more p5.js

I spent most of a day this week watching p5.js videos by Daniel Shiffman on YouTube. He has long been a favourite coding author of mine, and I have two of his books: Learning Processing and The Nature of Code, which I backed on Kickstarter. His style of delivery isn’t as polished as those on the Introduction to Programming for the Visual Arts course on but I like Dan’s enthusiasm and energy. I was particularly keen to learn about OOPS in p5.js.

As a result of watching Dan’s videos, I now have a sketch for my maze project that generates blob objects at random intervals which then set off in their allocated direction.

My next steps are to:

  • re-watch the section on loading images so I can pick and load a labyrinth path at random
  • re-read the sections in my Processing books on basic trigonometry
  • develop my findTarget() function, which is my attempt at a path-following algorithm
  • upload my sketch to a server so I can have it running live on the web

My copy of Make: Getting Started with p5.js arrived in the post today, so there’s lots to keep me busy over the next week or two.



Thursday, November 26th, 2015 coding No Comments


I’m excited to have discovered p5.js, the recent implementation of Processing in JavaScript. Kadenze is currently running a free UCLA introductory course in it, which I’m enjoying. The prospect of using Processing in a browser environment is great. It would have made the interactive elements of the Erasure exhibition at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery much easier.  I haven’t signed up for the paid version of the course, so I have less direct access to tutors. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to the sessions that cover the elements that p5.js can do that Processing can’t, though with the recent introduction of Processing 3 I’m slightly out of touch with its newest capabilities.

I still have the mandala project ticking away in the back of my head, and the possibility of achieving it online may be sufficient stimulus for me to make some real progress at last, but while writing this very paragraph, an e-mail arrived from Kadenze informing me of a new course starting on graphic illustration. I succumbed and am now enrolled. There was no session this week on the p5.js course so  I thought ‘why not?’ Of course, there are lots of reasons why not, most of them listed on cards on my Trello boards, but it could be interesting and useful. There’s nothing to lose if it doesn’t work out as long as I keep focused on the other things I want to achieve.

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Thursday, November 12th, 2015 coding No Comments

….these just in….

In my recent expedition on Sunday evening, I deliberately avoided photographing the front elevations of famous buildings, but in doing so, I’ve got a series of more or less anonymous shots that leave me feeling underwhelmed. That’s a shame because I enjoyed the experience and I intend to repeat it but there are lessons to be learned for next time (see below).

Some of the later shots have water droplets on the lens catching the streetlights and creating starbursts, lens flare and other unwanted artefacts.
Cambridge After Dark-6

Cambridge After Dark-8

Cambridge After Dark-9

Cambridge After Dark-13

Cambridge After Dark-14

Cambridge After Dark-16

  1. Be ready to pack everything away discretely so I can nip into a pub to use the toilet.
  2. Take an umbrella to hold over the camera.
  3. Shallow depth of field doesn’t look good in low-light images, so use a narrow aperture.
  4. Take the flash gun and long cable for off-camera fill-in lighting.
  5. Take a torch to experiment with light-painting.
  6. Take more time – don’t be in a hurry to get home (see point one).
  7. In the darker areas, keep the shutter open on Bulb setting, and try longer exposures.
  8. Experiment with photographing people.



Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 photography No Comments

the excluded middle

The excluded middle is a logical fallacy, or false dichotomy, often employed by politicians when trying to manipulate people into accepting their (usually extreme) viewpoint. So it’s often useful and revealing to try to spot the excluded middle whenever you realise that someone is trying to persuade you into something.

This got me wondering about the nature of digital, which is often said to consist of 1s and 0s or On and Off. This seems to be a perfect hunting ground for an excluded middle. Here, however, the excluded middle isn’t a mass of fractions or a lukewarm On-ish-ness. I’ve often found myself hung between the digital and analogue, but recently I seem to have reached a tipping point that has emphasised not only the duality but also the precariousness of my balance between the two. So much so, that, rather than the options being digital and analogue, they seem to be virtual or visceral and I feel called still more strongly by the former. My middle ground of hovering between the two no longer seems to be tenable or, to continue the alliteration, viable.

And what has prompted these musings, you ask?

