Riffing on Books and Life – Arts & Sciences Literary Blog by interactive new media author & artist Terry Bailey

21Jun/18

Yet Another Cautionary Tale About AI

The man who was fired by a machine

BBC News

Once the artificial intelligence (AI) "mis-firing" is caught and corrected, the employee leaves his job anyway due to the trauma the experience put him through. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-44561838

Share
22Dec/17

Happy Holidays!

 
One of my holiday traditions is a trip to the old-fashioned 
Fair Oaks Pharmacy in South Pasadena each year 
to have a hot fudge sundae with peppermint ice-cream. 
Sadly the last two years, they've had no peppermint ice-cream! 
A similar absence of my favorite ice-cream has been encountered 
when I search the local supermarkets.
When people talk about making America great again,
I am thinking, “Bring Back Peppermint Ice-Cream!”
rather than the myths of things many people want returned.
Things that never actually existed.
In point of fact, women, people of color, working people,
poor people,
our healthcare system, the environment, the workplace, 
our schools, our government, the economy -
none have been the pillars of greatness, fairness, justice or equality
that all but a few (relatively speaking) of us would wish for.
But this year, I do have hope. 
Because I see so many more women and men and even children
standing up and beginning to fight for what is right,
beginning to see that it does, indeed, take a village. 
Waking up to the fact that 
this world, its people and this planet 
are our responsibility,
not our resources.
Seeing that there are always options and alternatives.
That we are not stuck, 
that we have the potential to evolve in a positive direction.
And, to that end, Happy HolidayusI did not let the absence of a peppermint ice-cream sundae
weigh too heavily on me.
I painted one! 
 
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays of Whatever Ilk
To all my dear friends, students and family!
 
Terry
Share
29Jun/17

AI Challenges: Image Recognition Patterns

AI Image Pattern Recognition Animation

AI Image Pattern Recognition Animation

Artificial Intelligence and Image Recognition Challenges

Everything's Coming Up Roses!

One of the methods used by image recognition algorithms is to "see" things by noting patterns in an image. This can be very effective, but can also create challenges.

In the tea animation here, watch how the AI software sees the numerous roses in the bouquet, and, making a note of that rose pattern, then assumes there must be other roses in the image - when there are not!

So, the end of the folded napkin becomes a rose. Rose patterns are seen in the blank back wall. And even the lavender bouquet decoration on the tea pot becomes a rose!

While this might make an interesting surrealist work of art, we certainly would not want our autonomous car seeing roses where, in fact, there is a dog, or other vehicle, or fallen tree - or nothing!

Share
1Apr/17

An Emperor’s New Clothes Tale about Uber and Their Autonomous Cars, Or, When I Began Driving Autonomously at Sixteen Years of Age

photo Uber's March 2015 "Not At Fault" Crash

Uber's March 2015 "Not At Fault" Crash

When I began driving autonomously at sixteen years of age (i.e. without my father in the passenger seat guiding me and keeping me in compliance with the California driving laws for teens), Dad came home one night from work incredulous at the words of one of his business associates, who also had a new to driving kid.

Removing his tie, Dad shared with my mom, "So, Mike says to me: 'My son at seventeen only driving eight months and already has six accidents. Six. But, none of them his fault.' "

My mother shook her head as my sisters and I listened in.

"Can you imagine?" my father was laughing incredulously now. "Six accidents! None of them his fault!"

 

I could not help but remember my father's dinnertime story as I read about Uber's latest auto-driving accident. Last week a car in Tempe Arizona and an automated Uber SUV collided in an intersection, and the Uber vehicle wound up on its side (photo above). Within hours all Uber cars on the roads in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Arizona were pulled from the streets until the accident could be reviewed.

But within just a few days all those Uber vehicles were back on the roadways, because it was determined that the other driver failed to yield to Auto-Uber. The driver of the human driven vehicle was also cited for causing the accident.

