JENS MALMGREN I create, that is my hobby.

Plastered the staircase hall and worked on spotlight effects

This week, I continued plastering the staircase hall. I worked on the visual effects program for my DJ show in the evenings. I also tried to generate images with AI, but it did not work out as intended.

Monday 15 January

This was my work-from-home day. DW went to the office. It snowed from time to time.

Tonight, I cleared my desk. It has annoyed me for a while that I don't have a tidy office in such a way that I can have a conference call without being bothered by the stuff on the shelf behind me. Some of the stuff is still from DW, but not all. Last week, I bought a webcam, so now I can put it on a better angle. I rigged the webcam and started clearing the office in that corner visible from the webcam. Now I decided that this part of the office will from here on be the tidy part of the office.

I also worked on the spotlight scene of the visual effects program. It progresses slowly. DW gave me devastating feedback. I still think I can do something nice about it. I made the background darker. That way, the spotlights appear brighter.

Tuesday 16 January

Today was supposed to be a work-from-the-office day, but I worked from home instead. It snowed. DW also worked from home.

The new leaves of the monstrea are growing well. It was barely visible a few days ago and is now about eight centimeters longer.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, DW and I had daily lunch walks. We walked around the neighborhood of our old house. It is good to walk; it feels good. DW has expressed the need to exercise more lately, and I am all for it. When things at work become intense, the lunch walk seems to be one of the first things we sacrifice. That is not good, actually. Today, we had a walk in the snow. Here is our house from the northeast corner of our property.

In the evening, I decided to make a little cartoon. I wanted to use generative AI for this. I will try Tensorart. I made a prompt for The first scene like this:

Cartoon, drawing, sketch, and doodle of only TWO male characters, Alex and Taylor. Alex and Taylor sit next to each other on a bench in the city. In the background, a CCTV camera is visible. Alex is talking and waving his hands, and unhappy Taylor is listening to him. Alex has a shirt with long sleeves; he is shaved, wears glasses, is bald, and wears grey shoes. Taylor has jeans, a jacket, black shoes, no glasses, and dark hair.

Oddly placed pink of the hand on the leg, haha. One is sitting on the other, but it still works. The index finger is chunky with an extra joint. Funny. That CCTV camera is there, but it is infinitely small, perhaps.

No matter what I did, Tensorart was confused between the characters. I wanted one person to smile, but no, both smiles. New attempt:

Cartoon, drawing, sketch, and doodle of only TWO male characters, Alex and Taylor. Alex and Taylor sit next to each other on a bench in the city. In the background, a CCTV camera is visible. Taylor is talking. Alex is listening; he looks happy. Alex has a shirt with long sleeves; he is shaved, wears glasses, is bald, and wears grey shoes. Taylor has jeans, a jacket, black shoes, no glasses, and long dark hair.

The index finger looks better. New decoration on the shirt. I gave up on this. It is not doing what I want. I will see if it is of any use to me. My idea is to create a series of similar pictures with characters doing or experiencing things. I don't want one character to play all the roles in that respect. I want the system to make a difference between the characters, and I want a consistent repetition of these styles in the series of images. Well, that is possible with Tensorart if you go into the advanced part of the tool, but that was not my intention.

I have been told these AI tools are easy to use and do magical things. I see magic here, but it is not enough. I want more, and I want it easy, and I am not prepared to pay for it now.

Perhaps other generative art services can do something for me. I might come back to this subject another day.

There is a disconnect between the people who are totally blown away by AI and what it can do and the rest of us. I watched a satirical comedy act about two people from Scotland who got trapped in an elevator. This is more the reality I think I find myself in. Watch it; it is funny, as long as you are not trapped in the same situation. In the future, we will be trapped in it. All of us.

When I think about it, futuristic voice recognition elevators that are not doing the right thing are almost a genre. In Norway, it is. This is from the Ylvis elevator prank eleven years ago. Still funny.

When I gave up on this generative art project and continued on the spotlight project. I removed the dots at the end of the spotlight. The idea now is that I will use edge detection to make it light up where the spotlights are shining.

