Ben Crowder

Weeknotes #7

  • The editing of the novel has begun. It’s a jungle of complexity, at least compared to making paintings, where it only takes a few moments to assess the work. I’ve written large, complicated programs before, too, but with those it’s always clear when the output is correct or not. Here, instead, there be dragons: endless possibilities and no “correct” answers. And holding a whole novel in my head is hard. Kvetching now out and done with, I’m midway through putting together that minimal set of changes and will soon mark out on the outline where each change needs to go. (This would be so much easier if I’d outlined the book in advance, figuring this all out before spending months drafting. True, my weak attempts at outlining to date have sputtered and died, but now my motivation has multiplied.)
  • To replace the art-filled hole in my life, I have not been writing more (sadly) but instead have gotten back into making charts for dead languages and editions of obscure old texts. The current projects: a Latin adjectives chart (the thing you didn’t realize you desperately needed) and an edition of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae (in English, possibly with the Latin on the side).
  • In what will seem a contradiction given what I’ve just said: putting school first has made a mammoth difference. I wrapped up the rest of that last assignment (bounding volume hierarchies followed by adding jitter to get antialiasing, glossy reflections, translucency, soft shadows, etc.), then went kind of crazy and plowed right through the next two assignments (texture mapping and path tracing). Oh my goodness I love global illumination and path tracing. Diffuse reflections make my heart sing. I’ve also gotten my semester project proposal approved and will be doing procedural modeling of spaceships.
  • Our stake wisely decided to cancel weekly in-person church meetings for the time being. Utah’s Covid numbers seem to have strapped on a small jetpack. Luckily we now have a mask mandate in the county, and that letter from President Worthen (BYU) and President Tuminez (UVU) wasn’t messing around. (Personally, given human nature coupled with America’s rabid individualism, I fully expect both universities to have to go fully remote by sometime next month. I also hope I’m wrong.)
  • Nonfiction reading this week: more of the same. I’m almost two-thirds of the way through M. Mitchell Waldrop’s The Dream Machine, and it’s now turned from a history of computing to more of a history of the Internet. Loving it.
  • Leslie Alcock’s Arthur’s Britain is still right up my alley, chock-full of early medieval British history. I hadn’t realized how hard it can be to identify places mentioned in the annals — the Historia Brittonum lists twelve battles, for example, and for almost all of them it’s been impossible to identify exactly where they took place, with two or more candidates for each location. Mind-blowing. This book is a bit slower going since it’s a paperback and not with me all the time.
  • I’m almost halfway through The Last Days of Socrates. Still trudging. It’s not completely boring, but (is this bad to admit?) Greco-Roman history and culture have never really appealed to me aesthetically. My tastes skew medieval. (And that’s where my interest in Latin comes in, to be honest.)
  • Fiction reading this week: R. F. Kuang’s The Poppy War got much, much darker (trigger and content warnings galore), so I’d like to amend my “adore” from last time, which no longer feels like the right word. Still a very compelling book, though. The Rape of Nanking analogue was horrifying.
  • After that, in what was clearly not a palate cleanser, I read Elly Griffiths’ The Crossing Places. I was mainly there for the British archaeology; thrillers stress me out and abduction (particularly of children) ratchets that up even more, so I only read books like this in limited quantities. The archaeology parts were great, and now I’m looking forward to reading some of Francis Pryor’s books.
  • You’d think that after those two books I’d want something light and cheerful. Instead, for unfathomable reasons buried deep in my psyche (perhaps the advent of fall has something to do with it too), I’ve just started Stephen King’s ’Salem’s Lot. The initial apostrophe bothers me because I am shallow, but boy can King bring characters to life in just a few words.

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