Sunday, July 31, 2005

Problem vs. Solution

Sixty First Post: Problem vs. Solution

In math, engineering, the arts, etc. sometimes it is just as valuable to find a challenging problem, one that can’t be solved on first inspection, as it is to find a solution. There is a relationship between the problem and the solution. A relationship that can only be described by one working on a solution or discovering a problem.

Suppose you have an idea put no matter how you try to explain the idea or propose a solution the answer remain inconclusive. Still if the problem stills seems that it should have a possible solution or you noticed something in your attempts to find the solution, you might just have created a noteworthy problem.

The importance of a challenging problem is seen when someone solves what was thought to be impossible. Similar is the attempt of physicists to try and solve the theory of everything. A problem that couldn’t be solved with any known information, but it adds a dimension to the field that is needed. There is something about the unknown that sparks the imagination and fosters creativity.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Small worlds within Worlds

Sixtieth Post: Small worlds within Worlds

In biology it is not uncommon to look at an organisms world as a smaller part of a larger picture. We find that in a enormous jungle there is an organism living in the trees eating fruit from the trees. The fruit itself has its own world, it started as a flower blossom and was pollinated by bees. (That is of course if there are bees in the jungle.) The flower went through its own life cycle and had its own experiences as well as the bee, the tree, and the monkey.

Well this doesn’t just apply to a jungle. Think of yourself driving down a street of a busy city. You are thinking about were you are going, reading the map or directions, and paying attention to driving the car. The car continues down the street block after block. You see people but since you are driving do not get a complete picture. So the amount of ground covered is growing as the amount of buildings and people has also increased. You find the spot where you were supposed to meet a friend and begin to look for him. What all did you see on your ride? You probably don’t even remember the details, but it isn’t what you saw. It is what you didn’t see.

What you didn’t see was the microcosms that make of the city. Of coarse you couldn’t view the entire city if you wanted to. But just like the jungle has its infinite happenings, the concrete jungle, or city, is alive and operating. Someone is showering. Someone is dancing. A couple are having lunch. Someone is on the Internet.

But it isn’t just finding the things you cannot see, it is finding the things that interest you. Finding the things you want to experience. Sometimes this is easy and other times it is a challenge. The same things occurs over the Internet. There are message boards, chat rooms, and web pages and files. They have to be found. Meanwhile, the Internet is its own little world or large world...Almost seems like “The Matrix.”

Friday, July 29, 2005

How the “Torque Engine” can turn anyone into a game maker

Fifty Ninth Post: How the “Torque Engine” can turn anyone into a game maker

Around 2 months ago I posted about game development. Since then I really haven’t done much with it. Instead I have been working on math and some drawing. Also I am doing a little writing, but I think now is the time to take a break from those projects and try out some game design. I am going to start with 3D modeling which I know a little about. Then I might take an inexperienced game team and try to build different game elements such as models, level design, and game scripts. I posted an area to vote on Constructors Corner about wanting to join a game team, but no one voted. Still I will share my creations and maybe spark some interests.

Well there are a lot of level design tools available to the mod maker. There are complete game engines such as “Torque” that offer reasonable learning curves for game making. It is the video game makers dream to design their own game. The amateur video game maker’s dream is to one day make a great, revolutionary game that has the effect as a Mario or Zelda game.

So you got Torque and have a 3D program and a C++ compiler. Combined with Photoshop that is all the major tools you need to make the game. One game that I have seen that uses the Torque engine is “Block Land.” The game is free possibly because it is based on Lego pieces, a copyrighted asset and until it has a license cannot be sold. But the game is great and lets the user see what can be done with Torque. So in the following months there probably be more game related ideas and projects on Constructors Corner.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Drafting and drawing as it relates to math

Fifty Eighth Post: Drafting and drawing as it relates to math

So what does drawing have to do with math? The answer is simply: everything. First lets think about how we are taught math. In early grades of elementary school math is simply a memory game. That is except for standardize tests that use shapes and patterns. Art is a different subject all together. But what the student doesn’t know is that art class, which is much more fun than boring math class, is teaching the student to look for things that relate to math. These things are the basis of more complex mathematics such as algebra and geometry. Just think about what is learning in art: basic shapes, perspective, visualization of drawn images, color theory, ect.