I'm sure that the Uber owners are dancing gleefully at having been vindicated and proven innocent of any auto car mishap.

It wasn't Uber's fault.

 

How many more "none of them his fault" accidents will Uber endure before the Naked Emperor is unmasked?

Because all American drivers know the way probable scenario that actually occurred here:

On US roads, we human drivers are called on to yield to other drivers by little obscure right of way laws and by ubiquitous red (sometimes yellow) "YIELD" road signs. We human drivers know that, more often than not, even if we are the Yieldee, the Yielder is not actually going to yield to us. YIELD signs and laws are a nice sentiment, but Yieldees all basically ignore them, since we know that most Yielders will – in favor of avoiding crashes.

Uber can build all the actual traffic laws it wants into its autonomous vehicles, but it will never catch up with the unwritten laws, and law nuances, that all us humans know. Nor will it ever properly assimilate all the cultural laws specific to any city in the US. Those variations make it very difficult for even humans to drive safely - or without annoying the heck out of other drivers - when they attempt to drive in a new city.

Take for example, the Los Angeles rule of two cars waiting in the intersection and making their  left turn move on the yellow light. When a car sits behind the white line waiting for on-coming traffic to somehow miraculously disappear, we honk, knowing they must be "a damn LA foreigner."

Some years back one of my nieces was driving down a country road in northern California when another car pulled up to a stop sign at a small crossroad. My niece continued on knowing that she had the "right of way." Unfortunately, my niece was a young driver and had not yet assimilated the wisdom of her grandfather, who had warned all his descendants to always assume that every other driver on the road is stupid and about to do the unexpected. Sure, enough, the other driver made the incomprehensible decision to  pull onto the highway just as my niece's car reached the crossroad; my niece and her car ended up in a tree (she was, miraculously, not injured). Can Uber and other auto-car makers build Other Driver Stupidity and Illogic into their computer code?

 

Okay, so back to Auto-Uber. Just about any American driver who read the news story about "not our fault" Uber was shaking her/his head afterward. We all know that one of the primary ways we avoid accidents on our roads is by knowing that few if any drivers will ever actually yield to us when they have a YIELD sign and/or the right of way. Get real! We all know that we must be prepared to yield to the yielder - even if we are legally the yieldee.

Auto-Uber may be in his legal rights. He may be dancing right now (can autonomous cars dance yet?), knowing he was let off the hook. But how many Auto-Uber  "not his fault" accidents need to occur before we wake up to realize how truly far away we are from safely sharing our human designed roadways and laws, and cultural nuances, with artificially intelligent vehicles?

 

 

 

Share
25Feb/17

What Zebrafish Teach Us About Sleep

Understand Sleep - Caltech Lecture 2-22-17

Using Fish to Understand Sleep - Caltech Lecture 2-22-17

Usually the lectures I attend at Caltech and JPL are about landing on asteroids, black holes and the composition of Jupiter’s Moons, but this month, they had a biologist who discussed sleep.

Years ago many scientists concluded that melatonin was the mechanism that causes people to sleep. Subsequently, many companies began manufacturing melatonin supplements. Later, science realized that melatonin was not actually helping their rat models sleep, so they pulled back on the claim of its value in sleep inducing.

Today scientists have stopped comparing our brains to rats, and, instead are using fish. Yes, turns out our brains are more similar to baby zebra fish brains that to rats!

Insomnia is a huge problem. Although science still does not know exactly what function(s) sleep exists for, they do know that all animals and bugs sleep. Some, like cats, sleep a lot. Others, like giraffes, not much (only 2 hours per day!). Whales and dolphins actually put 1/2 their brains to sleep at a time since they live in the predatory ocean and cannot afford to be asleep ever!

When humans are deprived of too much sleep it can cause or exacerbate depression, diabetes, bone loss, heart disease, all kinds of illnesses.

