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My foray into music visualization

September 16th, 2009

This summer I spent a considerable amount of energy learning new things in Processing/video editing in general. I started working on music visualizations, because it meant I could play around with ffts, particle systems, opengl, etc., and I’d have a nice soundtrack to go along with it.

Here’s what I came up with:

I saw these guys on the cover of The Coast and then checked out their myspace. Their style seemed “whacky” enough to match a fairly simple animation to their music.

The animation was very easy to program, the tricky part, I found, was adding the music and lyrics. Working on this video was learning what not to do: don’t time your lyrics based on frame rates, don’t use a fixed frame capture when your frame rate varies, try not to generate 7 gig files for a 2 minute song, and make sure you have all the codecs. I finally got it synced and uploaded about two months later.

After learning all the vital techniques from the roomdoom video, I pulled this one of largely without hitch. I think it’s my favourite, because it’s all physics.

A facebook friend pointed me to Mitchell Hunter. I was interested in doing some really reactive music visualizations, and although Hunter wasn’t my usual choice in music, I chose his music because he had a really good recording, was giving his music out for free, had the lyrics readily available on his site, and had a well-defined visual style. I made this video in less than 24 hours, well, plus a day because I recorded the audio with the wrong settings the first time.

I have a few other ideas for music visuals in the back of my mind now, although I haven’t quite found the right song for them yet. It’s going to take me some time to realize them, because I’m back to studying physics for the term. The next few things I release will be science visualizations.

Twitter vs. Facebook

April 28th, 2009

It seems like right now is the height of the Twitter bandwagon, compared to the Facebook bandwagon about a year and a half ago. The media coverage of Twitter seems to be overwhelmingly positive. I mean, if Oprah’s doing it, it must be good, right? When Facebook appeared, the coverage was largely negative: “It will ruin your future career opportunities!” “It’s addictive!” “No privacy!”.

It’s kind of ridiculous. The privacy controls on Facebook are stricter than those of Twitter, and both are equally addictive. But I suppose to middle-aged people, it’s perfectly okay for them to overshare their personal lives on Twitter, but 18-21 year-olds posting photos of themselves at parties = end of the world.

This is what physics majors do when their experimental apparatus looks like a sailboat…

March 14th, 2009

… they put a masthead and a flag on it and pretend to be pirates.

Here’s a video of the thing in action:

Nonlinear Oscillator

John takes on Ben Wedge

February 26th, 2009

Last week, self-styled conservative columnist Ben Wedge used everyone’s favourite soapbox (the Dal Gazette’s opinion pages) to espouse a radical view on Canadian economics - Abortion hurting birth rates in Canada

Here’s a few prize clips from the piece:

“The data shows that people are more concerned about their careers than their (currently non–existent) family, especially young, professional women like the ones attending this university. As people put off raising a family and opt for only one child, if any, Canada moves further into this hole, since it will take even longer for children to come of age and contribute to our economy.”

In the next paragraph he tries to backtrack and not make it seem like he’s just accused feminism of causing the current recession, but still doesn’t explain who’s going to take care of all these new un-aborted babies. He finishes by saying:

“With one of the world’s highest abortion rates, we need to take a serious look at this issue and preferably cut back on the abortions that are performed merely upon request, for the sake of our future.”

The only good (or rather, reasonable) arguments against abortion are either religious, or a question of ethics (usually couched in religion). Using some bad correlations and factual inaccuracies to find a link between abortion and the economy is just stupid.

This week John wrote back:

“Ireland had an emigration problem, not an abortion problem. Abortion was illegal in Ireland before 1982, and the only change the country made that year was to enshrine that belief in its constitution. Since then, as is common with improved economic power, Ireland’s abortion rate has continued to increase. There is no statistical collation between the legal status of abortion and the rate of abortion in a county, so these results make perfect sense.”

“Ignoring the many obvious problems with this line of reasoning, I’ll say only this: Canada’s growth rate is 0.9 per cent, and the U.S. growth rate rounds to 0.9 per cent. How is this possible with our lower birth rate? Simple: our multicultural policies and welcoming immigration views mean our population growth due to immigration is nearly twice that of the U.S.”

I think he did a pretty good job, but what do I know? I’m just a woman attending university who doesn’t plan on having a family for the next ten years… and his girlfriend.

My blogging brings all the boys to the yard

February 26th, 2009

… and they’re like, “meh it’s alright”.

I’ve migrated my blog to wordpress. And it only took an hour (most of that time was spent waiting for files to upload).

Don’t expect any regular entries until this summer.