If someone was doing poorly in any math, they could be recommended to a tutor. But they should be encouraged to take a course in drawing: drafting or life drawing. It would help their math skills by drafting because it includes measuring, shape constructing, and describing 3D objects in 2D form also known as the XYZ axis. Also reading blueprints or surveying land is an application of the drafting course combined with the knowledge of mathematics. Life drawing adds it own subtle hints to math. Again it converts the 3D to 2D while teaching how to visualize pictures and see common surroundings from an artistic standpoint. The guessing of the measurement is still there, but this time it is judgement and the visualization of the correct proportions. Things appear different from different angles and distance.

This is just one area where art and math (or science) overlap. Art and science are treated and learned differently, but sometimes it is useful to note some of the similarities.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A math problem with a solution that eludes

Fifty Seventh Post: A math problem with a solution that eludes

When I write the math problems to post on the web it takes some hours. I have to check and see if the solution is valid, it makes sense, and that I have explained it fully. Remember the circle problem I wrote about? Well I’m still working on it. I want to post it to see if anyone can solve it, but I want to make sure that I can not solve it upon some more inspection of the problem.

In math when testing new ideas (little ideas and tinkerings), there is always a problem that eludes. It can be any problem, but it usually occurs when learning something new or tackling some known or unknown puzzling problem.

This problem though it appears easy to solve, it cannot be solved by any of the methods you have found. So when you encounter this what do you do? The first step is to take time solving the problem let it progress over hours or even days. When you do something else throughout the day, your mind will be subconsciously working on the problem. Out of nowhere you will get a new lead on the problem.

A second step is to try and describe the problem in a different way. Look over the given and all the methods you have tried. Does the problem have to many variables or was you method incorrect? This is hard to describe. You, the mathematician have to figure it out for yourself.

The third and final technique is to share you work. Two minds are better than one, strategy. Sometimes the techniques you used trying to find the answer are more useful than the actual answer. So it is a good idea to share your work once you, the mathematician, figure you have exhausted your efforts.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Smarty Pants, Geek, Professor, and Ms. Crabapple

Fifty Sixth Post: The Smarty Pants, Geek, Professor, and Ms. Crabapple

I want to create a comic on things that go on in the classroom. All classrooms have a smart witty student, a class clown, a geek, a smart professor (in a different classroom or class), and the main teacher the crab apple. All placed with a bunch of other funny stereotypic characters.

Ok, so it has been done thousands of times before, but there are so many directions to take it. I think it is a good comic to start with since the jokes will come easily with so many characters you already know the personality of.

I’ve tried a small comic in the past, but without much success. I don’t know if anyone got the joke. Good comics are hard to create. It is also hard to be original with the great volumes of comics that are already out there. Until it’s finished I’ll keep you posted on the blog about the comic.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A little info on the “American High School Mathematics Examination”

Fifty Fifth Post: A little info on the “American High School Mathematics Examination”

I was going through some old papers that I had collected looking for things to organize into a scrap book when I found and old practice test of the “American High School Mathematics Examination.” This is a test to find “students with unusual mathematical ability.” And when they say unusual they mean wiz kid.

I took one of these test for practice in high school. Even now these problems are tough. (No I can’t pass the test in case your wondering.) To advance to the next level a student must answer at least 10 questions correct and miss none in 90 minutes. The student gets 2 points for questions left unanswered and 5 points for each answered. This is no easy task.

But I am not looking at the test to become the next national champion. I am just curious on how I score after all the math and science class I have had and have a little fun. When we are introduced to math in textbooks, we are usually given a clue to the answer because the problems are placed in order. This helps when learning, but a problem is exponentially more difficult when the is no clue to what type of problem it is. This is what application problems are for. This nice little hint as to what the problem is, is missing on a cumulative final.

But back to the fun of solving some puzzling problems. There is often a “key” to solving certain problems. If it is know how one works, the same principle could be applied to other problems. So instead of working on problem solving skills, the test taker is looking for patterns in the test. I doubt this method would be successful, because the test are in a series in which you must pass on to get to the other. Also I think the problems could be changed enough to hide it’s “key” without understanding how the problem works.

I had a hard time finding the official home page. So just do a search for AHSME. But in my searches I found a large math community at http://www.artofproblemsolving.com . The site also shows how to get and use LATEX.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Shrinking Site Content

Fifty Forth Post: Shrinking Site Content

I don’t know if this is a fact, but it seems the more I update constructors corner the less content it seems to have. I mean I spend hours updating it, I think it should have more content by now. I know that I lot of content is hidden within the links. Also it takes awhile to make graphics that supplement the content.

