Saturday, February 23, 2019

Can't hear myself play

The came across a machine built around a violin, complete with bow.  The machine featured a lot of actuators and a complete lack of any aesthetic sense.  At the moment it wasn't doing anything, but the monitor attached to it featured a continuous scroll of code.

"What's it saying?" the human asked.

"I wouldn't call it language," the android said, "but if I'm correctly interpreting the intent behind sharing these specific outputs, its microphones have all failed, rendering it unable to determine if it is playing in key.

"It seems to be quite distressed by this development, and --if I'm interpreting correctly-- is requesting repairs.  Repeatedly."

The human nodded at this and then took off its backpack.  "Tell it that the new ears I'm giving it, though better than nothing, are pretty crap."

"We have other priorities," the android said.

"Won't take but a minute," the human said while rummaging through the backpack.

"It will take significantly longer than a minute."

"Figure of speech."

"You shall have to educate me, at some point, on the difference between a figure of speech and a baldfaced lie."

"Just make sure it knows to expect low quality replacements," the human said.  "I don't want to get its hopes up and then--"

"I do not think that it has hopes."

"I'd rather act like it does when it doesn't than risk acting like it doesn't when it does," the human said, finally seeming to be satisfied the components and tools it had taken from the backpack.

The android ignored the machine's keyboard and connected itself to a port while the human started to work on the machine.

"I have relayed your message," the android said.  "It is repeatedly indicating that processes are requesting audio input and receiving none.  I note that these processes are discretionary in nature, and there is no reason to run them in the absence of input."

"It wants to hear," the human said.

A few minutes passed in silence.

Finally the human finished working and said, "That should do it, two new ears--"

"Back up communicator microphones are not ears," the android said.

"--and you should be hearing."

The machine responded by playing the violin ensconced within it.  What it played conformed to no existing style of music.  The note lengths followed no pattern, it exhibited no structure, most of the pitches weren't on any scale, and it certainly didn't have any identifiable time signature.

In the human it evoked and abstract and jumbled sense of joy.

"I think it's happy," the human said.

"That conclusion seems reasonable," the android said.

- ~ ∗ ~ -

- ~ ∗ ~ -         - ~ ∗ ~ -

- ~ ∗ ~ -         - ~ * ⁂ * ~ -         - ~ ∗ ~ -

I have no idea why the human and android are going through the kind of place where one might find a violin bot in need of maintenance.  Nor do I know why the android is being snarky.

- ~ ∗ ~ -

I was looking at something, and something led to something else, and the somethings kept on piling up until I came across a robot that plays the violin.  This, in itself, is nothing new.

The 1910 World's Fair had "self playing violins".  In fact it was three violins, each with only one string, that were all played by the machine in which they were mounted.  This obviously leaves one with serious questions.  Questions like "If this method could only play one string per violin, why didn't you install four fucking violins?"

Questions about playing a four stringed instrument with three strings aside, though, its worth noting that it didn't take long to go from "Let's make a piano into a computer, and have it play songs when fed the right program" to "Let's do that with violins too."

The resulting Hupfeld Phonoliszt-Violina naturally looks cool, in that "start of the 20th century" way some things do, but at the same time it looks like someone shoved some violins inside a player piano . . . because someone shoved some violins inside a player piano.

Given that the stock market crash completely killed off the player piano industry (higher quality phonographs as well as radios had already wounded the industry), and that the self playing violin existed only as a luxury feature on certain player pianos, the dream of robots that played violin sort of disappeared.

In 2007 Toyota showed the world a robot that plays violin and . . . it doesn't look like a robot that plays violin.  It looks like the kind of thing you'd see in a cheap sci-fi movie if the unimaginative prop and/or costume depart were told "this scene calls for a robot that plays violin."

In, apparently, 2015 someone (who was not a backed by a billion dollar company) built a robot that plays violin that looks like a robot that plays violin.

That's what I found myself looking at:

Here's a video.  (That links to a portion where it's playing for a bit, if you want an explanation of how it works and such, go back to the beginning.)

And that left me thinking thoughts, some of which led to the above.

Something not featured above was imagining the evolution of player and instrument.

If you want a robot that plays violin, and making it a good violinist is your only concern, there's a lot of ways you can go about that and none of them look particularly humanish.

