Archive for ‘Blog Posts’

March 19, 2018

Black and White Photography

Boats at Chula Vista Bayfront Park with Otay Mountain in the Background

Looking toward Otay Mountain from the Chula Vista Bayfront Park, overexposed two stops.

Recently upon shooting the last frame of a roll of Kodak Ektar 100, I put a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus — my second roll of HP5 Plus, and my third roll of black and white film — into my Pentax K1000 and began shooting. After about five shots, I realized that I hadn’t adjusted the camera’s ASA setting, so I had overexposed those five shots by about two stops. When I received the prints back after processing, the subject matter of those first five shots was distinct and clear despite the overexposure. They had noticeably more grain than the other shots, but that was their primary deficiency.

I underexposed another shot in the roll by about two stops. A boat was going by, carrying passengers from downtown San Diego to Coronado. A marker post and a dock were nearby, and I thought it would be an interesting composition if I could line them up to point at the boat. Time was short, however, since the boat continued moving along as I tried to sort out the scene. In my rush, I screwed up both the metering and the composition. I needed about two stops more light in the camera, and I needed to be up a little higher. Nonetheless, the film did its job, and despite a little extra grain, the scene came out clear. You can count the windows in the buildings across the bay, if you so desire. Apparently, Ilford’s HP5 Plus is pretty generous about exposure. I don’t know yet whether — or to what degree — other black and white films are so generous.

San Diego Bay

San Diego Bay, underexposed.

As for the properly exposed shots, what can I say? I have been very pleased with the results. Upon receipt of the first set of prints, I was sold on black and white photography. I won’t be shooting black and white exclusively, but I’ll generally keep a roll of black and white on hand.

I grew up in a world of color. Between color film, color TV, and color computers, color was the norm. Even old black and white movies were occasionally colorized, though I realized early on that the colorization rarely added much, if anything, to the enjoyment of the movie. As I was growing up, I was exposed to monochrome computers, which were still in use in schools. I enjoyed the green and black screens of the old Apple IIe computers. I also enjoyed some old black and white TV programs. I even enjoyed the occasional black and white photograph. But color was the standard, and I never took black and white too seriously. That attitude was changing slowly, but my interest in film photography was a catalyst that made an abrupt and immediate difference.

Statue at Embarcadero Park

A statue at Embarcadero Park: “Morning” by Donal Hord, framed by two trees.

Color adds a lot to certain photographs. But color can also be a distraction. It can influence where your attention is directed in a photograph, and it sometimes does so in good ways, and sometimes in bad ways. Occasionally it’s nice to take away that distraction and force the viewer to consider other attributes of the elements in the photograph. And sometimes it’s good for the photographer to take a moment and compose a photograph with the different considerations that black and white imposes. You might benefit by asking yourself, upon seeing a black and white photograph, what color would add to it. Maybe the photograph would benefit from being in color. I think the conclusion will often be that color wouldn’t add anything substantial, and, in fact, that the photograph would lose some of its charm if it were in color. I confess that I have a photograph or two that I wish I had taken in black and white. Sure, I could convert it to monochrome in Photoshop (or the Gimp), but it wouldn’t be the same. Besides, I generally avoid making material changes to my photographs on the computer.

I like color. As I stated above, I will continue photographing in color. But black and white will also be part of my repertoire from now on.

March 8, 2018

Film Photography

“Do I believe in the objective existence of beauty?” was the question that persuaded me to purchase an old manual SLR camera (a Pentax K1000, to be precise) and start learning film photography. Curiously enough, law school is what drove me to the question. But that’s a long and boring story. The answer, of course, is yes. Not a hasty “yes;” but indeed a “yes.” After all, I spent much of this last year of law school in books on jurisprudence, with a particular emphasis on natural law. The question of whether beauty has an objective existence seems to have some relation to the question of whether there is a natural law. But I digress…

Given that beauty has an objective existence, and with the added premise that it exists in the world around us, I set out to capture it on the medium of silver halide crystals in a gelatin emulsion on a strip of plastic. Or, more to the point: 35mm film. Admittedly, I have enjoyed taking some Polaroid pictures also — both with my old OneStep Express and with the new OneStep 2 — but in somewhat fewer numbers because Polaroid film is expensive!