In September, Constructors Corner will be 2 years old. In the past year it has had about 14,600 visits. So it has been growing even if a slow rate. I started Constructors Corner so that I could share my projects and get feedback. I think of it as a way to publish and share my work. Let’s see what changes we can make for the new year. I always welcome feedback on the message board. So if anyone has any math or design problems to share please post them.

Here are some projects I want to study: cartoon strips, math in general, electrical circuits, and chemistry. The simple fact remains that you do not have to master a subject in order to add something new to it. Lots of discoveries were made by people who had no clue what they were doing. In the book “Engineering Design: A Day in the Life of Four Engineers,” the new engineers are given a task to complete because of the fact they don’t know enough about the project to know it is impossible. That way, they will have the best chance of discovering a new method. The group does not know what the learned methods are and as a result are not influenced by them. In the book they are attempting to design an electric car, but it refers to any design. Just something to note the next time you are trying to design something in an area that isn’t your expertise.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Improving web design

Fifty Third Post: Improving web design

There are many things that I see on other sites that I want for my site. Not the content, I want the fancy interfaces, avatars, custom message boards, and graphical templates. These thinks can still be done with low bandwidth. Still the easiest way to enhance my site is Flash, and I have experimented a little with it. I tried to keep it for those of us still on dial-up can view it.

Knowing how to make those great graphics is one thing, but when combined with making a simple template, it takes a little know-how. These more advanced web elements can be learned in a school or shared on a message board. Some things have a smaller learning curve than others.

For now I am content with doing most of my formatting with tables and layers, but in the future I would like to expand with templates. I don’t know how easy the transformation would be, but that is why I have calculated-curves.com to experiment with new techinques. It is hard to keep a website cutting-edge. A single webmaster can evolve a site over time and share tips with others as the technology changes.

I still want to make my own avatar. It is pretty simple just to make a small graphic or animation clip. You must be creative though. Making an avatar is basically easy, but allowing your message board to use them takes some knowledge. If I do create an avatar I will post it on constructorscorner. Until then : “May the creative force be with you.”

Friday, July 22, 2005

MRE bombs

Fifty Second Post: MRE bombs

It is a well known fact that the heaters that come with MREs (meals ready to eat (army food)) can be used to create a small explosion. Put the solid chemical that is in the heater add some water and put it in a plastic pop bottle. Add a third of the bottle full of water then put the cap on. Set the bottle away from you and wait a few minutes for the bottle to explode.

It is a small explosion caused by the pressure of the heated air inside the bottle. Still the basic principles of an explosion is there. The chemical reaction, pressure, heat, and burst of energy released are all present. The bottle expands until it burst at its weakest point. It is interesting to watch....see more on www.constructorscorner.com

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Drawing a favorite cartoon character

Fifty First Post: Drawing a favorite cartoon character

What if you took one cartoon character or comic book character and drew one drawing of them of a different pose each day. Well in a couple of months you would have a lot of drawings. They would show how your drawings improved. The main idea is that in no time at all you would be an expert at drawing your favorite character. Of coarse, it wouldn’t end with one character. Your overall drawing would improve and you might be led to make your own characters.

The idea isn’t new, but it does show that a 15 to 30 minute sketch can really improve your drawing. As read in drawing books, anyone can draw cartoons. You decide how the cartoon looks. It doesn’t have to be entirely realistic style, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is challenging to draw cartoons and it does take practice. Cartoons are drawn from many poses and sometimes simplified art is harder to draw when trying to convey what the drawing is a picture of. Breaking the cartoon into basic shapes and then adding detail little by little is a technique that is taught. What better drawing subject to use besides you favorite character. Let’s see how a little bit of practice can improve our drawing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Drawing is an Invention

Fiftieth Post: A Drawing is an Invention

Here is an short essay I wrote a couple of years ago. I might write another piece that goes with it and post is on the site. Here it is:

A drawing is an invention. It comes from the imagination and observation. The artist or inventor places lines upon the page and then begins to tinker with them. His vision is placed onto the page and lines begin to create lines. Everything starts with a simple line with endless possibilities and combinations. When it is over something new and unique has been created. How it went from being a mental image to a physical image is only known by the artist. He is no mere artist. He is a creator. A creator who has expressed his deepest passions and ideas.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Hair Conditioning

Forty Ninth Post: Hair Conditioning

Hair sprays, shampoos, and other hair products that contain alcohol all dry the hair. So what if you wanted a product that would style your hair, give it nutrients, and give it volume and body. The answer is simple: hand cream. Any hand cream will style hair and will strengthen it. This has been printed in magazine articles.

