Posts in Category: Uncategorized

fireworks for Independence Day

Derry fireworks have gotten really good, last year were great too. Here are some photos where I was trying to use a pull focus technique to make make fireworks look kinda “flowery”. Mixed results, but this handful of photos were pleasing. The horrible cropping is because we were really close to the show—I had considered bringing the 14mm, but second guessed myself.

one of the better “flowery” results

pulling out of focus instead of into focus is neat too, but this is the only one

the 50mm field of view is a bit too narrow

a bit washed out—not sure why I didn't crop this one to center

sparkling fireworks leave dotted lines!

something dreamy about this one

some good colors on this one—also filled up the frame nicely

nice colors—you can see that I pulled it into focus and then back out again

this might be my least favorite

sea-urchin-esque

I also tried the Lytro Illum, which I bought last week. I was pretty sure it wouldn't work very well & it turned out I was right. It doesn't handle low light very well (and I'm completely spoiled with the α7sii & an F/1.4 primary), but worse, it doesn't capture any depth at such a large distance. So I have a few of those photos but I won't bother sharing them.

Instead these last two photos have tilted focal planes, rather than a pull-focused-exposure.

instead of the “flowery” effect this has a simple tilted focal plane

another tilted (rather than focusing) shot—tiny fireworks?

After feeling a bit disappointed that the flowery effect wasn't working well I decided to just record video, so these are the last 14 minutes of the show (which was about half an hour long total). It's kind of a lot to watch, so I recommend skipping to ~4 minutes 50 seconds where I play with the focus.

With the longer exposures I had to close the aperture quite a bit, so the “flowery” effect is pretty limited. (I figure I'll cut some polarizing filters to cut the light down so I can open it back up.) The video demonstrates just how big the bokeh can really be. (I had the same problem recently trying to photograph planes at Logan Airport. That'll be another use for the polarizing filters.)

Before the show I wandered around town a bit looking for interesting things to photograph. The one thing that really caught my attention was how this vine was climbing this guy wire.

For some reason power lines & telephone polls, and electrical equipment, have always been favorite photographic subjects for me.

vine climbing a telephone guy wire

At first I thought the vine only went so far up, & then the wire unwound beyond that, but now I think it's all just the vine

Earlier in the day my brothers', their wives, and my nephew, came to my mom's house. Here's my nephew Max (and his mom Nicole is next to him in the background).

understanding fractals from 3Blue1Brown

really like the idea of defining humankind in terms of our tendency to produce artifacts with integer dimension rather than a fractal dimension.

I've learned about fractals a number of times, including in college math classes and my own curiosity. And I've seen labels of fractional dimensionality but never given the requisite attention needed to understand what they meant. This video did that for me.

And I can't get over the influence these easy-to-follow explanations of powerful ideas of thinking about the world might have on the next generation.

Stephen Hawking died today. He was diagnosed with ALS when he was 21, and given 2-3 years to live, but he died today at age 76. I thought I remembered hearing all sorts of weird coincidences about birthdays, including that Stephen Hawking was born on (I thought) Newton's date of death. Turns out it was Galileo's date of death. But I thought there was more to it, like that Newton was born on Galileo's date of death, but that isn't true. But Hawking did manage to die on Einstein's birthday, kind of a closed time-like loop, ha. It's also pi day, since 3.14 = March 13th. I watched a Attenborough documentary earlier tonight, about a supercolony of ants that have conquered much of a mountain somewhere. I've heard about supercolonies elsewhere, I think maybe it's two species of Argentinian ants that seem to be taking over the world? Anyway, these ants had a lot of interesting feats. Like they harvest a sweet nectar substance from aphids, which they farm. And their larger scale cooperation and many queens (even within a single nest, of the hundreds or thousands of nests). Attenborough asked (maybe rhetorically?) if we are witnessing a step in evolution where ants evolve wide-scale cooperation, which he then points out humans discovered some time ago. (Ha! For years I've kept a list on wikipedia of interesting science facts (it could use a lot of cleanup), including:

A number of ant species farm fungus, thought to have discovered agriculture 50-65 million years ago, long before humans. The most advanced ant farmers (leaf cutter species) farm a fungus that exists no where on Earth besides their farms, an example of mutualism. There are also species of ants who "milk" aphids, and protect the aphids while they feed.