I chose film as my medium in order to slow myself down and teach myself patience. I also chose it because my early experiences with film, all of which took place with cheap consumer cameras, failed to result in clear pictures. It would have been easy and, in a sense, liberating to buy and use a DSLR camera. I chose constraints, limitations. This project had to be a challenge if it was going to be worth anything.

The choice has certainly paid off. From the time I purchased my first digital camera (probably around the year 2003 or 2004), I was able to effortlessly take clear photos and see the results immediately. I have captured some memorable moments, but I’ve never taken digital files to the store to get prints, and I’ve rarely gone back to look at the photos. I’ve spent more time looking through my old blurry film photographs than my digital ones. The ease of taking the photographs seems to have diminished their value to me. On the other hand, I experience a real feeling of excitement opening up the prints from my latest roll and a real sense of joy when at least some of the photos come out well. Those photos are accomplishments, and I value them so much more for what went into them.

Some have stated that the medium is meaningless; only the results matter. That’s a sensible position to take in a culture of consumerism. The photographer is just another sort of factory worker. Just as we don’t care about the overworked Chinese person who attached the screen to your iPhone before jumping to his death from the roof of the Foxconn building, the photographer doesn’t matter to us, nor the experiences that went into making the photograph. Luckily, I’m not taking photos for consumers. I take photographs for the experience as well as the results. Those experiences, including the choice of film as my medium, are meaningful to me.

I’m posting daily to Instagram, but I plan to put the occasional wordier post up here with thoughts related to a photo, or the story behind it.

November 16, 2017

Lisp Adventures 4: Drawing in McCLIM (and a Snake Game)

The making of a snake game in McCLIM…

November 9, 2017

Lisp Adventures 3: Making Our Own McCLIM Application

In this video I go through the process of making something a little closer to a real-world application using McCLIM. More particularly, I use the text editor gadget to put together a simple, tab-enabled text editor.

November 2, 2017

Lisp Adventures 2: The McCLIM Demos

In which I poke around some of the example programs in McCLIM…

October 31, 2017

Lisp Adventures 1: Jeremiah Learns McCLIM

In which I begin making videos of myself playing around with programming languages for YouTube…

September 21, 2017

Casus part I: planning the game

Before jumping into writing a program, I like to have at least a general idea of where I’m going. The amount of detail depends on the particulars of a project, but I generally don’t start without at least some sort of goal. For my asteroid game, due to its simplicity, my pre-planning consisted essentially of “a spaceship will navigate around asteroids.” Casus, on the other hand, is intended to be a role-playing game with at least a few hours of playability. It therefore required a little more detail in its planning. The caveat is that these details may undergo significant changes during development, but they at least provide a general road map for development.

“Casus” is Latin for “the fall.” As mentioned, the game is originally going to be written in Latin; an English translation of the game will be provided on the App stores, but at a small price since I’d rather encourage use of the original game. This is an RPG taking place in a Latin-speaking world, and I think Latin is part of the uniqueness and charm of the game. (In any case, if you get through this blog series, you’ll probably be able to figure out what’s going on in the game!) The overall story goes thus:

Carathusiæ rex Matthæus, homo boni cordis non autem paucæ stultitiæ, populo bonam fortunam petens tulit inopiam. Jacobus magus regis debilitatem videns Matthæi fidem obtinuit regeque ignorante populum ad res novas egit. Ut rex exercitús mitteret ad regni finem ad bellum gerendum cum barbaris persuasit. Interea, scelerum grex a Jacobo convocatus est. Jurejurando accepto, gregales in palatium intraverunt regem necatum.

