summer fun/ trip: tech+art+cyber theme

outtathisworld_bobafett_vaderhi all, switching it up with some personal summer news. got to go on a rare trip. hadnt been on a plane or beach in 6 yrs and am happy to break that “dry spell”. went to sandiego/ LA for a week. some tech angles on all that. as my young cohort/ prodigy/ “chip off the old block” says sometimes, it was “jampacked”

was struggling to try to come up with a unifying theme for this post and then thought about this angle. really enjoy the aesthetics of an area/ niche that might be called “tech art”. this is technology mixed with art/ entertainment. its crosscutting across different art forms.

there is some crossover across diverse areas. consider “steampunk” which is now a very recognizable art style. its not easy to characterize but often has lots of metal and maybe some robots. another somewhat related area is “cyberpunk” of which one of the earliest examples was blade runner. ridley scott is famous for this style and his movie had a lot of neon in it. mere coincidence? (spking of coincidence, after writing these words just ran across this great link [10]) also nice cybercoincidence and other circumstantial evidence of its tech factor/ flavor, wired magazine recently did an article on neon.[16]

probably one of the best museums in the country for neon is Museum of Neon Art in Glendale california.[4] it used to be in downtown LA but moved to a great new space. my visit was not long but it was enough to take in all the neon. while all very enjoyable/ awesome, alas, a lot of signs were not lit; its very challenging to keep them all going. we got a brief tour of their glassblowing(bending) studio by a hardcore acolyte (who mentioned tourists had recently accidentally and/or carelessly broken ~3 signs on display). @#$% 😳 obscure history factoid: real life mad scientist tesla was one of the 1st to work with luminosity via electrified gases in tubes. the attendant gave credit to geissler who was a near-contemporary.

typed “neon” to look for neon museum into google maps and then through momentous (cyber)synchronicity and magic autocomplete, “neon retro arcade” popped up in results in downtown pasadena, and decided to try it out. it was great and two hours melted by in an instant! its a new business and hope they can stay around for the long run, but its very challenging for arcades to do so, probably there are only a few left in the whole country esp those with pinballs.[3]

another area of “tech art” are pinballs. there were pinball arcades before there were video game arcades, and one morphed into the other, but now both are rare. its great that enthusiasts and collectors are still keeping it alive. got to sample a great selection of both again at rocky mtn pinball expo. esp enjoy all the beautiful women portrayed in comic-art-like form on the cabinets.[5]

the machines change every year but was very lucky to get to play a real live berzerk game again. there was an old inspiring newspaper article about alan mcneil the developer, maybe chicago tribune, syndicated and clipped out & handed to me by my relative, that read around ~10yrs old and it helped inspire me to be a software developer/ engineer (alas cant find it again, still searching even google has limits, its maybe not online anywhere). he signed the cabinet, a relatively rare case where the designer was credited in the game/cabinet. the game also had the 1st voice synthesis on a video game and rumors are it cost them $1K per word.[11]

another area of tech art: (3d) metal sculptures. these seem to be popular at comiccon and some other art festivals and sometimes draw big crowds. found an outstanding selection at the Titanic Boutique on venice beach. best have ever seen (and have seen very many over the years eg at denver comiccon/ denver cherry creek arts festival & elsewhere).

it didnt seem to credit the builder. who was it? some nameless/ anonymous/ mysterious/ playful master artisan/ welder who apparently prefers to remain nameless. one of the store owners? dont know. they dont have much info on their own web site but via google did find another web site that had some pics. think these guys are missing out & should sell the sculptures online. (alas, thinking ahead on that, they probably would run into trouble wrt copyright infringement of many popular characters joyfully/ lovingly duplicated without regard to crushing legalities.) the web page & photos by kristen nedopak are helpful but dont give justice to the incredible inventory/ diversity.[1]

arrived at nearby caltech campus on a whim without any plan at all and no tour guide and very limited time! luckily eventually managed to get the “self guided tour” pdf to load on an inexpensive android phone and was off and running.[2b] as recommended in the guide, spent a little time at the caltech bookstore which (somewhat like barnes & noble succumbing to recent trends) had curiously few books, but quite a few computers on display/ for sale, and bought a new biography of feynman. they had substantial shelfspace dedicated to feynman, a one-of-many testament to the enduring legacy of a genius who died ~3 decades ago now. it was fun to walk around the campus and read some of the history and imagine the greats who lived there; as noted in the guide even einstein spent 3 months one year there. feynman is legendary for his visionary interest/writing in nanotechnology and quantum computing. a famous micromachine that worked for years is on display at caltech.[2][14]