One of the functions we now know of the asleep brain is an act of pruning the new knowledge we put into it just that very day. A brain has 20% fewer neurons in the morning than it did when we fell asleep. The brain gets rid of extraneous material while we sleep.

The greatest problem we have with sleeping pills is that they all work by actually shutting our brains down. This, of course, is dangerous since we know that whatever the brain does at night under natural sleeping conditions is very important to our physical and mental well being. If we just shut it down with a sleeping pill, we may sleep, but our brain does not do the work it is supposed to do at night.

Studies of the zebra fish and sleep taught the scientists that melatonin actually is the trigger for sleep. It did not trigger it in nocturnal rats during the day or night, because their brains are not like human brains. In zebra fish it does trigger sleep.

The biologist said he is not a doctor and cannot recommend melatonin for sleep, but he did go ahead and explain that “if you do take it to help yourself sleep,” you only need 1/2 to 1 milligram of it. Part of the concern he has about the supplement industry, is that they sell it in 5mg to 20mg doses, which can actually be harmful and cause side effects.

He also recommended people with sleep problems first consult a doctor because, while lack of enough melatonin may be the main cause of insomnia, there are other possible causes, including brain lesions in the most serious cases.

Someone asked if there were natural forms of melatonin and he mentioned milk.

The next morning, I researched natural sources of melatonin, and learned something quite curious. I wish I had known this before his lecture, for I would have inquired about it of him.

The foods listed as having the highest and significant amounts of melatonin were milk and cheese (calcium), pineapple, oranges, bananas and oats (other cereals, too, but oats the most).

Does anyone reading here spot what is curious about these foods???

They are all foods we typically eat for breakfast!

I am not a biologist or a doctor, but this certainly gives me pause to learn that foods I frequently eat for breakfast are foods that will help me sleep. Do we have our meals backwards or what??  If I run into any more information regarding the specifics of this, I will write again.

Share
29Dec/16

From My Cultural Landscape Series

So this morning I was looking for the vintage car rally event held in Pasadena every year the day before the Rose Parade, and this is what I discovered under "Events." In 2008 a few of my female college students "explained" to me that it is not like back in the day when their moms and I were growing up; they told me that they had equality. I wept a little inside at their words. What might help awaken a new generation of girls and women? "Maybe a Cultural Landscape Series," I thought this morning.

art: Sexism in My Environment, from my Cultural Landscape Series - Terry Bailey

Sexism in My Environment, from my Cultural Landscape Series - Terry Bailey

Save

Share
4Dec/16

My Review of Merlin Snider’s New Album – “One Light Many Windows”

image of Merlin Snider's "One Light Many Windows" CD, released November 2016

this essay was first published on November 29  in Folkworks Magazine

 

TITLE: One Light Many Windows

ARTIST: Merlin Snider

LABEL: Barking Dog Music

RELEASE DATE: November 21, 2016

By Terry Bailey

Years ago I visited painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser in his Venice (Italy) studio. I was surprised to see canvases lining the walls in all sorts of styles – not just the colorful spiral and raindrop paintings he was well known for at the time.

“My gallery owner prefers that I stick to one style. He believes that is what art buyers want from artists: a consistent identity,” he explained to me. “Sadly, I cannot even bring these other works of mine into the gallery.”

This marketing identity demand bleeds over to all art forms: too often writers, filmmakers, composers, songwriters – all creators – are pressured to create in one style and stick to it.

When Merlin and I first chatted about his new album, One Light Many Windows, our conversation began with his expressed concern about the diversity of song styles on this his third CD. But Merlin has transcended the need to write folk music in one style with a traditional song structure. That transcendence is who Merlin is. And we can be thankful that he has the courage to display his many canvases.

“I think that good music is at once familiar and original,” he shared with me.

As long as Merlin writes music, he will continue to move his audiences into new musical realms – and we will travel with him safely and happily.

With One Light Many Windows, Merlin has built a musical safe-house for his fans. A sanctuary from which we all can commune, looking inward and outward through the mirrored views and communal vistas of his windows.