Wednesday 17 January

Today, I worked from home for the first half and then had the rest of the day off. We went to the dentist and into the city to buy buckets of DW's wool. If we get an infection of moths, then the idea is that the infection is confined. We have not been to the city center together for a long time.

Then we went to the hardware store to buy more MP75 and TopFinish. Now, I am ready to plaster another bunch of walls and ceilings.

I thought I would go home and plaster a bucket or two, but that did not happen. I was a little tired when we came home. That is slightly dissatisfactory. I must return with new and better energy on the plastering front another day. At least I got the stuff now.

Thursday 18 January

Worked from the office for the first time this week. People were glad to see me. I was glad to see them!

The weather was nice for a walk. A colleague and I took a walk around the office neighborhood. We went to the city tax authorities. I painted an aquarelle of this building in 2012. I made that painting in late 2012 when I was not good at posting blogs about my paintings. I started making music with FL Studio. That painting is framed and hanging at work; it is nice to see it there.

In the evening, I worked on the spotlight scene of the visual effects program. I have some results. It is horribly slow at the moment. I have to work on the speed, that is for sure.

I profiled the program and concluded that the noise reduction routine of Open CV is the worst, which is funny because it is named "Fast." Next is Gaussian blur consuming CPU. I can do it without noise reduction, but snowflakes appear without it, which is slightly annoying. I searched for alternatives, and it was suggested that one could work with dilute and erode, but I have no idea how to use those things, so we will see how this progresses.

Friday 19 January

It was cold this morning. A thin layer of powder snow had fallen over the driveway. I cleaned the windows of the car from ice. I got plastic scrapers from Sweden. I am not using any chemicals or fancy tricks. Just scraping the old-fashioned way.

In the evening, we had a Pizza feast again, and DS was invited. I continued on the visual effects program. I looked into the math of the layering. Something did not look right. The technique I am using for layering something on top of a background picture is to "remove" or darken the background where the new things will be drawn, and then I can add the overlay. Although this sounds simple in natural language, it has taken some practice to wrap my head around it. Removing or darkening the background involves making a negative copy of the overlay multiplied by the background. That is a kind of magic. So, how do you make a negative copy? Well, you take a black image of the same size and subtract a gray version of the overlay. Everywhere something is drawn in the overlay, you get a black copy of the shape; where things are not, it is white. This is multiplied by the background, making dark holes. When you add the overlay to the background, it fits nicely into the dark holes.

I had the spotlight rays drawn into the overlay. They were removed from the background and then added to the image.

This evening, I worked on the next stage, making edges light up where the spotlights shine. It starts off by making a grayscale version of the background image. That is blurred; on the blurred, I used the Sobel algorithm to detect edges. The edges become light, and the rest black. Now, I want only this effect where the spotlight shines. I draw the spotlight in grayscale but let the rays gradually become lighter from the bottom and darker at the top. This reverse spotlight is blurred as well. Now, I use the blurred reversed spotlight. as a mask for the edge image. With that, I have a black-and-white image that I want to overlay on the other image with the spotlight.

Now, we do the same thing with multiplication and then add to merge the two. I understand this is so infinitely complicated that it makes no sense to the regular reader. It does not matter; the question is: Does it look good? I think it has potential. I will stick with this formula for a while. I want to integrate tempo elements into the scene, and then it is done.

Saturday 20 January

It is still cold but not below the freezing point of the water, but rather around that point and slightly over. In the metric system, we have 0 degrees when water is freezing. That is in the temperature scale of the Swedish guy Celsius. So, are there a few clever Swedes throughout history who came up with stuff. Now you think I will start to list clever Swedes, but no. I leave that as an exercise for the reader.

It feels good that it is freezing at all. It reminds me of when I was young and the climate had not changed much. I do know that in a couple of years, it will rarely freeze at all. If it ever freezes in North Europe, it is caused by the jetstream being so weak that the North Pole cold is breaking out and spinning off to other, more southern parts of the world. It will be the only kind of winter we will have in the future, and if we have it, it will be highly unpredictable.

This morning, I listened to Ukraine: The latest from the Telegraph. It was an informational episode. I recommend that you listen to this episode; it hints at the future of Europe from here on. I also have a link to the podcast from the Podcast Republic listening platform (and app). You can listen to podcasts from many different apps and programs. Pick the system you like and search for Ukraine: The latest from the Telegraph.

