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The joy of cool friends (#1003)

Topics/tags: Grinnellians

I have a lot of cool friends. I get reminded of that when I see or hear about their accomplishments, their activities, their events. This friend received an award for mentoring women. This friend hosted what sounds like an incredible house concert. This friend taught a MOOC to tens of thousands of people. This friend made a real difference to someone.

I will admit that I am a bit broad in my definition of friend. I count many Grinnell colleagues, as well as CS colleagues from other institutions, as friends, even if we wouldn’t necessarily, say, invite each other to our weddings [1]. I also count many alumni as friends; I hope they think of themselves as my friends, too.

I was reminded of the joys of knowing cool people the other day when the legendary Rachel Rose ’01 posted a link to an article on the use of LucasFilm Stagecraft technology in The Mandalorian [2]. For those who don’t know Rachel, I’ll just note that she’s been at LucasFilm ever since finishing her Ph.D. in Computer Graphics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and is one of the CG supervisors on The Mandalorian. I don’t hear enough about the particulars of Rachel’s work (or maybe I don’t ask enough), but I’m pretty sure that she was closely involved in the Stagecraft technology, which the article simplifies as something that uses a rear-projected LED screen to create a reactive environment that essentially works as an immersive real-time green screen.

I already think the work I hear about is cool. But what struck me when I saw the post is the kind of comments she got on the post. People were not only commenting on her work on the project but also asking about the technology, such as Was this an extension of the tech they were working on down on the mocap stage? How many people work at a place that has a motion capture stage [4], let alone have an impact on such wickedly awesome technologies?

I should try to convince Justin [6] to bring her back for his Digital Media Design for Performance class [7]. I should also keep Rachel in mind the next time there’s a call for honorary degree recipients. Her work is artistic and I’m pretty sure that she was a dual CS/English major (or at least she loved taking courses from Ed Moore); perhaps we can give her an honorary doctorate in humane letters. Oh! She’d also be a great candidate for a Convocation. And I should certainly write a more complete musing about Rachel. I have some notes for such a musing that I started more than three years ago [8]. Stay tuned.

Postscript: Rachel’s husband, Jack the Druid ’01, is differently awesome, applying his training in Chemistry in new and interesting ways. I wonder if he’d take Middle on as an intern [9].

[1] No, I have no plans for another wedding. Michelle and I have completed thirty-three years of happy marriage and just celebrated the thirty-fifth anniversary of our first engagement [3].

[2] My spell checker seems to think it should be The Mendelian. A Disney show about genetics would be cool.

[3] That’s a story for another day.

[4] At least two Grinnell alums :-) [5].

[5] Are smiley faces appropriate in musings?

[6] Thomas, not Rose.

[7] I should also find out how you make subsites of your sites.

[8] Whoops.

[9] Middle is applying his Chemistry major in other, but somewhat related, ways. But you never know.

Version 1.0 of 2020-01-30.