Fresh Dirt is a reflective window, from which Merlin the builder shares the wonder of turning a shovelful of dirt into a place to shelter us from the storm, a place where one day tears and laughter will make the place a home. And Merlin the poet follows his house as shelter with an ironic metaphor: what’s to shelter us from the storm inside?

One window, Cold Rain, calls us to feel our world, like the cold rain pounding on our nerves, and to witness, in sacred Thoreau-like fashion, the poem of creation. Another window, Fly Away Sail Away, finds us singing along, stomping our feet and clapping our hands as we peer out at all the people who leave to find their home, and acknowledge that, indeed, everybody wants to feel at home.

Near Merlin’s musical home rooftop is a window of Memory. It looks over everything that has come and gone before. The listener at that window may find herself weeping at first listen, and experiencing the greatest of joy the next time around on the dance floor with it. The song is a waltz.

Merlin shares that some of his favorite writers, Tom Waits, Paul Simon, and the early Randy Newman, have the ability to be both melancholic and joyful, sentimental without resorting to saccharin. He admits it is a difficult trick to pull off, but something he strives for. With Memory, he accomplishes it to the moon and back.

Many of Merlin’s windows open to, in his own words, “a search for transcendence.” Unlike so many songwriters, Merlin’s songs are not about his personal bouts with the intricacies of living, but a way to get out of himself and into our shared existence, “to connect with something much larger.”

“Can I forgive?” (Sea of Forgetfulness). “Can I get out of myself and create something that allows others to see and laugh at themselves, ourselves, together?” (Procrastination Blues). Each of Merlin’s songs reveals a fresh perspective on transcendent possibility. This is true of his previous albums as well. And it is the key to why those of us who have discovered his music relish it, and flock to commune with him and each other at his concerts. Merlin’s musical home encourages us to come together to reflect, grieve, share, laugh at our foibles, forgive, throw off our regrets, love, be with our true feelings and then cast them aside to dance, sing and celebrate in the warmth and safety of our oneness.

All the music of One Light Many Windows is memorable, beautifully produced and performed. Merlin has assembled a first-class cadre of musicians and singers. Ed Tree has co-produced and engineered recordings that are of the highest professional caliber. Merlin and Ed have arranged each song lovingly and to musical perfection. Each track is “just right.”

One song deserves special note, and that is Abraham’s Light. We are transported to Lincoln’s era with a masterful arrangement that includes only instruments that existed during Abraham Lincoln’s time. Our eras are especially bridged with the consistent sound of cornet horns and a marching drum beat throughout. And with lyrics that bridge generations: a hateful virus is multiplied, I say bounce it back with Abraham’s Light.

Merlin says of the song: “I am very moved by the way Lincoln stood courageously (out of an empathy born from tragedy and depression) for preserving the Union as a place where all people are equal in their right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, and yet at the same time he saw the humanity of his enemies enough to leave the door open to reconciliation. Lincoln lived in a time when our country was even more divided than it is now, and I think we could stand to be instructed by his life and words.”

Another great poet-songwriter, Leonard Cohen, departed our planet the day before our infamous November 8, 2016 US election, gifting us with his last song, You Want it Darker. The following day we got it darker, and Cohen’s masterpiece calls on us to face that darkness. But we must not get mired in it. Merlin’s One Light Many Windows will surely be a tool to help us transcend the darkness, to guide us in remembering that for all our diversity, we share one light. As we gather together in Merlin and friends’ musical home, “in this night, may we read by Abraham’s light.”