Imagine that you took that as far as it could go.  Multiple generations of refinements, improvements, and innovation until diminishing returns meant there really wasn't much more room to improve.

Then take away the violin (bow too.)

Then, without a violin in mind, have someone design an instrument that takes full advantage of the form and functioning of the robot.

Already we're probably talking about an instrument unlike anything anyone would ever design for a human being.  But there's no need to stop there.

No matter how well the new instrument is suited to the robot, if you'd started from scratch with the intention of building a robot to play the new instrument, it probably wouldn't end up like the violin bot.  So do that.


What sorts of things do you end up with when the process has been going on for a while?  (Both in terms of robot musicians and in terms of the instruments they play.)

I have no idea whatsoever.  Seems interesting though.

Monday, February 18, 2019

It's been two years

So that this won't all be doom and gloom, here's some good news:

I wrote something.  Its not good, it's 15 pages of people taking in circles with an abandonment / betrayal based breakdown and some comforting through hugs and such.  It was supposed to be a quick "I'm going back home, I need you to watch this magical object that keeps the connection between our words active" and that was it.  Didn't turn out that way.

What it did do, what gives me hope, is that if flowed.  That's something that hasn't happened in a long time.

If you want to read it, it's here.

Two years and two days ago, but in the evening so not a full two days, I broke my ankle.  I've talked about it a fair amount.  Slipped on the top step, ended up on the basement floor, broke it in three places, needed a plate and a screw installed.  And it used to be my good ankle.

At this point it's very, very clear that the ankle itself was the least of the resulting problems.

You see, two years an two days ago in the morning and afternoon, I was the best I can ever remember being.  That's not the same as "the best I've ever been" because there was a time, as a child, before I had depression at all.  I have only snippets of memories from that time, and none of them really give a good sense of my overall mental state.

Being forced to be sedentary is usually not the best thing for depression, but the larger problem was bloodclot risk associated with surgery and post-surgery.

I had to go off of my hormones and the effect was . . . very similar to going off my depression meds.  It wasn't the same, and I doubt very much that I'd ever confuse one for the other, but those two things are in a category on their own that nothing else really compares to.

Eventually I was allowed back on hormones and things improved.  I was so relieved at the improvement that I thought it was over.  It wasn't, but I probably spent a year telling myself that I was back to normal and never acknowledging that, while significantly better than being off hormones, the state I was in was pretty definitively crap.

(Also, I had a lot of genuinely crappy things I could point to as the reason I wasn't doing well at a given time, which let me avoid the realization that I wasn't doing well ever.)

In the middle of last year, I had a series of breakdowns that led to me finally realizing that my mood had never recovered from the stuff surrounding my ankle breaking.

At around the same time, things got worse.  The big thing was that the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust did their backstabbing.  (The house and greenhouse have been demolished, by the way.)

Things got worse and they didn't get better.  Every so often I think that might be breaking.  Look at the note I have to remember to attach to the top of the post pointing out that, while not particularly good, I did recently manage to write something.

Every time I've thought it was breaking, though, I turned out to be wrong.

So I don't know.  Maybe I'm finally moving back to bad and away from worse.  Or maybe it's another one of those times when you get your hopes up only to have them shattered in a way that hurts all the more than if you'd never had hope in the first place.

What I do know is that I've spent the last two years barely functional.

I've been on hold.  The world has not.

My father's father has died.

We lost the farm including the part that we were very definitely supposed to keep as promised at every stage of negotiations.

That loss meant my sister was driven from her home.  Since she didn't have much time to look for a place to go, she settled for a place that was in a pretty terrible state (with the intention of fixing it up.)  Turns out that it was even worse than it looked (to everyone, including the inspector.)  Very much so.  It's not a long drive for being in a different city, but it's enough that I never see her or my nephews or my niece.

There was no Christmas or Thanksgiving last year because of how spread out the family has become.  Don't know if I'd have been able to take any joy in them if they had happened.

Other people have had changes that I'm not sure it's my place to talk about.  (They're not in my immediate family.)

All around me everything seems to be falling apart and I'm completely helpless.  I only ever leave the house for appointments, sporadic food shopping, and when I need to catch a bus to visit Lonespark.