(Reading that now I feel like “ant farmers” is probably normally misinterpreted to mean “humans who have ant farms” when I meant it to read “ants that are farmers”. I guess I should fix that.) It's entertaining to think of larger-scale cooperation as something that we might have beaten the ants to! Though even with our head start, they still might beat us to the punch. We haven't quite yet achieved complete cooperation with one another the world over, but we seem to be progressing in that direction,  mostly (certainly far more than at any other time in history). But I bring all that up to say I have a far greater emotional attachment to David Attenborough than I did to Stephen Hawking, despite the fact that my education is in physics and I've always considered my interest in biology to be more armchair curiosity than formal study. Granted, I always did well in biology classes and I never actually studied anything Hawking worked on, and much of it is over my head because I have no formal education in general relativity anyway. So it shouldn't really be that surprising.

Update: After posting this that Attenborough documentary on ants was taken down via a copyright claim from the Australian Broadcasting Network! So disappointing!

concentric circle origami

I recently finished the second cycle of the clinical trial I'm participating in. I'll have a bone marrow biopsy on Tuesday and about a week later the results will be the first indication of how well I'm responding to the treatment, which will probably guide future treatment. I've mostly tolerated it well—at times feeling crappy, and I seem to have some very slight neuropathy issues recently in my finger tips and toes, but mostly feeling pretty well. (Though lots of blood transfusions recently too.)

Besides that I've been working on more curved crease origami, along with trying to model it in 3D.

In mathematics, a developable surface is a surface that can be flattened out into a plane. Since origami starts with a flat sheet of paper, and paper doesn't squash or stretch, the results of origami must too be a developable surface. Ruled surfaces are surfaces that can be constructed with straight lines. The hyperbolic paraboloid (also called a hypar) is a ruled surface, but not developable. The cylinder (without end caps) is both developable and ruled.

Folding concentric circles into a piece of paper seems to be both a developable surface (or at least a close approximation of one), and an approximation of a hypar. It makes me wonder if there is some kind of limit or something we could move towards, maybe as the distance between the concentric circular creases goes towards zero.

This is the second piece I've made with vinyl, it is very similar to the first but with the width of each concentric strip about 30% smaller. In the first one I put a sheet of aluminum foil between the two self adhesive vinyl layers, this time I tried a sheet of plastic. I've also been considering trying fabric and cheesecloth. I have three more sets of scored vinyl waiting to be assembled (stuck together probably with a layer of something between them) and folded. Two are variations of nested circles (not completely concentric), and one is two spirals—one forming all peaks and the other forming all troughs.

I suspect that the creases should each lie on the intersection of a hypar and a sphere. I've been working on making 3D models of it recently, and can tell it isn't quite right yet, but believe it is getting close.

My next attempt will be entirely programmatically I think, inside blender with python.

the Orionid Meteor Shower

I set up my camera to try and capture meteors on October 21st, pointed it in the direction of Orion, and took video for 5-20 minutes at a time (mostly going back in the house to avoid the cold).

In total I think I had around an hour and a half of footage. But who wants to star at a screen for an hour, looking for meteors? So instead I stacked the frames, in groups of 500, and looked for indicative streaks—and I spotted 6 of them! Since it was originally 4K, I cropped each of them to 1920x1080, and about 10 seconds, and put them together into this video:

Before these 6 meteors I had only caught one other, back in the Summer, the night before I was due to return the rented lens. I was trying to spot the Andromeda Galaxy (because what else are you going to do with such a telephoto lens?) and I happened to catch a meteor streaking near the Pleiades star cluster (I think?).

