Phil's Newsletter #45

A blind delegation

Previously on Phil’s Newsletter: I got a Roland SoundCanvas, and teased a big announcement on the 15th.

You can pay for this newsletter to get some perks and directly support me. Phil’s Newsletter is brought to you by paid subscribers Jessica Nelson, Jeff Powers, Vikas Reddy, David Demchuk, Ian Scott, Adam Rodnitzky, and Kat Angus. You are each, individually, the best.

We announced the Regional and Grand Prize winners in OpenCV AI Competition 2021. What a long, strange, trip it has been. I’m so proud to have been able to shine a light on these amazing projects. Check out their final submission videos on the official Competition page.

As per usual, my reach has exceeded my grasp. I had the best of intentions for the newsletter the last few weeks, but… well. Work has been crazy and I have a lot to do still before the big Kickstarter launch on 9/15. With that in mind, please enjoy this double newsletter.

A Week In The Life

I wrote this for last week, so it’s time shifted by 7 days. Er… 8. Whatever. You get it. - Phil

On Sunday after playing some Star Wars: Battlefront 2 with my nephew (we lost a bunch but I leveled up and went on a killstreak with an AT-ST, it was a good time) I finally sat down to add produce and export Episodes 21 and 22 of OpenCV Weekly Webinar. I got titles added, I had to re-export Ep 21 twice because of a rogue voice clip decided to take up residence in the middle of someone else talking and I did not notice. Wrote the YouTube description, set Ep 21 to go live at 6:00am Monday, and went to bed about 12:30am.

Monday I woke up at 4:30am, 6am, and 8am. 8am finally stuck. I got up and took my “daily” vitamins and supplements, hopped in the shower, wolfed down some oatmeal and too much coffee.

Had a meeting with Microsoft and Intel about the go to market plan for OpenCV AI Competition 2021. Leveled up my Assault class in Battlefront 2 a little bit. The more I play it the more it feels like they resigned TF2 and made it slightly worse in most ways- but it’s fun to play with Ev and so I do not care. Went to bed around midnight.

Tuesday morning I popped out of bed at 7am. It was no use. Spent all day writing press release and blog post drafts. This day flew by. At 4:00 I put on the simulcast for RetroStrange Movie Night: IRL, and watched that for awhile. Did some mod spelunking on my Fallout: New Vegas installation. Fixed some bugs I was hitting. Ended sup killing a save file with 20+ hours into it, though, which was a bummer. Started a new game as an unarmed / guns monster. Went to bed around midnight.

Wednesday, 8:30am wake up time. Watched another episode of Family Matters. Had a meeting with tomorrow’s guest on OpenCV Weekly Webinar. Recorded a quick promo for the Kickstarter just for fun. Wrote another draft of that script. Hoping to have a rough cut of a video by Friday. Weird end to the night that I can’t share here for privacy reasons. Got to bed around midnight thirty.

Thursday, a goddamn blur. Up with the dawn. Watched 1 episode of Family Matters. The one where Will “The Thrill” Morgan teaches Carl not to live vicariously through his son. As of today I’m running the OpenCV AI Kit campaign again. Someone really cool matched with me on Hinge. I am going to buy her so many lizards. Slept around 2am.

Friday: Long day to complete OpenCV AI Competition and OpenCV Kickstarter content in advance of those huge launches. Video editing, generating certificates and other assets, coordinating the social media posts and all that across multiple projects at once takes it out of you. Slept around 2am.

Saturday / Sunday: Worked all weekend in a blur, breaking to watch AEW’s pay-per-view All Out, which was just a hell of a show top to bottom. One of the best nights of pro wrestling I’ve seen in ages. Slept at 10pm Saturday, 2am Sunday.

Jessica Nelson Critiques A Couple of Phil’s Favorite Beatles Songs, Pt. 2 of ??

Jessica Nelson is my sister-in-law, mother to my dear nephews Henry and Ev, practitioner of Pilates, and writer of her own newsletter. Go subscribe to it. I asked her to use her Beatles fandom to critique some of my favorites. The following are her unedited words. - Phil

Back for more Beatles? How delightful!

