Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dear American Diabetes Association

Just a reminder: It’s okay to leave comments!

I hadn't planned on writing another blog post so soon, but it seems another public service announcement is in order.

A few weeks back, I was going through my mail. It was full of letters from various charities, each asking for a donation. This isn't unusual. I get about a dozen requests per week. Most get recycled.

One of them, however, was from the American Diabetes Association. What caught my eye were the mailing labels they sent. A lot of charities give mailing labels as a bribe an incentive to donate. If I kept all the mailing labels I get from charities I'd need to rent a warehouse to store them. These were different. They had classic motorcycles and cars on them. I'm old enough that I'd actually driven and ridden on some of those machines. They are the best mailing labels I've ever received.

Cool mailing labels from the ADA
Cool mailing labels

I was hooked. I had to give them a donation. I was doing my civic duty and all that crap. In addition, another writer I know, Beth Rhodes, is a diabetic, so helping her, albeit indirectly, was a plus.

As an added bonus, if you donated a certain amount you'd get a free tote bag. Now, I need another tote bag like I need more mailing labels, but it was part of the deal and I planned on accepting it graciously.

So, I sent in my check.

A couple of weeks later I found a tote bag wedged into my mailbox.

The infamous bag for ADA
The original bag...

It's an OK tote bag. It, you know, holds stuff. So far, so good.

I thought that was the end of it.

Today, I found out differently.

After coming home and parking the car, I went to the mailbox. I could see it wasn't closed. There was a package sticking out. I removed the item. What did I find but another tote bag. Great. I didn't need one; now I have two.

I went back for the rest of my mail.

And found another tote bag.

And another.

And another.

The other 4 bags in their mailers
The other four...

I had so many bags I needed a bag to hold them. Sadly, this was not a problem.

I don't know how the mail person got them all in there. The mail I wanted was in the mailbox, too. Looked like the dog had chewed on it—and I don't have a dog.

Standing at the mailbox, I pondered the significance of this event. Had the ADA sent out five tote bags to everyone who had donated? Was the USPS about to succumb to a burden they couldn't possibly handle? Did I get someone else's tote bag? Or, should I say, four other people's tote bags? Would the ADA go bankrupt from the postage fees? What should I do? I'm not even sure if my donation is tax-deductible now since the value of the bags is probably more than what I sent.

Mailing label says the ADA is a non-profit organization - that's pretty much guaranteed now...
It says they're a non-profit organization.
If they weren't before, they are now.

Someone at the ADA had made a terrible mistake and it was all my fault because I had given a donation. I felt so guilty about what I'd done I went to the ADA website and made another donation. I figure the way they're handing out tote bags they'll need it.


And if you haven't donated to the ADA yet, you might want to—before it's too late—for them. Just make sure you say "no" to the tote bag.

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Saturday, May 6, 2017

This Month's Free Photos - In Your Dreams

Just a reminder: It's okay to leave comments!

This month is going to be a little different. I've been playing around with CNN. No, not that network—Google's convolutional neural network (aka CNN). Yes, they let you do that. For free. And it doesn't hurt a bit. Let me explain...

You may have noted that I do a little artwork. Very little, unfortunately. Still, I like to check out what's happening in the art world from the periphery on which I exist. Sometimes I even draw or paint something. A while back I stumbled onto a tool that really caught my attention and I've finally had a chance to work with it.

Google has created code for modifying images called DeepDream (or Deep Dream, depending upon the source). You can read about it HERE. I've spent a little time playing around with it on the web (link below) and thought I'd share a little of what I've done with you. Literally.

It works like this:

  1. You create a user id / password to get into the app (they don't ask for a lot of info)
  2. You upload an image (I've used both JPEG and PNG)
  3. Select whether you want to do a Deep Style or a Deep Dream (and how many levels!)
  4. Pick the parameters you want to apply
  5. Click on the generate button

The picture you make can be saved, downloaded, deleted, or re-edited, and can be kept private or made public.

This is a sample of what you can do with an image:

Original image of pocket watch
Original image of pocket watch

Both of the following images were made from the original using the Deep Style algorithms.

A Deep Style modification using the Simpsons themeA Deep Style modification

This one is done using one of the Deep Dream filters. You'll have to open it to a larger size to get the full effect.

A Deep Style alteration of the pocket watch image

Here's a closeup of the dial. Slightly disturbing, isn't it? Looks like the watch is the one doing the watching!

Disturbing closeup of the pocket watch dial

Now let's see what happens when we work with some nice flowers...

Original wood hyacinth photo I took last year
Original wood hyacinth photo I took last year

For the first step, here are the parameters:
  • Type = Valyrian
  • Resolution = normal 1200x1200
  • Inception depth = deep
  • Neural network layer = inception_3b-output

Hyacinth - first dream

For round 2:
  • Type = Neuron
  • Inception depth = deep
  • Transformation = none
  • Neural network layer = inception_3b-output 

Hyacinth - deeper dream

  • Type = Spirits
  • Inception depth = deep
  • Transformation = none
  • Neural network layer = inception_3b-output

Hyacinth - deeper yet

Even though a version of the original photo is here and I've given out the parameters I used, if you tried to do the same transformation the final output would not be exactly the same. There's something in the way the algorithms work that makes it slightly different each time.

Anyway, these are my free photos for the month! Use them any way you want!

And, as promised, here's a link to the site: Deep Dream Generator

If you're so inclined, you can read about convolutional neural networks HERE. Personally, I'd skip it and just look at the pretty pictures.

Check back again when you can. Maybe I'll have something even better!

Bonus image! click HERE to see an image generated from one of my photos  of a statue in McPherson Square, Washington, DC!

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved