Getting unmotivated in writing these blog posts daily. I’ll try to do better next week.
Friday: Learned more about shaders. Learning mostly entailed copying code, so I’m not entirely sure how much I actually learned (I did realize that I type rather inaccurately- wondering if it would be better to just copy and paste the code instead of typing it out). I should look into shaders when I have the time and motivation (but when will that be?) For the drone project, I’m still having so much difficulty! Often, the people at the VRAC who could answer my networking/data-streaming questions are gone from the office, and so I struggle alone. I’m so frustrated that I might switch out one of my CS classes for Intro to Networking next quarter (far too late in the context of this project, but at least I’ll know some of the answers for the questions I have, now). We have so much work left to do. I’m getting very nervous by how little we’ve accomplished and how much needs to be done. Also, shout-out to Tom, who apparently reads these blog posts. We had a good-bye dinner for Ohana; I hope she’s doing okay.
Saturday: Went to Reiman Gardens with a couple other interns. I love botantical gardens- the Garfield Conservatory is my favorite spot in Chicago. I drew a lot of plants. A baby came up to me and handed me his parents’ car keys. Another kid complimented my drawings. Another person complimented my outfit. It was a good time. I got my first milkshake from Freddy’s- it was pretty good, but not exactly outstanding. After that, I worked a little bit.
Sunday: Continued working, but I haven’t done nearly as much as I wanted to accomplish this weekend. I had a long conversation with my sister about her grad-student research in Zambia (she always laughs when I mention Iowa) and what we want in the future. I keep wondering why I place myself in situations that bring me closer to being a CS professional instead of using my time to involve myself with the art world. I also wonder why I continuously overload myself with tasks- it seems like my entire workload next year will be the same as the workload I had earlier in this program, when I was simultaneously doing my final projects and this REU stuff. Essentially, it’s going to be a bad time. I don’t get homesick, but today, I really miss my dog.
Apparently, there’s a way to get from lysergic acid to Mariana Trench in only 3 clicks: https://www.sixdegreesofwikipedia.com/
The weather yesterday was wonderful- today seems like it’ll be a nice day, too. I am still frustrated with the project and my own lack of experience/expertise. Glen lent me a book about sockets which is helping me pin down the abstracted concept of networking, but it’s not especially helpful in the specific problem I’m encountering (I’m understanding network interface naming a bit more, though). Still trying to get a live feed of the drone camera.
We had a lecture about the interview process, and I realize that I don’t have a clear idea of where I’m going in life (really makes the “tell me about yourself” question hard). I do think I have a strong sense of self, but things like motivations and dreams feel a bit far reaching from where I currently stand. I could always make up a goal (like the lie I gave yesterday- become a gallery curator focusing on interactive art installations that use technology- I would never do that; curatorial work is hard and boring), but that seems like a good way to end up in a bad position in life. Like I said before, I act like I have a lot of time to direct my life, but that’s not quite true (it is true, but it also isn’t).
Afterwards, we went bowling. I learned that I’m fairly bad at it. I don’t think I’ll ever try again. Seeing the billiards tables reminded me of how much I miss playing pool with my friends.
Topic I’m currently thinking about: the time that it takes to put on eye make-up every day. Is it wasted time? I enjoy how my eyes look with eye shadow/eyeliner (obviously the reason I wear eye make-up), but is my vanity worth ten minutes of my life? A further complication- if I rush putting on eye make-up, the pigments/chemicals end up falling into my eyes by mid-day, making me cry. Ten minutes is the minimum amount of time needed. If I stopped wearing eye make-up, what would I do with my extra ten minutes of time? Sleeping for an extra ten minutes seems altogether useless. Maybe I would start eating breakfast.
This will be a short post:
Yesterday, Gabe said I looked “lost and disappointed,” which is a pretty accurate summary of where I am at my project right now. I think that this is just what research is like, and I just have to deal with being frustrated until I get another (minor) breakthrough. I’m doing shaders stuff for the deeper dive, which was probably a bad idea considering how little I know about materials/shaders. Still, at least I know that I’ll be learning something.
I’m most worried that the problems I’ve been having with this project can’t be solved by throwing more time at it, which is worrisome, since time is essentially the only resource we have. On a brighter note, the weather today (the 21st), is kind of wonderful.
I think I’ve been much more sassy than when I started this program, which is a tiny bit worrisome. I like the dynamic of my project group, but I definitely default to sass with them.