This time we’ll take a listen to “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and “Taxman.” Buckle up, babies. You’re now on the Beatle bus. (Fuck! Buses usually don’t have seatbelts. I fucked that one up. I mean I could have said, “Step right this way for the Magical Mystery Tour” but no, I say Beatle bus… Stay with me here, folks. I’ll recover. Promise.)

First, I have a little explaining to do. Previously I mentioned that I love George Harrison when making a reference to “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” which may seem odd since it’s a Lennon song. But, growing up, I watched the movie Help! many, many times and George’s expressions in this video are seared in my mind. It was the first time I realized; George is funny! 

This song is fucking sad. I’ve sung it mindlessly so many times and never really let the words sink in. I think it’s because the music hides that pain. I mean that tambourine makes life a little better, no? I get it, John. Life sucks when you’ve experienced rejection from a loved one. That’s why it is so important that we develop a strong sense of self-love and self-compassion. That way when "all those clowns gather round" you can proudly stand tall and let your love shine brightly. Fuck ‘em! Also, I would bet that the Beatles would support my stance here now. They were all about finding peace and love. Hiding your love away does not achieve that goal.

Speaking of George, let’s look at one he did write, not just make funny faces on. “Taxman” is pretty punk rock in its message. This one ranks in my top 15. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a tax dodger and I totally understand the need for a fair tax rate to keep the home fires burning in any country but being taxed 90% of your earnings is just ridiculous. Furthermore, George was protesting the use of tax dollars to pay for the manufacture of military weapons. The first of several Beatles protest songs. I really like the energy of this one. Gets me all keyed up, wanting to stick it to the man and whatnot. 

Well, that’s all for this week. Maybe Phil will have me back. Maybe not. I never did recover from that stupid Beatle bus reference. Sorry guys. I’ll try harder next time.

The Next Movie Night Is Sept 14th

We’re welcoming back that flying friend to children, Gamera. You can watch along live at the NODE in Downtown Niles, MI, or on RetroStrange.TV at 7pm Michigan time, 4pm Pacific.

The Good Links

Still, I toil. Welcome to the Link Zone

So that’s the newsletter this week. We’re officially moving to Fridays at noon Pacific for the publication date.

Media-wise I’ve been marathoning the 90s TGIF show Family Matters, which is not a sentence I ever expected to type. There is something so dear and simple about it. It smells like big square “party pizza” from Little Caesars and video rental stores. Also: Re-watching the original Star Warses.

— Phil Nelson

Wizard Tower Gamma, South of Market, San Francisco, California, United States of America, Earth

09.10.2021

Phil's Newsletter #44

Let your dim light shine

Previously on Phil’s Newsletter: I almost broke my wrist, we learned about Night GANllery.

You can pay for this newsletter to get some perks and directly support me. Phil’s Newsletter is brought to you by paid subscribers Jessica Nelson, Jeff Powers, Vikas Reddy, David Demchuk, Ian Scott, Adam Rodnitzky, and Kat Angus. You are each, individually, the best.

This week’s guest on OpenCV Weekly was Joseph Nelson (no relation), CEO of Roboflow. He dropped some knowledge with a presentation called “What is Active Learning, and Why Does It Work?”

This week’s issue is late again- I might make Friday the new publication date. It’s tough doing a live show AND getting a newsletter out on Thursdays.

Back when I had a salary job and lived with someone who (I thought, LOL) loved me, I used to look forward to Friday Night and Saturday. This was the farthest time between when I had to go to work again. There are TWO WHOLE SLEEPS where I don’t have to wake up and go to work. It felt extravagant. I was officially Off The Clock. These days it seems like the clock’s hand are gone, there is no writing on it. The clock is a flat circle.

Contracting and freelance work means you’re sort-of ALWAYS interviewing to keep your job. There’s no sense of stability (not that salary jobs are safe anymore either) and of course you don’t get benefits. Instead of having to worry what “your boss” thinks, you have to worry about what 10 different bosses think. It’s exhausting. Financial precarity is not new to me (I grew up on government cheese and food stamps) but there’s still something so… cruel about this whole goddamn arrangement. I have to work every day until I die, and if I don’t I will be forced into the street and likely starve? Someone oughta look into this. Seems sketchy.

