The Highlight Zone

One of my favorite shows for Tara is Peg Cat. There is a glut of “kid-oriented shows”, and this is very refreshing.

The “drawing quality” is similar to Pete the Cat (crayon-cartoon-ish), with grid paper in the background. I came for the “oh, a show that tries to make Math fun”, and stayed for the whacky characters.

It is not without … references for cough … discerning adults … cough, as I realized when watching ”The Highlight Zone1, where everything turns black and white, and Peg and the eponymous Cat must find things out of whack to return to “the normal world” (or do they? Lol).

Anyway, all round good fun, easily recommend.


  1. link to video here ↩︎

My daughter’s first horror movie :-|

We recently finished all three seasons of the “new” 2002-2006 Scooby Doo series1, and while browsing Netflix, we came across a full-length Scooby Doo movie.

Great. In the spirit of watching a “family movie” this weekend (previously: Kung Fu Panda, Kung Fu Panda: 2, My Little Pony), we ended up watching it 2 and … damn, it was a bit unexpected.

Every regular episode follows the same plot line: some random ghost/monster is introduced, the gang investigates, a musical chase scene results, an unmasking results, the mystery is solved.

The premise of the monsters not being “real” is … ignored by this movie. And instead of a comedy, it’s actually … a comic horror movie.

In that (spoiler alert) the zombies and … er, ”cat creatures ?” … are real. Yes, a twist on the ol’ Scooby-Doo formula!

Must’ve been fun to write, and I thought it was a genuinely fun movie in that way … except that I should’ve cursorily skimmed the plot overview on Wikipedia 3, and … let my daughter know it was gonna be a bit on the scary side.

A collection of notes on nature and order

I found these notes I’d copy-pasted from somewhere from about five years ago. I decided to track down their sources, as best I could.

From “QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter” By Richard P. Feynman

My physics students don’t understand it either. That is because I don’t understand it. Nobody does …. The theory of quantum electrodynamics describes Nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And it agrees fully with experiment. So I hope you can accept Nature as she is—absurd. In short, there is no way to visualize what is going on. The theory of quantum mechanics explains it perfectly, to unbelievable mathematical accuracy. And that is all you need to know.

From “The Nature of Order” by Christopher Alexander

According to this view, the evolving system of the genetic material ITSELF causes evolution to follow certain pathways, not only because of selective pressure from outside, but also by virtue of its own internal dynamical ordering tendencies. The results of evolution are then to be understood [as being] mainly formed not by Darwinian selective pressure acting from outside, but by pressures created by the geometry and dynamics of the evolving genetic system itself

From “An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe” by Christopher Alexander

There are…two worlds in our minds. One is the scientific world which has been pictured through a highly complex system of mechanisms. The other is the world we actually experience. These two worlds, so far, have not been connected in a meaningful fashion. Alfred North Whitehead, writing about 1920, was one of the first philosophers to draw attention to this modern problem, which he called the bifurcation of nature. Whitehead believed that we will not have a proper grasp of the universe and our place in it, until the self, which we experience in ourselves, and the machinelike character of matter we see outside ourselves can be united in a single picture.

When I am part of the making of a building and examine my process, what is happening in me when I do it, myself, in my effort, is that I find that I am always reaching for the same thing. In some form, it is the personal nature of existence, revealed in the building, that I am searching for. It is “I,” the I-myself, lying within all things. It is that shining something which draws me on, which I feel in the bones of the world, which comes out of the earth and makes our existence luminous.

What must I do to put this self-like quality into the house, the room, the roof, the path, the tile? Often I can feel the possibility of this in a thing before I start to think, or design, or plan, or build, or before I start to paint. It is the sublime interior, the right thing. I first feel existence shimmering in reality, and I then feel it deep enough in the thing I am looking at and trying to ake, to know that it is worth capturing in concrete and wood and tile and paint. I can feel it, nearly always, almost before I start. Or, rather, I do not let myself start until I can feel this thing.

This thing, this something, is not God, it is not nature, it is not feeling. It is some ultimate, beyond experience. When I reach for it, I try to find—I can partly feel—the illumination of existence, a glimpse of that ultimate. It is always the same thing at root. Yet, of course, it takes an infinite variety of different forms

From “The Luminous Ground” by Christopher Alexander

I believe it is in the nature of matter, that it is soaked through with self or “I.” The essence of the argument … is that the thing we call “the self,” which lies at the core of our experience, is a real thing, existing in all matter, beyond ourselves, and that in the end we must understand it, in order to make living structure in buildings. But it is also my argument that this is the nature of matter. It is not only necessary to understand it when we wish to make living structure in buildings. It is also necessary if we wish to grasp our place in the universe, our relationship to nature.