Share
6Nov/16

You Want It Darker – Honoring Leonard Cohen

Illustration for my upcoming book, Pasadena Tales, but painted to honor one of my greatest muses, Leonard Cohen, in celebration of the release of his latest album, You Want It Darker

Illustration for my upcoming book, Pasadena Tales, but painted to honor one of my greatest muses, Leonard Cohen, in celebration of the release of his latest album, You Want It Darker

Update November 12, 2016:  the web page where the interview podcast of Leonard Cohen about his new album, You Want It Darker, appeared has now been updated to be a wonderful homage to Cohen with links to many videos, podcasts, audio files, biography information etc. I learned on this page that he had suffered from cancer for some time, and that he actually recorded this entire last album sitting in a medical chair in his apartment's living room, And it is clear now that this album actually was Leonard Cohen saying his final words, and putting his house in order. Click here for the link.

Update November 10, 2016: I  started this post on November 6. I have another painting finished for Part 2 and had planned to post the second half of this essay a couple of days from now. But, this evening word came that Leonard Cohen passed away. We thought he passed on the 10th, since that is when the news was published, but it turned out he passed on November 7, the day after I listened to the interview with him and began posting my essay. I am very sad about his passing. And I felt perhaps I should re-write this post's part one, because at the end of it I talk about his future; I have decided to leave it as is, as it came from my heart, having no idea that by the following day Leonard would no longer be on this planet. -- Terry

November 6 , 2016:  The first Leonard Cohen song I sang was Suzanne. I was a teen-ager. I changed an A chord in it to an A major 7, embarking on a musical career of "interpreting" songwriters' songs for myself. It was kind of a big deal at the time. Before that, I studied songs by listening to the albums and learning to play and sing them exactly as originally performed. If it was a folk song, I sang the melody precisely and learned the same fingerstyle guitar technique used on the record - I even memorized the exact little guitar riffs the original players played in the songs' introductions and breaks. If it was a jazz song sung by Carmen McCrae or Anita O'Day, I practiced their phrasing by singing along with the records a hundred times so I could imitate their arrangements and singing styles precisely.

When I started practicing Suzanne, something pushed me, inspired me, to break out of the "as-written" mold and to throw in an alternate chord. A major seven just seemed more appropriate, more ethereal, more spiritual, more awe-inspiring, more question-mark to me. And that also seemed more Leonard Cohen to me. Suzanne and so many of his songs have such a spiritual, religion-of-some sort sense to them. I was not religious. But his poetry always spoke to me in that realm of human spiritual need. I don't even like to say "spiritual" because that implies "spirit" and takes us back to religion, doesn't it? We need new vocabulary for that need, for that aspect of human reality that speaks to our place, our values, our connections, our essence beyond the molecules that compose the matter that makes our human physical being.

I listened to an interview of Leonard Cohen on the radio last week and learned that he is not religious. That his choice of religious, biblical, spiritual vocabulary has to do with the fact that it is the vocabulary he grew up with, not because he has a religious leaning. That's important. Really important. I think the fact will resonate with lots of Leonard Cohen fans - who for decades have felt a deep human need fulfilled by his words, but were confused as to the why and the how of the religious bent to his songs.

I am going to put it down to poetry. Leonard Cohen's poetry speaks to the essence of what it is to be human, what it is to be surrounded by other humans, what it is to be mired or lifted by the human condition on any given day. What it is to wonder. Successful poetry is the most essential form of communication. It reduces its subject matter to the core, the essence, the critical. It throws away those superfluous words and meanings to get at the heart of whatever it is.

As a journalist, I learned to start an essay with a mind flush - anywhere from 2000 to 5000 words on my subject. Then I would edit to remove my digressions. I would edit again to establish a logical form. Both those edits reduced my essay to 1500 to 3000 words. At that point in the process I would despair for a time: there was no way I could cut any further and still say what I needed to say! A day or two later I would re-read and laugh at myself for thinking so many of my thoughts were so precious, and scratch out another thousand words by removing whole phrases. Eventually I would get to the level of eliminating unnecessary sentences, then words. Finally my column would be the requisite 750 to 1000 words, and I would submit it.

