Cybernetics in the 3rd Millennium (C3M) -- Volume 2 Number 6, Jun. 2003
Alan B. Scrivener --- www.well.com/~abs --- mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Report from the 2002 International SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition
on Graphics and Interactive Techniques, San Antonio
~ or ~
Steers, Beers and the Nth Dimension
A lot of my time recently is going into preparations for the
30th International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive
Techniques, also known as SIGGRAPH 2003 San Diego.
( www.siggraph.org/s2003/ )
This long-lived, prestigious, cutting edge, and recently huge
conference has never come to my home town of San Diego before,
though I've attended it many times in the last 20 years in places
like Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Anaheim, Las Vegas, Orlando,
and recently quite a few times in Los Angeles.
The thing I'm most involved with is chairing the SIGKIDS exhibition
( san-diego.siggraph.org/sigkids/ )
being produced by our local San Diego chapter.
( san-diego.siggraph.org/ )
We just recently completed a demonstration SIGKIDS project as well,
working with local 4th graders.
( san-diego.siggraph.org/sigkids/PtLoma/gps_dem.html )
This conference is only four weeks away, and now I find that
I have a backlog of reporting on previous conferences in my
writing queue. Last year's conference was in San Antonio, Texas.
( www.siggraph.org/s2002/ )
I decided to repurpose my report from San Antonio 2002 for this
e-Zine because last year I seemed to learn a lot more about systems
than graphics. But that does not surprise me. For a while I have
found 3D computer graphics to be a field where systems research
sometimes thrives, often hidden from view (or ignored, depending on
Why 3D and Systems Are Connected
After much observation and thought I've determined that there are
three main reasons why 3D graphics and systems theory are linked.
First, much of the math requires the same or similar tools,
especially matrix and vector manipulation.
Second, from its birth in the 1950s until the 1990s the field of 3D
graphics (which was very expensive) was supported by -- in addition
to military flight simulation and Computer Aided Design (CAD) --
scientific visualization (sci viz) applications. I remember in
1987 the National Science Foundation (NSF) made a big push for
increased sci viz, and began funding grants for the work. A lot
of the same people were working on chaos theory, Computational
Fluid Dynamics (CFD), and Finite Element Mesh (FEM) techniques --
all right in the middle of systems theory. These were the users
keeping the big players in graphics and high-end computing in
business: Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI), Cray, Sun, HP, Convex,
Stellar, etc., back when regular folks were using green-screen
DOS and black-and-white Mac systems.
I also remember in 1988 a pioneer named Robert Abel predicting
computer graphics would replace optical effects in the FX world,
and few believed him.
Since then 3D graphics -- and the SIGGRAPH conference -- have been
largely taken over by entertainment applications, like special
effects and games. They didn't become cost effective until about
ten years ago, when SIGGRAPH 1993 in Anaheim had a huge "Jurassic
Park" ride inside the huge SGI booth.
Which brings us to the third reason: even among the show-biz users
there is a need for systems theory, they just don't know it.
What I have found is that people ask for graphics because they
don't know how to ask for simulations. They'll say they want 3D
graphics of a jeep, say. The graphics people use a 3D modeling
program or maybe a Computer Aided Design (CAD) program to design
a jeep. But then the user will ask, "Why don't the wheels turn?"
The modeler will make the wheels into separate objects (children
objects of the jeep body object) and apply a "rotation about axis"
transformation to each, to make that happen. Then the user will
ask, "Why don't the front wheels turn back and forth when I move
the steering wheel?" More work on building the hierarchy into the
display list. This is called getting the "kinematics" right. Then,
"Why can't I drive it?" Now a programmer must get involved, to write
a driving simulation. "Why doesn't it bounce off objects it hits?"
Now they have to go find a physicist, to model the collisions
correctly. This is called getting the "dynamics" right. "Why
doesn't the hood crumple when I hit a tree?" Now they have to
find a more advanced physicist, and programmer to work with them
in most cases, to do a Finite Element Mesh of the hood and then
run an iterated simulation over that FEM to calculate the chaotic
crumpling effects. If you want to learn how to do this you get a
PhD in physics, but if you want to read the latest papers on this
research, you get the SIGGRAPH proceedings. There you find the
simulation science is hiding behind the graphics.
