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Archive for December, 2012

Goodbye Facebook Fan Page Widget

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Artsnova Facebook Fan Page
The Artsnova Facebook Fan Page

As a consequence of a change in Facebook policy I’ve decided to drop the Facebook widget promoting my Facebook Artsnova fan page from my blog’s sidebar. I also plan on changing how I use my Facebook fan page. The policy change that has led me to this course of action was Facebook’s decision to limit how many of a page’s fans actually see the posts in their news feed. This was done so that Facebook can monetize posts. You see you can still reach all your fans – if you are willing to pay for it. This is implemented via the relatively new Facebook Promote option.

With this policy change, unless you pay to promote your posts the reach of your posts is decreased by approximately 85 percent on average. Quoting from the article Paying For Promotion (referenced below):

Dave Seligman, founder of popular geeks culture blog Geeks of Doom told me recently that "Of the 18,000 fans of our Facebook page, only about 900 (5%) of them ever have the opportunity to view one of our posts at a given time."

My Solution

My solution going forward will be to use my Facebook fan page only to post announcements of new posts on my blog. Also, instead of creating short original content posts on Facebook, I will move those posts to my blog. Who knows – perhaps Facebook’s policy change is a good thing for me since it will mean more new content on my own blog rather than on Facebook.

Reference Links

Goodbye Facebook widget. Note that I never liked the way you munged my posts to fit your widget anyway.

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Judging Art for the Humans in Space Youth Art Competition

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Humans in Space Youth Art Competition
Humans in Space Youth Art Competition

Last evening I finished judging 97 works of space art that has been submitted to the second international Humans in Space Youth Art Competition. It was my good fortune to have served as a judge in the first contest as well. I can’t tell you how happy I am to not only see the contest back for a second year but to also see an explosion in the number of entries submitted.

Contest partners include NASA, DLR German Aerospace Center, USRA (Universities Space Research Association), Lunar and Planetary Institute, Mission X, and the International Academy of Astronautics. The theme the artwork was expected to address is How will humans use science and technology to explore space, and what mysteries will we uncover? With respect to the contest’s goals:

The international Humans in Space Youth Art Competition encourages youth to “Be Inspired, Creative and Heard.” We ask them to think about the future of human space flight and to creatively communicate their ideas, and we promise to make these ideas viewable worldwide. By including the next generation in the planning of the future, the competition aims to enhance their awareness, interest in and support for human space flight, and to allow their ideas to begin shaping the future now.

The contest accepted submissions from March 9, 2012 thru November 18, 2012 from young people of 10 to 18 years of age, split into two groups: 10–13 years and 14–18 years. Submissions were accepted in the categories of visual, literary, musical and video artwork. Along with the artwork, each artist was expected to include an Artist’s Statement of Originality. The purpose of this statement was to provide information that would help judges to understand, appreciate, and evaluate the art. The winning artwork will be woven into displays and performances designed to relay the artists messages to a world wide audience. Most exciting for contest winners is the opportunity that their winning artwork might be displayed in orbit aboard the International Space Station!

Judging the Art

Youth Space Art Contest Entries Judged
The 97 Youth Space Art Contest Entries Judged

I had elected to be a judge in the Visual Art: 2D Visual Art category for the 14-18 year old age group. A special web site had been created for judges to view and rate the art submissions. Each judge is assigned a subset of the submitted art due to the large number of submissions received. When I log in to the system I see the art that has been assigned to me to judge. The only downside to this system is that I am limited to viewing only one work of art at a time (unless I open multiple browser windows).

Visual art judges were directed to judge the art based on the following criteria:

  • Aesthetics (Shapes, colors, textures, flow, proportions, composition, etc.)
  • Skill (Are knowledge of the media or principles of art demonstrated?)
  • Inherent meaning (What is the story or statement?)
  • Creativity (Is the artwork creative and original?)
  • Fulfilled intent (Does it meet the objective to express something about How will humans use science and technology to explore space, and what mysteries will we uncover?)

Additionally judges were asked to consider the scientific accuracy of the art. For example, if your character is walking around on the Moon then they had better be wearing a space suit.

