A constructed language.

For my Master’s dissertation project in the New Media program at the Tokyo University of the Arts, I quickly devised a small constructed language, something that would be a tool for me to explore language itself in abstraction. Before I undertook the subject of human communication languages, I had been researching programming language design, and in that process came across a paradigm that was new to me, called concatenative. This paradigm is mathematically very elegant, structurally very simple, and in superficial appearance very similar to human written languages. I thought I could use it as a basis for a simple human language, and so I took the main ideas of it and applied them to my design.

My language is not really a language in most traditional senses, if you compare it to existing languages. It does not comprise a lexicon, nor does it have any inherent writing system, or phonetic system. It consists of just a set of rules, and they can be applied in many ways in any pertinent medium (written, oral, electric, etc.,) and is purposely unspecific about other things. It is, if you will, a framework for communication, or a protocol, more than a language as they’re most often thought about.


Video work at school.

At university I’ve ended up working on several video pieces, most of them very fun to work at. Here are some of them, all created as part of some assignment.

Gaten is a work that had to comply with the conditions of being about the human body, and of incorporating as a theme either ball, string, box, or bag. We went with string (amounting to not much but an initial pretext,) and our answer was devising a human swing. We just took it over the top.

This video, which I titled when uploading to Vimeo An experiment in high-speed filming, is the result of a process of doing just that, but then trying to use the technique acquired for expressive purposes. The concept is of a —I struggle with what to call it— metadiegesis in which us students act ourselves, and, well, saying further would be spoiling it. Despite what the above might suggest, it is a lowbrow, hackneyed little video that we still enjoyed putting together.


Two npm packages.

I decided to try my hand at creating and releasing some reusable code. I have a big inferiority complex on my code quality, but I’ve been getting over it little by little just by piling information on my brain. So, while I’ve had a Github account for some years (though only decided to actually start using it much recently), this is my first time offering some of my code on a module repository. So I created two tiny npm packages (that means Javascript) that do only one thing, and might prove useful to people other than myself.

The first is called dot-into, and it does something icky for most Javascript programmers; extending prototypes. It’s still under your control, as you can choose what prototype(s) to extend, but its power comes from extending the ‘holy’ Object prototype; that is, basically every object’s root prototype. All it does is put there an ‘into’ method that allows you to effectively reorder terms to fit a left-to-right flow, when you would otherwise be nesting functions. That is to say:

third(second(first(a), b));
// becomes
first(a).into(second, b).into(third);

I didn’t come up with this on my own, though, as it was Raganwald’s idea in Ruby that made me want it in Javascript. He also made a library that offers this, but also more baggage that I didn’t want.

The other one’s called function-promisifier. It’s a utility function that takes a sync function and spews out one that takes optionally promises instead of plain values, and returns a promise instead of the result value directly, making it entirely async-compatible. It’s one thing that I once wished existed, and when I looked I couldn’t find it, so I made it.

I guess I’ll be doing this again and releasing more code modules some time. We’ll see.


Buranko screenshot

I haven’t posted in a long while, and a lot has been going on, what with me coming to Japan to study. I guess I should start at the earliest since the last I wrote.

In my last post I presented a video reel that I made as part of the application process for the program I am currently studying. Another part of that process was the creation of an audiovisual piece based on any of a short selection of poems and fragments of prose—of course, in Japanese. The one I settled for is one Arakawa Youji’s Gallery (ギャラリー).

Although I have functional Japanese, enough to survive in most situations I’m confronted with at school, work, and otherwise daily life, reading poetry offers a different challenge altogether. This was one of my first times reading Japanese poetry, so I went with the one that most clearly brought an image to my mind. The poem uses strongly visual, and purposefully childish language; it speaks of a lover ably using a swing at a park, and the narrator failing to. At least on a superficial level, it’s about (lacking) self-esteem in front of an overwhelmingly capable partner. I can’t claim to have read it very deeply, and I don’t know the author. But I decided to take it up on the self-depreciation note. And so as to see what people were being frustrated about, I made a visualization of current Twitter tweets that contain the words ‘failure’, ‘ashamed’, or ‘afraid’, and putting them pretty literally on a swing. I wasn’t coming up with a compelling interpretation of the texts, so I brought in help in the form of live data, for a voyeuristic element. I took a screen capture of it and sent it to the school, but of course made the actual software available online:

See Buranko (web; source)

Actually, after considering the poem’s title a bit as well, it just occurred to me that it might just be about impostor syndrome


I’ve been applying for a Master’s at the Tokyo University of the Arts, a program called “New Media”. In typical Japanese fashion, there’s innumerable hoops I need to hop through for that. One of the steps involved the submission of a physical DVD-Video with a sample of my work (along with other documents), so I created a reel of some of the stuff I’ve made that I like. It’s five minutes long and is comprised of nothing new, but here it is.

