Timothy's Blog

A day in the life of a creative filmmaker

Photographer Survey

December 30th, 2019 by

So I created a survey to find out among other things, how well off photographers are, what their employment status is, whether they use vintage 35mm film cameras (could have thought of including other film formats), and how much they love photography (on a scale of 1 to 10). This survey was a bit of an experiment. You can fill it out below! By the way, you don’t have to give out your income if you don’t want to. It’s not required.

If you can, send the link to this page to as many friends who are photographers as possible so that I can have as much data as possible for my survey. I will post the results on this blog when they are complete. Thanks a bunch!

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

December 23rd, 2019 by

So I said I would write this review on this book I read, titled “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World”, and I figured it was time to get to it. This book is pretty amazing in my opinion and I feel I learned a lot from it. I will share a few things I learned in the following review.

The book starts by talking about the “Tiger” syndrome (named after Tiger Woods) where kids are introduced early to the career they are going to pursue for the rest of their life and get going pretty early on it. This does lead to better initial results with their pursuits and even some people, like Tiger Woods who is very successful, for instance. But the book goes on to argue that this may not be the best way to learn.

It turns out people who don’t specialize early on actually get a deeper understanding of the subject they’re studying and do better in the long term. Data backs this up. It is shown that people who have a “sampling period” and study many subjects will actually do better in the long run.

The book then goes on to explain “wicked” vs “kind” problems. “Wicked” problems are those that require deep and analytical thinking rather than relying on the intuition which we value so much. I think such problems may also represent the lions share of really rewarding work that we do. “Kind” problems are those which are easily solved early and are easy for us to grasp.

The book also goes on to talk about how extracurricular learning actually helps to solve problems in the specialized space and how specialized “tigers” actually consistently fail or take much longer to solve a difficult “wicked” problem than their more generalized peers. The idea is that information and experience from outside your profession can often be the key that unlocks a “wicked” problem.

One “wicked” problem of this nature given as an example was when they were trying to clean up the Alaskan Valdez oil spill. The problem was that the oil they were trying to clean up could not be pumped into the barges because it was so stiff and unworkable. It was described as “chocolate mousse”.

So they started a contest to find a way to fluidize the oil and make it pump-able and eventually some guy with no experience in the area found that by spinning rods stuck in the stiff unrefined oil it would heat up and fluidize and become easy to pump. This is a good example of a “wicked” problem that was solved by someone with outside experience.

I will end by giving one more example of what I read in the book and that was the example of using lateral thinking with “withered technology”. The example was of Gunpei Yokoi who was a engineering graduate who was hired by Nintendo before they made video games. He used his creative thinking to combine technology that wasn’t that advanced or cutting edge to create products that were a hit on the market and innovated in surprising ways.

Yokoi started with no big ambitions but eventually ended up transforming the company from a failing company into a global giant. He started by inventing things like RC cars that only turned right and eventually went on to invent the Nintendo Gameboy which was a revolutionary product at the time not just for its technology but for how that technology was combined in new and surprising ways. His was a particular kind of genius and he is an inspiration to how I might like to innovate in my areas of expertise. He is what you would call a “generalist” who combines multiple disciplines.

So overall I’m very grateful I read this book and am trying to apply to my life what I have learned from it. One way to do this is to not be afraid to study many subjects at the same time which is something I’ve worried about in the past but now feel much more comfortable with.

Tell me what you think of this review and any questions you may have about the book and I’d be happy to answer! And if you want to see the price of the book on Amazon, you can see it here.

General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics

November 18th, 2019 by

I’ve recently been reading a book titled “Relativity – The Special and General Theory” which is the book Albert Einstein wrote on his two theories of relativity. So far I’ve covered the General Theory of Relativity and am just about to move on to the Special Theory of Relativity. In reading this book, it got me thinking about an old thought of mine which is about the problem of reconciling Special Relativity (or maybe it was General Relativity) and Quantum Mechanics.

Relativity - The General and Special Theories
Relativity – The General and Special Theories

You see, Classical motions of bodies (i.e. planets, humans, cars, balls, cats, you get the picture) can be described in a classical sense because the relativistic principles effect is so small that it literally can’t be measured (except when it comes to atoms and electrons and such things). So there is no problem describing relativistic systems in classical ways.

