Update, summer 2011

A quick update to say that after five amazing years I recently left my job as project manager at RSVP Studio, and will be focusing on teaching and a variety of small projects for the next two years.  I will be reviving this blog as those projects develop and as I get more deeply involved in academia.

My next two stops, teaching-wise, will be the Bauhaus in Weimar next week for a quick summer program, and then my 3D modeling and visualization class at Pratt in the fall.

Go Start-Up Kit

Hello world.  I’m here to re-post, with some updates, some information on getting started playing Go.  To get started with playing Go online, you’ll need an account on a server and a Go client (software that serves as the playing environment/board).   You may want to play against a computer for a few games first — I played about fifty like that before logging on to IGS — and it’s also smart to read up on etiquette (e.g. when to resign) and timing rules before launching into a game with a human being.  Okay, here are links and notes:

  • Sensei’s Library (http://senseis.xmp.net/):  General Go info (including this page for beginners) and some great, open-ended discussion on specific aspects of the game, such as joseki and life and death.  There’s a very useful section on timing – to play online you really need to understand the byo-yomi time system.  And, of course, a glossary of game terms.
  • Good online go community (the International Go Servers, IGS).  I think these are mainly Japanese servers, but I have played against many nationalities, and language is rarely an issue — only when there is a problem, such as a player refusing to accept defeat.  I am “gshowman” when I’m online, and I’m 13k or so, at the moment — look for me!   As I’m sure is common everywhere, the IGS servers let you “observe” games; it’s really nice because there are some VERY good players on there (including, occasionally, a professional playing multiple games at once).  Of course if you are a beginner, you should start by observing fairly low-level games.  I suggest watching some games at the 15 kyu level — if you watch much higher, you simply won’t see the deciding moves, so you’ll risk drawing false conclusions.
    • NOTE: There are plenty of other online Go communities, including Yahoo’s servers (which have a reputation for rambunctiousness, apparently — i.e. smack-talk, carpet-bagging, etc.), and KGS — this may be bigger than IGS, I think, or at least equally as big and refined.  Sensei’s Library has a good listing with commentary.  IGS still seems like a great one to commit to.
    • Note: if you are setting up a match on IGS (e.g. you are “seeking” a game, or you are challenging somebody directly to a match), good settings are: your turn: “nigiri”; Handicap: (accept what the computer assigned!); Boardsize: “19×19″ is the typical — only play smaller games (13×13 or 9×9 are the only usual ones) at the very beginning; “Pandanet Style” timing, with 1 min initial time, a ten minute Byoyomi, and 25 stones.
  • glGo is the  internet go client I use (for IGS).  It basically works right out of the box, with a button to log on to IGS — but you need to set up an account on IGS.  All this is free, of course.
  • Good go AI to play against.  This is the “Many Faces of Go”, the program I used to learn basic Joseki (tactics), etc. You can download a 9×9 version for free (and the full version is $40 or something at most). It really helps one’s fluency to play fifty games against the computer, when one is first learning.  In my case I used it to boost my confidence enough to start playing humans on IGS.
  • A place to buy Go gear in NYC: the Village Chess Shop .  Admittedly, the selection is very limited, but I’ve seen no other store in NYC that sells Go stuff.  I bought a decent Korean tournament board here, and some nice large stones in decent bowls.
  • A place to play Go in NYC (I still haven’t found the time or guts to go):   New York Go Center.  There’s also the Brooklyn Go Club, whose door I’m hoping to darken some day.
  • Lastly, I subscribe to a weekly e-zine that sends me two recent IGS games, one high-level (e.g. 3-dan players), one lower level (e.g. 5 kyu players), commented by high-level professionals.  I enjoy these a lot, though I’m not sure how much they’re helping my game.  They definitely give me a fairly fresh perspective on things.  It’s $5 a month.

Salon minutes, March 7th, 2009

We had another ‘scripting salon’ yesterday, at ReBar in DUMBO.  The space worked out really well: lots of room, decent coffee and tea, and a smooth transition to beer around 5:30 pm.  There were three minor issues: 1) Very poor selection of baked goods at Retreat — it’s like a bad deli in an undesirable neighborhood, with bland, shrink-wrapped baked goods.  What’s the deal with that?  Issue #2: it’s a longer trip, for Manhattanites.  Issue #3: the wireless did not seem to work for those of us running Windows.  I felt discriminated against, but I hope to find a solution to this problem.

