A Post About Droste

Nice, but needs some cropping.

(In which our amateur blogger plays the role of self-aggrandizing art critic.)

Always bad web-form to refer to something that might soon change, but see that banner up there? It’s a Droste effect applied to a picture I took in NYC on September 21, 2001, just ten days after 911. My digital camera (a Fuji Finepix) served me well at the time, but its 640 x 480 output pales and pixelates next to even the cheapest digital cameras available today. Still, I really like that picture.

Not even worthy of Droste!
No flash?!

I didn’t use a flash for the first snap of this picture. In it the chain link fence looks cold and constraining, confining and defining the entire composition. How ironic then, that illuminating the foreground barrier really delivered a sense of openness? This is the first and last time I’ll display it. You’re welcome.

The one I Drosted.
Much better. (2001)

Shortly after my trip to post-911 New York, I started doctoring the w/flash-version of the picture. First I cropped it. That looked nice enough, got rid of some extraneous color palette (who needs trees anyhow?) and provided subjective focus. It’s in this phase that I came to call the picture “Jung Gym” for what may be obvious pun-inspired reasons. But cropping wasn’t enough.

Banksy? Meh.

It's a mugshot.
Banksy, eat your heart out.

Next on the image doctoring docket, a pass through what looks like a Photoshop cutout filter with some selective digital hand painting wherein the artist introduces fresh, bold color to the ensemble. Enamored by this piece, I tacked on my dotcom-du-jour brand and slapped the would-be commercial art on a coffee mug. It has not sold well. A dozen years later, it’s still available. Buy your uncool mug today.

Recursion, pre-Droste
Is that recursion?

Still haunted by this lo-fi image of a fence partly obscuring a jungle gym in front of a building, I immediately modded it again. This iteration, while not a true Droste, includes elements of recursion, no doubt planting the seed for future self-similar expression experimentation. What does that mean? When I look at this throwaway sketch, I see the seeds of my journey into Droste effects.

I thought this was a post about Droste?

Droste Jung Gym
Yes, it’s a Droste. (2010)

So, back to the banner on top of every page of DanDreifort.com; it’s a Drosted version of this “Jung Gym” picture wherein we replicate the original introducing near-infinite recursion. It’s not really infinite, silly. That’s impossible. We can only hint at it. Hell, instead of referring to that banner (that might go away someday,) I’ll just post the full version of that and erase the bit where I asked future reader noticing the absence of said banner to tell me to post that image over to the right. See it there? That’s why I make the big bucks.

Droste images thumbnail
Click for a selection of Droste effect images

Fast-forward to September 2009: My Sony Elph digital camera is a little better and there exists a plugin for The GIMP called MathMap. Pair the two with moderate investment in time and elbow grease and voilà! Pixel pushers the world ’round are able to create myriad mergings of art and math. For me, that meant the ability to create Droste effect images. I’ll offer only one more thumbnail image here. Clicking it, just like the following hyper-linked text, will take you to a selection of Dan Dreifort Droste effect efforts, displayed in chronological order. Enjoy!

Do you want a personalized Droste effect image? Tell me. Maybe we can work something out.

New Buckyballs Shape – Tetrahedron

No juggalo, I like playing with magnets.

Fun with magnets

A friend gave me a Ball of Whacks a few years ago. I played with them so much, my special lady friend threatened to leave me the next time I said, “Hey babe, look at this weird shape I made!”

Buckyballs are great fun for creative fingers. I made this tetrahedron shape in 2011 and looked around to see if anybody else had done it. Nope. Almost a year has passed since I recorded the video above. Time to share it with the world. Has anybody else recorded proof of the buckyballs “3 sided pyramid” shape in the past year? I hope not. It’s getting more and more difficult to appear as if I have fresh ideas.

I’ll take the tiny creativity victories.

Inadvertent Lessons from Safety Town

Under a Blanket of Sleep

My earliest memories fluttered archetypal dreamscapes of unknowable shapes and otherworldly sounds. I remember not understanding the recurring dream, confusion which no doubt rooted the subtle cerement of fear shrouding this fascinating fancy. That I lacked adequate language to describe it frustrated me more than my inability to understand it.

Dan Dreifort 1976
No, it’s not a little girl. It’s our intrepid rememberer at a USA bicentennial parade.