August 25th, 2008

I’m giving a talk to the biophysics group on Wednesday about molecular rulers, which are little molecules that bacteria use like ropes to determine how long they should build their toxin injection needles. Most of the research I’m relying on for this presentation refers to how similar the toxin injection needles are to the bacteria flagellum, the little corkscrew motor that allows bacteria to swim around, and how this probably means that the injection needles are their evolutionary predecessor.

While reading this, I am reminded of how intelligent designers often cite the bacteria flagellum as evidence for creation. It is too complex a piece of machinery, and the individual parts are useless, they argue. I was intending to add this to my presentation as an introductory side note. When looking for a source for the intelligent design argument, I found these humorous google suggestions:


That’s right. The evidence for the existence of Jesus is on the same list as the evidence for the existence of dragons and astrology.

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Job + first quantum processing picture

July 28th, 2008


Originally uploaded by milankie

I finally got another part time job to replace my post office job - with one month of Summer to go. I’ll be working as a web editor/ assistant to the director of health for the International Student and Exchange Office. It pays more than any other job I’ve applied for (about %50 more than the Post Office) and continues during the school year.

I’ve also started putting the quantum lab’s data into Processing. Click on the image to find out more.

Also, I’ve jumped on the bandwagon and joined Twitter. Since most of my work are office jobs now, it will most likely just be a monotonous outlet for my boredom/ computer related frustrations.

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An Analysis of Disney Movies (by someone who is probably too old to still be watching them)

July 20th, 2008

Ever since around the age of 13, when I decided I was too old to still watch them, I came to the opinion that most Disney movies suck. Of course, I still saw they occasional latest release from Disney, as I had my neighbor’s kids and cousins to babysit.

Last week, after having the movie recommended by friends (Liam and Katherine) John decided to take me to see Wall-E.

Wall-E was amazing. It was cute, visually and sonically stunning. It was funny without being juvenile, smart without being pretentious. Even the ending credits (all 900 lines of them!) were interesting.

Encouraged by this, I decided to watch Enchanted, another Disney movie recommended to me by a friend (Laird). Enchanted also greatly exceeded my expectations of Disney movies. I also recently re-watched Mary Poppins with a couple of friends, and it seemed so much better than I remember it being.

I started to wonder - where Disney movies always this good? But then how to explain the crappiness of what about Robin Hood, The Haunted Mansion, The Pacifier or The Game Plan? Has Disney just been revitalized in the bast couple of years after a downward trend? In order to answer this question, I decided to graph the ratings of major Disney releases (not the straight-to-DVD sequels like Pocahontas 2 or Mulan 2, I know those are going to suck) by year. This is what I found:


A few remarks:

Most of the first Disney movies ever made (Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia) are over 90%. The fraction of movies in what I’d call the ‘excellent’ category has been decreasing steadily with time. But this isn’t a good measure of the quality of Disney movies, as Disney now produces around twice as many feature movies per year as it did in its first decade of existence. Perhaps Disney put more effort into its movies when it only produced one or two per year, or maybe now that there are more we’re seeing a more normal distribution of ratings.

Pixar is Awesome Toy Story was the only Disney movie to get 100% in the 90s. Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Monsters, Inc. and Wall-E were the top rated Disney movies of the 00s. Disney also rides high off of the imported Miyazaki movies (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke). But…

Computer animation does not a good movie make. Disney’s non-Pixar attempts at computer animated movies, such as Meet the Robinsons, The Country Bears, and The Wild, have all been suck-tacular.

Sequels are not meant for theatres. In 2003, Disney broke their rule that animated sequels being kept out of theatres by releasing The Jungle Book 2. It sucked. Movies that also sucked: the live action versions of 101 Dalmatians, and 102 Dalmatians. Children do seem to love repetition (most nursery rhymes use it), but sequels should only be used for television babysitting.

The main problem with children’s movies are that they are made for children. Bad Disney movies pander a child’s sense of humor or attention span. That’s why we get movies like Dr. Dolittle. Good Disney movies are the ones that still capture childlike innocence and wonder without relying on slapstick comedy or constant action. My research supervisor took his 4 year old daughter to see Wall-E, and they left 20 minutes in to the movie because she was getting bored. There were no talking characters or people doing silly things, just a robot and a cricket on a deserted planet. I always got bored or fell asleep watching Mary Poppins as a child, these days it moves at just the right pace.

Disney hasn’t made a decent non-computer animated movie in years. DisneyToons, the branch of Disney now making classic-style animated movies, is a recipe for suck.

Making movies used to take a lot of painstaking effort. Now they’re relatively cheap, which means that Disney can produce a lot of them without too much quality control. They make movies that only stupid kids want to see. Because of this, we seem to have forgotten that movies can have a G rating and still be entertaining for adults.