The Geminids are due to peak this Wednesday/Thursday (13th/14th) night (best around 1 am), and I was working on modifying a styrofoam cooler to keep my camera warm, but I'm skeptical it'll be done in time.

The American Meteor Society has a list of all the meteor showers and where to look for them.

long Time No Update!

Haven't updated since... May 25th‽ Lots has happened, my appoints went from weekly, to every other week, to monthly (next week will be my second monthly appointment). I think my next bone marrow biopsy is around a year, so mid to late November. I've had a few therapeutic phlebotomies (bleedings) so far, but I'll probably need to continue them for a bit over a year. 

Went to Wyoming (flew to Chicago with Collin, where we met Corey, and we drove to Wyoming!) to see the solar eclipse in August. All I wanted for my birthday was for the Sun to block out the Moon for about two minutes, and I got it!

Also, we watched the eclipse on a hilltop in Wyoming, on a lake shore, with about 10 other people, I think maybe all of them were from Colorado. Jenny was one of them, she left a comment on my main page, and then I did something that messed up the comment section on the main page, and I haven't figured out how to fix it yet.

I spent a lot of time trying to motion stabilize the footage of the eclipse, with mixed results. I shot it in 4K with a Sony A7S ii and a 150-600mm Sigma lens (with a Canon to Sony E-mount adapter) I rented from lensrentals.com. I used opencv to find circles, but that didn't quite work as well as I hoped. Then I used contour detection, with fairly good results. And then there is the issue of cropping. A month has already gone by since the eclipse, so I've set that aside and the video is here now.

And the plane crossing it, that was incredible! In the video, shortly after the eclipse starts, the screen goes black. I was watching the LCD when that happened, and my first thought was, "did the camera just die‽ how could it die right now‽" You can hear, I think Collin, saying how the plane is headed straight for it. I looked at the lens and saw that the breeze had blown the solar filter back in front of the camera, and I managed to flip it back off the lens just in time to get the plane crossing. Later Collin looked up flights for that area and we found two commercial flights that went directly over us during the eclipse, and in the video there are, I think, a couple times where you hear someone mention there are two planes. Collin once, and one of the other women later I think. She also says something about how the plane looks like it's steering to see the eclipse, and I think at the time both Collin and I thought she meant they had flown into the shadow, and we figured that was planned. But looking at the flight paths later, it looked as if one of the planes banked sharply to one side, then the other, and then back again, possibly to show the passengers? The result looks like a big bump in the flight path, which otherwise is headed north east to south west across the country. 

I ended up buying the Sony I rented, and they're notorious good at shooting video in low light (the reason I rented it). The night before I returned the lens I decided to look for Andromeda, and I didn't know how easy it is to spot. The app I was using to look for it was so filled with stars I had trouble orienting it right, and decided to look at the Pleiades star cluster first, and I happened to catch a meteor on camera.

Recently I've been working on another variation of minesweeper again, and I just now learned a little tiny bit more of Swift, which is actually what prompted me to post. I figured if I write about what I learned I'd be more likely to remember it. It involves the concept of in-out parameters for functions. I had run into them in the past, but didn't understand what they were doing, but the examples I just read were clear. 

I also started by trying to figure out what was meant by some code, a class named Array2D<T>, which it turns out is a generic type. Generic types (apparently) let you write code that will be more flexible than normal, like the way an array type can take integers, floats, strings, etc., as members, that's what makes them generic. The explanation of generic types involved in-out parameters, which if my understanding is right, are sort of like functions that will change the values of parameters. I think they're kind of like a shortcut of having a function return modified values and setting the variable you pass into the function equal to the returned value. To use an in-out parameter you must write inout after the parameter name in the function declaration, and when you call it you use an ampersand to denote the inout variable. Here's the documentation for in-out parameters. And here is the documentation for generic types.  (Generic code I guess.)