In the last ten years the "graphics" gurus have learned how to
simulate cracking matter for car crash scenes, learned how to
simulate rippling cloth for realistic clothing and curtains,
learned how to simulate smoke and flames for fires and explosions,
and even learned how to simulate hair growth and motion for
So that's thy I am reporting on a graphics conference to a bunch of
cybernetics fans. Here is how the rest of this issue is organized:
* San Antonio
* SIGGRAPH Details
* Jim Blinn
* Alfred Inselberg
* The Espada Dam and Aqueduct
"The steamship and the railroad created the centralized
metropolis. The motor car dismembered it into suburbia.
The jet plane simply by-passes it, leaving it to become
-- Marshall McLuhan, 1970
"Culture Is Our Business"
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/007045437X/hip-20 )
I began coming down with a cold on the flight out of San Diego,
and then the next morning I had to sit through an all-day mandatory
meeting while feverish, so afterwards I went back to my room and slept
for a day, missing a big party thrown by the SIGGRAPH Professional
Chapters committee, held at a complex of night clubs in the old
downtown train station called "Sunset Station."
( www.sunset-station.com/main.php?page=history.htm )
When I finally came to I went off in search of vitamin C, latte,
and a disposable camera, and in the process began to learn my way
around San Antonio. I followed the railroad tracks to find the
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/10_08A.JPG )
Broadway was such an old road, and I followed it north and south.
this lead me to some of the oldest houses around.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/21_19A.JPG )
It became clear that the city was on a slant, with south downhill
and north uphill. Way up on the north side I found a huge, beautiful
football stadium at Alamo Heights High School with a breathtaking
view of the city. (I hear tell high school football is really big
in Texas.) In a Starbucks I overheard a woman say, "Isn't it nice
to finally have a Sunday when it isn't raining?" I remembered that
I'd seen on the news there'd been major flooding in San Antonio a
few weeks previously.
( txwww.cr.usgs.gov/flood_events.asp?event_id=1 )
( www.floodsafety.com/documentaries/j2002/#a )
I drove where I thought a flood would be and sure enough found some
of the mucky remains of downed brush in a flooded park, looking like
it had all been spray-painted gray.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/25_24A.JPG )
Returning the downtown area, where the convention center and Alamo
create a kind of "tourist/conventioneer ghetto," I was delighted
with the way that canals bring the river through shops, hotels
and attractions, in what they call the "Riverwalk."
( www.sanantonioriverwalk.com/ )
The river trail was one floor below street level, and much cooler
on hot days. It lead into an indoor glassed-in shopping center
called "River Center Mall," which had a bit of river running
( www.shoprivercenter.com/ )
Little boats made a cruise through the district giving tours.
( www.sarivercruise.com/ )
At one point walking through the district I passed a Hooters
restaurant and saw through the window that the big plasma TV
was showing the movie "Hoosiers." I wondered what this could mean.
I really enjoyed the food in San Antonio. I discovered a regional
soft drink called "Big Red" that I began drinking by the case.
At the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum (318 E. Houston St.) I met
a bartender who also loved the stuff.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/2167352600.jpg )
Bill Miller BBQ (4500 Broadway) impressed me so much, before I'd
even taken a bite, that I took a picture of the food.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/26_25A.JPG )
At Tom's Ribs #2 (2535 NW Loop 410) I bought some of the BBQ
sauce to bring home. (I also talked to a waiter who had a
3-year-old daughter, and told him to take her to see sigKids.)
And I kept hearing so much about the great chicken fried steak
to be found in San Antonio, Austin and the Texas hill country,
that I finally tried it at Pig Stand #29 (1508 Broadway).
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/33_11A_2.JPG )
It had egg whites in the batter, and was so light and tasty that
it spoiled me and ruined the California version forever after.
But somehow my footsteps kept bringing me back to "Steers and Beers"
in the River Center Mall. It was convenient, quick, very Texas
Tourist, and I attended one organized lunch there as well.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/2167352590.jpg )
Terminating the River Walk on the south end was the Henry B. Gonzales
Convention Center, where the water flowed out of a spring-like
fountain into the canals.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/20_18A.JPG )
Beyond that was Hemisphere Plaza, and Tower of the Americas looming
over the Texas hills.