So now your hair is neatly combed and smells nice, what other tricks are there. For one you can dilute the hand cream with water or add a little bit of baby powder to it. The results will be just as good as a lot of expensive hair products. The information here is more for women than men, but it does contain an element of chemistry. How can someone use simple items from the grocery store in a new way to improve upon current items and save money is the design problem.

Enough about hair. Let’s talk about manly computers. Following up on my last post. HP did let me get the extended warranty so that my computer can be fixed. Also, I’m still working on a math problem that I can’t solve yet. I might put it on the site as a math challenge.

Monday, July 18, 2005

HP Laptop motherboard broke again

Forty Eighth Post: HP Laptop motherboard broke again

My laptop recently broke for the second time on my HP laptop which I purchased new from HP. The computer is simply running to hot. HP is the best brand name, but this is my third motherboard on two computers within 2 years.

I treat my laptop as a desktop and install tons of programs on it, but isn’t that what it was intended to do. I bought the fastest laptop I could intending to be able to do anything. Now when I play games the computer just shuts off after 15 minutes.

I still think HP is the best PC company. And although my laptop crashed, I would still buy I new one, but would make sure I got the warranty. The warranty is another debate with the company. Some one sold me the wrong warranty. I hope this will be corrected so that I can get my computer fixed. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Forty Seventh Post: The need for broadband everywhere

The web is expanding everyday: Flash, 3D, video, Podcasts, games. All of which are making my connection seem slower and slow. Even shopping on Amazon is requiring faster speeds. It isn’t just what I can’t view on the web, it is what I can’t post to the web. I would like to get some sounds and maybe make something made in 3DS Max. I need an upload speed to play games which are increasing their online content.

Oddly enough, there is a fiber optic cable less than a forth of a mile from my house. I don’t know what it is used for. Almost everyone has cable and it should be mandatory for cable companies to offer cable modem.

Enough about brand-width, dial-up still has enough speed to communicate with. (for now) I will be posting a math problem in the next week and it will change the way you think about a circle. Plus you’ll be able to see it even if you have dial-up.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

3D on the Web

Forty Sixth Post: 3D on the Web

Adobe released a program a while back to allow the webmaster to make 3D environments on the web. It seemed like a good idea, but Adobe abandoned the program. Which leaves an opening for a new 3D program to enter.

The main problem possibly is creating a 3D player that could be distributed as a plug-in but also be free. Bandwidth is not that big of issue even for dial-up, because the bandwidth needed would be about the size of a large Flash movie. The bandwidth would mostly be instructions telling the plug-in what to do, and as long as there wasn’t large material files or other bandwidth eating features, you could have a small 3D environment. The only question is would the 3D give any advantage over what Flash does.

There is definitely a need for a 3D program. We need a web plugin for 3DS Max or Maya. So in the next years look for a 3D players to be introduced to the web.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Forty Fifth Post: Learning from incorrect answers

The math problem that I have been working on doesn’t work properly. At least not yet, that is. But engineering and mathematics teach us to learn from failures. Along the road of failures is a path to success. You just have to find the right direction.

Anyways, I still have to post the problem to my site so you, the reader, can understand the problem I am talking about. The problem seems easy enough, but the solution though simple is not easy to find.

Also today, I updated Constructors Corner with a simple Flash graphic I was experimenting with in order to add more Flash content later. The site has two bugs now that for some reason I couldn’t fix on my first attempt. The message board link does not work in the Flash page. Also one of the graphics wouldn’t load on the homepage. Hopefully I have them fixed soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Searching for an answer to a problem that could be impossible

Forty Forth Post: Searching for an answer to a problem that could be impossible

I have been working on a basic algebra math problem that I should have solved in about 5 minutes, but I still don’t have a solution. It could be that I am on the wrong path trying to solve a problem that could be impossible, but after all the time I have spent working on it, I still think I have a “little discovery.” That is if I can solve it.

