Nature vs. Human — Two very different types of lines

No judgment here as far as one type of line being better than the other. They’re just very different.

And each beautiful in its own way😀

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Schoonmaker Reef

This is what a Silurian coral reef looks like, 425 million years later.

I parked in the back/side lot at my local grocery store this morning while shopping for Thanksgiving. (The main lot gets very crowded on the day before holidays.) In warmer seasons, tree leaves and other vegetation block the view of the actual rock that marks the remains of an ancient ocean floor, and in colder months it’s usually dark when I shop. But with this morning’s sunlight hitting the leafless hillside, there it was, and I could see it as I pushed my cart out to the back forty (which hadn’t gotten parked up with the overflow yet).

So I paused a moment to get a picture to share 😀

Here are a couple links with more info on the reef.

First, the Wikipedia article on the reef: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schoonmaker_Reef

Then also some old (circa 1997 and vaguely GeoCities-looking) web pages from the Milwaukee Public Museum: https://www.mpm.edu/content/collections/learn/reef/wauwatosa-front.html

And finally a nice, detailed article on the reef’s history from WUWM (the NPR-affiliated radio station of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee): https://www.wuwm.com/environment/2016-05-27/did-you-know-theres-an-ancient-coral-reef-in-wauwatosa

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The Birds?

There’s a big flock of birds—of starlings, actually. And I guess they’re not called a “flock” of starlings but a “murmuration” of starlings, which I learned from my Twitter friend Keith Freeburn, a photographer in Wales, last time I wrote a post about starlings.

Anyway, this murmuration of starlings has assembled itself in our neighborhood over the past week or so. The birds fly as a single, shape-shifting group from block to block, gathering en masse in tall trees here, there, and everywhere. I was walking back up to the house just now from taking out garbage when I noticed the group starting to muster in our tall silver maple.

Whenever I see stuff like this, my mind immediately defaults to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. As a young teen watching that movie on the late, late show while babysitting, I was left permanently scarred by what Jessica Tandy saw when she went to check on her neighbor after the initial incidents of troubling changes in bird behavior occurred.

Fortunately the worst these guys will do (I hope!) is create their traveling cacophony among the treetops and leave a mess of droppings in their wake below.

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When a picture IS a thousand words

I subscribe to a lot of newsletters. Lots of topics, lots of industries, lots of different treatments. I’m just interested in lots of things 😄

One thing I subscribe to is “e news” from the Newberry Library in Chicago. The Newberry is one of the finest libraries in the world, IMO. I first learned of it when I was in graduate school and taking courses on Shakespeare and Renaissance literature. To me, as a book lover and PhD student in English, the Newberry was like this magical, near-mythical place. When I had the opportunity to present a paper there at a grad student conference, I felt I was hitting the big time.

The Newberry’s “E-news” that hits my inbox is always full of interesting articles on unusual topics. Exactly my cup of tea! And this morning’s newsletter had one article on such a creative topic that I wanted to share it with you.

Sadly, it appears that WordPress is not going to let me do the cool “embed” thing, where you can see the beginning of an article right here, which you can then click on to go to that site and read the whole thing. The best I can do is supply the link. Sigh. Don’t you hate it when technology refuses to let you do the cool things?

Anyway, here is the link in case you would like to click over and read the article. Basically it’s about a very old art form in which pictures are made up of words.

https://www.newberry.org/blog/microcalligraphy-pictures-made-from-a-thousand-words

If you live anywhere near Chicago and are up to visiting the Newberry library, you can go see the exhibit of calligraphy that inspired the article and includes examples of this “microcalligtaphy” art. Here’s the link to that exhibit, which closes at the end of December.

https://www.newberry.org/calendar/a-show-of-hands

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What a difference different light can make!

This post is a follow up to yesterday’s. I made another coffee run down the hill to Starbucks this morning. I think it was earlier in the day, so the sun was at a different place in the sky and hit the Juneau Village Towers at a different angle. Today the building is much truer to the usual brown and gray coloring. It’s so interesting to me that reflected light could fool my eye so much as it did, minimizing the brown and gray and creating an overall impression of “blue.”

Here are the two photos from yesterday.

Tall apartment building, Brutalist architecture

And here are the two pictures I took this morning.

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Blue sky, Grohmann Museum, and Juneau Village Towers

Took this photo yesterday as I walked back up the hill to my office in the Grohmann Museum (the building with the statues) from the Red Arrow Starbucks. The Juneau Village Towers (the tall building and the shorter, shadowed one immediately to its left) looked so BLUE, which was entirely due to reflected light. Usually that tall building is very brown and gray. Anyway, I liked the colors and thought it was sort of a pretty picture, so here it is, just to share a beautiful, early November afternoon in Milwaukee 😄

Tall apartment building, Brutalist architecture

Now that I take a closer look, though, I see that those windows aren’t actually reflecting blue after all. Those little glass squares have more of a dark gray hue. Well, maybe navy?But still, not the blue I thought I was seeing. Were my eyes playing tricks on me the whole time, like somehow holistically taking in the blue of the sky and causing me to perceive the building as “blue” when seen in context from a distance?

What do you think: Blue, or not blue?