The episode from 19 January 2024 was unique; it gave hope for a solution to the war and painted a picture of a less hopeful future. The guest, Lily Shanager, said, "Putin is not a young man." just let that sink in for a moment. I am intrigued by the sound words that are said about Sweden from time to time in the podcast; it is nonetheless flattering for a Swede. I found the episode about the oil industry super interesting.

To me, this podcast is more than an exciting information source. Listen to this podcast, and you can feel that this is more than plain good journalism. It is a platform for making change; it is the hope for a better world. Sometimes, you get emotional when you listen because it is heartwarming and sometimes breaking. I recommend that you listen to this podcast. That's about that. Now, back to the everyday stuff.

This morning, I mixed a bucket of course mud. It is the now classic recipe: 2kg M75, 1.7l water, 400 grams of TopFinish.

In this round, I plastered mainly the east wall of the hall. The south corner, the corners of the doors. I also gave the north wall a little more plastering on the left side of the door.

We had lunch and a lunch walk; it was great! This gave the plaster a chance to harden. I planned to do the other side of the corner, which can only happen if the other side is hardened. Merida looked backward at me, "What are you doing?"

After lunch and the walk, I mixed a second bucket and plastered the south wall. Unfortunately, I never got to do the other side of the corner to the east wall. I concluded I would need to get a more broad scrim plaster band.

In the evening, I programmed the spotlight effect. While plastering today, I contemplated the math and figured something was wrong with the calculations. When I could sit down, I found the error. I got it to work. I even figured out a way to color the edge-detected highlights in the color of the spotlight. You guessed it, I had to multiply the highlights with the spotlight image! DW liked this version much better.

Now, I need to create something that looks like a scaffolding bar from which the lamps hang; that is one thing. Then, I want additional lamps with white light that will pulse with the tempo of the music.

I have worked on this spotlight scene since 17 December 2023. It is excellent to learn new things. This entire series of scenes in the visual effects program has allowed me to explore math and various cool things. It is like an interactive art project, painting with source code. I like it a lot. I also like painting, but I have not done it since the arrival of the pandemic. The whole experience of presenting the art in a DJ set is also exciting, to say the least.

Sunday 21 January

We figured out the shops were opening at 12, mid-day, and we decided to be there. Then, we can buy scrim bands for the plastering project at the hardware store. We can combine this with a tour of the second-hand shop.

We had a slow morning but managed to be at the hardware store at 12, mid-day. They had what we searched for, the wide scrim band.

After the hardware store, we went to the second-hand hand shop. I cannot say there were spectacular finds, but we were happy. We had coffee at the second-hand shop that we bought with a gift card we received earlier.

When we came home, I started plastering right away. I worked mainly on the little wall next to the door to the bathroom. It was not completely straight, so it was more challenging than usual, but I got it straight with mud. Next time I am plastering, I will work on the ceiling. This is still only the course layer; then comes the TopFinish layer.

We still have curtains instead of doors. That is because I want to finish the plastering of the staircase hall before I finish the workshop, and when the workshop is finished, I can make doors in the workshop.

When standing on the scaffold, one must be a bit concentrated. Tripping over the edge is not an option.

In the evening, I worked on the visual effects program again. Now, I added white star-shaped lights. The spotlights are enhanced, giving more power. I am also thinking of doing lasers, but I might wait on that. It starts to look like something. I wonder how well it performs? I would like it to be able to do things in tempo with the music. That is for later. Next, I will draw a scaffold bar to hold the virtual lights so they do not just hang in the air.

It started to be windy and raining during the evening and night. This is the storm, Isha.

This concludes this week's blog. It is a long blog. If you read all of it, you are fantastic. It is 2800 words. Well done!

I was born 1967 in Stockholm, Sweden. I grew up in the small village Vågdalen in north Sweden. 1989 I moved to Umeå to study Computer Science at University of Umeå. 1995 I moved to the Netherlands where I live in Almere not far from Amsterdam.

Here on this site I let you see my creations.

I create, that is my hobby.