Blog: [Blog Home] [Archives] [Search] [Contact]

Archive for February, 2020

The 2020 Capricon Science Fiction Convention

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

Storm Troopers Noise Glitch Art
Artwork: Storm Troopers Noise Glitch Art And while I don’t expect to see any storm troopers at Capricon, you just never know.

The Capricon science fiction convention began today. While I have opted to not participate in the con’s art show this year, I will be participating in the con’s wonderful programming. This is something I look forward to every year.

The panel I most look forward to being on is Making Work which provides for the rare opportunity to discuss and debate economics in a science fiction convention setting. The topic description for our panel is “Automation, AIs and global labor pools threaten the standard of living. How do we increase demand for labor, especially low skilled labor? Or do we need to change our attitudes about work altogether?” Right off there is a problem – that being the premise that automation and globalization threatens our standard of living when the truth is precisely the opposite. Automation/mechanization and the replacement of muscle power with machine power is the core reason why we enjoy the high standard of living that we have today. And globalization has been an important factor in the reduction of global poverty. With respect to AI, it’s not so much low skilled labor jobs that are threatened but a range of more highly skilled jobs as well.  Moderating the panel will be Bill Lawhorn, who I very much look forward to meeting as his day job is as an economist for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a site I visit fairly often in quests for data. Also on the panel will be author Lance Erlick (Android Chronicles), Deirdre Murphy, and Shelly Loke-Gayares.

A panel that I will be moderating is Social Media Pitfalls for Aspiring Creatives. This 90 minute panel examines the what not to do side of social media. I should do good here as an example of not doing the things that someone needs to do to become successful at social media. For example, in 2018 I decided to take a week off of all social media activity. That meant no posting, no reading, no commenting. It was as if social media had ceased to exist! Anyway, seven months later I figured that maybe I ought to rejoin the social media race. It was amazing how much I was able to accomplish in the time that was freed up. I must say that I have never spent the time on social media that is required to become a SM success. Once upon a time (several years ago actually) I took an online  class on Twitter. The instructor really emphasized the need to be on the platform every day and boasted that she spent at least three hours a day doing Twitter. I distinctly remember the first thought that came into my head: this woman must not have a life outside of Twitter. For me, I didn’t even spend 3 hours a year on Twitter.  For the most part my interest in social media has been in its operational aspects so I will set up accounts on lots of platforms to see how they work and what the community is like. Joining me on the panel and providing their expertise will be Beverly Bambury, Trungles (con name), Red (con name), and John Everson.

Another panel is The Cosmos – Where are we now? Given my background and long interest in astronomy and planetary science, this should be a natural for me. Heck, I attended the 2018 annual conference of the AAS Division of Planetary Science which was held at the Knoxville Convention Center where I spent a solid week listening to presentations about the latest research in planetary science. But in the year since, I’ve found little time to keep up on the astronomical and planetary science worlds. Fortunately, the panel’s focus is on the advances that have been made over the last 40 years, since Carl Sagan’s Cosmos aired. Bill Higgins will be moderating the panel and my co-panelists will be Nathan Cohan and Michael Unger.

Lastly, and certainly the most tasty, will be my moderation of the con’s Coffee panel – which will be more than just a panel. We’ll get to show off our favorite caffeine delivery systems, talk about bean biology, the importance of things like grind size and water temperature, etc. Best of all there will be tasting and demonstrations. For my part, my home is equipped with a drip (yuck – don’t touch the stuff myself), a french, aka coffee, press, an Aeropress, a Chemex, and an expresso machine. I tend to vary from one to the other because each method produces a cup of coffee that has its own flavor profile. Most heavily used are the Aeropress and the Chemex. Joining me in this caffeine extravaganza will be Brian Thomas of Initiative Coffee and Aimee “Kaffee” Dundon. Clearly this will be the con’s most highly caffeinated panel. Note that because this panel is being held in a suite rather than one of the standard programming rooms, those wishing to attend will need to sign up in advance at the con’s info desk.

 

Bookmark it:  Stumble It  Bookmark this on Delicious  Digg This  Technorati  Reddit Tweet It


2019 Year in Review

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

Youtube A Noise Reconstruction of Nighthawks
A movie still from A Noise Reconstruction of Nighthawks by Edward Hopper on Youtube at youtu.be/XlJzgvDP05U

2019 was a challenging year largely due to the pursuit of too many projects and interests. In a typical year, my time is divided between creative coding, digital art, photography, web work, developing and delivering presentations, attempting to keep up with developments in space exploration, managing Chicago Society for Space Studies, and work on other projects.

