Friday, November 03, 2006

on the edge

From Luxor to Aswan, we rode as part of a convoy of a dozen tour buses. It was a three-hour ride, and I passed the time by reading technical articles from areas of computer science that I find interesting.

Me: [looking up from reading] "I read half of this article three months ago. I picked it up today to finish it, and I realize I've already forgotten most of the first half!"

Dan: "What is it about?"

Me: "Silhouette edge detection and rendering."

Dan: "It's because these articles aren't written with conflict and drama. If they had character development and suspense, you'd remember."

Me: [staring] "How in the world would you write a technical article like that?"

Dan: "Easy. Let's do it right now. We'll both read the article, and then write a story."

So... I present to you:

Story #1: "Culling"

Warning: This story rated PG-13 for strong language and disturbing imagery.

- Hey, Joe745?
- Dammit, Bob236, this better not be one of your fucking philosophy questions.
- Joe745, you ever wonder what it would be like if we were backs?
- Jesus Christ, Bob236, can't we just get some fucking sleep in here for once?
- I'm serious! If we just had, you know, a few different edges, we'd be in there with those backface bleeders, all dark and swollen. You know I almost feel sorry for the poor edgers...
- What is with you, Bob? We're not silhou back shitballs, we're front fucking faces, and I'm fucking not talking with --


- Oh shit. Oh shit. Bob? Bob...?! Oh shit. Bob? It's Joe, I don't think... I don't even know my face number any more, Bob. It's black here, Bob, I've never seen a zero color like this. My voice is all weird and squeaky. What the fuck is going on? Bob236! Is that your number still? Where the hell are you, Bob? Oh shit.
- Hey, Jo. Calm down, Jo.
- AH! WHO THE FUCK... oh shit.
- Leave Jo alone, Betty. She'll get a clue soon enough.
- I'm sorry, miss, pardon my language. See, I figured I was the "Joe" you were speaking to, and... oh no. Oh no. You were talking about me after all, weren't you. Oh shit. Oh shit, this ain't the front, is it.
- No, Jo, it's not.
- Oh, shit.

Story #2: "At All Costs"

Sol knew the way things worked. Squeeze to the crowd's edge, extend his long limbs until one arm faced front while another tilted back, and then smile graciously when the framekeeper announces the chosen silhouette triangles, with his name topping the list. But something was wrong. The last two times his name was omitted. Two! Omissions didn't happen to him, not since he was seventeen hours old and figured out the system from eight hundred frames of experimenting with one awkward stance after another, twisting his head to scan the name list during each frame while the others lounged and joked.

'Did you hear?' Sol turned. It was Ram, his large cheeks parted in a smile. Even his voice sounded fat. Happy, but fat.

'No,' Sol sighed. 'What is it, just tell me.'

'There's a new system. They figure the list once, ahead of time, and don't change it. Little fixes every now and then, but mostly it stays the same.'

Sol froze halfway through Ram's words, but now he straightened to his full height, looking over the others' heads. There was a crowd in the southeast corner, and he strode off toward it, pushing the slower triangles out of his way.

The discussion in the corner went on for over two hours, but Sol kept to a strategy. He repeated the importance of experience. Like an infinite loop, he reiterated how one can only learn the duties of silhouette triangle by doing them.

It worked. At the end of the debate, Judge CPU chose Sol and nine other triangles amongst the dozens of applicants. Sol stared at the ceiling to mask his grin from the others, particularly the unchosen ones. He felt more energetic than he had in years.

'Now that we finally finished that little item,' Judge CPU said. 'Onto a more important matter. Listen up, because this is a new rule. We need to pick a dozen triangles as the LoD representatives. Most of the time, the rest of us won't even appear, and these guys will be the only ones showing.'

Sol stared at the judge in horror, who showed no signs of noticing.

'All right,' said Judge CPU. 'We'll decide this one by popular vote.'


Anonymous said...

So, what is the title of the edge detection article? Or a link to it, if available. Since I haven't been in a technical position in the last few years, I haven't kept up, so the last thing I read on silhouette edge detection was probably in 2000. But I think I'd like to read more. Maybe.

Ben said...

This is hilarious. I wish every CS paper has a version of this.