Anyway I did something Pretty Expensive again because I have the Bad Brain…

The Roland SoundCanvas Fifty-Five Mark Two

I did another stupid financial thing, which is maybe why the intro is so morose here. It was for an awesome reason, though: I bought one of the most beloved MIDI devices of all time, the Roland SC-55mkII from my friend, former co-worker, and subscriber to this very newsletter Ian Scott. It was what a lot of game composers would have used to write the original music for games like DOOM and Chrono Trigger. It sounds precisely like 1992-or-so and I love it so much. Here are some MP3s I recorded of it playing some of my favorite tunes from the time period:

Sept 15th: OpenCV and Luxonis Return to Kickstarter

Coming soon to a Kickstarter near you: The companies that brought you OpenCV AI Kit are doing it again. Sign up to get exclusive rewards, win one of 74 giveaways, and follow the project on Kickstarter.

The Good Links

It’s getting harder and harder to scour the entire internet every single day but I do it for you.

That’s all for me this week, I have way too much to do. Scripts to write, videos to narrate, contracts to sign, joints to smoke, whisky to shoot, hearts to break.

— Phil Nelson

Wizard Tower Gamma, South of Market, San Francisco, California, United States of America, Earth

08.27.2021

Phil’s Newsletter #43

Bruised egotist

Previously on Phil’s Newsletter: We discussed generated adversarial networks (GANs) and Jess wrote about some Beatles tracks I picked.

You can pay for this newsletter to get some perks and directly support me. Phil’s Newsletter is brought to you by paid subscribers Jessica Nelson, Jeff Powers, Vikas Reddy, David Demchuk, Ian Scott, Adam Rodnitzky, and Kat Angus. You are each, individually, the best.

This week’s guest on OpenCV Weekly was Arnaud Bastide of Team Rocfort in OpenCV AI Competition 2021. They built a system to track and identify cows in the field, and have plans to include health monitoring and other smart features using AI. Next week: Joseph Nelson (no relation) returns with “What is Active Learning, and Why Does It Work?”

You know that episode of Futurama where they’re randomly skipping forward in time? I feel like it was just Thursday. The brain fog and tiredness are unrelenting. I mention this only because I know I am not the only one feeling sleepy at noon and hiding it ain’t helping anyone.

Couple days ago I banged the ever-loving shit out of my wrist while slipping and falling on my way to the bathroom because my floor was too clean. I am never mopping again:

This is partly why the newsletter is late this week. Maintaining a full-time work schedule as a freelancer is already difficult, but this feels just awful today. Hard to type, hard to make coffee, hard to do a lot of stuff…. but we’ve got deadlines, folks.

I did an interview for the Craft of Code podcast last week, talking about RetroStrange TV which is our streaming TV channel, and LOFI SCIFI, the old time radio channel we run. Unsure when it will drop, but I’ll definitely let you know.

A truck full of flammable chemicals caught fire on the Bay Bridge on Thursday. It’s wildfire season, and so my air purifier was already in the orange before I even got out of bed. Once the fog abandoned us it flipped to purple, apparently the worst air quality color, and hasn’t much left that grim state since. Pray for mojo.

Night GANllery

Of course, because I have Brian Problems, I started another project with the GAN process we were talking about last week. This one is based on one of my favorite TV shows, Night Gallery. The GIF above is based on the episode “Little Black Bag.” I can practically hear the creepy-as-hell Gil Mellé theme playing.

Unlike the Twilight Zone, which I will entertain exactly zero ill notions about, Night Gallery was a bit hit and miss but has a delightful veneer of 1970s smarm wiped all over it. It (mostly) rules, and Rod Serling was a golden god. Later seasons of the show kinda fell off as the studio took power away from Mr. Serling, but even the bad ones are kind of fun, or at least kind of stupid. Follow the thread on Twitter to see new Night Gallery GANs as I create and post ‘em.