From “Life and Mind in the Universe” by George Wald

It takes no great imagination to conceive of other possible universes, each stable and workable in itself, yet lifeless. How is it that, with so many other apparent options, we are in a universe that possesses just that peculiar nexus of properties that breeds life? It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—that the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff.

From “The Luminous Ground” by Christopher Alexander

Why is unity the same as tears? … Unity ties everything together—including joy, happiness, and laughter, but also including loss, death, and betrayal. A thing which truly has unity partakes of everything. And through that everything, there must be sadness. The making of this sadness, then, must come through a process where land, details, rooms, form an individual whole. Always trying to tie it together, to unify it, to make it disappear.

Addendum: I was curious where I got this from, and then … found it! An amazing composition of words and pictures and more, by Dick Gabriel (for some of you, yes, of worse is better …)

On “effects” in moving images

See this opening for Vertigo

and then realize this:

However, what if CGI in films went back even further, to 1957 1958? I heard about this possibility through a video presented by John Hess on some film special effects history. He mentioned that a computer was used in creating the opening sequence for Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Vertigo. I watched it, and was amazed! Yes! These look like computer graphics!

An article in Rhizome describes it, saying that John Whitney programmed these graphics using a computer that was originally designed to aim artillery during WW II. A pendulum (which contained pressurized paint) was placed above a drawing surface that was attached to a platform. The platform was moved by the computer according to mathematical equations as the pendulum swung back and forth across it. This created precise spiral designs. There’s a part of the opening sequence where you can see these spiral designs change shape. These changes were created by altering the formulas for each frame that was drawn by the computer/pendulum combination. In my mind, this is similar to how computers interacted with oscilloscopes in the earliest visual computer displays, though it sounds like the computer could not turn the paint on and off.

Original source: Were the first movie computer graphics in a Hitchcock film?

Generally interesting links- May 2020

An old control room, somewhere.
  • A possible compact fusion reacxtor ?
  • I can’t get enough of good articles on Fungi
  • A game to play if you second-guess the Fed
  • On Neil Postman, America, Trump; looking back at Amusing Ourselves to Death
  • Investigating the physical location of memories … in worms.
  • As the title puts it, on the vintage beauty of soviet control rooms (an example above)
  • Leviathan in lockdown

    To assume that the frontispiece to Leviathan presents a normal or idealised scene is not especially comforting. The total absence of citizens combined with the presence of protective officials gives the city an air of being under a permanent state of siege. It could almost be a depiction of David Hume’s remark, a century later, that military camps ‘are the true mothers of cities’. Attentive to the disruptive power of such shocks as war, revolution and plague, Hobbes undervalues the more insidious but still threatening proposition of a locked-down population forced to adopt a siege mentality. Fear and disillusionment do their work here, too. We may underestimate, perhaps half on purpose, the camp-like quality of our cities even in ‘normal’ times, and accept that it is sometimes necessary for cities temporarily to become camps. But bare life is not enough. We don’t just want to be preserved, we want also to live.

  • A virtual tour of Pharaoh Ramesses VI’s tomb
  • On burn out
  • Every once in a while, someone wonders about history being like a science
  • Every once in a while, someone wonders if we should go back to RSS for consuming web content
  • A look at the ”mediaevalfuture of management

Combining the two kinds of curated monthly posts

For a long time now1 I’ve put together a bunch of links that I’ve found interesting, and done this every month.

In the beginning, I had two separate blogs (I can’t reconstruct the rationale behind this, but … this is how it was …), one focussed on “all things computing/software engineering/programming”, and the other for “general life”.

Over time, I moved around different platforms, and eventually consolidated these2, and yet the two different “kinds of curation” remained.

I looked at this a year ago, and at the time, justified this by thinking, “… people don’t want random stuff forced in their faces, surely they would want one or the other and not both?!”.

And yet, this is my blog, and it is about what I find interesting, and it is a waste of my time to create this split between “two selves within me”, and I’m sure my readers3 will understand — so for better or worse, there’s going to be one set of curated links every month4.


  1. checks archives … about five years? ↩︎
  2. not quite, there are some … fragments I’ve given up on importing, and other fragments I … haven’t owned up to, but this is still mostly true ↩︎
  3. yes, checks stats … all five of you ↩︎
  4. though I can still have maybe two sections within it … we’ll see ↩︎

Update:
I thought about it some more, and actually do see a rationale for a different kind of split, keeping this WordPress blog as a general, catch-all, “what’s going on in my life, what do I think about this-and-that” kind of place, and have a separate (Notion? Ghost?) site for the kind of “collection of interesting fragments” sort of thing. Sigh, all I need is more time …