The convention center was a beautiful building.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/13_11A.JPG )
And from bridges over the exhibits area of SIGGRAPH you could see the
river tours floating by.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/23_22A.JPG )
I really like the southwestern touches.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/12_10A.JPG )
The lampshades inside the convention center were works of art.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/san_antonio_lamp.JPG )
But finally I had to stop rubbernecking and pay attention to the
conference. One of my main goals in attending was to check out
the sigKIDS event there, and so I did.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/2167352608.jpg )
Later I found an article in the San Antonio Express-Telegram
( archives.newsbank.com/ar-search/we/Archives?p_action=search&p_perpage=20&p_theme=SAEC&p_product=SAEC&s_search_type=keyword&p_text_base=sigkids&p_maxdocs=200&p_field_psudo-sort-0=psudo-sort&p_sort=YMD_date%3AD&p_field_Source-0=Source&p_field_date-0=YMD_date&p_params_date-0=date%3AB%2CE&p_text_date-0=-1qzY&p_field_YMD_date-0=YMD_date&p_field_YMD_date-0=YMD_date&p_params_YMD_date-0=date%3AB%2CE&xcal_ranksort=&xcal_useweights=no&%5B+Search+%5D.x=72&%5B+Search+%5D.y=17 )
One of the first things I saw was the "Emerging Tech" exhibit.
( www.siggraph.org/s2002/conference/etech/ )
It had some great quotes on the wall outside, and I really
liked this one:
"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that
heralds the most discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!)
but 'That's funny....'"
-- Isaac Asimov
My friend Dave Warner and his staff from Mindtel were demonstrating
Knowledge Fusion technologies, and the Cyberarium Knowledge Fountain.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/16_14A.JPG )
( www.mindtel.com )
I was very impressed with "Physiological Reaction and Presence
in Stressful Virtual Environments."
( www.siggraph.org/s2002/conference/etech/physio.html )
This group of researchers showed that if you step off a cliff in
Virtual Reality (VR) it is very stressful to the body, even though
you know you won't fall. (I never got a demo though; it was always
"down" when I came by.)
A group of Japanese researchers had a "Light Saber" kind of
physical interface that had broken down, and they dismantled
it on the carpet and tried in vain to fix it.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/14_12A.JPG )
Moving on to the art shows, which I always get value out of,
several things stood out. There was a group of wandering art
"scavengers" who called themselves "Jackals." The wore cute
jackal ears and masks, and when I saw them they were allegedly
pulling data out of the ubiquitous SIGGRAPH wireless network
and distorting it into audible, artistic noises. Their write-up
in the art catalog said:
The Jackals live on the outskirts of the metropolis,
watching, collecting, repurposing what they can to
construct a new reality of techno-art. They will arrive
with only enough supplies to survive. The nature of the
work depends on what can be scavenged.
Kenneth A. Huff
( www.siggraph.org/s2002/conference/art/art_work.html )
Looking at some of the other projects on Huff's web site, I
think this project may have something to say about the marginal
role most artists have in our society.
Another thought-provoking work was "Homo Indicium" by Ioannis
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/2167352529.jpg )
It looked like it was set up to capture information about each visitor,
both demographic and genetic. The artist's statement says:
Homo Indicium started with the question, "What can a
machine know about a person?" Every day, machines continue
to compile digital identities. These identities influence
countless decisions made by both humans and machines. The
question is "Is this information enough to truly know
someone?" Homo Indicium allows its audience to interact
with information-based identities as a way of exploring
questions raised by this process.
( www.siggraph.org/artdesign/gallery/S02/onfloor/yessios/1artiststatement.html )
In the Electronic Theater, the big film and video show of
cutting-edge works from the last year, I really like a music
video for musical group Super Furry Animals, called "It's Not
the End of the World," by Duran Duboi.
( www.siggraph.org/publications/video-review/sig2002/141.html )
I wrote down my predictions of what we'd see in the Electronic
Theater while waiting for it to start:
* Ice Age
* Jimmy Neutron
* Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron
* Monsters, Inc.
* Minority Report
* Star Wars Episode II -- Attack of the Clones
* The Time Machine
* Lilo and Stitch
* Grand Theft Auto
* Treasure Planet
* Rolie Polie Olie
* Lord of the Rings
* Harry Potter
* Stuart Little 2
Of these, the only five to appear were:
* Star Wars Episode II -- Attack of the Clones
* The Time Machine
* Lord of the Rings
* Harry Potter
I took this as a sign that graphics is becoming so mainstream
it is invisible. You can buy the entire evening's show at:
( www.siggraph.org/publications/video-review/SVR.html )
As I mentioned above, I first went to SIGGRAPH in 1983, and saw
it begin to change in 1993 into a movie and entertainment technology
show. Future conferences may have to be held in or near LA to
retain the core audience. These days everybody seems to be an
animator. They pay them peanuts, but they send them to SIGGRAPH.
