It's an Exciting World

The life and times of David Geisert


London Weekly

London, Week 26

This week was extra short, as we got back from Zurich late on Monday and headed to Paris early Friday. I still got plenty done at work, even if it wasn’t what I was planning on doing.

Tuesday I had a nice soak using the bath bomb Steph got for me from Lush. They are Mario mystery bock shapes with a soap inside. I enjoyed the soak and listening to a good book.

We went to the Shard for afternoon tea to celebrate Steph’s position with the Zurich company, as well as my birthday a little. We were probably about one third of the way up the Shard, but the views were still amazing. The high tea was themed around peter pan, and they brought it out on a pirate ship.

Wednesday I had dinner with Nancy and Punit, while Steph went to the BSAC club and tried out her gear. She said it was packed and she got to talk to some great people. Nancy and Punit made some great fish curry, and samosas. I brought over some berries and smoothies. Punit seemed to like the smoothy, but Nancy politely only had a sip, and I think she was put off by the chunkiness.

I had a great playtest with Brian for their new game. I like the direction they are taking, and I’m impressed by the multiplayer.

London, Week 25

Steph and I had a great climbing session with Punit. We did one of the gyms that I’d been to once before, and Steph hadn’t been to yet. They had some competition routes posted, and I was able to do up to 7, and then 9. 8 had a tricky part that I didn’t have the grip strength to get past. 10 and above I couldn’t even start on the wall. I had a great time of it.

We also went back to the diving club and are now thinking of doing a dive trip to Turkey in the fall. It would be great to go with the Turkish guy who is organizing the trip, as he knows the area really well. The dive club is full of really friendly people.

The restaurant Kaki is quickly becoming my favorite, as it has a dish that is very similar to our favorite dish in the bay, magic chili tofu. It is the same mix of spicy, sichuan peppercorns, ginger, garlic, and crispy chilis. I’m really happy we found this place. The crazy part is that it is one of the closest restaurants to our flat, and has a great view of the canal. We hadn’t tried it until recently as we have a few places that we pointed at and said, “That would be great once the weather is nice enough to sit outside.” We’ll have to try some of the other nearby places like that.

London, Week 24

We continue to see lots of young chicks of all sorts of birds in the canals and lakes. Steph and I went to a meeting of a London dive club together. It was great getting to meet people there, and to hear how the diving is around the UK. It is much harder to get to the water from London, since we don’t have cars. I suppose it would have been just as hard for us to get to the water without a car in California, but we had more of a network for that. Steph is planning a dive with them, but I won’t be joining for the first dive since they only had one extra spot. Their meetings are great, in the top room of a tavern, and they have all sorts of little ceremonies and traditions that make the meetings great.

One of my corworkers and I took most of the weekend to do a game jam with Mini Jam 132: Severed with the restriction of having multiple endings. We called the game Severed Heads, United Hearts. It uses AI NPCs that you must convince to join your side instead of your rival’s. They vote several times and you can chat with them to convince them to choose you over the rival, Henry. I was pretty happy with how it turned out, but it is obviously not the kind of experience that the game jam crowd would appreciate.

London, Week 23

Monday was May Day and Steph and I took advantage of it by going to Little Venice near Paddington. They had a lot of houseboats as well as floating restaurants there. They had a festival going on, but it was kind of generic festival booths with the small addition of being able to ride on the canal boats. The funny part is you can do that on normal days anyway, so it was just longer lines for the normal activities. We decided to continue the walk along the canal and found a gorgeous garden area next to the canal near Regents Park. It showed that the wisteria was starting to bloom, so I looked up places we could find some good wisteria vines. I found a place that we ended up visiting on Thursday afternoon, which was a gorgeous house completely covered in a huge wisteria vine. It was on a quaint alley that you get to through a gorgeous arch. It was one of the most picturesque houses I’ve seen in London.

In addition to all the flowers, there are all the baby animals. The main ones we see are the baby birds. I’ve seen a few different types and they are all adorable fluff balls.

