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Archive for June, 2011

2011 DucKon Science Fiction Convention

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Duckon 2011 Opening Ceremonies Guests of Honor
DucKon 2011 Opening Ceremonies Guests of Honor

Yesterday morning I arrived at the DucKon Science Fiction Convention in Schaumburg to set up for the art show. Because of everything else that is going on just now, I did not decide until the last minute to participate in the convention’s art show. I had committed months ago to participating in the con’s programming but held off on deciding about the art show.

I did not bring very many pieces to hang in the art show. The pieces that I did bring for the show are:

Looking over the list I’m pleased to say that 4 out of the 5 are actually on my web site. Typically fewer than half are.

This morning (Saturday) I’ll be heading back to the convention. This will be my busy day as my presentation and all my panels are scheduled for today. My line up is:

It Started With The Hubble: A 20 Year Retrospective Of The Manned Space Program
A panel discussion overview of the past twenty years of the shuttle program, from the Hubble Space Telescope to the International Space Station.
For my part, I do hope to actually talk a little about the Hubble Space Telescope, which presents us with two very different categories of impacts. The first is the impact Hubble observations have had on our understanding of the universe. These impacts include a much more accurate measure of the Hubble Constant – which tells us about the age of the universe; the presence of super-massive black holes at the centers of galaxies; and the strange matter of dark energy and the accelerated expansion of the universe. The second area is the area of astronomical art aesthetics and the impact that Hubble’s observations have had on how astronomical art is portrayed.
Space 2031
In twenty years will there be a Chinese base on the moon? Will American astronauts be buzzing near-earth asteroids? Just where, in space, will we be in twenty years. This panel discussion will explore what our future in space may be.
Audio Interactive Art: Science as Art
My talk’s title is actually Live Art and combines a presentation about the tools of new media art with a dash of computer art history followed by audience participation in the creation of several works of digital art through the use of sound. More about this and some of my other presentations can be found on my Art Lectures page.
Privateers In Space!
With NASA’s attempts switch to private companies to provide launch services, Virgin Galactic’s sub-orbital flights, and Google’s Lunar “X Prize”, start-up companies are jumping at the chance to get into space. Where will this lead us over the next 20 years?

So today promises to be a busy day at DucKon. FYI, DucKon’s Guests of Honor this year are:

  • Literary:Tamora PierceWebsite
  • Artist:Ursula VernonWebsite
  • Filk:Gary HanakWebsite
  • Filk Fund Guests:Nate and Louie Bucklin
  • Fan:William and Trudi Puda
  • Writer:Shirley DamsgaardWebsite
  • Science:”The Last Shuttle Team”Website

If you’re attending the con, don’t forget to check out the art show.

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Tutorial on Recursion Published in CMD Journal

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

CMD Journal cover
CMD (Computational Media Design) Journal cover

This spring it occurred to me to write an article about recursion for my Artsnova web site. I must confess that I really haven’t put any of my recursively created algorithmic art on my web site or made it available for sell but as a programming artist, I find the concept of recursion fascinating. The principal interest for me is in the creation of the program that creates the art. In other words, what excites and interests me most is the act of creating the recursive algorithm. The article/tutorial was to be one in a three part serious about the three "R’s" of algorithmic art: Random Numbers, Recursion, and Repetition. The tutorials were to be written using the Processing platform rather than C++ as Processing seems to have broader appeal to programming artists and is simpler to learn for people new to the field.

Shortly after completing the recursion tutorial I learned of a new magazine being published: CMD (Computational Media Design) Journal. From the CMD Journal website comes the following description of the publication:

We are interested in the exploration of the intersections of art, design and computer science to encourage new ways of seeing, thinking and creating in order to empower and inspire inventive, innovative and creative research, artistic and design practices.

CMD Journal is an educational magazine about computational media design. The magazine was started by Marjan Eggermont and Laurel Johannesson in 2010 both to learn more about and to become a forum for this relatively new field.

Rather than publishing the article/tutorial on my web site, I decided to submit it to CMD Journal. I’m pleased to say that my submission was accepted and appears in issue 2 of the magazine, which is now available online.

Click here to access the current issue of CMD Journal

I did have to do some trimming of the tutorial in order to have it fit within the submission word limit. Now on my long list of to-do items is an entry to create an expanded version of the tutorial to use for my three "R’s" of algorithmic art set of tutorials.

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A New Website Design for Artsnova

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

New Artsnova web site design screenshot
The new Artsnova web site design

Thursday night I rolled out a new version of my Artsnova web site. My primary goal in redesigning my web site was to make the site’s navigation system more user friendly. If you want to know what the original version of the Artsnova web site looked like, look no further for I had designed the templates of this WordPress blog to provide a seamless integration between my website and blog. The only difference between the blog and web site was the content of the sidebar. On the web site, the sidebar consisted of a secondary navigation system and some internal advertisements which varied from page to page.

Whereas in the original design the site navigation was split between a horizontal nav bar below the masthead for section navigation and a vertical navigation menu in the sidebar for intra-section navigation, I combined both into a single CSS driven drop-down menu in the new design. This makes it much easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for and to move around the web site quickly.

Another benefit of the new single menu system is maintenance. The dual menu system meant that there were structural differences from one page to the next. The new single menu system combined with a standardized sidebar means that the header, navigation, and sidebar divs are identical for all my web pages. Since I am not using either a CMS (Content Management System) or SSI (Server Side Includes) to manage my web pages but am instead coding them all up the old fashioned way – by hand – this standardization can save me quite a bit of time when adding new pages or undertaking site-wide changes.

My secondary objective was to clean up and standardize my sidebar elements and add social media linkage. I recently put the social media bookmarking tool on a few of my pages for testing. In this redesign I have added the addthis widget to all my pages. I’ve also added the Facebook feed for my Facebook page to the sidebar. The only wrinkle is the Facebook widget which tends to be somewhat erratic in getting data back from Facebook on the initial load.

My final objective was to tweak the aesthetics of the page layout. The changes I made to the divs which control the design were minor but, to my eye, improve the overall appearance of the site.

I actually had two competing designs and the design I’ve gone with is the second. The principal difference between the two designs is that the design-not-chosen uses a vertical drop-down navigation menu in the sidebar to the left of the masthead for site navigation. I really liked the way this Javascript/CSS menu looked and worked. It really created a nice compact design as you can see in the screen shot below.

Artsnova alternate web design
The alternate Artsnova web site design

In the end I decided against this design for two reasons. First I don’t like to employ Javascript for something as crucial as site navigation. If someone has Javascript turned off, while the menu still displays and functions, it does not collapse and consequently becomes a very long string of sidebar buttons. Second, the Javascript did take a small amount of time to actually build the menu and while this was going on, the raw html menu elements were exposed to the visitor – the same as if Javascript were turned off.

Overall I’m quite pleased with the way the design turned out. I hope that visitors to the site find that it is now easier to navigate from one section to the next. At some point I will need to redo my WordPress templates in order to provide seamless navigation between the web site and blog but that will have to wait for another day.

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