I don’t want to reveal my math problem just yet. I will reveal it when I have exhausted my tries for a solution. My problem deals with simple substitution. I just have to find two different equations that describe the variables differently so that I don’t run into x = y or 0 = 0. I’ve got to reveal the properties of a square.

Here I’m trying to build some suspense for the solution. The only problem is that I have to find it. When I finally post the problem to my site you will see how simple, yet interesting it is.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Internet hasn’t replaced a good reference book

Forty Third Post: The Internet hasn’t replaced a good reference book

Ever try to look something up on the web? Yes, there are search engines that are easy to use, but are they finding the information you are looking for. The Internet leads to information of a subject that must be pieced together. Sure sometimes the web surfer is lucky and finds what they are looking for within the first search page, but the more specific the search is the harder it is to find relative results. For example, searching for a social experiment by typing in a description of it will not necessarily find the experiment name, and typing in “sociology experiments” will lead to too broad of a search.

So how do we search. We still need the library. It has the Internet only to enhance its power. There are references and journals and librarians to help the search. Though the Internet will find quick facts and a broad search fast, sometimes a more intense research is required. And books are organized with an index and are dedicated to nothing but the subject, so it is easy to get an in-depth description. So the Internet hasn’t replaced books just yet. But it does help us find some good books.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Equations that equal

Forty Second Post: Equations that equal

I have been trying to solve a square. It would be easy if it weren’t for the fact that when I substitute variables the two equations equal. This is basic algebra and I still can’t solve it. It is frustrating.

With the equations being equal when solving yields 0 = 0 or x = y. Is this a new problem and the answer is no mathematicians have encountered this before and it is quite common to find an equation that yields infinite many solutions. The solution to the problem would be to find a second equation that explains the variables in a different way and then solve, but the problem lies in finding those equations.

I am going to add this problem to my site in the future. Maybe I'm not working in the right direction for the problem. That wouldn’t be uncommon. It is seldom to find the right answer to a math problem upon first inspection. It is a trial and error process. Hopefully it will be on the site within the following weeks, but for now it is “back to the drawing board.”

Monday, July 11, 2005

Favorite Equation

Forty First Post: Favorite Equation

A collection of equations is like any other collections in that you have your sets, combinations, decorations, and of course you have your favorites. May be your favorite solves the answers to the world or maybe it is a simple one that has many uses. It could be an explanation about shapes because geometry is your area of expertise. It can be a matrices that describes an encryption or adds to form a magic square. What ever your favorite equation is I bet you know it off by heart and enjoy deriving it among peers.

In case you are wondering I don’t know what me favorite equation is. There are just so many to chose from, and they all have their pros and cons. I prefer working with geometry. I have a special fondness of trigonometry and its triangles. But I also like physics’ formulas (the ones that I can understand) and how its formulas describe our world. There is just so many to choose from that I haven’t chosen my favorite. I have the ones I use often, but haven’t looked up the value of my rarest card. (as in a baseball card collection)

One of my favorite problems is the arc door problem that is on www.constructorscorner.com . One of my favorite equations is the arc length one used to solve it. I am also working on a square that solves the same problem. If it works, it will probably be one of my most favorite equations. If I am not able to solve it I will post it to the site so that someone could possibly solve it.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Mathematical Profs

Fortieth Post: Mathematical Profs

If you took Geometry in Highschool, you, the reader, knows that with shapes and their constructions comes the dreaded Prof. When someone first learn to do profs they need a good starting point. They are given the answer. They just need to show where it came from.

Sounds easy on first inspection, but the student will find it is a difficult task and a confusing path to take. But the problem is not just a math problem, because there is an art form for proofs. It is the student who decides the steps they take to show why the theorem works. This is why students first struggle with profs, but once they are familiarized with profs, the profs will become fun. That is of course considering there not on your math test.

The true meaning of profs isn’t seen when a person is just learning them. But their necessity will come in the higher mathematics and into college. The formulas we use need to be explained, and it has to be shown how they were formed. To do a proof you, the mathematician, need to think of how the math theorem was discovered and then see how the proven theorems can be used to explain the problem. It is really a hard thing to explain. It is something the student must learn for themselves and develop their own techniques.