In attendance were Mark, Caleb, Frank, Che-Wei, Nate, and myself.

Here are some notes/links from the conversation:


Che-wei is making several kinds of (physical) clock for his ITP thesis. He’s also developed an interactive graphic (written entirely in javascript) that locates specific people’s accomplishments in relation to their lifespans. As part of our discussion about comparing spans of time and organizing things in time, the Long Now Foundation came up (especially its clock), as did MIT’s Simile project (here‘s a good example of a time-line built using it). The Simile project has been Googlized since I last saw it. Discussing time with Che-Wei I was reminded of the intense satisfaction to be derived from pendulums, such as the one that used to fill a room at the Smithsonian.

Operating systems:
Those of us who have not yet accepted Steve Jobs as the One True Lord were somewhat disappointed to find ourselves unable to connect to Rebar’s wireless network. Or, to the only unlocked network, anyway. I must speak with the Rebar folks next time; my hope is that there’s a password-protected network we could connect to. Che-Wei showed me what looks like a great little Windows application for splitting up the screen efficiently, called Gridmove.

We were discussing whether and how robotics might influence architectural work. Other than citing that Peter Testa woven tower from a while back, we could not think of any well-known proposals in this area. We got to talking about the scale of project it would take to motivate an investment in robotic construction, and Mark mentioned the ‘zipper’ highway medians in Boston. They are cool.  Meanwhile, far more economically viable and useful than robotic bike parking, robotic car parking seems to be coming across the Pacific.

Sorry, very tired now.  A straight list of links:

Che-Wei: Japanese cans whose geometry changes due to the pressure released when you open them (sorry, Japanese website is hard to navigate).

Some blogs/sites to read online: Scott Aaronson’s blog, esp. his entry on tractability.  Also vvork, for art imagery, and Space Collective.

David Mans has posted what looks like a super-handy matrix of Rhino scripts sorted by the geometry they operate on (or something like that — I’ll admit I have not had a chance to check it out yet).  In fact I can’t find the link — Che-Wei?

Thin concrete: Felix Candela, Isler, and Irwin Hauer.

Caleb: dictionary of mathematical terms

Mark is reading a book co-authored by Paul Krugman in the ’90s called “The Spatial Economy” that looks quite fascinating: lots of diagrams related to the economic properties of cities.

… a few more to come, tomorrow.

NYCityracks Interior Co-winner

I should have said something sooner, but since it has finally been announced on the web I thought now would do: we (RSVP Architecture Studio, my workplace) were co-winners of the interior ‘bike room’ portion of the NYCityracks competition.  The outdoor portion was by far the bigger competition, but we’re excited nonetheless.  Besides the prize ($5K from Google, who sponsored it), this project is helping us get involved in some larger discussions about bikes in the city.  More on that as it happens (e.g. there is a possible symposium coming up).

The image above is linked from the official announcement on the NYCityracks blog.  You can also see a full PDF with other images from our nascent RSVP website (click News at the top right, and read for the PDF link).

Scripting Salon Minutes, July 26, 2008

We had another salon at Think Coffee yesterday, so I am writing to summarize. This was the best-attended salon yet (by far). Present were Che-Wei, Adam, Frank, Sean, Caleb, Mike, Ken, Christine, and myself. Karen (ITP friend of Che-wei’s) came at the very end, when I think the salon had basically dissipated. Think worked pretty well as a venue; as the group grew we were able to grab one of the central couches and pull up enough chairs.

So, the minutes:

A recently-graduated scripter from Pratt: neoarchaicnet.blogspot.com and also neoarchaic.net (this last is a great example of an online portfolio, it seems to me).

We discuss Frank’s need to prototype his bike rack design for NYCityRacks (he was one of ten finalists). Somebody suggests a fiberglass manufacturer called Seal. And Sean suggests looking into guys who do motorcycle customization (if I remember correctly).