In a similar way, the theory of quantum mechanics describes things in a way that allows for interesting things to happen at very small scales but at larger scales the quantum effects can not be measured at all. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think I got this right. So both General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics have the same problem that made them so hard to discover in the first place and not very intuitive.

I’m not sure what my point is except that these theories of physics describe things that are not intuitive to the human brain or easy to find out but ultimately rule our universe. So even though sometimes things look bleak for physics or it looks like we haven’t made in breakthroughs in the realm of physics (i.e. a working theory of Quantum Gravity or Grand Unified Theory), eventually, if we stick to it, and keep exploring new ideas, we will find the answers.

So I don’t know if this helps you, but I find physics fascinating and would love to learn more (though not necessarily go through college for that) and find this very encouraging. If you found this interesting please let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to talk about it! (I think my comments section is working now).

On a side note, I find Einstein makes a great author and would have probably made a great physics professor as well (He was appointed a professor of theoretical physics in Germany for a few years, a position made just for him). His manner is non-condescending and human and relatively easy to understand. Although I didn’t totally understand the equations for the Lorentz Transformation perhaps I will at some point in the future.

I look forward to reading the rest of this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in physics and mathematics!

By the way, I know I said I would write a summary of the last book I read, “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” which I just finished, but I will get to that soon so stay tuned.

Bits and Qubits

November 4th, 2019 by

I’ve been thinking about quantum computers a bit and I think quantum computers could really change the world. The quantum computers of the future will make the supercomputers of today look like calculators. And a lot of people believe this. I think in this article I linked to it said a 300 qubit quantum computer would be equal to about 2*10^90 bits on a classical computer (that’s 2 with 90 zeros after it).

The reason this is so is because quantum computers harness the quantum nature of the atom in a way classical computers do not. Whereas classical computers calculate by simple bits, quantum computers use an entirely new thing called a qubit. Qubits aren’t really binary bits because they don’t represent a single on or off state but really a superposition of the two states that particular particle can be in and is a product of its wave function (the math behind this superposition). It’s really powerful if you think about it (and understand the physics behind it). Quantum computers basically rely on the computing power of the atom to make their calculations.

So though quantum computers will never replace classical computers because quantum computers are not good at most of what classical computers do, and though the quantum computers of today are not as powerful as we can envision they will get better and better till they surpass our expectations just like classical computers did.

IBM Q computer. Credit: Pierre Metivier

The reason quantum computers have been held back is that the quantum qubits in quantum computers are very fragile. The reason for that is that when you interact with a qubit in any way a measurement is made and the superposition of the states of the qubit collapse to just 1 or 0. Destroying the quantum information. Scientists try to get around this problem by cooling their quantum computers to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero to isolate qubits from their environments so they don’t get jostled. Unfortunately they still have a problem getting those qubits to stay that way for more than a few tens of microseconds. But there advances being made (for example using graphene as a superconducting material).

For now quantum computers remain giant super-cooled machines in researchers laboratories but some day they may become as common as your cell phone. If you remember the same thing happened with computers (think of ENIAC) and I think the same thing will probably happen with quantum computers given enough time.

I’ve linked an article I read that goes into more detail on this. Read that if your more interested in learning more. Or just google “quantum computers”. There’s a whole world out there waiting for you to explore it.

As for me, I’m thinking of studying quantum mechanics (on my own) and maybe getting a book on it. I have a recommendation from somebody I found on YouTube that will probably be good. I’ve been reading articles on Quantum Mechanics and am fascinated by the science and would like to learn more.

Mastodon and Decentralized Social Media

October 28th, 2019 by

I think the future of social media is in distributed computing. If you think about it, Facebook is not going to let up on its privacy policy anytime soon and they don’t have a good reason to (government’s not going to make them). It makes sense that you wouldn’t want one corporation or government in charge of your social media feed. I don’t know of a good example of this kind of site right now that could replace Facebook but there are examples of this kind of technology out there. One example is a very Twitter-like distributed social media platform that is hosted on private servers, called Mastodon (after the elephant-like creature now extinct).

I used Mastodon for a while but the server I was on did not have people interested in the same stuff I was so I quit. But I’m getting back into and I think it could be a good platform to build on. It allows you to host your own server and not be dependent on any one company or organization to host the servers. It also has some interesting features such as 500 character “toots” (similar to tweets), local timelines (where everybody sees what everybody else on the same server posts), federated timelines (kinda like group following), and lots of little features that add up to a better whole.