Regis autem uxor magorum erat artis perita, et cantamine maritum servavit. Grex qui non potuit regem necare in carcerem cum uxore ejecerunt. Regis reginæque vero filius a grege non inventus est nam servus regis cum infante egressus ex palatio procul puerum aluit. Die natali XVI pueri servus omnia eum docuit et puer novum facinus cœpit ad patres liberandos…

An English translation might be along these lines:

Matthew, king of Carathusia, was a good-hearted but incompetent man. He sought for the good of his people, but only managed to leave them in poverty. Jacob the sorceror saw the weakness of the king and obtained his trust. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the king, he urged the people to insurrection. Jacob persuaded the king to send off his armies to the borders of the kingdom to fight with foreigners, while the sorcerer gathered a band of rogues and bound them in an oath to kill the king.

The king’s wife was also skilled in sorcery, and protected her husband with a spell. The band realized that the king could not be killed and threw him and his wife into the dungeon instead. The king and queen, however, had a son who was not found by the conspirators. A servant of the king absconded from the palace with the infant and carried him to a faraway place. On the boy’s sixteenth birthday, the servant recounted the events to the boy, who then began a new undertaking to free his parents…

I love JRPGs, and the Dragon Quest series in particular, and I took some inspiration from the original Dragon Quest (“Dragon Warrior” on my NES) game. Nonetheless, I decided to follow more closely RPGs such as Ultima and Wizardry. In particular, the plan is to have some amount of player control over character creation and development.

Upon starting a new game, the player will be able to set up some initial character attributes. At least, the player will enter a name and select a profession. Currently contemplated professions are eques/caballarius (“knight”; probably “eques” will be the term in the game, but the medieval term “caballarius” is being considered); magus (“sorcerer”); fur (“thief”); monachus (“monk”); and scelus (“rogue”). The profession will determine the avatar and initial attributes, but the player will be able to develop the character in different ways during the game.

The planned character attributes are common in the RPG world; they’ll be in English from now since they’re not made up from scratch but a part of the generic makeup of RPGs: hit points; magic points; strength; defense; agility; intelligence; alignment; and experience (which may be connected to a level). The player will also have a quantity of aureum (gold) or pecunia (money) in order to buy and sell with NPCs. Alignment can be good or evil; the eques and monachus start out with “good” alignment, fur and scelus start out as “evil,” and magus can go either way. The alignment is expected to have certain in-game effects. For example, it is planned that an “evil” character will not be permitted to trade with merchants, but fures (thieves), instead of attacking, will offer to trade with the player.

Weapons include the baculum (stick), clava (club), pugio (dagger), gladius (short sword), and spatha (long sword).

Armor includes lorica hamata (chain mail), lorica squamata (scale armor), and lorica squamata (segmented armor). Additionally, there are ocreæ (metal greaves), manicæ (gauntlets), caligæ (boots), and the galea and cassis (leather helmet and metal helmet, respectively). Shield options include the scutum (leather-covered wooden shield) and the clipeus (metal shield).

A number of magic spells are planned to be available to the player, including sanare (heal), nocere (hurt), curare (a stronger heal spell), lædere (a stronger hurt spell), debilitare (weaken), terrere (terrify), firmare (strengthen), and necare (kill; i.e. “Avada Kedavra”).

Enemies include the mus (mouse or rat), vespertilio (bat), vipera (snake), fur (thief), miles (footsoldier), spectrum (ghost), venefica (witch), veneficus (warlock), cyclops (hopefully you know this one), versipellis (werewolf), draco (dragon), and gorgo (gorgon/Medusa). This list is apart from Jacobus and possible other bosses.

There will be a number of kingdoms other than Carathusia (at least three), each with its own castle and two or more towns. Indeed, the player will start outside of Carathusia, away from the notice of the sorceror Jacobus. The player will have the opportunity, if he or she so desires, to visit each of the other kingdoms and seek the support of their kings before going up against Jacobus.

