Svenuary Fun

Sven is doing #genuary2022. There are different daily prompts. Tomorrow, Jan 6th is, “Trade styles with a friend”. This was the first piece, all made in Blender 3.0:

which became:

If you look closely you can see the grain. Wild. This is very reminiscent of a shot i took in Berlin:

Which is used in I Wrote This For You, and discussed on the “other” blog.

The final piece:

#genuary2022 blender geonodes pretending to be a friend’s photography style

Originally tweeted by fforw (@fforw) on 2022-01-05.

reminds me of this Tokyo Hasselblad shot:

Obviously different, but there is more than a passing resemblance. Yes, you’re right – i should reprocess that and brighten it up a little. Thanks mentioning it.

Rajma Redux

Not like “indigestion” but part of the “pre-digestion”. I mentioned in the Rajma post that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) was making recipe sites trash. Today at the top of the orange site is an app that removes the clutter. No endorsement / recommendation implied – i’ve not even opened the link.

Take a brief review of the top comments to get a flavour (see what i did there…) of how the big ole goofy search monopoly google is making the web a better place.

Repeating myself at this point, but google is likely the biggest misallocation of engineering resources the world has ever seen. The greatest computer science minds of several generations, all grist for a trillion dollar advertising mill. Possibilities ground to dust under the wheels of silicon valley “progress”.

[With all due respect / apologies to my friends that work there… but come on, you know it’s mostly true!]

Up Around The Bend

Wanted to write about what Hamburg has done to my photography. To see if it was possible to define my “Hamburg School”, a parallel with the “Düsseldorf School“? A few hours later it would appear that i’m unequal to the task…

The basis of my Hamburg is interplay of water and light. Which sounds pretentious enough to form the basis of a school of photography. It also has the benefit of aligning well with what seems to draw my eye in recent years.

In the end there just isn’t enough to go any further. The idea remains out of reach, up around the bend.

Rajma

Like most recipe sites, Dassana’s Veg Recipes has succumbed to the SEO horror. The end result is presumably good for stickiness, but terrible to following a recipe. End result? I’m writing up my own notes for Rajma!

  • kidney beans (see below)
  • green chilies (2 – 4)
  • root ginger (2 – 3cm chunk)
  • garlic (4 cloves)
  • oil / butter (1 tsb)
  • purple onion (medium size, approx 150g)
  • ripe Tomatoes (2 or 3, approx, 200g)
  • cumin seeds (1 tsp)
  • mango powder (1 tsp)
  • chili powder (1/2 – 1 tsp)
  • turmeric (1/4 – 1/2 tsp)
  • garam masala (1/2 tsp)
  • asafoetida / hing (1/4 tsp)
  • salt (1/4 – 1/2 tsp)
  • kasuri methi / dried fenugreek leaves 1 tsb)

I’m cooking kidney beans in a pressure cooker after soaking them for at least 24hrs. The thing with Rajma is that the beans need to be well cooked all the way through, close to the point where a few of them have skins cracked. It would probably work pretty well wish good quality canned. We usually cook more than are needed, but i guess that one, or one and a half cans would be about the right balance.

Steps

  • finely chop the onion and tomato.
  • crackle the cumin seeds in the oil, and start to slowly fry the onions. they need to be soft.
  • while the onions are frying grind the chilies / garlic / ginger into a paste (it doesn’t need to be smooth, and probably wont be!)
  • when the onions are soft, add the chili / garlic / ginger paste, let it cook for a minute or so – until the raw garlic smell goes
  • add the tomatoes, let them cook for a couple of minutes and start to break down
  • add the ground spices (mango powder, chili powder, turmeric, garam masala, hing) mix well
  • now you need to cook this masala until the oil starts to come out of the mixture. it’ll probably take longer than expect, but don’t let it dry out.
  • add the kidney beans, mix them into the masala
  • add 1 – 2 cups of water, or the cooking liquid from the pressure cooker, add salt, mix well
  • cook on a low simmer for around 10 minutes. the sauce will thicken, you have to make a decision about thick you want the rajma… the longer you let it simmer, the thicker it’s going to be. if you’re eating it with rice leave it a little thinner, with naan / chapati thicker. have noticed i tended to let it thicken too much in the first couple of attempts
  • crush the kasuri methi, and stir well

The whole “until the oil starts to come out” stage of cooking the masala seems to be the key to getting a good curry. You’re basically making a roux to thicken whatever comes next, and if you don’t let cook well things won’t end well!

The original recipe has a step about adding a couple of tablespoons of cream right at the end. Have never tried it with cream, but yogurt also works, just make sure it isn’t too sour. It doesn’t really add too much – but i’m not into that whole “restaurant style” thing, prefer to keep things “rustic”.