Friday we went to the sauna and steamroom at better St. Pancras. Then in the evening we took a nice walk along the canal to dinner at the Feng Shang Princess, a restaurant floating on the canal. The walk there was really nice and we were surprised as we got to Camden Market that it wasn’t crazily packed with people. The food was mediocre, but the restaurant was a nice atmosphere. I probably wouldn’t go again or recommend it. It is probably more worth walking by than going to. On the way home there was a downpour like I haven’t seen since I lived in the southeast US. We both got hit pretty hard, and our pants got soaked. I had brought an umbrella from checking the forecast, so it wasn’t too bad. We ended up tubing it back, although I was pretty confused by the Northern line out of Camden station. We also saw later that the Northern Line going the other route had a train car start smoking and people had to break the glass to get out.

Saturday was a chill day and I played around with more AI. I tried the Alpaca and Vicuna models as well as some other spinoffs. I was amazed that they ran on my macbook, but they aren’t nearly as good as GPT4. They will get to be very useful soon, but aren’t quite there yet. The depth maps to 3D meshes worked pretty well. I had fun making a 3D version of my kingly picture from last week.

Sunday I went on a walk and saw another fox. It was on the other side of a fence and then it walked a little way down and poked through. We crossed the street together and went into a park that had some woods. Steph and I then went to Lightroom, an exhibit in the basement of the building I work in. It was ok, but it didn’t feel all that immersive compared to VR.

London, Week 22, Oxford and Blenheim

I had a pretty lonely week in London. People backed out of hanging out or didn’t respond when I asked. Steph was still in Zurich, so I just put all my time into the hackathon at work. They had outside participants come in to use the presence platform. That included Avatars, Dictation, Text to Speech, Anchors, Interaction Toolkit, Eye and Face Tracking, and Room Scanning. I was there because I was one of the main designers for Colocation and Room Scanning. I was surprised to find that my work featured in the public materials along with a photo of me.

I also published a stable diffusion animation article. I’m really happy with how the animations turned out:

Steph got back very late on Thursday, and on Friday we watched some Voyager. She was excited to be able to talk to some of the actors from that series, including one of her favorites. She compared the Tom Paris character to me, and herself to Belana Torres. It fits pretty well.

Saturday we headed out early for Oxford. We didn’t have any issues and got there mid-morning. We started with a nice coffee by the canal, then headed to the Ashmolean. The museum was being redone when I was last there, so it looked very different. The exhibits were the same to the ones I was able to see last time for the most part. I got a picture in front of Worchester, and in front of the kebab stand we used to go to and sent those to Robert, who I had studied with in Oxford over the summer.

Steph and I had a nice lunch in a little restaurant/grocer in a small alley. We then walked around the city before heading to Christ Church. We did the tour at Christ Church and relaxed for a bit at the AirBnB before going to a few pubs. We hit three pubs including the White Rabbit, and the Lighthouse.

We watched some Voyager that evening before passing out. The next morning we took it easy and then went to Blenheim Palace. We walked around the palace and gardens, but the main event was the joust. I was hoping for an actual competition, but it was a performance. The costumes and horses were better, as were most of the jousting acts. They weren’t as cheesy as the renfair in California. The stunt riders in California were better.

London, Week 21

Steph flew to Zurich for this week, and it was a hard week. Everyone at work was getting nervous about the planned layoffs that we expected to happen on Wednesday. Monday I was hoping to have some people over to play around with AI. I had stayed up to 2am the night before getting my new animation system working, but everyone ended up pulling out last minute. It made for a really lonely night since Steph was also gone for the first time since we’d gotten to London.

Tuesday was better with some MTG Commander, and I had a great time playing the deck I always play. I didn’t win, but I did make everyone go after me a few times. I purposefully didn’t play the deck to the limit, as some of the things it could have done just wouldn’t have been fun.

Wednesday was the reckoning at work. It was a hard day. I still got a sizable amount of work done, despite it all. The announcements were timed for US West Coast friendly times, so it was a lot of waiting for everyone. I had some coworkers back to my place and we played Codenames. I really enjoyed having people over and chatting with people over a few drinks at a bar a little later on. I came home somewhat relaxed and pretty sure I wasn’t getting laid off. I also got to have some much needed conversations with my siblings on Wednesday afternoon. I had a night of refining my AI animations a bit more, and then had a long soak in the tub. Archer cat was worried about me and wanted to cuddle me, he is so sweet.

I called my parents the next day, and the prepared for the Zurich trip this weekend to visit Steph while she is there. I also relaxed with the Archer kitty while listening to a book in one of my favorite series.

London, Week 20

London this week has been particularly nice. The flowers are coming out and the trees are getting leaves. It has been a good deal warmer and sunnier than March was as well. I’ve really enjoyed the walk into work and the walk around the neighborhoods.