I also revisited an idea I've had for a long time, and worked on quite a bit a few years ago, involving trying to generate point clouds from a video with a pull focus. I managed to get an iPhone app working that would perform a pull focus, and then wrote some opencv code to pull out the in-focus parts, but it does a terrible job. After the bad first attempts I remembered how years ago I read about a simple method for focus stacking (a related problem), that consisted of blurring the photo and subtracting the blurred result from the original. The idea being that the in-focus parts change the most during blurring, and the out-of-focus parts don't change much, so the result is mostly the parts that were in focus. But the results of that were pretty horrendous too. I also had the color off when I made the video below. 

When I return to it again I'll try implementing something like the contrast-based approach to autofocusing. I suppose something I should keep in mind is that, ideally, each pixel will result in only one point, so I really want to look through the "column" of pixels (a single pixel over the duration of the video), and select the one with the highest contrast? That doesn't sound terrible...

Current Events

So I haven't written any updates in a quite a while again. Things have been going well. I had my first therapeutic phlebotomy (blood letting!) a couple weeks ago and it went fine, turns out they take about 500 mL, and they'll keep doing that monthly as long as I am healthy and iron levels remain high. The actual procedure only took maybe 10 minutes, but then there was some waiting before and after, mostly to make sure I felt okay. 

They also made an appointment for me to get an IVIg (intravenous immunoglobulin) infusion in another few weeks. I guess immunoglobulin is the antibody our immune systems use to attack invaders, and it's pretty common for post-transplant patients to have low levels, so this is all still pretty routine. 

They started giving me vaccinations too, which they had told me I would need eventually, around 6 months post transplant (which is about where I am). 

Otherwise things seem to be proceeding about as well as can be expected. They've been reducing the immunosuppressants and I'm on pretty low levels now. I think I've had very minor signs of graft-vs-host, some rashes on the backs of my hands that come and go over the course of a few days. Last fall, before the transplant, I was watching videos and reading about the process, and many patients mentioned how some small signs of GvHD are encouraging because it means the new immune system is working, and there is even a graft-vs-tumor effect whereby the grafted immune system can attack any leukemia cells that remained. 

The one minor weak point is that I still haven't gained any weight, but my appetite is pretty much back to normal, I just need to focus more on eating more constantly. Small meals still but more frequent.

Outside of health issues, I renewed my drivers license finally! And I've been working on modeling polyhedra of all sorts, and getting many more models printed. Right now I have some earrings and pendant designs being made, hopefully this iteration is nice enough that I can start making them for sale!

These are some of the objects I've been working on: stellated polyhedra derivativespolyhedra addiction, and crisscrossed tetrahedron

I also started working on a game involving hyperbolic geometry, but I quickly realized I didn't know enough of the geometry to make what I needed, so I have to go back and learn a lot more before I can return to that.

The Trimmed Progeny of a Small Stellated Dodecahedron

I think this started as a dodecahedron, then small stellated... this seems right though. Except maybe I should try to smooth out the remnants of the haircut.

An End Within Sight

So my ANC has started to bounce back the last few days, 0 to 40 to 30 to 80 to 90 and then 160 today, and so I'll probably be going home sometime in the next few days, maybe Wednesday Thursday or Friday (not likely tomorrow).

I had an infection last week, my temperature briefly spiked to about 102, so they put me on antibiotics and started taking blood cultures to look for bacteria — usually when they've done that for past fevers they never find anything, in this case they found two species of bacteria, one associated with the guts and the other associated with the skin. I had bit my lip kinda bad a few days earlier, and possibly burned a little bit of my lip and tongue on some hot dinner, so it's possible that was part of it. But my PICC (the catheter that goes in my arm to deliver the chemotherapy drugs more directly into my blood stream, near my heart), started feeling sore so they pulled it out and figured it might have developed an infection, which is where the skin species of bacteria might have come from. It also developed a clot, superficial, but for a while kind of uncomfortable. They're not really worried about it being a problem, I guess pumonary embolisms tend to be clots in your legs that dislodge and travel to your lungs, often causing serious problems. Being in my arm, and not being so bad as to actually block blood flow out of my arm, are good signs it shouldn't be as troublesome. But as a result I'll have to stay on an anticoagulant until my body naturally destroys the clot with enzymes. (To prevent the clot from getting bigger as my platelets return.) So I'm not real excited about that.

