Morphing Fun

Posted January 30, 2001 at 5:44 pm | No Comments

The first assignment in my Computer Graphics 2 class was to write a morphing program.  Check out some of my morphs:


Paul Heckbert

Heckbertified Monzy

Monzified Heckbert

Frightening Monzy-Heckbert Half-Breed

I also made a movie of the morph (3.4 MB).

Half-Assed Painters

Posted January 4, 2001 at 5:43 pm | No Comments

For the first few weeks of winter break, I enjoy the luxury of being able to sleep in until the late afternoon every day, but after a while I get tired of doing absolutely nothing and start looking for ways to keep myself busy.  Last winter break, I earned some spending money by joining an unorganized trio of house painters. We called ourselves the “Half-Assed Painters”, and for a while we considered advertising our services on the bulletin board at the Minneapolis Home Depot. Our poster would have looked something like this:

Are you tight-fisted and unconcerned with quality?
Then try the Half-Assed painters!
For half the price, we’ll do a half-assed job… in half the time!

The Half-Assed Painters.  Vince painted
those white nipples on my shirt.

Our first assignment was a huge abandoned boarding house on the outskirts of Dinkytown. All of the tenants had recently been evicted, and the house had fallen into a state of thorough neglect. Vince’s parents had purchased the property cheaply in the hopes of fixing it up and reselling it at five times the value.

The house was in the process of being repaired by Bob, a friendly but incomprehensible independent contractor.  As Bob worked, he left behind a trail of empty Budweiser bottles of which he consistently denied ownership. “Doa nuh ein mahn, drefig Freddy” he would say.  Bob wasn’t particularly reliable, but he worked inexpensively.  He insisted on being paid in cash, and I have a feeling that he never declared any income on his tax forms.  One time Bob accidentally dialed 911 on his phone, and when the cops showed up at his door, he thought that they were after him.  To avoid them, he jumped out of his third-story window.

The day we arrived it was ten degrees below zero outside, and it wasn’t much warmer inside the house, since the heat had been turned off for weeks. The pipes in the ceiling had frozen, and a gradual accumulation of water dripping from above had created a layer of ice two inches thick on the floor in the downstairs bathroom. One area had a gaping hole in the wall, and the wind had blown drifts of snow through the hole into the house. Another room was so dilapidated that huge chunks of plaster were falling from the walls, and the floor was coated with pieces of the ancient yellowed ceiling, which was gradually collapsing.  We were daunted by the amount of work that would be required, but when Bob saw the room, he was surprisingly unfazed. “Ohh, dasl fuckedup inerr bere el,” he chuckled.

A typical room.  I can’t imagine
how the tenants managed to
mess things up this badly.

Our first task was to clean the floors, which we did with a combination of Scotch-Brite pads and a xylene-based solvent called “Goof-Off”. Goof-Off is one of those substances that will rapidly eat through your rubber gloves and begin dissolving your skin. Meanwhile, it will emit fumes that make you delirious enough not to notice. Since Goof-Off can also dissolve the soles of sneakers, we found that we could slide around on the floor as if ice-skating once a layer of Goof-Off had been applied. This activity seemed awfully fun at the time, but perhaps the toxic fumes had been killing too many of our brain cells.

Warning: Goof-Off may substantially lower your IQ.

Prime, paint,
stain, varnish.

Eventually the heat in the house was turned back on, but some of the rooms with broken radiators and no insulation were still bitterly cold.  We kept warm by carting electric space heaters with us from room to room.  Unfortunately, space heaters draw a lot of current, and the electrical wiring in the house was so poor that we would unpredictably blow a fuse by plugging heaters into certain outlets.  A blown fuse meant another trip down to the basement, and the basement made the other rooms in the house look like suites at the Plaza.
Despite the inconveniences, there’s something very satisfying about fixing up an old house. As you dip the roller into the paint tray and slide it across the wall, the aged surface riddled with bumps and imperfections gives way to perfect, smooth strokes of glossy shining white.  When you finish painting a room, you can step back and take pride in the improvement in its appearance.  Because the effect is so tangible, the satisfaction it gives is much greater than the sort achieved after a long bout of computer programming.  It’s funny how building massively complex but ethereal digital constructions at a computer terminal has never given me as much fulfillment as I receive from a freshly painted ceiling.

Ahh… the raw beauty of a
gleaming white ceiling.

I’m not about to abandon my career in computer science for one in house painting, but I did enjoy the hidden thrill of being briefly immersed in another life. When we made lunchtime visits to Taco Bell, I strolled in wearing a 49-cent painter’s cap from Home Depot, reeking of primer and varnish, my coveralls spattered with splotches of paint, and I secretly reveled in the fact that nobody knew what a geek I really was.

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