As part of walking around and flowers blooming we finished the planters and put them out on the balcony. They make me happy to see the flowers and plants in the wooden boxes. The nice small pots that are left over will be kitty grass growing locations, and I’ve planted the next round in the oval one.

Steph and I went to the National Gallery as well. It was a great visit, and we got to see a lot of famous paintings. We’ve seen a number of them on the historical and art based youtube channels we watch. I was amazed at how detailed some of them were in person, and how big others were. I got to see a number of nice Canalettos, but they were all of Venice, surprisingly. We saw some still lifes by one of Steph’s favorite painters. There was a small gallery of well done art by famous people, with the subject of ugly old women. The exhibit was called the ‘ugly duchess’ and features some Da Vinci sketches and similar paintings by other famous artists. I was also quite impressed by the building itself.

We played some grounded with Michael and Michelle. The game was a lot more complete and stable compared to the previous time we’d played it. We made some bad choices on base placement, and got overrun by spiders. We moved to a better placement and called it a night.

London, Week 18

Work was still crazy this week, but I was able to break away for the important things, including going to the Science Museum with Steph on Wednesday for Lates. The museum was huge, and had a lot of interesting exhibits. They had one on science fiction that had a lot to say about AI, while saying not much about AI. I was a little disappointed they used actors instead of putting the work in to have it truly be AI, but I can understand that it is risky to rely on that kind of tech for a museum with children in it.

They also had a deep fakes booth set up for people to sit down and get their face changed to some famous person’s in real time. It wasn’t great resolution or that accurate, but it was a great example of the tech. It was a booth and not a normal exhibit. There was also a silent disco, which is the first one I’ve seen in person. I would be up for participating next time. It was especially amusing as everyone sang along to the music.

We also went through two other sections in the museum, one on clockmaking/watchmaking and the other healthcare. They were both fascinating and fun to go through.

I played around with AI a lot more. Steph thought of the idea for historic rap battles. We need to get the visuals and voices more polished, but the content comes together really nicely with GPT4, The pictures are from Stable Diffusion, and the voices are Microsoft Azure.

We didn’t do much over the rest of the week, and on the weekend we went to see Bakeoff the Musical with Nancy and Punit. We of course had to pregame with some baked goods. The musical was significantly better than I was expecting, and it was clear the cast was having a great time. They had one of the most touching scenes I’ve seen in any media in a long time. They also had a twist at the end that was completely on theme and made it so much more feel good. They had terrible campy moments, but went so over the top with it that it was no longer campy and was good again. I think it would be better if they went that over the top with the actual campy moments on the show, but that is a lot to ask.

Sunday we went to the Yonder climbing gym in Blackhorse with Punit and did the competition routes. We made it up to route 5, and then route 6 was a limited finger overhang route, so we were too tired to really attempt it. We then went to Big Penny Social, a brewery/restaurant. My food was great, but I guess the others didn’t really like theirs. The beers were pretty good and the atmosphere was great. I’d for sure go back, especially after another Yonder session.

London, Week 17

I was able to take Monday and Friday this week in lieu, since the last week I’d worked a lot.

Monday we went to the Tate Brittain and saw a lot of great old artworks. I really enjoyed the bronzes by Henry Moore. Steph especially enjoyed the paintings by JMW Turner. There were a ton of paintings by Turner across 5 or so rooms. He had a lot of periods and styles he used that were drastically different.

Work was still crazy, but I was able to get things together well for it.

Friday we had a call with Irene (Hi Irene!), then went off to the Museum of Egyptology. It had some amazing artifacts including shirts that were over 4000 years old. I also especially liked the cat objects, and there were quite a few.

That evening we went to see John Wick 4 at Everyman.

I also had some great experiments with Stable Diffusion + CharTurnerV2 + ControlNet for consistent characters in different poses. I was amazed at how well it worked, with these results being about a 1 minute generation for each image. I need to see if I can get the same character to show up in a subsequent generation with Image to Image. I also want to get the same character in different outfits.

I went climbing wiht Punit and Roel at City Climb in Aldgate, which was a pretty nice gym. I had a good climb, and did some great routes with Punit. Roel was able to do some of the routes with better handholds.

We had a great conversation about AI and I played with AI for most of the rest of the day.

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