Mastodon Logo

If you’re interested in joining a Mastodon “instance” you can do so at https://joinmastodon.org/. The thing is to remember joining is like getting an email address – you are stuck with that instance unless you get a new account on another server.

But the point is I think distributed computing not run by any company or government is a great idea and may be what takes off in the next few years. And if you think about it, email is a distributed technology too because you can send an email from Yahoo to Gmail and it will work fine, but that’s not the case with most social networks these days. Also, Facebook and Twitter do have a pretty strong hold on their audiences right now. But that could change as they continue to ignore their users pleas for privacy.

For my part I’m going to give Mastodon another try and see where it leads. Nice thing about Mastodon is that you automatically have a built in user base that sees all your toots (called local timeline). I’ll get back to you and tell you how it goes.

By the way, if you’re into programming you can request to join my server at https://x0r.be and I’ll be able to see your toots! But of course, not everybody is interested in programming. But there’s a fair number of servers out there and there are some general purpose ones that cover every subject. The thing about starting with a new social network is that you got to be motivated because not everybody wants to switch.

The Super Rocket (again)

October 21st, 2019 by

So The Super Rocket is a film I made with the Blanchet boys and is my first foray into short-film-making. Overall it turned out pretty well but has a lot of technical errors that my inexperienced filmmaker brain did not catch (One example is the lighting in one scene does not look natural). But it’s the best I can expect for a first film and overall I’m pretty happy with it.

For those of you who don’t know, The Super Rocket is about two boys who set out to build a “super” rocket which means they are building a high-power model rocket (watch the movie to find out what that means). But when one brother forgets about the other trouble ensues.

The script took me ages to write mostly because I was so inexperienced but that’s part of the learning process. The Super Rocket was not actually the first script I ever wrote. The first script I ever wrote was called “Panspermia On The Starways” and was about a scientist who was investigating a bogus story of life that was found on another planet. That script was a disaster but taught me a lot about screenwriting. Namely, that you really have to have a good idea to get started.

This film was shot on the original Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera which is probably the camera I will shoot my next film on (Though I would like to rent a better camera such as the BMPCC6K). The reason I chose the BMPCC is it’s superior “dynamic range” and “RAW” capabilities. The music was composed by me and I edited the film myself including the not-so-great sound. If you’re interested in watching the film you can see it below (don’t forget to leave a comment)!

Savings and Thoughts

October 7th, 2019 by

So I’ve been interested in business and investing lately. I’m reading a book called “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. It’s an inspirational read and has a lot of good lessons in it about managing money and general life lessons.

The last lesson which most impressed me was “Pay Yourself First”. Robert basically is saying to pay yourself (i.e. your savings account and other assets) before you pay others (i.e. your bills, things you have to pay). So Robert is not saying not to pay your bills. He is saying to set aside money that is only for one thing (savings, investments, whatever) and then come up with the money to pay the things you have to pay. Having to have more money at the end of the month is supposed to motivate you to find more ways to earn money.

I’ve been interested in investing lately and I have a little money in a savings account, but I’ve been digging into it to pay for some things when I run out of money in my checking account. Basically, I wonder if not touching my savings account at all, but rather adding to it would be a good idea? “Of course” you say, but it’s not an easy thing to do. Somehow you’ve got to come up with the money you don’t have now (preferably having earned it ahead of time and having it sitting in your bank account). But I would like to hear your thoughts on this thing of savings accounts. I would like to invest part of my savings some day in the stock market but haven’t had the money till now (I did spend about $5000 on my first film in equipment).

Overall, I’m really enjoying this book and I’m going to give it to my neighbor who wants to read it too (we did have some discussions about the book). I’m thinking I will want to read more of Robert’s books when I have the extra money (working on that now). But I do have another book which I am reading next called “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” by David Epstein. Have you read this book? I’m thinking it will probably be good but you never know.

I would recommend “Rich Dad Poor Dad” to anyone interested in money, business, or life in general. And it’s really cheap in mass-market paperback too! You can buy the book on Amazon here.

Anyways, thank you for reading. I will try to respond to every comment (which I have not done in the past) so feel free to comment on this post.