The other thing I'm a bit bummed about is they're saying I'll have to stay on IV antibiotics for a few more days, till Monday, so they'll probably want to put another PICC in me to deliver the antibiotics, instead of the perhiphial IV they're using now. I'm still trying to convince them if the IV is still working when I leave that should be enough, but we'll see. The IV nurse who put it in took some extra steps to make it better, like using an ultrasound to find a bigger vein, and putting a special dressing on it to help kill bacteria, like they normally would with a PICC. And the nurses have been keeping me on a slow drip of saline to keep the vein open. Still, the doctor didn't seem very open to the idea.

I'm not sure about the longer term plans. This morning the doctor said they'd probably have me come in for one more outpatient biopsy to make sure I'm clean before going to Boston for the transplant process. Which made me a little nervous that with all the time in between I could get stuck in this perpetual state of needing re-induction chemotherapies, which cause complications, which delay the transplant, which gives more time for the leukemia cells to return — but I'm pretty sure that's just fear getting the best of me. It must be pretty obvious to them the importance of getting to the transplant as soon as possible.

In any case, I'm anxious to get it started, I don't want it to be delayed any more. 

So most of the last week I felt pretty immobilized, the last few days I've started to come out of that, eating solid food again (I was avoiding it for a while, it was irritating my tongue and lip too much). Now that I'm feeling more normal again I'm trying to get going with programming again, to explore some cellular automata type approaches to drawing, and if I can figure that out maybe I'll start pursuing the variations to minesweeper I had been contemplating for the last couple years. If only for my own entertainment. 

I'm feeling pretty burnt out about politics — I wish I didn't feel so obligated to be vocally political, but if Hillary loses I'll blame myself for not doing more early on. And it would be so great to see a Supreme Court dominated by justices that value reality over ancient superstitions (Scalia believed the devil exists and was trying to actively discourage people from belief in his god). It'd be nice to see them stand up for voting rights, for the right to abortion, and gay rights, healthcare, firearms, campaign finance, and on and on... My whole life it's been a sharply divided court, mostly along the party lines of the presidents who appointed them. With Scalia dead, Ruth Bader Ginsburg 82, and two more justices aged 78 and 79, it seems possible the next president will appoint as many as four new justices. It'd be depressing to see them be the expression of the same tired old ideas that should have been dead and buried last century.

Anyway, rant over.

An Upcoming Third Round

My updates have been infrequent lately, I suppose because I don't think there has been much to report. 

I had a folllowup appointment yesterday, my platelets and ANC have recovered well, which is nice, but my hemoglobin remains low, which just means I tire easy, and get a little dizzy when I first stand up, or take too many deep breaths in a row.

On Friday, July 1st, I met with the transplant doctor and her team, in Boston, to begin learning about the entire transplant process. She figured it'd begin in about six weeks, after they've checked me out thoroughly and decided I'm ready. I need to get a dentist appointment to make sure my mouth is in good shape before we begin. And they don't really like going more than I think she said 8 weeks between consolidation chemotherapies and the transplant process, so I'll be back at Dartmouth Hitchcock next week, probably Thursday, maybe Wednesday, for another round of consolidation. Mostly the consolidation chemotherapies have been pretty tolerable, though the complications afterwards — the nosebleed the first time and the fever the second time — resulted in a lot of unpleasant experiences. It feels like each one is teaching me to be more cautious about some aspect following the chemotherapy. After the nosebleed we took some extra precautions to keep my nose clean and less likely to bleed, now I'm going to take further precautions in the weeks my ANC bottoms out, make sure to wear a mask anytime I'm in public and so on.