† – the garam masala that i’m using (TRS brand) kind of sucks… it’s so strong that you either use so little that you may as well not bother, or you don’t bother! When i forget and put it in… regret. Should probably try some other mixes. All the other spices are kind of integral to the experience – the mango powder providing extra sourness, and the asafoetida doing that thing that is does with beans / lentils… which is kind of indescribable. Sorry.

Averages

Some time before Xmas i sat down and listened to Stuart Russell‘s Reith Lecture “Living With Artificial Intelligence“. Over four parts it covers a lot of the ethical, economic, and moral issues arising from the (apparently inevitable) development of AGI.

It’s good that it starts out making the point that what we have now with efforts like DeepMind beating a Go champion are, while technically impressive, not at all intelligent. They are complex models, fed with large amounts of data. They may make interesting decisions but they are doing so from a position of statistical analysis.

A more general intelligence would be something altogether different… quite how it would be different is interesting to think about in its own right. What is intelligence? Where is the separation between mind and body? How are we creative?

It was a good thought provoking series. Presented realistically without the huckster futurism of likes of Ray Kurzweil. Russell even has a wacky anglo-californian accent mash-up that reminds me of my own struggles to find a linguistic identity while living in the bay area. The gloss of BBC infotainment is a little off-putting, as is the Q&A process, but overall it’s worth a listen.

I’m not convinced that we’ll actually create AGI in the foreseeable future. It’s hard to tell if any real progress is being made while the field is dominated by the ML boom. And, the questions that the series prompted for me are kind of orthogonal to the theme… oops.

1) During one of the (interminable) Q&A sessions Russell made a flippant remark along the lines of “you really think the human brain is the most complex thing in the universe?!” I’ve never given it much thought, but there are “popular science” facts about the number of possible connections in the brain being a huge (universe scale) number. Maybe it doesn’t make sense as a question – the universe contains the brain, which implies that at best we could say that brains are local maxima of complexity. More complex things could exist, but if they’re driven by similar evolutionary processes, over similar timescales… maybe they’d reach similar limits?

2) Let us say that a true AGI is possible. If that’s the case then it would be possible in other periods of the universe. We’ve only been around for a blink of an eye. If other civilizations were around for longer blinks, they too could have developed AGI. If we further imbue the AGI with characteristics that we might consider “intelligent”, one might be that it would seek to continue to exist.

Therefore it seems reasonable that an AGI with some degree of autonomy / agency would try to ensure it’s continued survival. A simple way to do this is to build redundancy. Driven by the changing nature of the universe, such thinking would most likely result in ever increasing (data-center / continent / planet / solar system / galaxy) levels of redundancy.

If such a system could reach a point of being self-sustaining it’s possibility for growth would be limited only by time. Over billions of years (the universe is roughly 13 billion years old, earth, if we assume it is an average planet for intelligent life, for ~6 billion – there are billions of years to play with!) it could spread itself pretty widely.

And yet, we don’t see it. We don’t see any sign of it.

There are all sort of reasons (see Fermi Paradox, etc) why this might be the case. Or perhaps it would be smart not to be seen? Maybe a suitably smart AGI works out how to communicate via quantum entanglement / spooky at a distance, leading to weird discoveries of the quantum realm. Perhaps entanglement works because the distances between the particles isn’t large in higher dimensions, dimensions with which we don’t know how to interact? Being smart enough over a long enough period of time might let you leave behind the limits of our current level of understanding of spacetime.

At the end of such flights of fantasy (putting the fiction into the science of sci-fi!) we’re back in a universe that is unfathomably large and empty. Aliens or intelligent machines? Not much has changed: we’re isolated in time and space.

I’ve no idea why the Fermi Paradox interests me so much. The more i think about it, the more likely it seems that there are two fundamental truths: i) c is the law; ii) the universe is as big as it is old, and it’s getting bigger at an ever increasing rate!

In which case, yes, there probably is life all over the place, but it’s still unlikely enough that it doesn’t occur in clumps very often. Out here on our average planet, in our average arm, of an average galaxy, in an average supercluster, in an average area of the universe, it could be very lonely!

[Thanks to Sven for listening to an early version of these thoughts. They are no doubt embarrassingly simplistic. Unfortunately i dont really have the time / motivation to go back to school and get to a place of serious study of the details… and, er, get quicky out of my depth!]

Turnings On (and On)

If you’ve been around for a while this will probably look familiar…

Turnings On.

This time instead of sticking a hasselblad in a oil drum of lathe turnings somewhere south of Takatsu, this is an iPhone stuck in a plant pot of christmas decorations in Eppendorf. Oh so modern! Oh so new!

The view changes. My eyes however are very much the same.

Oddly the desires for the original images are unchanged:

A set of images intended for hotel lobby walls. Preferably with a vague tang of oil based lubricant misted into the air.

Jon Ellis, Turnings On.

The only update that i’d make is to suggest that said hotel be a boutique affair somewhere in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Yep, that should bring the offers flooding in!