Well, I still don’t get it and my words still don’t do it justice, but my next-oldest set of memories are mundane enough to recount here without feelings of inadequacy. Like most memories of early childhood, these gems exist only because of unintentional mnemonics.

I likely remember the USA bicentennial Independence Day parade because there’s photographic evidence I attended the event. I saw those “Happy 200th USA” pictures in 1976, 1977, 1978 and so on, every time I opened the family photo album. The requisite bright colors, explosions, and yummy charred meat in tube form might have seared something into my noggin too, but without photographs to jog my memory you wouldn’t be reading about it now. (Sorry!)

If a bear tells a story in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?

The narrative is another way we cheat the long forgetting. One of my earlier memories surely exists because I heard about it repeatedly and then repeated the tale thusly.

The babysitter put me to bed in my crib. All’s well, until some pother of hullabaloo caused her to enter my room a short time later. Feathers filled the air.  Through the feathery haze she cried, “What happened?!”

“My pillow hit me, so I hit it back.” I said.

Or so the story goes. I’m sure I first heard that story when my parents recounted it to somebody shortly thereafter. I heard it again a few years later when I asked, “Mom, Dad, why are there little feathers in the carpet in my bedroom?” Then I took the storytelling torch and ran with it every time a friend asked about the teeny snow-like feathers mashed into the blue Berber carpet acting as the floor of the rebel fortress on the ice planet of Hoth as we played with Star Wars figures in my room.

Mnemonicless Memories of Safety Town

So what should we call the first memories of waking life we store without story or photo aid? I’m tempted to use words like “pure” but my episodic memory isn’t what it used to be, so we’ll just say they’re unaided or mnemonicless memories. An unintentional lesson from Safety Town might be my earliest, cohesive, unaided memory.

Safety Town, for the uninitiated, teaches preschool children about life on the streets. Here’s a (dead) link to the Safety Town I attended where I learned about safety on the sidewalks and streets of suburbia. I think I remember kids riding Big Wheels around a marked course, acting as ersatz cars while numerous police officers watched over us. Safer, I suppose, than letting a bunch of idiot kids run loose in the streets to learn via trial and error with real cars.

This one time, at Safety Town

Surrounded by counselors and cops, a man walks among us distributing candy from a large container. “Would you like some candy?”

“You’re damn right I like me some candy,” is probably what I thought as I nabbed some sugary goodness with my grubby kid hands.

One of the many police officers then lined up all of the kids. “If you took candy, step forward,” he said. I and most of the other children took a few steps. “Now, turn around and hand all of your candy to somebody behind you.”

“What the f#*%?!” is what I might have said had my vocabulary been more, um, mature.

Obviously the lesson was, “Don’t take candy from strangers.” But what I took home that day was something along the lines of, “Don’t trust old people who take your candy.” Or “The police aren’t capable of protecting you, even if you’re standing next to them.” Or whatever. @$$holes took my mother#*%ing candy.

To this day I’m more likely to accept candy from a stranger than to think the police are going to protect me from harm. Candy is awesome.  1979 Safety Town can suck it. Safety Town, are you paying attention? Change your curriculum, if you haven’t already.

What other sorts of memory mnemonics are there? Is there a song that carries you to a specific place and time? Every time I hear “Happy Birthday” I think of my birthday. What a great song. Thanks for reading.

When not mangling memories, Dan Dreifort consults on search and usability and makes music with his band LEAVE CORP. He recently founded SLACK, Summer League Adult Co-Ed Kickball and is doing yoga for the first time tonight. Dan Dreifort is a notary public and a marriage officiant. Dan is also for scuba.

Cat Food New Flavors

The Itchy & Scratchy Game
Itchy & Scratchy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Staring at the Oven Roasted Chicken Flavor DENTAL TREATS cats love! AKA Feline Greenies (TM), I pondered yet another in a long line of unoriginal thoughts: Why do we feed cats food flavored for humans?

The answer is two-fold.

1. We do not. Well, I’m reasonably sure we’re not feeding our cats food that’s flavored to please a human. That is to say, while I haven’t tried one of the crunchy green treats, I’m confident that it tastes nothing like Oven Roasted Chicken.

2. Regardless, the cat has no money. It doesn’t go shopping. They’re trying to sell the treats to crazy cat lady (played by me in this episode,) not her cat.

So everything makes sense again in our consumer happy world. You know, the one in which we US residents alone literally spend billions of dollars annually on our pets. Or does it?

