The banner at the top of my blog at the moment (end of October 2023) is a detail from a photograph I took a couple of years ago on Bruntsfield Links, Edinburgh. The banner (cropped a little) :
This was a lovely sunny afternoon in September 2020. I used the photograph as a reference for a painting I completed late last year (November 2022). The painting came out fairly well I think. I've come to terms with how much green there is. I think. The painting :
A detail from the painting :
By Greg Egan
A near future Earth, cut off from the rest of the universe by a "bubble" in space blocking out the stars and any access to the universe beyond the solar system. A future Earth where brain modifications ("mods") are easily bought and installed, giving the user ways of taking a call in their sleep, suppressing boredom or even bringing a visible and audible avatar of a dead partner to life. Maybe an idea installed: something that becomes a central part of who you are. However, this is the least of it in Greg Egan's novel. It gets even stranger: quantum physics strange. What is the quantum wave function and what does it mean when it "collapses"?
If you know what Schrödinger's Cat is, or a bit about Quantum Physics (the strange and sometimes outlandish theory of the subatomic world) you might think you have an understanding of what's in store: you might need to think again.
I enjoyed reading this but must admit that the speculation was tough going on some occasions (also: I have a Physics Degree). Quantum Physics is a very successfully theory of the world but also notoriously difficult to understand on many levels (beyond the mathematical equations). This is definitely not your average "speculative" fiction book, science-fiction or otherwise and Egan has form; he is not afraid to consider the stranger aspects of science and where it leads. It can be mind-bending stuff, so great fun sometimes but also hard to follow on occasion.
This is definitely not a book everyone will like; probably a book only a few will manage to get through perhaps. But for those that like their science-fiction to have harder "science" in it, you can't beat Greg Egan's novels and I would highly recommend you have a look at Quarantine. Especially if you are interested in the ramifications of Quantum Physics.
Almost a followup to the recent post about removing complexity and keeping things simple: a recent post by Julia Evans (a software developer in Canada). She has a video and a transcript of a talk she gave entitled Making Hard Things Easy and makes a case that far too much knowledge is poorly documented and hard to understand. She's primarily talking about technical things, like the Bash Shell or DNS, but the main point is applicable to many other things in normal day to day life and work. This is why we write an "executive summary" on a report. We want to extract the important parts of a (possibly long and involved) document and present them in an easily digested list up front. Fundamentally, it is all about good communication.
"Keep It Simple, Stupid" is often an apt plan in life, not just in your technical endeavours. If something is complicated, it's easier to build badly, or break.. So I will place this "What I Learned Lately" post in the "general" section.
I was looking at the state of the technical back-end of my web site and blog (such as it is), trying to recall how it all fit together: what this or that file (or style) did and where it came from. Most of it is quite simple: the blogging "platform" itself is straightforward (a small CGI script called blosxom), the rest generally static. But I had included some bigger components, a so-called "framework" (Foundation), of which I was only using a tiny portion (barely noticeable really). Also extra fonts, mostly unused but cluttering up the HTML. When you add complexity like this, things can get slower and harder to extend. The final problem was: I barely understood what this extra stuff was or how it worked.
A final thing to note: testing the site to make sure it still worked and looked okay, I came across a lot of my old blog posts. Book reviews, some social comment, galleries and art. It all builds up and is fascinating to read now (to me at least). It's amazing to look back and recall I actually owned a Firefox Smartphone! Unfortunately it didn't work out for the long term. Things are a lot better now of course /s
It's finally open. It's been a long and frustrating wait in many ways, but Scotland's new National Gallery of Art opened its doors to the public for the first time last Saturday. Many delays, some due to the pandemic, and a lot of money spent. But we have something to visit at last and the bottom of the Mound is beginning to look somewhat presentable again (although I have a bit of a complaint: see below).
The new gallery is laid out along the length of the main gallery building, but underneath it. In the photo above, the new extension is all the way at the back, stretching away under the National Gallery building at the far end. Unlike the old spaces for the Scottish collection, the new area doesn't feel so much like a basement now. It's lighter and better laid out.
I like the new gallery and I am very happy that it is finally open. Like many, it was dragging on a bit but you can't argue with the great art work we can finally see again. It makes a big difference to see the paintings in a well lit and more open space. And even though it is hard to integrate with the rest of the gallery space, it's a huge improvement.
The gallery site has a fuller section on Celebrating Scotland's Art.
You can also have a look at a YouTube video which walks you through the space.
I wish they actually cleaned up the mess and litter outside the gallery in real life, rather than just virtually. Council or gallery problem ownership? Also, hooray that the Playfair Steps are also open again.