A few years later I studied poetry as part of my MFA college writing program, and began to learn what essence communicating was really about. The path I had learned as a journalist was a good start, but I still had writing roads to travel. Although my major was creative nonfiction and interactive media writing, the greatest ah-ha moments for me as a student of writing at Antioch were in the poetry lectures, readings and courses I took as part of my program.

Poetry, I found, is the pinnacle of pure communication.  Great poetry not only reduces an idea to its absolute irreducible essence, it does so while drawing from, and appealing to, all our human senses, not just our intellectual perception. It also does so while appealing to our senses of place and time and history and humanity and aesthetics and wonder and . . .

Leonard Cohen is a master of poetry. You Want it Darker is a tour de force of a poetry collection that sends to the darkness the media pushed message that any artist over 40 is past her/his prime. Leonard Cohen said recently that at 82, he is ready to die. In the radio interview, he took back that statement. I am glad, for You Want It Darker is a necessary reflection on the human condition for our age. And with it Leonard Cohen has just hit his stride. He must continue.

(next, my review of the album coming soon)

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Share
1Nov/16

Apples “New” Macs Not Much Help for Creative Developers Who Have Been Waiting and Waiting and Waiting

October 27, 2016 - New Mac Laptops with Function Strip

 

I was super disappointed in this "new" #Apple Mac laptop announced October 27. We have all been waiting for new Minis and desktop computers for several years now, and Tim Cook and company gave us only a laptop with a function strip. (And I am thinking about writing a streaming video app that mutes that Apple presentation crew and their chief every time they use the word "incredible.")

This was not incredible. I don't care if my laptop is a micro-something thinner or lighter, I want a new computer since my old ones are wearing out, and I would love to see some new ideas rather than engineering "feats."

Sadly for this Mac die-hard creative developer, the new Microsoft Surface line is looking a lot more interesting and user-inspired. It really feels like Cook needs to hire some design innovators, and target new hardware development for those of us Maker People out here who create the stuff - like games, books, apps, art, music, magazines, tv shows . . . - that all those masses use/buy his mobile Apple devices for !

I use my laptop for presenting and as my mobile teaching device. I do not want a laptop sitting on my studio desk, getting in the way of my work-space and view of my monitors. I was thinking I should write to Apple and suggest that they make the screen removable if they are going to insist on forcing all of us creatives and developers to use laptops rather than desktop machines. That way we could treat the laptop as a keyboard and still be able to place a drawing tablet, or keyboard, or microphone - or whatever device we are using while we create with our Macs in our studios - in front of our monitors and work efficiently. Then I read this article, and went to the Microsoft website, and discovered Microsoft already thought of that! Their laptop screens ARE removable!

Tim Cook, you are a money manager - clearly a very good money manager - and your team of engineers, I don't deny, are the greatest; you all need to set your egos aside and admit that you are not creatives and you need to bring in some people who are to imagine the things for you to engineer and sell!

here is a link to a Medium essay that inspired my blog post after I watched the "Big" Apple Event introducing their new computers on October 27, 2016.

Share
28Oct/16

On Liberals, Geckos and Microloans

 

Kenny Loggins presents his Footloose at Pasadena's Vromans Books.

Kenny Loggins presents his Footloose at Pasadena's Vromans' Books.

Well, it's time for me to get back on the book and science lecture review wagon! I've been working more on short stories and my interactive multimedia book series, Light 2.0, and have neglected writing about the nonfiction and real life learning going on in my world.

Over the next weeks, I'll write about a great new book I am reading, Listen Liberal, by Thomas Frank (Of What's Up With Kansas fame), and a fun lecture about how JPL/NASA scientists are modeling climbing robots after geckos! (who knew??), and an eye openening lecture at Caltech last week that surprisingly pulled the Wizard's curtain on microloans. I might even make mention of some comments Kenny Loggins (of Loggins and Messina and House at Pooh Corner fame) made about the state of being a musician in the US; recently I heard him speak and perform at Pasadena's Vromans' Books when he came to introduce his new children's book and song, Footloose.

Save

Save

Share