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Maya Deren

Image of Maya Deren from her film, 'Meshes of the Afternoon'

Image of Maya Deren from her film, 'Meshes of the Afternoon'

After recommending Maya Deren’s short film, Meshes of the Afternoon to a friend of mine, I took the opportunity to re-watch it this morning. I found it really influential as a film student and it still stands up today.

Meshes is probably her most accessible film, but all of them are great. Her later films, such as Ritual in Transfigured Time, are more abstract and more concerned with choreography (of the camera and of the actors/dancers).

I could go on and on about these films (I wrote an essay or two on the subject almost 20 years ago), but I’ll leave the work of analysis to you. Enjoy.

What Does Illness Look Like? Part 1

This is a multipart series on my experiences with chronic fatigue syndrome/fibromyalgia. It's partly a way of telling my friends what's going on and partly a way of organizing my thinking on the subject. I hope that people suffering from similar illnesses can gain something from these posts, even if it's just a matter of feeling a little less isolated.

Before getting sick, I used to wake up at 5 a.m. for what I jokingly called my 20 percent time. As many of you know, Google popularized this notion of 20 percent time by letting employees spend Fridays working on their own personal projects. Waking up at 5 a.m. gave me time to work on my creative and computer programming projects before the rest of the family woke up at 7. In the same way that Google made some of these personal projects into products, I hoped that my personal work would eventually lead to new sources of income.

This worked out really well for me. During that time, I moved a lot of projects forward and, based on the programming work that I did, I got some job interviews as a programmer. But last last summer I started to get sick with what I now know is chronic fatigue syndrome/fibromyalgia (CFS/FM)1. With fatigue as one of my primary symptoms, waking up at 5 a.m. became difficult. Sure I could wake up that early, but my productivity would be low to say the least and I would suffer, both later on that day and in the coming days.

If I set August 1 as the day I got sick2, then it has taken 10 months to arrive at the point where my doctor and I are pretty sure I’ve got CFS/FM. By mid November, what had started as weekly episodes of a day or two, had progressed to the point of my being off work every day. I don’t want to get bogged down in the details of CFS/FM, but if you’re interested in learning more, this is the best guide I’ve found. Here’s a rundown of some of my symptoms:

There are other symptoms that come and go and they shift over time; what was dominant last week, might not be a factor this week. And there are episodes, lasting anywhere from a day to a week, when my symptoms are much worse. But I’m still symptomatic on my good days, so much so that I’m unable to work. These episodes have two causes that I’ve managed to identify: rapid weather change and overexertion.

Of the two causes, overexertion is the one I can control, so in the next part of this series, I’ll begin by describing my energy envelope and what that means for my day to day life3.

1 CFS and FM are closely related. One difference between the two, is that people with FM usually have pain as a dominant symptom.

2 It can hard to set an exact date. As I said earlier, my doctor and I are just getting to the diagnosis stage after more than 10 months. As I start to understand more about CFS/FM, I see previous illnesses in a new light -- could they be related? For example, what about that nausea and vertigo I went to the doctor about last spring? Still, insurance companies really like exact dates, so let's go with August 1.

3 Which is actually quite convenient, because I probably have to leave the rest of this post for another day. I felt relatively energetic when I started writing this, but my body is telling me to stop and rest now.

found poetry 1

“intercepting sycalls and notifying an exterior sandbox host” Codius

Playing with explorable explanations

I threw together this little project over the weekend to practice my javascript skills and explore Bret Victor’s Tangle, a javascript library for creating explorable explanations. I still have lots more to learn, but Tangle is really easy to get started with and I’d love to explore the possibilities of explorable explanations in more depth. When I get a chance, I’ll write up a step-by-step guide explaining how I built this.

Victor develops the ideas behind Tangle in his essay Explorable Explanations and provides his own extensive example of the library in use with Ten Brighter Ideas.

This concept has real potential. Being able to play with the different data points reinforces your understanding of the subject. In Bret Victor’s aforementioned essay, he discusses how this approach could work well with explanations of policy alternatives. And in an organizational context, you could present business cases or proposals as explorable documents so decision makers could really understand the data underlying their decisions.

Oscillating Yarn

This processing sketch is based on Example 3.7 in Daniel Shiffman’s excellent book, Nature of Code, but I removed the line connecting each ellipse to the centre, added some colour and trails and used my own numbers for velocity and amplitude rather than generating them randomly. The patterns created by the oscillators are sized in relation to one another using the golden ratio.