Yesterday, it struck me that, without really being aware of the significance, I had created yet another board to organise my life in Trello. My latest board is for planning our meals for the week ahead. I have a limited repetoire of dishes that I cook, so it made sense to have these on cards in a list then deal them  out to lists for days of the week according to family members’ commitments in a way that reduces repetition. It also links with my groceries shopping list. And where I’ve found a dish on the web and saved it to my Kifi library, I can take a screen clip (Cmnd- Ctrl-Shift-4) and paste it (Cmnd-V) to the appropriate card in my planner. I can even copy and paste the URL to the recipe as an attachment to the card. No other family members collaborate in my Trello boards, but that would be the next pulse on the circuit path to a completely virtual existence.

(Trello tips and tricks courtesy of the Trello Ultimate Board, which was itself included in a set of techniques on the Trello blog.)


Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 digital life, productivity No Comments

another safe return

Sunday evening is still a good time to take photographs in Cambridge after dark, but because the sun set so much earlier than on my last foray, there were a lot more people in the streets. That’s not a problem, but I found myself taking a lot of shots from a low viewpoint, with my tripod set as low as it goes, so I had to keep a look out for people coming round street corners and potentially tripping over me or the tripod. Still, it meant that I chatted briefly to a few people and, by sticking mainly to the streets, rather than the river, there was more available light on this expedition, so my longest exposure was 30 seconds compared to eight minutes last time. I tried a variety of apertures this time, to see how a short depth of field looks in low light photographs, and the wider apertures, of course, reduced the exposure times. The whole trip, taking about sixty shots, was over in three hours and that was mainly because I covered a lot of streets.

I managed to take all of the shots that I’d planned, but I suspect, without having seen the others yet, that the unplanned shots are more interesting. A session of downloading and processing in Lightroom beckons.


Monday, November 9th, 2015 photography 1 Comment

the mote in god’s eye

I went to Addenbrooke’s hospital yesterday morning for a blood test, and walked along the corridor to the food court. I usually enjoy the temporary displays of art along that corridor, but yesterday for the first time, my eye was caught by the first line of a poem written on the wall in large letters. On my return after eating, I noted down the first stanza. It turns out to be the winning entry in a competition written by Robert Sneezum, a staff member. Encouraged by the mention in the poem of the Helix Nebula, I looked it up online, to find the following image, which reminded me of ‘The Mote in God’s Eye’ by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, and it illustrates the last part of the first stanza.


Here’s the first stanza of Robert Sneezum’s poem, ‘Ignoring the Curve of the Earth’ in full:

It may be that the most heartbreaking shards
of beauty in the universe amuse
themselves in endless descent down distant
bleak corridors. Such as ‘The Eye of God’
or Helix Nebula, whose stellar core
ignites a pupil of mute burning blues
in an iris of tremulous orange.


Friday, November 6th, 2015 poetry No Comments

willen park

An unexpected day trip to Milton Keynes resulted in a very enjoyable day out. We walked the labyrinth by the peace pagoda in the park around Willen Lake, to find a deflated hot air balloon draped across the labyrinth path in preparation for an evening flight.

Milton Keynes031_small

It took us nearly an hour to walk the whole way to the centre, a suitably peaceful and serene time, leading to meditation and contemplation. The experience provided me with another labyrinth route to incorporate in my mandala coding project (previously based solely on the turf path in Saffron Walden). Unlike Saffron Walden, though, the Milton Keynes path isn’t unicursal. There are unexplained cross bars joining sections of the path(or emphasising the quadrants, depending on your point of view). I haven’ t yet decided how to handle these in the path-following algorithm, but ignoring them would be simplest.

willen lake maze

I should make it clear that this image was not taken from the balloon flight that evening, it came courtesy of Google satellite view.


Sunday, October 4th, 2015 coding No Comments


Continuing the theme of low-light photography, I cycled to the next village to take some shots of poppies at twilight.



Saturday, June 27th, 2015 photography No Comments

sketching once more

Apart from a couple of sketches of the front of the British Museum in London about four weeks ago, I haven’t done any drawing for a long time. This morning I tried to resume by drawing some budding flowers in our back garden and the parasol as it flapped gently in the breeze.

The concentration involved in sketching seems to be like a muscle that requires practice and repetition, because I felt drained afterwards. The results are certainly not good enough for posting here.

Nonetheless I enjoyed the experience and am resolved to practice.

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 drawing No Comments

the results are in…

I’ve imported my Cambridge After Dark photos to Lightroom and processed them as required, which wasn’t much, mainly slight adjustments to the exposure, and selected a few for publishing:

after dark-1

after dark-4

after dark-11

after dark-14

That was a fun expedition, and the start I’m sure of a new hobby.


Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 photography No Comments