dance of four elements

Yesterday I heard from my friend Luigi that he had joined a startup, this place (the website is down for me as of this writing but I expect it may be up again soon?) It's a really cool concept, which is to use a steam engine in combination with a solar hot water heater to solve a nagging problem in renewable energy - storage, consistency, and variable output.

The idea is that you can essentially store the solar energy captured by the concentrator as a (very) pressurized tank of (very) hot water. Then as needed, you bleed off some water into a lower pressure environment, which causes it to flash boil into steam. That steam drives an old-school piston steam engine, which generates electricity. The company is targeting community and industrial scale power generation with this, as essentially a replacement for auxiliary diesel generators, in places where those are regularly used.

The thing I love about this system is that it could have been built 100 years ago. It doesn't require any fancy chemistry or software. Well, maybe it does as delivered today, but the concept certainly seems like it would have been buildable 100 years ago, and would have generated a stable supply electricity from the sun.

My immediate scheme is to figure out how to scale it down far enough to work for the castle.

The other idea that this kicked off starts here:
So, the fire and water fountain is cool, but why does it need an external power source? That's lame. Why not combine it with something like this: google: candle turbine ?

Then you'd have three elements, fire, air, and water, you might as well work in the fourth. The idea that came to me was a stone water wheel that's driven by the candle turbine. So the candle drives the turbine, the turbine rotates the stone, which picks up water, maybe even just on its surface, as it rotates. I think it would be super cute.

Also would make an excellent puzzle door if scaled up, so that the stone wheel had a hole in it at some point, so you light the torches, wait for it to rotate... I guess you don't really need the water in that application but so what.


Always follow your passion. It will never lead you wrong.

mipmap my cubetexture and my nonsquare one too kthx

I'm using AGAL to learn about GPUs. It's pretty fun, but every new thing I try is several hours of, "oh, nothing is rendering. hm.."

It was not obvious to me (or documented) that Cube Textures in AGAL need to be uploaded with all mipmap levels.

It was also not obvious to me (or documented) that if you want any mipmapping, you need to upload all mipmap levels.

It was also not obvious to me (or documented) that if you have a non-sqaure texture, you still need to mipmap all the way down to 1x1.

Where should I go to learn stuff like this? Are there better places to start? Otherwise I will slowly de-noobify myself. But gosh golly this seems like basic stuff that should be in the API documentation.

The other side of it is, the tools for debugging stage3D are really pretty bad. So when something is not showing up, I can't debug into the shader or ask the gpu what it thinks, very easily. (maybe I should make some tools here.?) Instead I'm left to cobble together my own checklists like:

  • check your math
  • short circuit to a known working texture/shader
  • think harder
  • add shader instructions back in to see if one of them mysteriously breaks something
  • google related keywords
  • try to think of a way to check intermediate/simpler results
  • check your math
I don't mean to complain too much. I am having a good time. Half the time when nothing shows up it's because my math is wrong, and it's hard to get too upset* about that. But, if this is what it's like to be a graphics programmer, then, graphics programmers need some serious tool loving.

*But I'll try. Friggin mathematicians and their badly named variables. Effing half the variable names used in math are NON PRINTABLE CHARACTERS on a standard keyboard. why don't you call it Math.ratioOfCircumferenceToDiameter or something sensible like that. GAAH.


he felt a great restlessness inside of him

that compelled him to seek

and when he was still it would stir

like a stomach ache

friggin linear algebra

I graduated from a prestigious university with an engineering degree. I work at one of the most exciting game companies in the world. But every time I try to do linear algebra, I become convinced that I'm just not smart enough.

screw you linear algebra. I don't need you. I have trigonometry and calculus, I can do just fine!

probably I need a better teacher.

Benjamin Wright Austin

hospital photos

I can feel my brain reconfiguring itself into daddy brain. Pretty crazy.