Tenday Notes 21 Oct - 31 Oct 2021

Tenday Notes 21 Oct - 31 Oct 2021

Every ten days I share a quick digest of what I've been working on and reading. Here's the latest. More in the series here. Want them in your inbox? Sign up.

I spent a little time this week busting out my pen plotter for the first time in what feels like forever. My role in the Prime Symphony project has expanded to not just create a soundscape for every prime number, but also to create a unique piece of generative pen-plotter art for each one too. Outputs so far include this pentagonal meteor thing.

The process has meant digging out lots of my old generative scripts and figuring out what everything does again. It was only about a year ago that I did a lot of pen plotting (remember Inktober?) so it's not too far gone. In fact I was surprised how quickly I was able to jump back into things.

I've got a few ideas for what the visuals should look like. One is based on flow fields. Another is based on glyphs. A third is a kinda circular thing inspired by different stitching patterns. I've scaffolded rough versions of them all up, and the next stage is to plot them out and then augment the basic forms with some hand-drawn sketches for what a "final" system might look like in different configurations. Then I just code that up.

Bouncing back and forth between code and hand-drawing seems to be the most effective way I've found so far to get that ideal blend of the human and the machine that I'm always searching for.

As part of making the aforementioned glyphs, I accidentally built a telescope for exploring imaginary exoplanets.

Remarkably, the mechanics are tuned such that a exoplanet will appear in the telescope's low-resolution view if you input any prime number. Some of my favourites are 137, 4013459159, 997, and 13.

Indulge in a little armchair astronomy yourself, and send me some of your favourites.

If, like me, you're going to be glued to events at the COP26 climate summit in the coming couple of weeks, here's a good low-jargon guide from Businessgreen about what success might look like:

Going in to COP26 there are four distinct but overlapping areas for gauging the Summit's success: logistical, practical, global, and technical. What constitutes success on each of these fronts inevitably depends on interpretation, but the problem for the UK hosts is the areas where the line between success and failure is most unequivocal are also the areas where it is hardest to secure an agreement.
What does success look like for COP26?
As fears of a ‘COP flop’ get an airing, the battle to define what constitutes a successful Glasgow Summit is hotting up

Oh this is awesome. Denmark is repurposing old wind turbine blades as bike shelters. Click through on this one, even if it's just to see the photo of what it looks like. Marvellous.

Warning: for the next week, normal timezones will be out of whack between the US and Europe because Europe has put its clocks back but the US hasn't yet. Be aware when organising trans-Atlantic meetings.

This, incidentally, is the European time change that was never meant to happen. In 2019, the European Parliament voted that the Spring 2021 clock adjustment would be the last - and that Europe would henceforth stay permanently on summer time.

Unfortunately, what hasn't been figured out by since then is how the clock change would be enacted. That's the job of the European Commission, and not a lot of work has been done since then on the subject given the ongoing global pandemic. Plus there's Brexit - wait until you start seeing newspaper headlines about Northern Ireland potentially being in a different timezone from the rest of Ireland.

So we're still changing our clocks. For now.

People inside the Apple walled garden: allow me to briefly make you ridiculously happy that you're in the garden. Try this: grab your iPhone. Then right-click on your Mac desktop (or any folder) and hit "Import from iPhone", then "Take photo". Then take the photo with your phone. MAGIC - the photo appears instantly wherever you right-clicked! If you scan a doc, you get a PDF. If you do a sketch, you get a transparent PNG. I'm going to use this so much.

Thanks to Owen Williams for making me aware of it.

Readers of a certain age and musical persuasion will love this 2002 long read examining the role of producer Gordon Raphael in creating the Strokes' sound on "Is This It?".

Gordon Raphael: Producing The Strokes
The Strokes’ Is This It was many critics’ choice for the best album of 2001, and has gone platinum in the UK. Remarkably, it was recorded in a basic New York project studio by a then-unknown producer.

As an added bonus (is it?), here's "I Lick The Moog", an album that Raphael recorded during Christmas 2000 - about four months before he started recording "Is This It?" It's... experimental.

I highly recommend reading through every last bit of False Knees' October serial webcomic about two crows exploring the big city.

Steven Johnson's recent Substack essay on internet fame is a good, chewy read that subverts some common thinking about the effects of everyone living increasingly online.

I believe that a significant part of the values shift (sometimes called the “Great Awokening”) that we’ve seen over the past decade or two—starting with gay marriage, continuing through Black Lives Matter and MeToo and now trans-rights movements—is ultimately the consequence of the ever-larger pool of people and experiences that we now have access to thanks to the Web and social media. Which is also an argument that the “filter bubble” hypothesis is actually the completely wrong way to think about what the Internet is doing to us.
Jane Jacobs Versus The Kardashians
Is talking to strangers on the Internet making us crazy?

Finally, a quick reminder that if you're near Brighton in the UK, then you should go check out my Loud Numbers sonification of Covid-19 cases in London as part of Valentina D'Efilippo's beautiful "London Under the Microscope" animation.

London Under the Microscope | Brighton Digital Festival 2021
London Under the Microscope | Brighton Digital Festival 2021

It's on show from today until 5 November 2021 at Lighthouse Brighton. If you do see it, I'd love to hear what it's like to experience in person... I've only seen a version in video form!

If you're not near Brighton then I'm told it should become available online in the not-too-distant future. I'll keep you posted on that.

That's it for this week. Honestly, I'm pretty tired. How are you?

- Duncan