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“When You’re Good to Mama” — Heard on a head-clearing coffee run to Starbucks

I have so much work to do! But as I finished one project and faced the daunting prospect of beginning the next one, I forced myself out of the door because I knew it would be good for me to get some fresh air and coffee and put a little distance between one project and the next. And I was right. Whereas I felt paralyzed and almost unable to begin work 20 minutes ago, I’m now raring to go.😄

But before I commence work again, I thought I’d share this fun song that I heard while I was waiting for my coffee at Starbucks. Took me a while to recognize it, but once I was able to place it, I found the YouTube video and got a nice smile in the middle of my day. Thought you might enjoy a smile, too!

It’s hard to believe, but this Oscar-winning film (six Academy Awards, including Best Picture) came out in 2002—20 years ago! If you’ve never seen Chicago, I highly recommend it. It’s a musical but a bit different from the traditional Hollywood style and very imaginative in the way it presents its song and dance numbers. This YouTube clip will give you a feel for that. Here is Queen Latifah singing “When You’re Good to Mama.”

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Market Street, evening

Taken after work tonight on Market Street, the one-block street that runs along behind the Campus Center at Milwaukee School of Engineering. The bright early evening sun was low in the sky, casting shadows down into the canyon created by the surrounding buildings.

Something about the light and the nearly leafless autumn tree just shouted “twilight “ to me. Twilight of the day, twilight of the year—although technically I suppose this light actually represents the “golden hour,” that is, the hour before sunset, not twilight, the hour after sunset.

It sure felt like twilight, though. Daylight saving time ends this weekend, and a week from now it will be dark when I leave the office.

You may have heard about recent efforts to make daylight saving time a year-round thing in the U.S. Apparently folks in Congress either have no knowledge of history or don’t care to learn from the lessons of the past. I am old enough to remember walking to school in darkness the last time we tried year-round daylight savings, in response to the first energy crisis, during the winter of 1973-74. We suffered through just a few months of that experiment before declaring it a failure and returning to the system we live with today.

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Lake Michigan, last Saturday in October

I drove up Lake Drive to meet friends for lunch at the City Market in Whitefish Bay on this beautiful, sunny day. All along the route trees were at their absolute peak of color, just an overwhelming display of gloriously lush splashes of red, yellow, orange, purple, and brown.

I took this picture on the way home, while stopped at the traffic light where Capitol Drive hits Atwater park in Shorewood. I loved the deep blue of the lake and that distant hazy area where the air and water temperatures blurred together in a horizon-obscuring fog. Add in the strip of yellow leaves along the curb, the red bushes dotting a row along the bluff top, the lone, leafless tree at left, and that small cluster of teenagers taking it all in—well, I had to hurry up and roll down my window to take a quick photo with my phone before the light changed!😀

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My first DALL•E art project

Because I teach courses on digital society and digital storytelling at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), I have been reading and learning a lot about DALL•E, the new AI-based art generator, this fall.

I had seen references to DALL•E all summer on Twitter, where I follow several artists and graphic designers. But my interest kicked into high gear several weeks ago when I saw this article in The New York Times.

Of all the “complaints” I’ve heard about DALL•E so far (AI-generated “art” is not ART, etc.), the one that se

Since one of the best ways to learn stuff is to plunge right in, I decided to take the text of my “Haiku for October” post and pop it into the search/text “description” bar in DALL•E, just to see what happened. Below is my string of text and the resulting images.

I kind of liked these, but somehow they seemed a little bit dark. I especially liked the little glistening droplets in image number two, but I liked the colors, particularly the hint of aqua, in the last one. So I refined my text, and got these images.

These were very bright and cheerful. They are also a bit too abstract and maybe sport a little too much aqua and blue this time. To adjust, I removed the word “blue” and added “brown” and “realistic “ to the mix.

Hmm. These feel a little too green yellow and brown, not quite enough of the peach that I liked. But I do like these. A lot. In fact, I like almost every image that the platform generated this afternoon.

Of all the “complaints” I’ve heard about DALL•E so far (AI-generated “art” is not ART, etc.), the one that seems most valid and troubling to me is that DALL•E apparently has uploaded many artists’ work so that a “creator” can generate images “in the style of . . . ,” the concern being that these artists’ ability to own their style is being violated.

So I decided to further refine my text descriptions to produce images in the style of a few artists I like.

Here is my haiku, with my requested colors, in the style of Vincent van Gogh.

Here, in the style of Wassily Kandinsky.

Next, in the style of Salvador Dali. I could obviously go on and on, but as I assume the site’s name is a mash-up of the artist Dali and the movie/animated character WALL•E, he (Dali) seemed like a logical artist to try out.

As you can see, today’s artists probably don’t have all that much to worry about. Although I can sort of see these various artists’ “influence,” I would never look at one of these images and in any way think I was seeing a work by any of them. I’m not even sure that their “styles” manifest all that clearly, except maybe in the Vincent van Gogh, and there only because I already knew what I was looking at.

My main takeaway from this little exercise? DALL•E does seem like an amazing tool, and I think I have just found myself a new hobby!😄

Do you have any favorites among the AI-generated images above? Had you heard of DALL•E before? What do you think about the idea that anyone, including people with no art training, can now generate art with carefully chosen words?

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