Moleskin Notes

Moleskin Notes

These were my original scribbles for the population map project. I try to work as much out on paper as I can before moving to the computer.

Fun With Data

I started work on a project a little while ago, and it’s probably past time I started blogging it. My intention was to produce a population map of the United States, county by county — essentially, a map of the country’s other topography.

Each cylinder represents one county or equivalent (e.g. an independent city, Louisian parish, or Alaskan census area). The circular area represents the land area, the height its population density, and the volume of each cylinder its population. The cylinders are instanced Animation:Master models generated by a script.

The population and land area data come from the U.S. Census Bureau web site. Location data is approximated from Census Burea .bna outline files made available on the Princeton web site by Robert Sedgewick and Kevin Wayne of the 2004 Election “Purple Map” fame.

The first version of the script could build one state at a time. With 254 counties, the most of any state, this is Texas:

The second could produce an arbitrary number of states with random colors, but each had to be loaded by hand as soon as the script finished with the previous. This is New England, where I was born and raised:

The first version of the script that could construct the entire United States took over 14 hours to run and had several bugs, one of which limited it to 99 counties per state. This is its first output:

Right now, I have debugged the script, analyzed its output for missed counties, and am working at sanitizing the input data to avoid screwups. I hope to have a complete work in progress by the end of the weekend.

Gawker Steals My HR Comic

How sarcastically flattering.

Here is Gawker’s featured shirt of the day:

And here is the very first Human Resources comic strip, number 1 of 41, from September 2004:

Here’s how it works. The HR comics were popular with my fellow grunts at the job that inspired them, and were widely circulated on MySpace. (They still get a few dozen hits a month.) Someone saw the strip, liked the punchline, and submitted it to Gawker. They couldn’t spell children.

I guess I should be a little flattered that it was voted highly enough to get a shirt made.

But at least when design firm Pylit liked my Tape Case Bike Light, they were decent enough to pay me to rewrite the article for them.

You Can Put a Pig in a Dress, Too

This weekend, as part of my ongoing project of pretending to be my age, I picked up my first decent coat in Freeport, Maine.

Now to do something about everything else. This could take a while. Maybe I’ll start with the hair.

It’s a Record

My roommates have gone through an entire roll of toilet paper in one day. Ladies, if any of you are looking for a nice young man to settle down and, I dunno, move in with… let me know.

“Windy City” Enters Its First Screenwriting Competition

My first feature screenplay, “Windy City,” has been entered into the 2007 ASA International Screenplay Competition. The quarterfinalists will be announced by February 28, 2008, with the semifinalists coming out April 30 and the final winners being announced at the awards ceremony at the end of September, 2008.

As much as I dread (and typically fail) at self-promotion, it’s nice to be back on the contest scene. Æsop’s Council of Mice was my last animated film to play the film festival circuit, following the relative success of my award-winning debut Marboxian. Owing mainly to financial difficulties, I wasn’t able to do much with Mice, and I’ve had to focus on making a living since.

It’s been mentioned a few times here, but maybe it’s time to introduce the thing. Windy City is a classic city mouse/country mouse story written by someone who’s been both. It has airships and fantastic cities, natural and manmade disasters, and a whole laundry list of other exciting things. But that’s not why you’ll fall in love with it. The real movie is about a boy from the valley and a senator’s daughter from the city — Dan Assurbani and Nineve Sherrib — and how their lives meet and grow more and more complicated.

Windy City started life as a treatment six or seven years ago. At about this time last year, I dusted it off and set about cleaning it up. Somehow the treatment became a full first draft by April, and I had some friends with a bit of theatre experience over to do a cold readthrough. I sat on the lessons I learned from hearing it out loud, and the remaining issues I had with it, picked at it for the next few months as life got complicated again, and finally — in four days at a friend’s house in coastal Maine — burned through to a second draft in late August.

It’s been an interesting year. Wish Windy City luck.

A Different Hill

In my dreams there’s another Boston.

Where the Fenway and the E train should be there’s an expanse of rundown, uninteresting concrete buildings. Maybe there’s another line south of the E train.

Last night, after the flat concrete section came a neighborhood of steep hills with equally rundown platforms, roughly where Roxbury should have begun.

To the west, where Brookline should have been — or at least the no man’s land between the D train and Coolidge Corner — was a shabby, Allston-like, busy Y-shaped intersection. There was a place I needed to go which was on the far side, behind the intersection, and hard to reach.

To its west, the ground sloped steadily upward for a mile or more. At the top (very high up), looking down over the city, was an abandoned set of concentric concrete terraces, enormous, an expanse of disused parking around a building that wasn’t used anymore. Sumac and other fast-growing trees were taking hold heavily on the slope.

One night, there was a posh place above MassArt. The street sloped gently upward and broke at a compact building with a glass foyer. The main street curved to the right there. Another, smaller street broke off just before the curve, behind a wedge of brick brownstones, and continued up the same hill; it was much more neglected, and seemed to be where people lived. Maybe that hill was the same as the first. Maybe they were all the same hill.

Amazon.com’s MP3 Store

Overall I’m pleased with the Amazon mp3 store. Good interface. Good prices. Previewing tracks and albums is intuitive, the samples are high quality, and you don’t wind up with a desktop full of little .rm files after previewing them all.

The selection can be lean, even with slightly out of band tastes. I can only find one full VNV Nation album, while Rotersand turns up a remix album, and Seabound is MIA. That said, discovering new acts based on what you already know is easy and — dare I say it — fun, at least in the heavily incestuous world of electronica.

I didn’t enjoy having to install an application to download full albums. I also didn’t enjoy being forced to purchase using “one click” — why can’t I shop and then check out? I read through the terms of service, and there’s no mention of watermarking or inclusion of my account info in the files, but I wouldn’t call that conclusive. Will I get a nastygram from Amazon if someone swipes my SD card? Hopefully we won’t find out.

Once I’d made my purchase and installed the application, the downloads were quick. On my Mac, the Amazon application created an “Amazon MP3” folder in my music folder and generated subfolders for artist and album in the iTunes style. The tracks were automatically imported into iTunes, although I found it odd that the application didn’t create a playlist of the album. One question I haven’t found an answer to is whether, like in iTunes, I can purchase the remainder of an album for the (discounted) album price if I have already purchased tracks individually.

Bottom line, Barry Adamson’s “King of Nothing Hill” sounds great in iTunes, will play in TCPMP on my Palm Zire and can ride a thumb drive to my client onsites. At the same album price offered on the iTunes Store for a track that’s locked to play only in iTunes on my own machine, I’d call that a deal.

“Dead Dog” by Nicholas Ozment

Pseudopod Horror Podcast #055

Not a bad story. The language was very well used. I found the black dog myth and the narrator’s guiltless infidelity a bit hard to lash together thematically, and some of the descripive passages and long flashbacks made my attention wander.

But I have a request. Referencing the “mini generation gap” comment I made on “The Apple Tree Man,” could we hear a bit more from the under 40 crowd on future Pseudopods? I’m sure doing abhorrant things with a wife and kids at home is viscerally arresting once you have them, but trust me: down here, clawing our way into a dead and cynical global economy, there is horror aplenty.