The transplant process is going to be much longer, and tougher, than what I've been doing for consolidation. The chemotherapy will be much more potent, as it's intention won't just be to keep my immune cells somewhat suppressed, but to actual wipe the immune cells out more completely, in preparation for a donor immune system to take hold. Typically this process requires three or four weeks of hospitalization, after they wipe out the immune system, receiving the donor immune system is basically like a blood transfusion. Then hopefully it grows into my bone marrow, and begins to provide me with a new immune system. There is some concern about the new donated immune system attacking me as if I were a foreign invader, that's called graft-vs-host-disease, or GvHD, it's similar to the kinds of rejection they worry about with organ transplants, only in that case it is the recipient's immune system attacking the donated organ, in my case it'd be the donated organ attacking other stuff. The main targets tend to be the skin, the lungs, and the liver, and the doctors will provide some treatments if I show signs of those problems. I saw a video a while back on bethematch.org where people who've gone through this said it's actually good to have some minor symptoms of GvHD, because it means the donated immune system is working and taking hold, and there is even an effect called graft-versus-tumor, where the new immune system attacks the old one and helps kill off any remaining cancerous blast cells. There is about a 10-15% chance that the process kills me, and about a 50-60% chance that it cures me. I didn't ask, but I think that remaining 25-40% chance that I survive the donation process but the leukemia returns, at that point we start discussing other treatment options, I suspect probably clinical trials because I think this is the only real standard way to treat aggressive leukemias at the moment. 

So that's where my adventures in health are at the moment. Mostly a high degree of uncertainty, some unpleasant future stuff, but I'm glad to be born at a time when we know at least somewhat how to deal with this problem, and not decades or centuries ago when it would have just killled me right away.

Other than that I've been skipping around between projects, trying to focus on some experimental camera app idea. I got a lot of photos of the Fourth of July fireworks with my app trippygram, which I've been sharing on Instagram. I also made a snowflake gallery, though it's terribly mismanaged, I need to delete about a hundred photos probably. At least the ones that are very similar to one another. I got tired of sorting through them trying to decide which was better. 

The Last Few Weeks

So I haven't updated in a while, sorry about that.

Two weeks ago, on Friday the 17th, I measured a fever taking my temperature before bed — I wanted to go to bed so bad, it was 1 in the morning and I had been up at 730 for doctors appointments, things were mostly okay but I kept needing blood transfusions, I had had one that Friday, along with both blood and plasma transfusions both previous Thursdays and that previous Monday. So I had been up pretty early (for me) for a few days, and really wanted to go to bed, but I measured my temperature multiple times and mostly got above 100.4 F, which is where they want me to call and go to the emergency room, in case I have an infection. (Because without an immune system an infection could grow out of control quickly, and without many white blood cells I probably won't even show many signs of infection, no inflammation really.)

So they put me on really strong antibiotics for a while, my fever went away after a few days, but they wanted to keep me until my ANC had returned to at least 400. On Sunday I calculated it to be 504, so they sent me home. I tried plotting all the measurements I could find for how my ANC had changed over previous weeks and treatments, and this one fit pretty well in those ones. Though some of the antibiotics I was on most of the week, I think they said they can actually have a supressive effect on my immune system, so we were kinda tugging in both directions. 

Anyway, I'm all better now. Out of the hospital. Platelets went from like 27 to 50 in the last couple days at the hospital, so I'm not worried about bleeding, but my hemoglobin was still pretty low and I can definitely feel myself getting easily winded by just a little moderate exercise. Because I was in the hospital all week I had to move my appointment in Boston, where I'll start to get to know the doctor doing the transplant. So I'll meet her this Friday instead. Which meant I also pushed back a bunch of appointments for this Friday in Lebanon to next Friday. Last time (two Fridays ago) I met with a doctor I didn't know well, who thought we might do a third round of consolidation chemotherapy in a few weeks. I wasn't expecting that but the previous two rounds have been fairly easy, to I'm not too concerned about it. Apparently the chemotherapy for the bone marrow transplant is more severe, and is more likely to be another month in the hospital, so I'm trying to mentally prepare for that I think.

Now I'm working on another toy I started designing a few years ago, one that will need a few test prints I think, which is what held me up before.