I heard young guys from New Zealand at vendor Newtek's party (in
a bar called Howl at the Moon) trying to pick up some cute young
Brazilian women by saying they'd worked on "Matrix Reloaded," and
they probably had. (Recently at an LA SIGGRAPH event a speaker
asked how many people were artists, and how many were on the
management side, for a show of hands. He didn't even mention
programmers. Twenty years ago SIGGRAPH was 90% programmers -- today
in the world most animators live in all that's left of programmers
is "shader writers.")
So, being that this is an animator's show, I went to some
animator events. At a panel discussion called "Yoda and Beyond:
Creating the Digital Cast of Star Wars Episode II" I learned
something very interesting about Lucasfilms. If memory serves
only one of the panelists had worked on Episode I, and none of
them had worked on Epodes IV, V and VI. I realized that George
Lucas pretty much starts over on each movie with a new team.
This means Lucasfilms doesn't really exist the way, say, Paramount
or Universal do. When George dies, the estate will sell off the
effects unit Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) (probably to Disney
who will run it into the ground and shutter it), the game unit
Lucasarts to somebody like Sony or Microsoft, and the Skywalker
Ranch property in Marin County that looks like a vineyard to some
real estate speculator. Lucasfilms will not survive. This fulfills
the prophecy I heard from Steve Jobs and others around 1995 that
Hollywood was fundamentally a feudal system, with engineers just
like artisans in guilds, one step above peasants, and that's what
it would always be. (Somehow the early developers thought they
could become royals!)
On a lighter note, I learned that Yoda's face was originally modeled
after Albert Einstein's.
I also went to "What's Up, Doc? A Fond Remembrance of Chuck Jones,"
which had nothing to do with 3D graphics except that animators like
to learn about other animators. But, hey, I'm a fan, too. There
I learned that Chuck Jones got the idea for Wiley Coyote from a
passage in "Roughing It" by Mark Twain.
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0451524071/hip-20 )
...if you start a swift-footed dog after him, you will enjoy it
ever so much- especially if it is a dog that has a good opinion
of himself, and has been brought up to think he knows something
about speed. The coyote will go swinging gently off on that
deceitful trot of his, and every little while he will smile
a fraudful smile over his shoulder that will fill that dog
entirely full of encouragement and worldly ambition, and make
him lay his head still lower to the ground, and stretch his
neck further to the front, and pant more fiercely, and stick
his tail out straighter behind, and move his furious legs with
a yet wilder frenzy, and leave a broader and broader, and higher
and denser cloud of desert sand smoking behind him, and marking
his long wake across the level plain!
And all this time the dog is only a short twenty feet behind
the coyote, and to save the soul of him he cannot understand
why it is that he cannot get perceptibly closer; and he begins
to get aggravated, and it makes him madder and madder to see
how gently the coyote glides along and never pants or sweats
or ceases to smile; and he grows still more and more incensed
to see how shamefully he has been taken in by an entire stranger,
and what an ignoble swindle that long, calm, soft-footed trot is;
and next he notices that he is getting fagged, and that the coyote
actually has to slacken speed a little to keep from running away
from him- and then that town dog is mad in earnest, and he begins
to strain and weep and swear, and paw the sand higher than ever,
and reach for the coyote with concentrated and desperate energy.
This "spurt" finds him six feet behind the gliding enemy, and
two miles from his friends. And then, in the instant that a wild
new hope is lighting up his face, the coyote turns and smiles
blandly upon him once more, and with a something about it which
seems to say: "Well, I shall have to tear myself away from you,
bub -- business is business, and it will not do for me to be
fooling along this way all day" -- and forthwith there is a rushing
sound, and the sudden splitting of a long crack through the
atmosphere, and behold that dog is solitary and alone in the
midst of a vast solitude!
