Games and art

Friday was online games night with my friends. I had a pretty standard day except for trying to troubleshoot my web sites. I still couldn’t log in to the server via SSH. Support from my webhost was not very helpful and I sent several messages back describing the problem and what I’d tried. A friend helped me and said it sounded like the machine was out of processes, so couldn’t launch a shell process when I tried to log in, nor processes to do various tasks.

Besides that I had my usual ethics classes. After the last one, I went out for dinner with my wife to a local Indian place. The samosas there are always good, and this time I tried a pepper chicken dish which I thought I must have had before, but it was different to what I expected, with a creamier sauce, and very nice.

At games night we played Space Base, then Wavelength, and Just One. I think that’s kind of all we got through – everyone seemed to be tired and wanted to end early.

Today I went for a 5k run. it was only 13°C when I went, which is too cold for me! But I managed a good time, just over 27 minutes. After that I cleaned the bathroom and shower cubicle, then worked on some comics for a bit.

After lunch my wife and I took Scully on a long walk over to the Coal Loader, where the local council was holding a local art exhibition and competition. There were mostly sculptures, with a few paintings and audiovisual installations. Some really interesting ones, and some a bit strange – a good mix for art, really.

In good news, it looks like my web server issues have resolved today!

New content today:

An expedition to art

Today is Anzac Day, Australia’s public holiday of remembrance for war dead. I still had ethics classes in the morning, and my wife went out with Scully for a bit while I did those.

When she got home and I’d finished teaching, we went for a drive out to Concord to the premises of the Drummoyne Art Society. The reason was to go see an exhibition which included a couple of works by our ex-neighbour – the one who owns Luna, Scully’s best-poodle-friend. She has an Instagram here where she posts a lot of her art. She does abstract watercolours and told us about the show, so we were keen to go have a look.

My wife had called up yesterday to make sure the exhibition was open on the public holiday, and had been assured that it was. But when we got to the gallery, it was closed. She phoned up to see if anyone would answer and got onto someone who was confused when we said we were at the gallery and it was closed. Eventually they worked out that we had gone to the wrong place! The exhibition was not at the Art Society’s gallery in Concord, but instead at the Drummoyne Civic Centre, a couple of suburbs away! So we drove over there.

It was close to the Drummoyne Bakehouse and we were hungry, so we stopped in there first for lunch. Then we walked back to the Civic Centre and went into the exhibition. There were a couple of hundred or so artworks: oils, acrylics, pastels, pencil, watercolours, and also some digital art. We spent time looking at all of them and there were some very good ones in there. We also got to vote on a “people’s choice” award and picked our favourites.

Then we headed back home and I had a bit of time to do some comics work before my evening ethics classes began at 5pm. I made lentils and rice for dinner during an hour break between classes.

Oh! And I also had time to do stage 6 of the Lego Dungeons & Dragons set build. This is a new section, and so far it’s just the base, which is much larger than the previous building.

Lego D&D set: stage 6

New content today:

Ethics of waste; and Stable Diffusion

Today was the start of a new ethics topic for my online lesson: Waste. I wrote my lesson plan this morning, and did the first three classes tonight. It runs through a series of questions for the kids on: how we handle our waste, is it ever okay to litter, is it okay that some people make a living by waste picking, what can or should governments do to encourage/force people to produce less waste, and whether the global waste trade is okay or not. Towards the end we talk about whose responsibility it is to ensure that toxic waste (including domestic toxic waste such as batteries) is handled correctly, and then talk about nuclear waste. I leave them to think about the problem of designing effective long-term nuclear waste warning messages for future civilisations.

Also today I signed up for another AI art generation application: Stable Diffusion. I spent a bunch of my free credits experimenting with it, and I think I’m of the opinion that it’s not as good as DALL-E, at least for generating the sort of medieval fantasy scenes that I’ve been trying to produce these past few days. No matter what prompt I tried, I simply could not get Stable Diffusion to generate a picture of a castle drawbridge.

New content today:

Double naughty lunch

In a terrible confluence of events:

  1. The last two times I walked to our favourite bakery for lunch, I actually got my meal from the fish & chip shop next door (rather than get a meat pie from the bakery like I have normally done in the past). The fish & chip meals are big, so by the time I finished, I was too full to consider a cake or other sweet treat from the bakery. (Normally when I have a pie, I can have a treat for dessert.)
  2. I went for my 2.5k run early this morning.
  3. So by the time we got to the bakery for lunch I was super hungry.
  4. I said, “Sod it, I’m getting two cakes for lunch.”

This was sheer decadence and probably inadvisable, but I really wanted to do it. I got an apple crumble pie, and a slice of carrot cake. Yep, that was my lunch today.

While eating them, I asked my wife, “Is it okay that I have two cakes for lunch?”

She replied, “Sure! You should do whatever you feel like!” Then a second later she added, “You’re really asking the wrong person, you know.”

I said, “No, actually, I’m asking exactly the right person.” I love that my wife supports me in doing crazy, inadvisable things.

In other news, I spent some time today using all my DALL-E credits before they expired. I decided to use them to make some illustrations for some D&D writing that I have on the back burner, in case I ever find the time to publish it. I gave DALL-E the following prompt:

digital art illustration of a narrow causeway with medieval car traffic, leading to a small island with a castle on it to the coast, like Saint Michael’s Mount, daylight

Now, you may notice the typo: “car” instead of “cart”. I wanted medieval carts. What I got was this:

DALL-E image of cars on a causeway

🙄 That wasted one of my credits. Oh well.