In assigning ratings, judges were expected to assign equal numbers of 4, 3, 2, and 1 star ratings. To better judge the artwork, I downloaded the hi-res version of all the art to my computer. I then used Adobe CS4 Bridge in order to both view the art side by side, rank the art, and sort the art by rank. My methodology was to start from the ends and work inward. By ends I refer to first identifying the strongest and weakest artworks. Identifying 1-star and 4-star submissions was fairly easy. Much more difficult was distinguishing between the 2 and 3 star submissions. Upon completing my initial judging I found that I had the following distribution of rankings:

-Stars- -Allowed- -Given-
4 25 10
3 24 35
2 24 38
1 24 14

My distribution made it clear that my principal course of action was to promote art from the 3 star category to the 4 star category and demote art from the 2 star category to the 1 star category. Promoting and demoting was, predictably, the most difficult part of the judging process. In the end I did achieve the distribution of stars that judges were expected to award – though it was not easy.

The second round of judging will begin later this month with the entire process scheduled for completion in January 2013 and the winners to be announced shortly thereafter.


In my own view, the important achievement of Apollo was a demonstration that humanity is not forever chained to this planet, and our visions go rather further than that, and our opportunities are unlimited.
Neil Armstrong – Apollo 11 astronaut and first person to set foot on the Moon

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Paint Heads Like Picasso

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Picasso Head Painting
My Picasso Head

I recently stumbled across an interesting web site that lets the visitor paint heads in the style of Pablo Picasso. It’s a fun diversion and includes a gallery of the Picassos created by other visitors to the site. The illustration above gives you an idea of the capabilities of the painting tool. You have a selection of facial features at your disposal and several tools that are used to manipulate those features. In the above illustration you can see the variety of noses that you can choose from. While I only selected one nose for my Picasso, there is nothing to prevent you from giving your portrait two, three, or more noses.

Note that the tool does not provide any drawing capability. Rather you choose from a set of predefined facial features and then use the suite of tools provided to position, color, resize, and distort those features. Once you have completed your digital masterpiece, you have the option of saving it to the gallery. I wound up not saving my own masterpiece as I did not feel like providing my email address. But many folks have added their paintings to the gallery so be sure to check it out so you can see what sorts of Picassos others have created.

The Picasso Head Web Site

Happy Painting, Jim

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Unincorporated Future Breaks A 20+ Year Drought

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Unincorporated Future
The Unincorporated Future by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin

I was visiting the Schaumburg Library and the cover art of the science fiction book The Unincorporated Future which was on display as a new arrival caught my eye. Picking it up and looking it over I decided to check it out. I read it and enjoyed it. The significance? This is the first science fiction novel I have read in probably 20 years.

You may say "so what", which wouldn’t surprise me at all. But when you consider that I am a regular participant at science fiction conventions and that in my younger days I was an avid reader of SF (accumulating a large collection that I still possess) you may wonder what happened? Why such a long hiatus from reading science fiction?

Frankly the time I devote to reading has for the last twenty odd years been devoted to non-fiction. With so much fascinating knowledge out there, I found it very hard to spend any time reading fiction. I also found it hard to justify spending time on fiction when there were technical books related to my profession that I wanted to read.

So what have I been reading all these years? To give you an idea, here is a list of the subject areas that I’ve spent the most time on (listed alphabetically):

  • 2D graphics software manuals
  • 3D graphics software manuals
  • Adobe Photoshop (a subject in itself)
  • algorithmic art
  • art history
  • art theory
  • artificial intelligence
  • astronomy
  • C++ programming
  • computer art
  • computer graphics
  • cosmology
  • digital photography
  • economics (my BS was in Economics)
  • general science
  • HTML/CSS programming
  • image processing
  • Java programming
  • planetary science
  • political theory
  • politics
  • SAS programming
  • search engine optimization
  • space development
  • space exploration
  • web design and development

So there you have it – the secret of my reading habits. I will say this with respect to reading computer manuals: it is remarkable how much of that knowledge acquired becomes obsolete. But that is a small price to pay because that obsolence is due to the continued advances in computing capabilities and the former is a reasonable price to pay for the latter.

Ad Astra, Jim

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