A ‘metaclass’.

Kanji metaclass posterEspañol

I was invited by the center I formerly studied Japanese at (Ceija, here in Santiago) to give a short workshop. It was an open invitation, as I could suggest what the theme for it would be. I decided long ago that I’m no good as a teacher, so I almost rejected the request, but finally decided to propose a non-traditional program in which I would not be a teacher but just someone who’s been studying longer (a senpai, as a Japanese person would put it,) and turn the classroom into a more level place for discussion and discovery. The themes to discuss would be the Japanese kanji writing system, and self-study. I called it kanji metaclass, loosely using the ‘meta’ prefix the same way it’s used in the word ‘metadata’: that is, to suggest recursiveness, learning about learning.

Although I haven’t found the teacher in me, I do think about education a great deal. I’ve been teaching myself lots of things since I can remember. I am largely frustrated by the way in which education has been institutionalized. And I work developing ludo-educational software.

I strongly believe in intrinsic motivation as key to learning. Extrinsic motivation would be grades, rewards and punishments; that is, how most schools nowadays work. Intrinsic motivation would be doing something because it is its own reward, or because it leads naturally to our reward. Put another way, I think that mainstream education teaches us to hate study and learning, by making those the hurdles we need to hop over to get to the carrot they put in front of us instead (or to get away from the whip behind.) But, of course, there’s no better stimulus to learning than just wanting to know.

So this class I’m about to finish offering this week reflects my views on education at large, and experimental as the format is (for someone inexperienced like me,) it’s been, from my point of view, a great success. My main priority was to make everyone curious, invested, and in charge of their own learning. I got everyone enjoyably (even excitedly) discussing varied subtopics, once they got comfortable enough with me and one another (that is, by the second session.) The flow of each session is almost entirely freeform, it leading wherever the discussion takes us. I prepared beforehand a long document full of little packets of (largely personal, even anecdotal) information, though, which I use as a resource to plant new ideas and questions. It still remains to see how this influence impacts their learning, but first I just felt the need to impact their mentality.

So that is one of the things I’ve been up to. And to end this post, here’s a little bullet-point manifesto I wrote for myself, to keep me focused on my goals for this workshop:

  1. The classroom is a place for active discussion, exploration, and exchange of knowledge and ideas by and for all.
  2. Our themes are Japanese kanji, self-study, and the intersection of the two.
  3. When leaving the classroom, study has just begun.
  4. A student questions, asks, errs, researches, teaches themselves, shares their knowledge.
  5. The teacher is but a guide.
  6. If one must teach, teach that which is elementary and general.
  7. Better than teaching is suggesting.
  8. Better than suggesting is asking.
  9. Better than asking is listening.
  10. Anything can be debated.


Stretchy rectangles.

This is contract work I did some months ago but neglected to post about. It’s just a visual effect that my client wanted to implement in the website they were commissioned, but I think it’s a pretty nifty one. The site’s links are distributed in an array of rectangular picture crops of different proportions, which stretch and compress according to mouse input. So of course I did just the programming for this one. That’s all!

Aphasia poetica.

Acabo de terminar un asuntillo.

Prueba Aphasia poetica (web)

Esto comenzó como un trabajo en conjunto con Ilan Libedinsky el 2010. Era algo imposible de construir bien: requería mapear palabras con una palabra alternativa, manualmente y una por una. Pero el idioma es claramente demasiado vasto para hacer esto una tarea alcanzable por dos individuos, así que nunca se cumplió. Tres años y medio más tarde, lo llevé a cierre. Esto no pasa de ser un punto medio: usando un bastante nutrido diccionario de sustantivos, diferenciados por género, el intercambio es generado automáticamente, sin el mapeo manual.

The Pirate Bay Bundle.

The wonderfully enthusiastic Steve Cook put together a compilation of over a hundred free games, and made me a part of it by including my game Runnerby. It’s called the Pirate Bay Bundle.

I recognize only a handful of the included titles. But knowing the kinds of games that he reviews, I’m sure they’re all good stuff. I’m currently in the process of downloading the torrent, so I’ll be sampling them later.

Bye bye Pixelpost.

Spambots were having a field day with my neglected piclog Pixelpost installation (old picture blogging CMS, not updated in several years), and it was getting hit so ferociously that it was hogging resources and my host complained. So I took it down. But since I have a few blog posts that link to pictures over there, I fixed it. I basically scrapped Pixelpost, downloaded the database, and implemented a super simple version of it that uses YAML files as a database and PHP. And no commenting, since it wasn’t getting anything other than truckloads of spam anyway. The design and all, I couldn’t be bothered to update. I did, however, change the URLs to make them a tiny bit prettier, taking care to redirect links written in the old format.