In the game, there will be three general location types: the overworld, in a top-down perspective; the towns, also in a top-down perspective; and dungeons, currently planned to be done in a 3D perspective. The 3D perspective of the dungeons Ultima and Wizardry will be updated somewhat with a nicer appearance, but I’m not an artist and don’t have a large budget, so don’t expect the Legend of Grimrock here. One side of me does want to change the plans somewhat and use 2D procedurally generated dungeons in the spirit of Nethack. These plans are guidelines, not set in stone. We’ll see what happens. In either case, the dungeons will provide ample opportunity for the grind, allowing the player to level up before fighting bosses.

With the above in mind, I began writing some code to try out displaying a map for the character to wander around. This served as sort of a “proof of concept” for the overworld. The next blog post will discuss the initial steps.

September 14, 2017

Asteroid Belt

Recently, instead of paying attention in Constitutional Law class I sloppily slapped together a simple game in order to reacquaint myself with the LibGDX framework. The result is a game of dodging and shooting relatively slow-moving asteroids.

I threw the game up (as a free app) on the Google Play Store and the Amazon App Store (the latter is an affiliate link, FYI). One of the draws of LibGDX is that it supports various platforms, one of which is Javascript/HTML5 using Google Web Toolkit. Because of this, you can also play “Asteroid Belt” online (left and right arrows move; spacebar shoots).

The “Asteroid Belt” game was preliminary practice in anticipation of a more ambitious project. This new project is a western-style computer RPG in the tradition of “Ultima” and “Wizardry.” The current plan is for the game itself, called “Casus,” to be available as a free download on Google Play and Amazon, but with the twist that it will be in Latin. An English version (perhaps eventually localized with other languages) will be available for a small price.

I’m a huge fan of free (in the GNU sense) software, so I would like to eventually provide Casus under the GPL. Nonetheless, I would like app store exclusivity for my games for at least a certain amount of time. I’m trying to figure out the best way to work this out. One option is an initial release as a proprietary app, and a later GPL release. Another is releasing the source code under the GPL from the start, but using a restrictive license for the assets (graphics, sound, possibly story line), at least initially.

For now, expect some upcoming blog posts discussing the development of the forthcoming game…

August 16, 2017

Oración por convenio

Aquí se encuentran unas traducciones deprisa y no oficiales de unos documentos del sitio web de Denver Snuffer. Tratan de una nueva versión de las escrituras por un grupo que espera recibir, con otros de creencias similares, un convenio con Dios en una conferencia en Septiembre de este año, 2017. Por lo menos, da una vista a cosas interesantes que están pasando en el mormonismo hoy en día…



Si alguien desea preparar una mejor traducción, puedo proveer versiones editables de los documentos. (Pero no siempre veo todos mis email, pues si no contesto dentro de 48 horas, mándamelo otra vez.)

July 22, 2017

Liber Mormonis pars II

Procedemus de Hierosoymæ statu et Nephi patre legentes:

Nam factum est, primi in pricipio anni regni Sedeciæ, Judææ regis (patre meo per totam ætatem Hierosolymis incolenti), et eodem anno advenerunt vates plurimi vaticantes ad populum se corrigendum esse nisi magna periret civitas Hierosolyma. Pater igitur meus Lehi egrediens Dominum rogavit etiam omne corde pro populo suo.

Vidimus hinc Deum non mittere vates singulos sed pluribus monet populum suum et advocat ad emendatam vitam propter quod dixit Amos: “Non facit enim Dominus Jova quicquam, quin arcanum suum servis suis vatibus patefaciat.” Ne pereat Hierosolyma, tanta humanitate pro populo rogat Lehi, cujus nomen Hebraicum “Maxilla” significat nam sicut maxilla in manu Samsonis erit instrumentum in manu Dei ad salvationem multorum, ut Deus eum convenit, quod mox videbimus.