petersen auto museum, tesla autopilot

also in the theme of “tech art” another museum that was unexpectedly outstanding was the petersen auto museum in LA. they have a new space and the cars/ displays are absolutely phenomenal and am guessing this museum is nearly the best in the world of its type! they have very high quality digital projectors stitched together displaying various clips/ montages/ histories. big gift shop. enjoyed the tieins with hollywood movies. they had a back-to-the-future delorean and many other awesome/ inspiring/ futuristic cars. there was even a 3d printing design area with a running printer actively molding a prototype.[6]

fantastic! there is not a huge connection with CS technology on 1st glance. but on 2nd glance, as andreeson said, “software is eating the world” and automotive technology is at the top of the list eg with increasing electronics/ chips/ computerization of cars over the decades, and the big kahuna, driverless cars! they did not exactly have an exhibit that emphasized that but there was one glass case display that hints at it by showing the evolution of auto dashboard components over the many decades incl radios etc.

which reminds me, right around my vac there was a big commotion over that recently in the news re a car crash/ fatality in a autopiloted tesla car & saved a bunch of links for some later writeup, the media really “kicked into high gear” on that one so to speak. (apparently) the crash happened wks ago but the autopilot angle didnt emerge until a few wks later from a filed accident report. have long thought its “an accident waiting to happen”. LA times had some really great articles & they contrasted teslas approach to googles. a great study in engineering vs the real world.

some cars embody the tech art fusion also, one that comes to mind immediately is Knight Rider, a science fiction look at automotive technology + AI which has a whole mythology behind it. that reminds me also of the jetsons. did they have driverless cars? it would be fun to look at the history of driverless cars & AI technology in movies & tv shows. another famous case is Total Recall with Schwarzenegger.[13]

its interesting how all these “tech art” areas somewhat intersect in various ways esp maybe converging with pinballs. think that some pinballs may have neon (but cant think of an example… its in the art, but maybe its too energy consuming or fragile/ sensitive to embed in the pinballs?) and often have car themes, and of course movies also. the pinballs portray other various “tech art” themes like scifi/ robots/ cars etc. and also neon is routinely used in cases by the super pc gamer “modding” community.

another neat area of tech art: kinetic sculpture. saw a great one at the kid section of the rh fleet sandiego science museum with billiard balls. think there may be an artist in the area who has done very many, because saw a similar one at an area mall many years ago, and recall successfully googled the builder at the time, but cant find it again. the museum coincidentally had a science fiction exhibit with old original science fiction copies on display, mass refs to pop culture/ Star trek/ Philip K Dick etc! one neat standout item right from cutting edge robotics/ datamining/ AI/ ML technology was an animated robot face that did facetracking on the viewer and determined emotion on their face, and mimicked it with its own actuators![7][15]

another very honorable mention, Zachmann kinetic ball sculptures are unique/ unrivalled and the best in the world. have seen them several years running at the denver cherry creek arts festival.[8]

re cyberpunk/ steampunk art quite similar to the Titanic metal art, another one of my all time favorites is Christopher Conte, discovered him years ago in a 2008 wired article.[16][17]

isnt it great how much tech+art crosspollinate? didnt even think of all that until writing out this post. oh yeah that reminds me of one of the most ancient mechanisms of all, the stunning antikythera mechanism sometimes called “the worlds 1st [analog] computer” about ~2K years old and have scattered links on it all over this blog.[9]

hey, look at that! this post is now essentially a virtual museum. (yikes!) 😮

vac + android + google maps

another tech/ vacation angle: bought a new LG android phone for a $10 loyalty card deal last summer or so, it was marketed to kids with a spongebob theme. used smartphone google maps for the 1st time heavily to navigate on an LA road trip. it was brilliant/ phenomenal and an utter failure at the same time! it mostly worked amazing flawlessly such as even tracking live road conditions (delays/ accidents!) and seamlessly indicating/ calculating delays and alternate routes based on them, and full voice guidance! … (& what is her name, anyway? who did her voice? amazingly google does not currently find the answer…)

in fact, quite mysteriously! is google linking up to live state or federal data on highway conditions? satellites are not sufficient for live conditions because they only pass overhead intermittently (say a few times a day). how does it track accidents and delays? are there road cameras, where are they/ how common, and are they tracking/ calculating car/ traffic density autonomously without humans? (aka algorithms?) would like to se more detail on that, and sure the whole story is quite complex, google ought to do a documentary or something!