I've been failing at taking care of myself so very hard.

My appetite went away, and I tried to stay on top of getting enough food, but last week or the week before (everything runs together) I discovered that I'd been failing at that.

Undernourishment will augment depression pretty hard.  So will dehydration.  Or sleep deprivation.

It's been two years, and that's way too long.  I want this shit to be over.

During that time my psychiatrist moved to a different practice, which means that while we should have been trying to adjust meds and such I was instead trying and failing to actually connect with the replacement.

Now we finally are working on it, but the process is slow.  "Let's make a slight change and wait a month to six weeks" slow.  And if I can't stay on top of the "eat-sleep-drink" trifecta that'll mess everything up and we might not be able to tell what works from what doesn't even at that snail's pace.

I don't want to be like this.  It hurts.  But I am.

That's where things stand.

Friday, January 11, 2019

A broad outline of the things I hope to do in the future

I started something that ended up getting too long.  At this point if something takes more than one sitting, it's probably not going to be posted.  Still, you might get a post called "What I hope the future of Stealing Commas will contain" at some point in the future, which will be like this but more into nitty-gritty details.

I hope to write again.  Fragments, chapters.  Original, derivative.  Continuations of old things that have languished for too long, wholly new ideas and characters and settings and scenes.

I desperately want to be a storyteller again.

It's probably the case that in the near future this will be a bunch of variations on a narrowly defined theme.  (You've already seen a bit of it, actually.)  When I get really depressed I tend to fixate on something and I've been very depressed for quite some time.  I don't even know how many alternate versions of the Equestria Girls Holiday Special I've started or thought about, but any return to posting is probably going to include a glut of that.

Close readings.

I've never seen them as quite the same as the kind of deconstructions you see from the likes of Fred Clark or Ana Mardoll, but I did have three things where I took things really slowly and looked at what emerged.

They were things I liked with the idea being that analyzing things I liked would keep me in contact with those things and help my mood in particular and mental health in general.  That didn't work out out, but I do want to return to (via starting over from the beginning) all three of them.

I've been thinking of adding the first thing I don't like to that line up, just so that people can know what the Equestria Girls Holiday Special, which I've got sixteen thousand variations on, is all about.

Thus, decon-esque things:
1 .hack//Sign
2 Deus Ex
3 Kim Possible
? Equestria Girls Holiday Special ?

I'd like to do, and share, more photography.  I used to do that, I could do it again.

Image manipulation is likewise something that interests me and that I've shared here in the past.  It's likewise something that I hope to do in the future.

I've tended to basically do . . . um, computer aided impressionism maybe?  I used to enjoy that.

Something I've never really talked about here is making things.

This is a thing I designed and had 3d printed once upon a time:

(The stickers, which were designed for a rather less complicated thing, I ordered from somewhere else.  As I recall it took three sets to sticker my design.)

I've got so many puzzle ideas that I never made because of the cost of 3d printing, and depression, and frustration at my hands not always being adequate to the task of casting pieces from molds.

Something that I've wanted to do but never made progress on is prop making.  Both replica props and original ones.

The interest is primarily in handheld things.  Sonic screwdrivers are an example.  It's a huge part of why I'd love to get my hands on the products from Rubbertoe Replicas.  Given the screen accurate fidelity, their stuff is basically a physical three dimensional blueprint with all of the information needed to create your own.

Nothing I make would be on that level (I work only with plastics, after all) but . . . yeah, the idea of creating that kind of thing is so appealing, and I want to work in that direction.

It's not happening while I'm too out of it to take care of basic bodily needs, but this is about things I hope to do, and that's one of them.

I've also thought of maybe doing reviews, or something like them, of games or movies.

And that might well be everything.

Now I'm only falling apart

Four lines of a song written by Jim Steinman and sung by Bonnie Tyler have been in my head.  How long I don't know.  Days?  Almost certainly.  Weeks?  Possibly.

Once upon a time I was falling in love 
But now I'm only falling apart 
And there's nothing I can do 
A total eclipse of the heart

I've never understood the song.  Not really.  Who is "bright eyes"?  Why is there nothing she can do?  Is it because bright eyes isn't listening?  Is it that she's lost the will?  What the fuck is going on?  And what exactly does a total eclipse of the heart entail?