Suggestions for new flavors of cat treats

  • Mouse – Duh. It’s a cat classic. Mouse flavored cat food is a no-brainer. Tom and Jerry. Herman and Katnip. Itchy and Scratchy. Your cat wants to vicariously live the adventures of those famous cat/mouse duos with every bite.
  • Baby Bunny – Rabbits are the potato chip of the wild kingdom. They eat, they make those pellets, they sleep, they breed, they breed, they breed, and then they die – usually at the fangs of some hungry predator. And let’s face it, they’re none too smart, so most of them don’t even make it to adulthood. Or maybe, just maybe, baby bunnies just taste better. Yeah, we’ll go with that. Cat’s love munching on fresh baby bunny.
  • Moth and Butterfly Surprise – If you own both butterfly bush and feline, you know that delish comes from a chrysalis. That’s poetic license for: Cats like to eat butterflies. These tasty cat treats could have an appealing butterfly shape. You know, for kids!
  • Wasabi Soy Sparrow – The sparrow, better known as feline sushi, pairs wonderfully with a little wasabi and soy. Add a dash of pickled ginger to clear the palate between bites. Your little kitty just loves eating birds.
  • Crunchy Vole Surprise – Put a cat in a room with a single mouse and a single vole, and 90% of the time that cat’s going to head for the mouse first. Vole treats can be marketed to cats with a more discerning palate. Your cat is too good for mouse flavored food. Let those commoner alley cats eat the mice. I’m a classy cat. I only eat vole.
Dan Dreifort takes a pill every day to control cat allergies. When he’s not writing about idealized cat treats he consults on usability, SEO, efficiency, and anything  else techy marketing-ish people want to know.

Why Does Time Seem to Speed Up as We Age?

Time flies when you’re having fun. Time waits for no man. And sure enough, time appears to move faster as we get older. I’ll preface this by saying that this is (obviously) not an original observation. Furthermore, I don’t think my explanation of WHY time seemed to pass more slowly when we were younger is original either. But it makes the most sense to me when I explain it, so maybe you’ll like it too.

The Short, Obtuse Explanation of Why Time Speeds Up

The relative self-investment of a given time span dictates the speed at which the passing of time is perceived.


U = Self duration (Your age at the time, minus the age at which you started to remember things.)

e = Event Span (e.g. a specific summer)

S = Perceived speed of time

The only slightly longer but clearer explanation of the speed of time

Time speed formula
As we get older, time seems to speed up. How weird is that? (larger numbers = faster speeds)

That summer I spent playing basketball with my neighbor Trey, watching Transformers on the boob tube, and um, well, I don’t actually remember too much of what I did when I was eleven years old, but it seemed to last a long time. School was even worse. Those nine months of school seemed like a thousand eternities.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that kids really start storing long term memories, i.e. they begin becoming individuals, somewhere around the age of six. It follows then that the three months of a post-fifth-grader summer amount to a whopping five percent (5%) of your life sensations. It seems like a long period of time because given your only referential (you) it is a long time.

Conversely, 50 year-old you perceives summer’s passage to be much faster because that period is barely a half of a percent (0.005%) of your accumulated experiences. If my quick math is correct, the difference is about 1,000X. Or to put it another way, your sixth grade summer was something like 100,000% of the proportional time span that the summer of your 50th year will be.

That’s it. But if you’re a big time geek and/or Billy Mays fan, but wait, there’s more!

Implications of senility, dementia and amnesia on perceived speed of passage of time

Pure speculation here, but I assume memory loss (think: Alzheimer’s) might cause time to slow down. That is to say, if you begin to lose your experiences and frame of reference thereby attenuating your period of “self duration”, you’ll likely perceive events as taking longer.

In the case of a person with anterograde amnesia, time will largely seem to stand still. (Memento) Whereas a subject with retrograde amnesia would likely immediately perceive time to slow to a crawl and then experience a profound uptick in time’s passage as new memories are forged.

And what are the implications of looking back at past events? Does that 6th grade summer seem longer the older I get? Does it stay the same? Or is it getting shorter, its time speeding up in tandem with my perception of more recent events? Hmmm…  My memory’s not good enough to dwell on that one too much.

Dan Dreifort has been fascinated with time for a long time. He even wrote a song about it. Find it via that link you just read, you know, the one that looks like this, Dan Dreifort. Daniel Dreifort consults on usability, search and efficiency.