Adding Photography

September 25th, 2019 by

So I recently became disenchanted with web development (serious web development) and wanted to find something more visual/creative to do. Not that web development doesn’t take creativity. I had tried to get accepted as a stock photographer to istockphoto.com years ago, in which you have to submit a few images so they can evaluate if you’re good enough and if your’re images are the type they want. So I decided to apply again because I thought my photography had probably improved and lo and behold, I was accepted!

So this is a new way to make money for me; I’m simply adding it to the other ways I make money (which currently consist of web design and doing yard work for neighbors). I’m hoping to pursue a career in photography so I’m not just interested in stock photography, but it’s a great way to make money sometimes (if you have a really good image that stands above the rest you take).

I decided I needed a website for my pursuit of this career so I created one yesterday and today that you can see at photography.timothygrindall.com (notice this blog is at wordpress.timothygrindall.com). It’s not a perfect or necessarily complete design but I can always change it. If you’re interested in seeing some of my best photography, check out the site!

I’d also love to get into portrait photography but I have plenty to keep me busy (though not to fill my days necessarily). I love taking pictures of people but I don’t get to do it so often because people are so camera shy (and so am I)!

I’m also hoping to get into filmmaking as part of my career. I own my own businesses so there’s no reason not to do more than one of them. I’m currently looking for clients who would like me to make advertising films/videos for free (just for the experience). So I have some ideas of what I want but other than that, I’m leaving it up to God. Worry about one’s future does no good.

I think getting a driver’s license will be a top priority so I can drive around Washington/Oregon/California to different places where I can take pictures. Also that will allow me to visit clients for webdesign and filmmaking jobs (and would really open things up for me).

Learning ReactJS

September 6th, 2019 by

So I’ve been learning ReactJS which is a Javascript library/framework which allows you to easily create modular apps/websites using Javascript (which is a language I’m good at). So far I’ve created three apps (though one is more of a static clone of Twitter) which I’m pretty proud of.

The first project I did was a Twitter clone which I created just as a simple exercise in applying what I’d learned by reading the ReactJS book I have called “React Quickly” by Azat Mardan. I started out just by creating one card (for a tweet) and then using the Array.map() function to create a list of these cards using static data I had prepared ahead of time.

Twitter clone (It’s pretty simple which is good for a first app)

Overall, the book was pretty complicated and I understood the first parts, but it was written for somebody who can take in a lot of information and understand complicated topics easily. But I didn’t give up and I was finally able to write my first React app. And I went on to write more.

The next app I created was a weather app which uses the API of OpenWeatherMap.org to make requests to their server and get the weather for a particular city. I used some free icons I found on FlatIcon.com which worked pretty well and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. You can see the app live at http://weather-app.timothygrindall.com.

My next app was even more of a challenge which used the API of hn.algolia.com to basically create a working clone of the site. The API functionality was very similar to the weather app but had some differences. You can see the app at https://algolia-hacker-news.timothygrindall.com and you can see the original site at https://hn.algolia.com/. Overall I think I got it pretty close.

I started in basic web design so I’m pretty good at styling pages (or at least using CSS). I think that is not one of my weaknesses.

For you coders out there, if you want to see my code for these projects you can see it at my Github page at https://github.com/timgrindall. Repositories are:

  1. algolia-hacker-news-app
  2. weather-app
  3. react-social-app

Now I’m kinda out of ideas for what to do next but I think I’d like to learn to use Redux which is a pretty cool technology (it works with ReactJS). Anyways, if you enjoyed this post let me know in the comments and I will try to get to your comment and approve it so it turns up.

Timothy’s 10 Laws of Computing

May 14th, 2019 by

I made up this list last night just for fun so I could post it on this blog. It’s not really a list of real “laws” but is rather some things that I thought were funny. I guess you’d have to be a computer nerd to understand them.

  1. Never start a process or ask a computer to do something that you don’t want it to do.
  2. Never stop a process or something that you do not want to stop.
  3. Never start multiple processes when your utilities are not sufficient.
  4. Never hit a button just because you don’t know what it does.
  5. Always buy a faster computer than you need now.
  6. More RAM is always better.
  7. Wait, you thought 8K was going to be enough? (In my humble opinion 4K is enough for small screens)
  8. Old computers make great boat anchors.
  9. Moore’s law is not a law.
  10. Computers are the new kid on the block. Use a pencil and paper when your computer isn’t available.