Today, during craft of research, I realized how much trouble I had articulating my project’s hypothesis, and I realized that we needed a really concise explanation of what we were trying to discover with the drone research. Essentially, we’re seeing how an operator interacts with a single-screen interface for a swarm of drones used in the context of a clearing operation- how the operator perceives their level of situation awareness and what their trust in the drone swarm system is like. That isn’t a hypothesis, though.
Today, got some python code working that controls the drone. It doesn’t help at all in the context of actually grabbing the live video and doing face tracking or getting two drones to fly from a single computer, but change is incremental. We’re also working on our lit review stuff and trying to flesh out what we’ve read more.
Our luncheon lecture was about hyperreality and how images formulate reality. I’m thinking about the Pictures generation of American artists (Barbara Kruger especially), and how they “took” pictures/the language of advertisement to create visuals that directly pointed at the spectacle- how mediated images form our [lack of] social relations and reality. Hyperreality is a slightly different concept because fact and fiction are blurred, and so it becomes hard to exploit the fiction to point to itself. Sometimes, people will say that we live in a post-truth/post-fact world. I wonder what the social consequences of such a world is. The spectacle supposedly results in isolation, but this world seems to be about fragmentation (how different are the two?).
We designed our t-shirt today. It was a pretty stressful process. After that, I caught up with two of my friends.
Posting this a day later because I was too tired to write it up last night.
Research could be going significantly better; I know nothing about computer networks (would be so helpful to have taken Intro to Networking before coming here!) and so I’m encountering difficulties with connecting drones to one computer. Additionally, OpenCV (and by extension, GoCV), aren’t installing correctly. So much of the work we do feels like being IT, and I’m tired of it. Sometimes, I really wish I had a Mac. I guess to fill in the gaps of what we don’t know, we should start working on the paper structure/actually writing up the lit review (more than a spreadsheet w summarizing information).
Yesterday was the Unity workshop- it was pretty simplistic. Maybe tomorrow we’ll get to piece a simple game together. I’m excited for the deeper dives.
Today is the day when we are supposed to officially receive our final grades for the spring quarter. I’m not worried, but I think that’s super weird. I’ve gone through two years of higher education, and I know I have grades that make it look as if I’m proficient in CS stuff. Totally not true (hence all the obstacles in our research). Why is the education system like this?
I almost forgot to write a post today, but these posts are getting monotonous because of the desolation that is Ames, Iowa. Daily updates might not be necessary. Kira and I saw a movie today and dealt with the aftermath of there being no Lyft drivers or buses running at 9:30 PM on a Sunday (I’m a bit aghast from this situation, and yet again question why/how anyone lives in this city). It was a good movie. I also got a sketchbook today.
Topic I’m currently thinking about: design and art. The two seem to be separate ideas (design can function outside the realm of art, as in designing algorithms), but they are often closely linked. Design seems to about composing elements for better functionality of a whole system. Art also requires the composition of elements, but the functionality of a piece of art is questionable. When we use design in art, what exactly are we designing for- how can you make a more functional piece of artwork? I want to say that a “good” piece of art will be able to communicate the artist’s intent, and so incorporating design into artwork clarifies any message that the artist wants to convey through the artwork. However, that seems like an overly analytical, contrived answer, and it isn’t how I approach my own art. I guess the baseline question to really ask is what art’s function might be. After that, you can ask how to augment art’s function through design.
I’m hoping that Ames will become more charming in the following weeks, but if it hasn’t happened yet, I doubt it will anytime soon. Ames is humid and empty, and moths brush up against my legs at night. It’s not nearly as flat as I wanted, nor nearly hilly enough to be enjoyable.
Weekends without homework are pretty lax (although I really shouldn’t say that… I do have homework! Just a last self-assigned lab). My final grades are coming in, and I’m doing shockingly well for someone who didn’t attend the last two weeks of classes. I’m rethinking my self-imposed full-attendance policy for next quarter.
Got my bike today! It’s been a while since I last biked (probably a few years?), but it does seem like a skill that’s easy to pick up. Can’t say the same for my sketching skills; I think I need to get a sketchbook and some cheap colored pencils tomorrow and start practicing again. Seeing Val work on bikes was really cool- she’s so knowledgable. It might be time for me to start breaking things and putting them together again.