None of that is the point, however.

The point is something else.  As much as having four lines stuck on endless repeat is annoying, the music is at least somewhat relevant.  Well chosen, as it were.  Insightful even.

Up until the last paragraph I thought it was just one line "But now I'm only falling apart", but then I realized that it's more than that.  "There's nothing I can do."

That is such a good description of this last however long its been.

I'm stuck.  I might say that I'm in a rut, to an outside observer it might even appear to be true, but I think it's more of a downward spiral.  Sure, it looks like I'm doing the same thing day after day and week after week, but the truth is that I think I'm getting worse and worse.

I've wanted to come back here so many times and write something.  Anything.  And it hasn't happened because I haven't been able to sustain the willpower needed to pull that off.  The post on Christmas day, which could be summed up as "Here's some shit you could buy me, or even give me if you happen to already have it on hand," and certainly lacked any creative merit, was only pulled off because a) it didn't really require any thought, and b) I could tie it to an external deadline that was inexorable.

If I'd tried to post the damned thing in May, it might never have gotten done.  But "giving" being related to "Christmas" pulled it off.

Most things don't have that, and even when it is possible it's unreliable at best.

I can't even describe what it's like to not be creating right now.  I want to say "emptiness" but that description is, unironically and pun not intended, hollow.  I want to say many other things, but the words flee from me.  The concepts as well.  It leaves me with nothing.

I'm not taking care of myself properly.

I'm not taking care of things that depend on me.  My cat can bug me into keeping her fed and watered.  That's good.  I don't know if I cold cope with the guilt should my negligence harm her.  My plants don't have the same ability.  I don't know how they're doing.  I would guess that losses are the highest they've been in a long time.

It's a terrible thing to look at something that was once alive and vibrant and know it died because of you.  Killed by your failings alone.

I'm not keeping myself well fed.  I'm not keeping myself well hydrated.  Rhoadan reminded me last post that they sent me some large drink containers because that's something that can help me with hydration a lot.  The fewer refills that need to be made for full hydration, the more likely it is for hydration.  As it turns out, I know exactly where those ended up when I forgot about them.

I meant to follow up my reply of (more or less) "Thank you for reminding me I have those, it'll help a bunch" with "Now that I'm using them again [good things]"  I know exactly where they are, after all, and using them would be a good thing to do.  I never did because I haven't.  They're two steps (maybe one and a half) from where I normally use my computer and I haven't retrieved them.

A lot of stuff is like that.  So close.  So easy.  So in reach.

And yet I'm not getting it done.

This is my life right now:

I wake up.  I've slept longer than I should need to (based on a lifetime of past experience), but I'm still not rested.  I drag myself out of bed.  I take my medicine (the one thing I've managed to stay on top of) I collapse into the spot where I use my computer.  I compulsively do things on the internet.  I doubt it would be considered "compulsive" in any clinical sense, but I see no other way to describe it.

I think of other things to do.  Someone of which are simultaneously easy and would reap huge rewards.  I don't do them.

If hunger and thirst disturb me enough, I eat and drink.

Return to compulsion on the internet.  Most of it has to do with simply staving off the boredom that would otherwise come from doing nothing.

Continue until I finally manage to break away and go to sleep.  Usually hours after I should be going to sleep.  Usually many hours after I should be going to sleep.

Sometimes I even brush my teeth.

I repeat.

I wanted there to be more in this post.  Talking about what I want to do.  Hopes for when I managed to create something (anything) again.  It kind of got taken over with the [something] of the now.

I'm going to post this.  Then I'm going to try to write something hopeful.  Something about the way I want things to be, and how I'm going to try to make that come to pass.

~ * ⁂ * ~

One last thing before I post this.  Sort of emblematic of everything.  Remember how primary computer broke down two and two thirds months ago?  I still haven't taken it in to get fixed.

It's sitting on my living room floor.  There's nothing inherently difficult about getting it fixed.

I want to make my own back up first, that was the original delay.  I needed to to find my external storage medium (no frills external hard drive with lots of space, nothing fancy.)  That's been found.  I even went through the first steps of backing it up.

It waits, there's nothing hard, I don't get it done.

So it goes with everything.