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Every Five Books: Religion is Scary

July 1st, 2008

Since it’s summer, and I have time to read, I’m back to cataloging all the books I read on my blog. This summer, I’m not allowed to cheat and read the really short young adult books. No, for this first entry of the summer, I read an 800 page book on evolution.

godnotgreat.jpgGod is not Great, Christopher Hitchens - another atheist friend of mine lent me this book after being unable to complete it himself. I can understand. Though there are a lot of scary tidbits about religion - the rabbi in New York who transmitted herpes to around 30 babies because of the practice of sucking off a baby’s foreskin during circumcision sticks out in my mind, though it definitely wasn’t the worst example, Hitchens comes off as pedantic and pretentious. He writes like he speaks, and too often comes back to examples of his own life, as if he, too, is a genius persecuted by religion. It was a great vocabulary builder, though.

OmegaJackMcDevitt.jpgOmega - Jack McDevitt. I picked up this book because John picked it out of the library and I was looking for something to read on my trip home to Antigonish at the beginning of May. The basic plot is that there’s an astronomical storm heading towards a planet with a primitive civilization, and so humans arrive and pretend to be their gods in order to save them. Sounds like the plot of a forgettable episode of Star Trek. It was well written, but the ending was kind of lame. I read 300 pages of the book before realizing that it was just one in a series and that because of this, the book would not have a satisfying ending by the last page. The quality of writing is enough to get me through one book, but not the entire series. It was also kind of preachy, as if the author was trying to convert his readers into believing in some great celestial god that most of his characters believed in.

infidel.jpgInfidel - Hirsi Ali. This book is amazing. Ali was born in a Muslim political family in Somalia but ran away to the Netherlands on her way to an arranged marriage in Canada. She learned Dutch, got citizenship and earned a college degree in political science, eventually becoming a political leader in the Netherlands. She campaigned against the abuse of women in Islam, which makes her a constant target of death threats - she wrote the screenplay for Theo Van gogh’s Submission. Now that she is in the united states, she mostly appears on talking heads shows to denounce Islam. Here’s an example of two different styles of interview with Ali:

The first, the reporter from Canada, seems to refuse to believe that Ali had a difficult life in Somalia. He paraphrases her biography and insists that life in the west isn’t as good as Ali says it is. In the second, Glen Beck nearly falls to his feet in adoration of Ali, but is it really respect for her life or just happiness that he’s found someone to support his beliefs? Neither interview does a very good job of capturing Ali’s message. Infidel is probably one of the best books on feminist issues ever written, and it’s nice to see the message of female empowerment coming from a non social relativist, far left point of view.

quicksilver.jpgQuicksilver - Neal Stephenson. This is probably the nerdiest book I’ve read in a while. It follows Daniel Waterhouse (the fictional founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Tecnickal Arts) who was Newton’s roommate at Cambridge, but who later joined Leibniz in creating a difference engine after Newton turned into a crazy astrologer. Heavy on the science and history, low on plot. The only female characters were a dumb housewife and a prostitute.

ancestorstale.jpg The Ancestor’s Tale - Richard Dawkins. The Ancestor’s Tale is an 800 page book that could serve as a substitute for half of first year biology and earth science. I would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t taken first year biology, as this book covers the parts of biology that I found interesting (I’m sorry Dr. Staicer, memorizing the Krebbs cycle or the phylogeny of a hundred different sorts of microbial life was not helpful). Dawkins writes a lot of his own life into the book, so even though I felt like I was reading what I already knew as gospel, every so often I’d read a little amusing tidbit about his childhood that made the book interesting.

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Playing around with Processing

June 30th, 2008

Through my work in visualization, I’ve come across this really cool program and programming language called Processing which is basically a nerdier version of flash developed by people at MIT. I played around with it today. I generated a list of random numbers ranging from 0 to 255 and grouped them into 3s. The three numbers are used to make up the colour of an ellipse, and then the same three numbers are combined again to make up the x and y coordinates of the ellipse and the width and height. so basically, each possible shape has only one possible colour, and the order of the stacking of the shapes is random. Here’s the image generated by the code ellipse(first,second,third,first*second/third,)


and here’s the same set of data, with the slight difference in code being: ellipse(first,first*second/third,second,third).


In other news, today I was assigned my own research project in the biophysics lab. So instead of having to help debug other people’s code, I get to debug my own crappy code! I was also offered a job for September, but it’s a bureaucratic job with lots of work and little pay, so I don’t think I’ll consider it. I also made coconut curry tonight. It was delicious.

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