The Monster Association, Meeting Five

Meeting Five of my weirdzo audio-visual project THE MONSTER ASSOCIATION is now available on TikTok, Instagram Reels, or YouTube. This one is a little less abstract than the others but also more bleepy. Next time is going to be a little more… monster-y. Prepare yourself, mortal.

Divergent League Baseball Signup Sheet

The next season of Divergent League Baseball, the atemporal fantasy baseball league where we simulate past seasons and allow trades between teams is starting soon! Go sign up to manage a team.

The Good Links

This is a short week, we have too much work to do. But the good links are here for you.

See you next week. Same bat time same bat channel.

— Phil

Wizard Tower Gamma, South of Market, San Francisco, California, United States of America, Earth

08.20.2021

Phil's Newsletter #42

Collaborating with Adversarial Networks

Previously on Phil’s Newsletter: We debuted a new audio-visual project, learned about releasing indie music in 2021 from Brad Sucks, and started soldering a guitar pedal.

You can pay for this newsletter to get some perks and directly support me. If newsletters ain’t your bag, I’ve got a Patreon you can join for $1. Phil’s Newsletter is brought to you by paid subscribers Jessica Nelson, Jeff Powers, Vikas Reddy, David Demchuk, Ian Scott, Adam Rodnitzky, and Kat Angus. You are each, individually, the best.

In this week’s issue we learn about life, the universe, and everything. Not really- but I did score another guest post! Among the usual music and borderline-miserable rambling, my sister-in-law Jessica Nelson (who is a Beatles aficionado and has her own newsletter which you should subscribe to) is going to critique my favorite Beatles songs. Let’s go!

Open Computer Vision Artificial Intelligence Competition Twenty Twenty One

This week OpenCV Weekly Webinar is taking a break- after 20 episodes we just couldn’t pull one together in time this week. The good news is we’re booked solid for the next 6 weeks!

The deadline for OpenCV AI Competition 2021 passed this Monday, and I’ve been knee deep in the dead some genuinely amazing projects. The high quality of submissions this year is staggering, especially when you consider the extreme circumstances of the ongoing pandemic. I highly, highly, recommend you browse the submissions on YouTube.

Don’t You Wonder Sometimes… About Sound & Vision?

My Patrons get free, high quality, downloads of everything I make, including my ongoing audio-visual project THE MONSTER ASSOCIATION. You can join there for just $1, support me directly, and get cool stuff. It’s win win.

I’ve been playing around with VQGAN+CLIP, a method of collaborating with an artificial intelligence network to generate images based on a prompt and/or a target image. The pic at the top of this section was created using imagenet, with the prompt “a meeting of the monster association under a full moon” and it is surely that. Here’s another one, with the prompt “a golden bathroom designed by David Lynch”

There are a ton of different ways to do this- and the results are really dependent upon a few different variables: The source images used, the number of iterations the AI runs, any target images you specify, and the text prompt. It’s fun to subtly tweak the parameters and see the results change around them.

Try it yourself, free, on Google Colab: https://colab.research.google.com/github/justinjohn0306/VQGAN-CLIP/blob/main/VQGAN%2BCLIP(Updated).ipynb

I used this method to generate the cover art for today’s newsletter, with the prompt “phil's newsletter issue 42|august 12, 2021|high fantasy” — the pipes “|” denote multiple inputs. The AI mixes these different texts together.

Oh, and there’s a new Monster Association video out— see Meeting #4.

Sponsor: Fonts For Instagram Stories

This week’s issue is brought to you by Fonts for Instagram Stories, an iPhone app that I am helping out with. I’ve been using it to create Instagram posts every day for the last two weeks. It’s a free app, with unlockable premium features. With it, you get dozens and dozens of unique fonts and sticker sets, with more being added all the time. The included content and tools really make your stories pop, and help you stand out from the crowd.

If you’re reading this and you have > 5k Instagram or TikTok followers, hit me up. We may have business to discuss.

If you’d like to sponsor Phil’s Newsletter, for the low low price of just $20 an issue, send exactly one email to sponsors@extrafuture.com

Jessica Nelson Critiques A Couple of Phil’s Favorite Beatles Songs, Pt. 1 of ??