It makes his head swim. He stops, and looks all around; climbs
the nearest sand mound, and gazes into the distance; shakes his
head reflectively, and then, without a word, he turns and jogs
along back to his train, and takes up a humble position under
the hindmost wagon, and feels unspeakably mean, and looks
ashamed, and hangs his tail at half-mast for a week. And for
as much as a year after that, whenever there is a great hue
and cry after a coyote, that dog will merely glance in that
direction without emotion, and apparently observe to himself,
"I believe I do not wish any of that pie."
Back at Steers and Beers I went to the Student Volunteer Luncheon
to meet and greet, and one volunteer who was a local told me she
never goes downtown. Her life is in the suburbs out beyond the
An old colleague talked me into joining the Computer Graphics Pioneers,
and attending their dinner. It was nice, I got to see some famous
luminaries (famous at least to the 3d world) who had made history;
but I did notice they weren't making much new history. From there
I went back down to the SIGGRAPH art gallery for a "Wearable Computers
Fashion Show," which was done by ambitious 19-year-olds and was quite
This at last brings me to the serious academic content I gleaned from
Jim Blinn is hugely popular at SIGGRAPH, because he's friendly,
he's funny, he's a genius, he's done some great stuff, and he
shares his knowledge. In the past he's created classics like
the Voyager flyby animation, "Mechanical Universe," "Project
Mathematics" and his column in "IEEE Computer Graphics and
Applications," "Jim Blinn's Corner" (now collected into a book).
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1558603875/hip-20 )
Most of this was done in his California Institute of Technology
(CalTech) and Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL) days, but since the
late 1990s he's been working for Microsoft, and developing a new
visual notation for the math involved in 3D graphics. His talk
in 2002 was a report on this work, which is now on-line in PDF form,
called "Using Tensor Diagrams to Represent and Solve Geometric
Problems." (Warning: the following link goes straight to a huge
( research.microsoft.com/~blinn/UsingTensorDiagrams.pdf )
It was an update on his talk in 2001, also now on-line.
( terra.cs.nps.navy.mil/DistanceEducation/online.siggraph.org/2001/Courses/cd1/cnav/cnavc18.html )
If you don't feel like wading through all this verbiage just yet,
here is a quick look at one of his diagrams:
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/blinn.gif )
Following some ideas developed by Albert Einstein and Richard
Feynman, Blinn develops a way of visually representing matrix
and vector multiplication in 3 and 4 dimensions. "Why four
dimensions?" you may ask. Well, as you may or may not know, a
vector is an ordered set of numerical values that travel around
together and usually have some kind of geometric interpretation.
The number of values in the vector is its dimension. A 3-vector
can represent any point in space, as X, Y and Z values. A matrix
is a rectangle of numbers that can, among other things, stand
for a set of multiplications to "transform" one vector into another,
for example to perform a rotation about an axis. A 3x3 matrix
can perform any rotation. However, if you take all the things
people like to do with 3D data: rotate it, scale it, and move it
about (i.e., "translate" it), you can't fit them all into a 3x3
matrix. The algebra fails, and the equations have no solution.
But if you use a 4x4 matrix, something magic happens. You turn
each 3D XYZ vector into a 4D XYZW vector, with W equal to one.
After the matrix multiplication you divide each new X, Y and Z
by the new W. The result gives the correct answer for all needed
3D geometric transformations, and a bunch we'll probably never need
as well. I still don't fully understand it after using it for 30
years, except to say that the extra dimension gives you enough
"elbow room" to get everything done. (Think of how hard it would
be to turn a canoe around in a skinny closet.) This system is
called "4x4 homogenous matrix form."
So Blinn wanted to make homogenous matrix calculations easier to
do, so computers can do them faster, so 3D graphics can look
better. He was looking for ways to skip, combine or simplify
steps in the arithmetic of 3D graphics computations. He found that
by representing the calculations with diagrams he could more easily
find patterns that allowed him to perform these simplifications.
First Blinn converted standard matrix form into an alternate form
invented by Einstein for use in quantum physics calculations,
called "Einstein Index Notation." Then he borrowed ideas from
the "Feynman Diagram" to draw this alternate form as a diagram of
little circles and arrows.
He represents a point or a line as a labeled circle with an arrow
coming out. A transformation matrix is a labeled circle with an
arrow going in and another going out. Each arrow represents an
index, like i, j, and k, into a vector or matrix.