I’m happy! It’s a nice alternative to being stressed. Iowa’s humidity sucks, but the heat is nice. What a warm feeling.
I haven’t yet named my model axolotl, and maybe she’ll remain unnamed. It’s nice to know that in a matter of 2 days, I was able to gain some amount of proficiency in Maya. In terms of the project, today consisted of a bunch of small fiascos: first, we received a second drone from Dr. Stone, but it didn’t have a battery, so I couldn’t work on programming a swarm. Then, I jammed the battery the wrong way into the drone (shoutout to Kevin, apparently the only person among the four of us strong enough to pull out a jammed battery). We also weren’t even able to start with programming facial recognition into the drone because installing different libraries is murder. Today was very unproductive; it’s starting to look like we’ll have to ramp up things next week to make-up for our lack of progress today.
I also got myself into an academic bind- I’m likely going to be a peer mentor for Northwestern’s Intro to Systems class (which is really cool! And I’m very touched that my teacher thinks I understand the material well enough to be a peer mentor). That being said, I don’t have a thorough understanding of the last lab because I was so preoccupied with this REU stuff. The next two weeks, I’ll be working through the lab so I can be a good peer mentor. Basically, I just gave myself homework for another two weeks 🙁 .
I bought a cake today. Weird how when you’re an adult, you need to stop yourself from making impulsive decisions. I didn’t stop myself this time. I’m currently plotting my next impulsive decision. I hope I enjoy the cake over the next week… I also made a vegetable/pasta casserole to eat over the next week. Cooking is an unenjoyable chore. Cleaning up after cooking is almost as bad.
I currently own three different types of milk (rice, almond, and skim). I don’t understand why I live like this.
I got mangoes! I’m very excited to eat them.
I’m thinking about Invisible Man’s description of time as a boomerang. It seems like actions and ideas keep coming back.
Things I learned at Northwestern keep resurfacing throughout this program. Today, Stacy described her research in Bayesian networks, and she gave a brief overview of a couple machine learning algorithms. I understood the academic jargon, and I recognized the directed, acyclic graph from my mathematics of computer science course. In a research paper I read today, they talked about using neural nets to make a predictive VR interface for drones. I’m realizing that my education is relevant, that my teachers are doing a good job teaching me, and that I’m retaining information- the combination of the three is the most shocking.
Progress is slow in the drone project; we all have Go on our computers, and Inshira got a video feed to play on our computers- now we need to find a more convenient way to grab the video to do some processing and put it in an interface (maybe- I think we need to confirm with Tom and Dr. Stone if our project will require a controllable interface). I’m currently thinking that we’ll have to use Python to program the drones. Not too bad, since I had to learn a bit last quarter. I’m trying to figure out how to get two drones to connect via wifi on just one machine- I know it’s possible, but I also know that I have never done this before, and some guidance would be helpful. Days are getting longer at the VRAC now that there’s more time on our own. It’s kind of pleasant, to be able to schedule yourself.
The weather this morning was wonderful. It was windy, heavily clouded, and 60 degrees, just after a lightning storm. I wish all morning walks to the VRAC were quite as nice. I took a picture because I was so pleased.
Kira and I talked about art for a solid hour or so. I also mentioned performance art to Ahmed today. Weird, but I could talk about art all day. I’m wondering what that says about me and what I value.
I’m going to get a good amount of sleep tonight. Just the thought of how rested I’ll be tomorrow morning is bliss.
I was able to catch up on the Bachelorette; I really love manufactured, reality TV drama. Real Drama in my life is always horrific, but television drama is so satisfying to watch. I kind of want to know why, though. I wonder if this would be a good research topic.
The drone project is a bit slow going- I figured out how to correctly install the Go language, but I have a feeling that the Gobot API used to control the Tello drones won’t be enough to actually satisfy this project; we might have to dig even deeper to connect to three drones on one machine. That worries me, but it might also be fun. I just wish there was more substantial documentation out there in the interwebs.
We did some 3D modeling in Maya and Solidworks which was real cool- there’s so many talented people in this program. I want to get good at 3D modeling, so there’s a chance that I’ll be spending a lot of time at VRAC trying to learn it myself. It’d be a good goal to have this summer. I also should get a sketchbook soon- it’s only been one day of academic freedom, and I already find myself itching to draw.
I’m happy! It’s a nice feeling. I’m excited to go in for work tomorrow (what a weird thing to say, but it’s true!).