Jessica Nelson is my sister-in-law, mother to my dear nephews Henry and Ev, practitioner of Pilates, and has a newsletter. Go subscribe to it. I asked her to use her Beatles fandom to critique some of my favorites. The following are her unedited words.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as a bad Beatles song. Don’t argue with me here. I’m right, you’re wrong. Let’s just move past this, mkay? Are some better than others? Duh doy! For your consideration this fine Thursday, we’ll look at Phil’s favs: “Baby You Can Drive My Car” and “Blackbird”. To set the record straight first – I’m not a professional music critic. I’m just a lifelong Beatles fanatic and when Phil asks, “Can you critique my favorite Beatles songs for the newsletter?” a true fan must oblige. 

Frankly, I’m a bit surprised with the first one. Didn’t see that coming from Phil. Again, no such thing as a bad Beatles song, but this one is not in my top 25. The lyrics are a little uninspiring for me. But that tambourine? Hell yeah! That’s where it’s at. Listening to it as I type this, I’m warming to it a bit more. But still not climbing into my top 10 Beatles songs. Though I love the “Beep beep, beep beep, yeahs” at the end. 

As for “Blackbird”, totally in the top 10 for me. This one is also my niece, Hannah’s favorite. Both Phil and Hannah are beautiful souls who feel the world intensely, so it’s not surprising that Blackbird is a fav. It is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Lyrics are mysteriously vague, to be interpreted by the listener however they need to feel at any given moment. Very inspiring. Very uplifting. I mean, if you don’t feel empowered after hearing Sir Paul McCartney tell you, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arrive,” then I suspect you may not be human. Is the Gom Jobbar in order? Alas, I digress... But damn. I’m tearing up. That’s some powerful shit right there. You can’t listen to this song and not feel better by the last beautiful chirp.

And honorable mention to the dark horse candidates in Phil’s list: “I Am The Walrus” (Can we all take some LSD together right now and enjoy?), “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” (I love George Harrison. Again, with that tambourine. Phil are you seeing the pattern here?), and finally “Get Back” (One of the most rockin’ Beatles songs. One of the first Beatles songs my youngest, Ev, felt compelled to sing out loud.)

Well, shit. You’ll have to excuse me folks. Listening to these few songs only aroused my desire for more Beatles tambourine action. Now I’ve gotta go spin some records to scour the catalogue for more. Fuck “more cowbell!” We need more tambourine!

Thanks, Jess!

Seeking Guests for A New Audio Project

I’m working on a new audio project, which I’m keeping the lid on a little bit publicly, but if you’ve read this far and you’re a fan of pro wrestling (in the past or present!) and would like to talk about your personal relationship with the One True Sport, send an email to wrestling@extrafuture.com and I’ll clue you in. Thanks!

Phil’s Good Links

We’re light on links this week. I guess nothing cool happened.

I’ve got a lot of work to do to get these competition entries ready for the judges. Maybe I’ll tell you a bit about it next week. Until then, be good to yourselves and each other.

— Phil

Wizard Tower Gamma, South of Market, San Francisco, California, United States of America, Earth

08.12.2021

Phil's Newsletter #40-41

A real music-heavy two-fer

Previously on Phil’s Newsletter: We talked about sloppy steaks and One Punch Man, plus I geeked out about some effects pedals.

You can pay for this newsletter to get some perks and directly support me. If newsletters ain’t your bag, I’ve got a Patreon you can join for $1. Phil’s Newsletter is brought to you by paid subscribers Jessica Nelson, Jeff Powers, Vikas Reddy, David Demchuk, Ian Scott, Adam Rodnitzky, and Kat Angus. You are each, individually, the best.

Give a gift subscription

This week’s guest on OpenCV Weekly was Nandakishor, part of an #OAK2021 team that is creating a quadrupedal agriculture bot which can walk over to plants and water them or spray pesticides. Robots! Plants! Two great tastes that go great together.

Last week me and Satya did a tutorial about Principle Component Analysis and Eigen Faces.