except once getting screwed up on the way to the petersen museum. 😮

have no idea at all what messed it up. was it recalculating? it seemed to be “thrashing” between different obscure streets in near downtown LA, heavy traffic, with me at the wheel the whole time! 😮 needed to stop and do a sanity check instead of blindly trusting it but was cognitively fully tied up trying to not run/ crash into anything! it would be amusing/ helpful to have been able to save that calculation (eg url!) and figure out/ reverse engineer why it failed so badly. a sort of nightmare technology scenario. california/ LA driving in particular is sort of the ultimate test for realtime mapping apps.

also having trouble figuring out how to use the “search nearby” feature in google maps which would have been very useful. it popped up once or twice by accident but not sure how to trigger it, is there even a button? they have a way to proximity search for basic categories eg restaurants/ gas but couldnt figure out how to arbitrary search.

digital map apps are still really funky/ uneven/ both polished/ unpolished at times right now (“one extreme to the other” a seeming theme around me sometimes), there are different apps. you have google maps run from browser, a google maps android app, theres also an iphone/ ipad apple mapping app, and they all have different user interfaces, and googles map interface seems to me both brilliant (sound navigation!) and lame (which @#$& button does what?) at the same time.

had all kinds of ideas on how to improve the user interface. maybe some of these are already possible but cant figure it out yet

  1. save calculated routes for later review ie “route search history”
  2. button or voice cmd to “repeat last instructions/ give current status”
  3. better interface to “search nearby this location for arbitrary/nearest [x]”


(7/14) (links starting at [b]) have been near-enviously reading surfing magazines for many years. surfers have a great spirit/ culture which can relate to in many ways, they are very enthusiastic/ mostly “unjaded” about their sport, natural environmentalists, some top athletes into fitness and exercise, big sense of humor,[15][16] and “as much as possible” like to disconnect from/ evade the “rat race” aka “matrix” that forms/ shapes/ constrains most “typical” middle class lives.

ok, its a bit of a stretch for a tech blog, but do have a small )( tech angle here. the internet is really great for researching any vac activity and the info helped me get over my natural apprehension and qualms on this tricky endeavor, and was successfully able to “surf” without knowing any other surfers or lessons (it was ok for me but dont necessary recommend this for others!).

this involved finding the nearest great legendary surf shop with rentals and fascinating blog tracking some of its history incl 3-part video profile on the founder,[1][1b] understanding the conditions at the chosen attack site in minute/ up-to-the-minute detail etc and even a live highdef camera![14][2] in fact top site “surfline” had a staggering 12K pictures of the beach in question and actually skimmed through 1K of those just for fun one time.

its clear the internet has had a big effect/ impact on many sports and surfing is definitely one of them. wikipedia had some helpful basic info incl that the beach is ok for “beginners” but is also known as a “high performance wave”.[12] was nervous about trying to find the exact wave location but google maps was astonishing in that its satellite photos of the spot actually identifiably depict the individual surfers/ layout in the shot![13]

google is really good for finding history on particular locations and this beach is quite eventful/ colorful even with some dark/ scary side not far away, a bold/ adventurous sport not for the faint of heart! as one person said in a news article “this isnt disney”.[3][4][5]

and just to add some major zing to the whole thing, there was even some really cool internet near-legend associated with the beach namely a shark sighting about ~5yr ago with photographic evidence, and other eyewitness reports.[6][7][8][9][10][11] but that report was controversial within the surf community. it made nevertheless near-viral international news and reportedly made the front page of a british newspaper (but even with the wonder of google, am having trouble specifically locating that! even in our info/data-age, some things still do tend to get lost in the “sands of time”!).

➡ overall it was a very busy/ eventful trip (12 days, 2 wknds, 1 the 4th of july!) and am grateful for it! seems like a distant dream already… (hey whens my next trip/ vac anyway?) 😀 ❤ 😎 ⭐


b. surf

2 thoughts on “summer fun/ trip: tech+art+cyber theme

  1. gentzen

    I think I read that article on July 6, but I have the impression as if it would be much longer now. And by this I mean more than just the text following the “(7/14)” mark (which I interpret as July 14).

  2. Pingback: collatz summer vac | Turing Machine

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