We discuss what it would take to develop a Rhino plugin that does material mapping properly, since this is our #1 gripe with using Rhino as a primary rendering solution (with whatever render plugin you like — at Pratt it seems like it will be V-Ray this year). There is no clear answer to this yet — I have to look into it — but there’s a free Rhino SDK available for download so I will get on it.

We have an extensive discussion on polygon modeling vs. NURBS modeling. Rhino Grasshopper comes up a few times — as a way to address some of our concerns about Rhino’s slow, “one-way” (“fire and forget”, perhaps?) modeling capabilities. Well, Rhino has fabulous powers of precision, in geometry and gesture (creative actions, so to speak), but the lack of good history and editing, compared to the spontaneity of Max’s or Modo‘s polygon powers, makes it a pretty cruel thing to foist on students as their main app for 3D thinking. Or at least, I think so.  In response to Adam’s and my griping about Rhino, and my particular wondering as to whether there are not just certain ways of working in Rhino that are cleaner and more adaptable than others, Che-wei mentions that he always models in wireframe — i.e. drawing only curves — before generating any surfaces.  I am going to try to apply this rigorously in the coming semester.  Che-wei also mentioned an Audi TT tutorial that he thinks is especially effective for learning effective modeling.

As the evening progresses we realize that Maya does, and has done, basically everything we talk about. But Maya is out, for some reason. So sad!!!  Can we blame the perhaps overly obscure design processes of the late 1990′s studios at Columbia for this failure of the architecture community to just use the full powers of this tool, and get the guys who make Maya to add a few useful features that would have just made it click?

Thanks to Mike’s and Caleb’s presence, especially, there is a bunch of web-dev talk. Apparently some cool sites (which I will check out shortly) include FFFound (okay I am already hooked), Everything Everywhere (can’t find this, actually), and Yugop.com. We also discussed an idea I’ve had for some time of creating a visual database and map of (primarily) digital drawing techniques. As references people mentioned RISD’s recent “web video interface” and the early GSAPP website by Corey Clarke which apparently had a kind of tree-like network view.

Next up, some hardcore software and hardware discussion, courtesy of Caleb. He mentions:

Datarush, by Sun Microsystems… a better kind of relational database, apparently, and very easy to use.  Still in development.

GPGPU… a framework for taking advantage of new multi-core graphics processors, if I understand correctly.  Apparently (perhaps this is a separate point), the upcoming Flash version will actually be able to use some graphics card capabilities, thus permitting fairly hardcore 3D work in Flash.

OpenGL3 is coming soon, apparently, and will re-legitimize this oh-so-sweetly open graphics library.

Caleb is excited about COLLADA, an open graphics file format that is apparently becoming more and more feature-rich. E.g. there’s a Flash library, PaperVision, which has a COLLADA parser.  Ummm, check out this Papervision site, actually.  Wow.

We discuss briefly how there’s not a lot of attention being paid in the geek-architect community to scripting at the level of the rendering itself (e.g. shaders, raytracing).  I.e. we make funky geometry, and we also do a lot of pixel-based manipulation of 2D images, but we don’t play that much with the magic that creates specific patterns of pixels from the geometry and lights, etc.

Answers:  Sunflow, including P5 Sunflow for Processing, and Zbrush.  But I’m not satisfied.

On the fuzzier, friendlier end of graphics work, apparently Che-wei saw Gil Akos do a project where max/msp and Processing were running in parallel and talking to each other. But (and I was surprised to hear this!), Che-wei is moving away from Processing to OpenFrameworks, an apparently amazing set of libraries for C++.  Yes, C++!  Holy smokes!  He says the OpenCV library is especially amazing (that’s “computer vision”, not “control vertex”).

Adam is going to Siggraph in a couple of weeks (or whenever it is), and intends to attend a “design and computation” session they’re going to have there.  There will be discussion of folding, apparently.  Sounds fun — please report back Adam!

Lastly, for Che-wei (and anybody who likes to hike around NYC), I present to you Breakneck Ridge.  It’s best to get a topo map from these guys, I have one and it’s very helpful.

Oh, and Caleb thought you guys would dig this recent Radiohead video made with LIDAR, and the making of it.  IN fact to really get the beauty of the lazer-survey technology in the video you should download the 86MB version from Radiohead’s website.

Okay, that’s all.  Attendees, please comment with links if you have other stuff you wanted to share!