Web Work and Professional Programming

I spent a lot of hours doing web work and writing Python programs as a consultant contractor for the National Space Society. This role led to my acceptance of an offer in March to serve as the Director of Information Systems for the National Space Society. Then in September, I accepted the offer to also serve as the society’s Data Protection Officer (an EU GDPR thing).

I also took the opportunity to redesign the Chicago Society for Space Studies website – converting it from a mobile-friendly design I created using the Bootstrap framework to a mobile-friendly WordPress 5 (Gutenberg) website using a modified ElegantThemes Divi theme. Chicagospace.org is definitely the better for it and in hindsight, I am very glad that I did it.

Unfortunately, during 2019 I did barely any work at all on any of my personal websites. Looking back I was taken by surprise to see that my last blog post was last March.

Planet Earth as Art Book Project

Planet Earth as Art Book

I did make some progress on my book project Planet Earth as Art but fell far short of my objective of completing and publishing the book before mid-2019. In fact, I have spent very little time on the book over the last 6 months. I really do need to re-order my priorities so that I get this project done.

Space Haiku Book Project

space haiku word cloud
Space haiku word cloud

In 2019 I started work on a book of haiku whose theme is space exploration and space settlement. At this point I have written about 120 haiku and have created 20 odd illustrations for the book. Given that the focus of the book is on the written word, I have opted to go with all black and white illustrations, which substantially lowers the cost of the book – which means that its price will be affordable. The image above is a word cloud revealing the most frequently used words with font size keyed to how often the word appears in the haikus.

Creative Coding


Planet Earth as Art Book
Generative Art Experiment in Competing Painters

During 2019 I did next to nothing in the way of creative coding. The time that I would have normally spent creating generative art programs was replaced by time spent writing Python programs for data processing applications.

In December I did begin work on one new generative art program. The image above, titled Generative Art Experiment in Competing Painters is the first generative artwork produced by that program. The program works as a generative combinator with competing brush sets sampling multiple source images to create a single output image. The program needs much more development work to increase its versatility but I’m not sure when I’ll budget the time to make it happen.

Presentations

I did not give very many talks during 2019. However, I was credentialed as both a National Space Society Space Ambassador and as the NSS SA subject matter expert on space economics. This is in addition to my being a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador, founder of the Chicago Society for Space Studies Speakers Bureau, and doing my own art and web related presentations. Unfortunately, my Artsnova Art Lectures and Presentations page is not current and I’m not sure when I’ll get to updating it.

My best attended presentation for the year was for my talk about my Planet Earth as Art book given to the Northwest Suburban Astronomy Club at Schaumburg Library.

My most enjoyable talk of the year was a presentation I gave at the 2019 International Space Development Conference (ISDC). My presentation Robotic Space Settlement presented arguments for maximizing the use of robots for space industrialization in order to minimize economic costs and development time. This was something of a contrarian presentation as the focus of the ISDC is on human space settlement.

At ISDC I was also a panelist for the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) Resources and Standards Workshop, which was a part of the Moon Architecture and Engineering programming track. This was a rather large panel which included Dr. Philip Metzger (University of Central Florida) as moderator, and as panelists Dr. Paul Van Susante (Michigan Technological University), Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis (University of Southern California), Dr. Haym Benaroya (Rutgers University), Peter Kokh (Moon Society), John C. Mankins (Moon Village Association), Dr. Marc Cohen (Astrotecture Inc.), Dr. Pascal Lee (Mars
Institute), and Dr. Margaret Race (SETI Institute).

Personal Vacation

Great Smokey Mountains National Park
Great Smokey Mountains National Park

My wife Jennifer and I visited Great Smokey Mountains National Park in the spring with a focus on hiking the park’s many trails. We were fortunate that there had been rain and snow the week preceding our visit so water levels were higher than normal. During our hikes, my photographic focus was on water. Over the course of our visit I took at least 200 photographs of water with the wishful thinking objective of publishing a photo book on the subject. Of course that book must get in line behind my other book projects.

As beautiful as the rushing waters were, the panoramic views from various high points were not to be ignored. Quite a stunning contrast from the suburbs of Chicago.

Great Smokey Mountains National Park from Andrews Bald
The view to the south east from Andrews Bald along the Forney Ridge Trail south of the Clingmans Dome Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Goals for 2020

My top goal for 2020 is to consolidate artsnova.com and jimplaxco.com into a single website. I am also going to review consolidating content from a couple of my other websites. In short, I’d like to make my life easier by focusing my attentions on fewer websites.

And of course, I really do need to finish work on my Planet Earth as Art book.

Bookmark it:  Stumble It  Bookmark this on Delicious  Digg This  Technorati  Reddit Tweet It