With this notation Blinn has actually proved a few theorems,
and made some non-trivial discoveries. (He has also worked on
creating software to input and output these diagrams, and then
use them to perform matrix math on graphics data.) The huge
auditorium had hundreds of people listening, and dozens taking
furious notes. I think these ideas will spread. The reason I am
sharing this with you systems theorists is this: if you open up any
modern textbook on linear control theory, such as "Control Systems
Design: An Introduction To State-Space Methods" (1986) by Bernard
Friedland, you will see matrix operations similar to those
used in 3D graphics.
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070224412/hip-20 )
But instead of standing for the arithmetic to be done to X, Y and
Z values in a vector, these matrix coefficients stand for values
in Ordinary Differential Equations (ODEs), that is, equations based
on X, the rate of change of X ("X prime," or X'), the rate of change
of rate of change of X (X'') and so on. If correctly set up, a matrix
will define all future states of the deterministic system associated
with that set of ODEs, given any initial condition.
So I have a hunch. Here is my hunch: that applying Blinn's Tensor
Diagrams to problems in linear control theory will yield some
quick, non-trivial results. I'm too busy to work on this now.
The other major talk I went to was "Multidimensional Visualization
With Applications to Multivariate Problems" by Alfred Inselberg.
( www.siggraph.org/s2002/conference/courses/crs4.html )
He explained how by displaying high-dimensional data in parallel
columns instead as perpendicular sides of a cube, you can fit
lots of dimensions in one display, and see trends. He also had
software for manipulating this data, which allowed you to, sort,
filter, and "lasso' data to find and analyze correlations. He
explained how he'd analyzed high-dimensional maintenance data
from Israeli Army jeeps and managed to sort the data out by
different manufacturers. I was reminded of the awesome capabilities
of Support Vector Machines (SVM) for sorting high-dimensional data,
and wondered if there was a connection (or potential synergy).
(See C3M vol. 2 num. 2 for more detail about SVMs.) I was also
reminded of Dr. McCoy's medical status display in the sick bay
of the starship U.S.S. Enterprise, on the U.S.A. TV show "Star Trek."
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/sickscan.jpg )
I realized after listening for a few minutes that I had met the
speaker before. When I was working booth duty for AVS Inc. at
SIGGRAPH 1993 in Anaheim, I was loaned to the IBM booth for a
while. They had a competing product to AVS called IBM Data
Explored (DX), and I was getting the stink-eye from the DX people,
but this one IBM employee found I was from AVS and started telling
me all about his new method of visualizing large dimensional data
by making the coordinates parallel instead of perpendicular.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/mdg1.gif )
He was doing this research at the IBM Scientific Center in Santa
Monica, California, but was having trouble getting the rest of
IBM interested in using his work. The man was a missionary for
this idea. Of course it was Alfred Inselberg. He gave me a copy
of his paper, "Parallel Coordinates: A Tool for Visualizing
Multivariate Relations" by Alfred Inselberg and Bernard Dimsdale,
from "Human-Machine Interactive Systems" (1991). I was quite
amazed that after rooting around for a while in my garage in a
box of old, water-damaged papers from my AVS days I was able to find
it again. Unfortunately it seems to be nowhere on the web.
In fact, very little by Inselberg is on the web. I found a copy
of "Parallel Coordinate Representations of Smooth Hypersurfaces"
(1992) by Chao-Kuei Hung and Alfred Inselberg, in google.com's
web page cache! There is also a place on the web where you can
buy his new software package, Parallax.
( www.kdnuggets.com/software/parallax.html )
A nice summary of Inselberg's work and software, and related
writings and tools, may be found at "the MIKY database,
Information Visualization and Visualization Techniques"
by Rika Furuhata, et. al.
( www.imv.is.ocha.ac.jp/~miky/04.htm )
As I researched Inselberg's work for this zine, I discovered he
lived in San Diego for a while and worked at the Supercomputer Center.
( www.sdsc.edu )
His residency in SD overlapped with mine. I wish I'd known, and had
taken advantage of the opportunity to hear him speak then.
The Espada Dam and Aqueduct
As the conference began to wind down, I felt like there was
still something about San Antonio I didn't understand: why was
it here in the first place? I'd gone to see the Alamo, which
was a roofless mission ruin that Sam Houston thought had no
strategic value. He told Davey Crockett and those guys to clear
out, but they fought to the last man instead. I'd also learned
that the Alamo was the northernmost in a string of missions.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/san_antonio_missions.JPG )
(This and other maps are from:
I'd gone to see the southernmost mission, called
Mission Espada, and it looked like an old stone and adobe ruin.
