Deep Dreaming

You’ve heard about Google’s Deep Dream algorithm? If not you can read about it here, but in an overly simplified nutshell, it’s their artificial neural network’s attempt to recognize order and structures in an image. It finds structure where there is none, and things get really, really weird.

The team has released the code so that anyone can upload an image and have Deep Dream work its surreal magic.

I chose a picture I took one morning before hiking Mount Olympus in Utah. The picture faces east toward the Wasatch mountains a short time after the sun had risen above the mountain tops:

The result is an acid trip that is both whimsical and terrifying. It’s an almost carnival atmosphere where creatures of a pretty, yet hauntingly abstract form graze in a psychedelic field below a floating manatee and potato. A gazebo and the mirage of circus tents appear in the distance, and tower reminiscent of a scene from The Dream of Perpetual Motion maintains vigil over the scene. Or not. It’s an artificial neural network’s acid trip. Not mine.


Hiking Desolation Trail

Desolation Trail in Salt Lake City, UT is a 19 mile hike that ends at Lake Desolation, people who are intent on seeing the lake don’t usually hike the whole trail. It has connectors that make a much shorter hike to the lake. If you start at the Desolation Lake trailhead in Mill Creek Canyon and hike in about 2.5 miles, you’ll get to the Salt Lake City overlook.

I’ve done this hike twice now in the winter, and I’m starting to love Mill Creek Canyon. It has no ski resorts, so it’s less trafficked than the other canyons. It’s not a watershed, so dogs are allowed. On odd numbered days my four-legged buddy can even go off-leash, a freedom that both he and I enjoy.

The second time I hiked to the overlook, there were quite a few trees blocking the trail – evidence of an avalanche. At least I think so. Despite seeing quite a few people in hiking’s version of clown footwear, neither of my hikes on this trail required snowshoes. This winter has seen less than the usual amount of snow, so I would imagine that normally a hike here at this time of year would require them. Micro-spikes or some other traction enhancement would have reduced the slipping and sliding.

The overlook provided a great view…of the smog that envelops the city when the inversion is bad. That gray mess of soup floating over the city has wreaked havoc on my sinuses all winter long. I used to check the weather forecast hoping for sunny days. Now I check it in the hopes that there will be a big enough storm to blow all of the smog out of the air.

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