Absolutely Not Sorry

This issue comes with a couple of firsts: Last week was the first week in 40 weeks that I haven’t put out a newsletter. I’m not sorry, I just wanted to make note of it. This ish also features our first every non-Phil-written section, a little something from our friend Brad Sucks about releasing his first all-new album of songs in 10 years.

The deadline for OpenCV AI Competition 2021 is coming soon. Teams have until August 9th at 11:59pm to send in their final projects, and we are abuzz with anticipation. There is so much cool stuff out there that we can’t possibly cover it all, but I’m damn sure gonna try.

As for me, I need a vacation but that seems pretty impossible due to being 1) poor, 2) in the middle of an ongoing pandemic. Instead, I’ve been making some weird monster sounds with my synthesizers. It helps a little bit.

THE MONSTER ASSOCIATION

My new music project is called, as the headline of this section reveals, THE MONSTER ASSOCIATION. Mons. Assoc. makes slow, haunted, reverb-heavy music that sounds like monsters arguing inside your head. I stole the name from One Punch Man. To create the sound I use a couple of Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators (PO-14 & PO-24… so far) plugged into a series of effects pedals cranked to the moon (BOSS RV-6, TR-2, DS-1, etc etc) which are synchronized with my Korg Volca Beats drum machine, then run through my Vox Pathfinder amp.

I’ve been releasing video/audio art under this title on my TikTok page, and YouTube. So far I’ve made 3, they are about 2 minutes long. These will eventually be collected on Bandcamp.

Mr. Delay, I Thought We Had A Deal

I’ve also started working on another DIY project, namely the above little delay pedal based on a classic circuit. There are some really cute effects pedal kits out there in the ~$40 range, that come with all of the resisters and chips and knobs you’d need to assemble the thing. Check out eBay if you want your own.

Brad Turcotte on Releasing His Latest Album, “A New Low In Hi-Fi”

Musician Brad Turcotte, aka Brad Sucks, is a subscriber to the newsletter and a friend of mine. I asked him to write a bit about his experience releasing his very good independently-produced album A New Low In Hi-Fi, which is available everywhere. What follows are his unedited words.

“I’m QUITE relieved to have released this record because I couldn’t finish songs for almost a decade, I just couldn’t get it together. Finally I started a Patreon to work on demos each month and after a year and a half I had a bunch of songs to choose from. That seemed to work way better as a process instead of doing it alone with no deadlines or feedback from anyone other than my own brutal internal critic. 

Release-wise, the music landscape’s changed a lot since 2012. Streaming services weren’t a big deal back then, social media hadn’t completely snuffed out blogs, recommendation algorithms weren’t such a huge influence on listener behavior. For a while in the 2000s it felt like independent musicians had managed to forge their own little direct-to-consumer ecosystem so it’s disappointing that the gatekeepers are back, shaking you down to reach your followers on their platforms.

But still, lots of cool new stuff: music recording and production tools have gotten better, access to world-class professionals (PR/mastering/production) is easier than ever, crowdfunding is very mainstream, I don’t have to code and maintain my own web store anymore, digital distribution is cheap and dead simple (shout out to distrokid.com). 

As I write this, I’m a few weeks into a college and non-commercial radio campaign for the record and I’ve just cracked the charts, which I’ve never done before. Will that translate to any increase in streams or new fans? I’ve always been skeptical it was worth investing in, but since you can see your daily streaming numbers now it’s interesting to take a shot and see what moves the needle. 

There’s a lot of rejection and disappointment you’ve gotta deal with when putting a creative project out into the commercial marketplace so I find it helpful to look at it more as plying my little songwriting and recording trades and growing a small business than anything very showbusinessy. Just out here trying to make an honest living, the lower the expectations the better!”

It’s a really good album. You should buy it.

Phil’s Good Links

TWO weeks worth of good links? ARE YOU READY FOR THIS? You are not.

Whew. OK. That’s all for now. I’m gonna go make some more monster sounds. See you next time. Be good to each other.

— Phil

Wizard Tower Gamma, South of Market, San Francisco, California, United States of America, Earth

08.05.2021

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