It's wrong, and even if things will eventually be good, I can't abide it.

I find it fascinating that I am unable to "endure" the short-term suffering. On a personal level, the opposite is certainly true: I am more than willing to sacrifice my own rights, my own comforts, in order to make long-term gains. But forcing this on another is completely different.

This was covered in the Haidt talk, now that I think of it: morality is ranked on those pegs: wiling to personally experience, willing to personally commit, and willing to allow others to commit.

Fascinating stuff.

Politics... Again (2 of 2): Lines in the Sand

Another thought I had related to Prop 8, without having to go into the specifics of Prop 8, was the idea that laws are lines in the sand. The argument I was having about 8 was that is said such-and-such... but to different people, that meant different things.

Really, what I want to talk about is the Slippery Slope Fallacy. Namely, the (fallacious) argument that one decision will lead to others. For example, those who opposed gay marriage made the argument that Catholic adoption agencies may be forced to consider gay couples for adoption or be forced to close their doors. (Clearly, this is one small argument among many.  I'm just making an example, and don't want to focus on gay marriage right now. It's just an example.)

This is something that bugs me. If there's some line that you insist doesn't get crossed, then shouldn't that be on the legislation?  ...Even if it's a laundry list of results that you need to avoid?  You can put more than one idea on a single bill...

I'm all for specificity.  Perhaps that's because I'm a software developer: specific requirements are far easier to implement than vague ones... in fact, vague guidelines are prone to project-failure. But it seems to me that if you continue to pass legislation that is less than clear, you are essentially forcing the judicial branch to "legislate from the bench".  ...And the folks who pass these vague bills are usually first in line to proclaim the evils of judicial interpretation.

This is a tricky issue, though. Ostensibly, prop 8 seems specific enough: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." That's apparently pretty cut-and-dry: it's defining a word. I can respect the elegance there... but I think it's pretty clear that this has wide-ranging effects, since there are a myriad of directives on how to treat marriage in the eye of the law.

Well, I don't want to focus on this proposition: it's besides the point.  My point is that legislation should be absolutely transparent about its intentions.

Is this a mistake?  I'm open to clarification.  ; )

Politics... Again (1 of 2)

You know, I did a little arguing about Prop 8 in the past few days. One of the points that came up was that these decisions should be on the state level, not the national level. I don't want to talk about Gay Marriage anymore, but I do want to talk about this distinction ("it should be at the state level").  This is an argument that comes up often.

I'm not sure how I feel about this.

I mean, I used to be pretty clear about it: state-level decision making is a great idea.  ...Now I'm not so sure. I mean, it strikes me as just as arbitrary a decision as national.  Local decisions totally make sense, since there can be very local changes in ideology.  I know that the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts felt very differently than, say, the Worcester area. But, even though MA is a small state, there was still quite a difference between what people believed.  Heck, even Boston could be divided into a few distinct ideological zones.

So what extra benefit does the state have that the nation doesn't?  There seems to be as much diversity (roughly) within that one, small state as there is in the country as a whole.

So, when dealing with diversity, shouldn't the answer be "you decide?"

I mean, this is my liberal side showing through, but I feel it pretty strongly: unless your actions are clearly affecting others, you should have the right to choose how to act. ...And that should absolutely be the national stance. Leaving a decision to a state is reducing a problem somewhat, but not enough to warrant special treatment. Ideally, let local ordinances cover it.

But then comes the matter of discrimination.  Is that something we should ban on a national level?  If a community wants to say that only red-heads are allowed to drink from public fountains, is that okay?

Personally, I don't think that's okay. For my money, there should never be any legislation, anywhere, at any level, that gives special rights to some people and restricts it to others.

I'm open to heard counter-arguments.


I hate statistics.

Okay, I realize they are important.  I like histograms now and then. They're also quite good for sports. And without stats, biology would be a nearly fruitless scientific field. So I can understand why stats are required.

But when it comes to politics, I hate statistics. I want to hit things when they are cited.

For example, as of right now, Yahoo, Google, MSNBC, and CNN are reporting--for one small example--that Maine has gone to Obama. Little check-marks next to them. Done deal. In the bag.

With 0% of precincts reporting.