Padres used to live there and they converted Indians to Catholicism,
just like in California. I didn't learn much that was new.
But my intuition lead me to persist. I remembered that I'd
done a lot of research in California on the path of the old
"El Camino Real," the King's Highway that connected all of the
missions. I had to work on my own until a book on the topic
came out in 2000, "California's El Camino Real and Its Historic
Bells" by Max Kurillo, Erline M. Tuttle.
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070932653375/hip-20 )
One of the places where the path was easy to trace was where it
was squeezed down, in the town of Capistrano Beach, by the sea to
the west and the mountains to the east, to a narrow "notch" perhaps
half a mile wide.
( www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?size=big&mapdata=jZ2g%2b%2fXW8V%2bKsLu2AnCqwqmv1qs6cuO0mzjuSjZMf%2ffCDIaG0VcxiFddfUGYoIRiEYXQiA6%2fg7vtcq7Fz3Ff7HbbzpqFqUeioNhhaeiWo4vegd4okblQGC1VZxDxEfyHaiucEy1b3ROKdbGJW8UiJGJnJQTrx%2f13ME41aAFhq%2fpFBdDp9z8zlXVgs9517ZqygwBh3hadeR02ryjAoQ%2fg6UzFPOR9woRoyDWQ%2b8lc0HmjJ3AXxWPnxl4Da%2bLdIvr0LJ7SqyPjSPJmmV1V2ygSVqIcGFsI%2fWHtpD7gPTrufl37xdgUbKudTJdepU7M31O1ZjbHO%2fxHbBe%2f%2beT76JQa5c%2bIOSemaRgkQjn5B%2bS1VQPO7brY7NFpy2K3Gb3GE6K%2b9RRMk3qb6qJIQLkeNqSYx7f4jXCBSvCaxRN4Xo3jg3PDdkJnkAu%2fUQ%3d%3d )
I was delighted when I discovered that California's current
internet backbone, carried by fiber optic cable, follows the route
of the El Camino Real almost exactly, and squeezes through this same
notch along with the railroad, old highway, freeway, power lines,
phone lines, gas lines, and every other kind of line connecting
San Diego and Orange Counties. But then again, "The Silicon Valley
Tarot" says the Missions and El Camino Real were California's
( www.sjgames.com/svtarot/net/elcaminoreal.html )
Remembering my conversation with the student volunteer who lived
beyond the 410 loop, I drove all the way around that loop one
evening, and ended up having dinner at a restaurant called
The Magic Time Machine.
( magictimemachine.com/ )
I talked to several of the staff about the missions. They told me
that all the 4th graders are taken there on a field trip (just like
in California). One waiter said it was a great place for kids to
hide from the chaperones, since it had so many old walls it was like
a maze. The busboy told me there was an aqueduct there where you
could see water flow uphill!
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/espada_dam.JPG )
I went back out to the southernmost mission and searched around until
I found the old aqueduct.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/07_05A.JPG )
Of course it didn't run uphill; it was an optical illusion.
But I discovered it was the oldest Spanish water course
in the United States.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/SG2002/03_01A.JPG )
In researching this zine I found that many conferences that come to
San Antonio get the tour of the dam and aqueduct. For a random example,
the 54th International Auctioneer's Conference and Show,
( www.auctioneers.org/education/sanantonio/tours/tours_7_11_03.html )
says on their web site:
We will also visit Espada Dam. Completed in 1745, it still diverts
water into an acequia madre (mother ditch). The water is carried over
Sixmile Creek through Espada Aqueduct - the oldest Spanish aqueduct
in the United States.
Now, at last, I understood why San Antonio was here. The dams and
waterworks made the missions possible, and they had built them one by
one moving northward, uphill, until the last was the Alamo, and around
that mission the city had formed. And these missions, like the ones in
California, were connected to Mexico City, "two worlds away," by another
branch of the El Camino Real.
Later, back home, while visiting a local science museum, I found
out that when you place a phone call from San Diego to Mexico City,
it goes through San Antonio. There too the new fiber follows the old
highway. (This was part of an exhibit funded by the Titan Corporation
of San Diego, at the Rueben H. Fleet Science Center.
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