New content today:

Thinking critically about art

I spent much of today writing the new week’s lesson for my online ethics & critical thinking classes. This is more on the critical thinking side – the topic being Art.

I start by showing the kids a picture that “I made”, and I ask them if they would call it “art”. In the three classes I ran tonight, everyone said yes. Then I reveal that I made it by using the online AI art generation program Craiyon. I share the web page live and type in a prompt and show them how it generates pictures. Then I re-ask the question – now that they know the picture was produced by an AI system, is it still “art” or not? Can a computer program produce something that we’re happy to call art”?

Then we talk for a while about the meaning of art. I show a Picasso painting from the Spanish Civil War period, when he produced a lot of artwork with sad imagery. I ask them what feeling they get from it, and many of the kids so far have said sadness. Then I explain why Picasso painted such images, because of his reactions to the war. And ask if knowing that makes them appreciate the art any more. Most of them agreed that it does.

Then I go back and ask is there any possible meaning behind the AI-generated art? If not, does that automatically make it inferior to human-produced art, or not? What if you can’t tell the difference? Does it matter?

And then I go into some possible uses for AI-generated art. And ask the kids what they think it means for the future of human artists.

There’s more to the lesson, diverging into a few other different themes, about destroying art, and whether famous/historical/significant art should be free for the public to view or not. I think it’s a good lesson, and it’s more fun and less stressful for me to teach than last week’s topic on cloning.

New content today:

New Year’s Day 2022

My wife got tired and went to bed early last night. I stayed up a bit later, but still went to bed and finished reading before midnight, although I heard the fireworks going off before I drifted off to sleep.

This morning was a brand new year. It was a moderately warm, but cloudy day. I took Scully out a couple of times, and in between I worked on Darths & Droids comics. I did a bit more random housecleaning stuff, though nothing as major as the last two days. I baked some sourdough. I made enchiladas for dinner.

And we worked with Scully and her Picasso Paws art kit that she got for Christmas!

Scully using Picasso Paws art kit

You place blobs of paint on a small canvas, then seal it inside a ziplock bag which has been smeared with peanut butter on the outside.

Scully using Picasso Paws art kit

The dog then licks the peanut butter, smearing out the paint on the canvas inside the bag.

Scully using Picasso Paws art kit

When done, cut and peel off the bag, revealing the artwork!

Scully using Picasso Paws art kit

It was a lot of fun, especially for Scully, who loves peanut butter. And painting.

New content today:

It almost didn’t rain today

It was actually sunny for much of today, although not very hot – there was a chilly wind blowing for much of the day. I got stuck into writing and making some new Darths & Droids comics.

Besides my now usual 2.5k run, I went out later in the afternoon to take Scully for a walk. It was sunny when we left, but 15 minutes later it was raining! Fortunately it wasn’t too heavy and we didn’t get too wet.

I’ve also been playing a lot with, a website that generates portraits from text descriptions. It’s a lot of fun, and my friends and I have been having fun making blended portraits, such as:

Bilbo Baggins played by Harry Potter:

Bilbo Baggins played by Harry Potter

Or Gandalf played by Queen Elizabeth II:

Gandalf played by Queen Elizabeth II

New content today:

Greenwich Arts Trail

A few days ago my wife mentioned a thing she’d discovered via a local community Instagram account that she started following. A suburb over from us is holding the Greenwich Village Arts Trail this weekend.

This is a group of local artists who live in the suburb, and who have their homes, gardens, and/or studios open for visitors to come and see their work. The organisers published a map showing the locations and a suggested walking route leading past all 22 of the participants.

Since we live walking distance from the area, we sent a few hours today (with Scully) waking from house to house, checking out the art and the talking to the artists. There were a couple of photographers, several painters, a wood sculptor, jewellery and textiles crafters, and a few ceramics sculptors and pottery makers. The whole vibe was very local and friendly, with only up to a dozen or so people at each location at a time, so it was easy to have a chat with the artists. I picked up a bunch of business cards and handed out several of my own with my photography details on them.

I mentioned to some of the artists that I live just in the next suburb – in fact literally across the street from Greenwich – and maybe next year I could get involved and display some of my photography as well. I don’t think they’ll stretch as far as including a non-Greenwich location on the trail, but I may be able to arrange a display space in Greenwich somewhere and participate that way. We’ll see – I’ll contact the organisers and see what they say.

New content today:

Some comic sketching

This morning I had to make an expedition to the hardware store to buy a replacement fluorescent tube for the kitchen light. It dies a couple of days ago, and last night I had to cook dinner in the dark. Well, not complete darkness, but darker than I would have liked.

On the way back, I popped into my local art supply shop to get some new felt tip markers and drawing paper, because I planned to spend today doing some drawing. This is for a secret project which should be completed tomorrow, and which I’ll announce in the next few days. And drawing was pretty much what I did for the rest of the day.

I also walked past this interesting historical plaque embedded in the footpath near the Royal North Shore Hospital.

North Sydney Brick and Tile Company

I’ve waked past this dozens of times, but only stopped to read it today. The area where this is located is still an industrial zone, but no more brickworks.

New content today: