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From Mensa Halloweem to Windycon Science Fiction Convention

Friday, November 13th, 2015

Ant Colony Landscape
Ant Colony Landscape

This last Halloween weekend I had the opportunity to give two presentations at a Chicago regional Mensa convention dubbed Halloweem, held at the Westin in Wheeling IL. The two presentations I gave were

It was a very enjoyable experience for me, made all the better by the inquisitiveness of the audience. The only downside was that I over indulged in the convention’s great food offerings. Also speaking at the convention was Kent Nebergall. Kent and I are both members of the Chicago Society for Space Studies Speakers Bureau. Curiously neither of us were giving space exploration presentations at the convention.

Shortly I’ll be leaving for the Windycon Science Fiction Convention being held at Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard IL. While I won’t be giving any presentations this year, I will be participating in some panels. The panels are:

  • Space Seconds which is a panel covering space missions that were not the first of their kind, but the second.
  • Pluto Update is a panel addressing the findings of the New Horizons mission to Pluto.
  • Autographing was to be an autographing session that I am forced to cancel as my book on algorithmic art is not yet available.
  • Why Social Media Sucks takes a look at the world of social media, both from a operational perspective as well as a communicational perspective.
  • Art Media is a panel that I’ll be moderating on how artists decide on their artistic media and the strengths and weaknesses of each media.

As noted above, I originally agreed to do an autograph session at a time when I thought that I would have print copies of my book The Beauty of Algorithmic Art available. However, in searching for a publishing platform I wound up discarding my original two finalists (Blurb and Lulu). I have investigated several additional vendors and am currently focusing on Bookbaby and IngramSpark.

In addition to participating in the panels identified above, I will also have several artworks in the convention’s art show.

This Post’s Illustration

While working on a program to implement an ant colony simulation, I discovered that I had a program that did a nice job of simulating natural media painting. The landscape image Ant Colony Landscape is the result of an initial test of a program where the ants sample an underlying photograph and paint their trail. I must point out that this output was generated during an early stage of the program’s development. Coding was done using the Processing framework. The motto of the story is that sometimes algorithms can take you to surprising destinations. For more information about ant colony optimization, see the Wikipedia entry on ant colony optimization algorithms.

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Space Art and Astronomical Art for Mensans

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Mensa audience at costume parade
An audience of Mensans at the costume parade

Last Halloween weekend I attended the Chicago regional Mensa gathering known as HalloweeM. Held at the Sheraton Chicago Northwest in Arlington Heights, this four day event brings together Mensans and features presentations, games, food, drink, and a costume parade.

This was the second HalloweeM that I’ve attended as a speaker. At last year’s HalloweeM I gave two presentations. One was my The Universe According to Monty Python presentation which deals with a range of astronomical and cosmological topics. My other presentation was Algorithmic Art: Where Art Meets Math – a personal favorite of mine as it deals with a topic that fascinates me. You can read more about my exploits at that HalloweeM at Mensa, Algorithmic Art, and Monty Python.

My original schedule called for me to speak Friday night. My presentation that evening was Art And The Exploration of Space which is a history of the evolution of space art and the ways in which art has been used with respect to space exploration.

Later that evening while thoroughly enjoying the ample quantities of food and drink served up to the attendees, I was approached and informed that one of the speakers for Saturday had to cancel and would I be interested in coming back and giving another presentation. I promptly said yes and then proceeded to scratch my head trying to decide which talk to give. I did not want to repeat either of the presentations that I had given last year. I finally decided on giving one of my newer presentations – The Art of Astronomy, a talk I had recently given at the Hinsdale Public Library. This presentation deals with astronomical art as opposed to space art. Think of astronomical art as being about nature and space art as being about the human exploration of space.

In addition to my presentations, and lots of eating and drinking, I also attended a few other programs. The most interesting, and which I unfortunately missed the first half of, was That We May Never Forget: Chronicling the Life and Experiences of a Child Holocaust Survivor by Paul Argiewicz, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. His was a moving story. One thing that particularly struck me was his deep love of the United States. I feel that this man has a far greater appreciation of our country than many of our native born citizens who have known no other way of life.

Ad Astra, Jim

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Space Art for Mensa

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Digital Painting of a Stellar Atmosphere
Digital Painting Study of a Stellar Atmosphere

This Friday October 30 I’ll be speaking at the Chicago regional Mensa gathering known as HalloweeM. My topic for the evening will be Art And The Exploration of Space. I start off by providing a history of space art and how space art has evolved over time. Perhaps more than any other art form space art has truly been influenced by technology beginning with the invention of the telescope.

The bulk of my presentation deals with the different ways in which art can be used to convey information and emotion. A fair portion of the art I use is art that was created as a part of the NASA Art Program. Last year an excellent book on the subject was released. You may want to read my book review NASA/ART: 50 Years of Exploration.

This four day gathering of mensans is being held at the Sheraton Chicago Northwest in Arlington Heights. To learn more about the Mensa HalloweeM, visit HalloweeM 34: Chicago-area Mensa legendary gathering. You can also read a news release I placed on my web site: Digital Artist Jim Plaxco and Space Art Featured at Regional Mensa Gathering

The Illustration

To illustrate this post I’ve used a small digital painting I recently did of a stellar atmosphere. This was a study of a technique that I’ve been working on. The software I used was Adobe Photoshop. My focus was on painting the star’s limb. My next step will be to focus on the star’s main surface. If I am satisfied with the results, I will proceed to do a full size version.

Ad Astra, Jim

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