I am working on some math problems now and that is the reason I discussed profs. I am tinkering and reading with how e was derived and how it was chosen. I am also working on how a square describes a circle. Before I put it on the site, the first thing is making sure it works. Not all my math problems work. This is where the knowledge of profs comes into play: to make sure your solution is correct and show how it was solved.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Flash Web Sites

Thirty Ninth Post: Flash Web Sites

When trying to create my own Flash enhanced site, I have been viewing other Flash sites. Flash is ideal for the web because of its vector graphics which take up kilobytes of memory comparted to thousands of kilobytes for a raster picture. But here is where the problem lies: even though Flash has small file size it is still large when compared to dial up Internet connections. Many people including myself are still limited to dial up. It stinks but we can’t do anything about it until a broadband technology comes to our area.

Getting back to Flash. I can add Flash content to my site but I have to limit the size of the file. Fortunately Flash can do this, but the webmaster has to be more creative. The webmaster must use their resources wisely. As the Internet connections get fast and faster we will see websites that look exactly like the programs and applications we install to the computer.

Another point to add is there is really no exact guidelines when creating a Flash site. What I mean is the books on Flash teach you how to make buttons, movie clips, animation, and Flash’s programming language Action Script, but they leave out the details on how to combine them into a site. It isn’t hard to figure out but a good reference on site design would come in handy.

If you thought it was easy to come up with good graphics for your site, it is not. As you try it for yourself you will run into some difficult tasks. The main problem is coming up with good original ideas. Don’t let your knowledge of Flash deter you. The hard point is designing the graphics. If you have a lot of creative ideas, just get some books for reference and learn along the way.

I will try and add some Flash to both my websites in the future. I will post any developments.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Spaghetti Bridges

Thirty Eighth Post: Spaghetti Bridges

It is a common exercise to build spaghetti bridges in a course that teaches the basics of design. Weights are hung from the bridge to see how much weight it holds and how the bridge handles the strain.

I will start by admitting the idea presented here was not mine but by two other Point Park College students. We were in the lab using the stress test machine thingy and they began to talk about spaghetti bridges. There was a debate about what pasta would work the best when one student decided he would use a pasta maker machine to make custom pasta pieces for the bridge. Picture “Play Doh” stamped out of the “Play Doh Factory Machine,” the one that creates the different clay shapes (sort like a stamper). Now picture adding this knowledge to a spaghetti machine to make custom shapes and all the advantages that it would have over store shelve pastas.

So what makes a simple idea so creative? In psychology there is a description called “functional fixedness.” Simply state it just has to deal with what uses a person finds for a tool. Functional fixedness is only using a tool or object for its common use and not using it in new ways. For instance, there is a machine that separates soil into its different consistencies for testing. My instructor noted that it would be good for making different types of textures for model train’s scenery. This and the spaghetti maker show different uses for a tool that’s use had already been defined.

So basically when you find a new way to use an object, you have just found a way to express the minds creativity. The term functional fixedness is not new. It first originated in the mid 1980's when a man named Macgyver used duck tape and a swiss army knife to blow things up. LOL. Only joking about the Macgyver thing, but Macgyver did not at all have functional fixedness. He knew the cure: improvising and using the mind to form new things from what is given in the environment. That and a sticky situation led to some great contraptions.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Graphic Artist Software Programs

Thirty Seventy Post: Graphic Artist Software Programs

There is seven programs that a graphic artist should have on their computer. The first is Photoshop. It has been out for years now and is understood to be the most essential program for art.

The second program is Flash. Flash is made for animation and dynamic web pages, but it was originally designed to do vector graphics. Remember that raster (bitmap) graphics take more memory than vector (line art) graphics and as such are perfectly suited from the web.

The third program is Dreamweaver is essential to put all the graphics and ideas on the web. You have to have a website if you are a graphic artist and this is the best program for the job.

The forth is AutoCad. Sometimes there is a need to make precision drawings or blueprints of and object. AutoCad also can help to make math diagrams and experimenting with shapes and geometry. This is the program to do drafting with. There are other less expensive CAD programs that may be an alternative.

The fifth program is 3DS Max. It is used to do 3D, animation, motion graphics, video game character design, etc. The only problem is that it is so expensive. Fortunately there is a free version to make 3D models called G-Max. There is also MilkShape 3D, Blender, and Maya Learning Edition for some alternatives.

The sixth program is a word processor. This is a given, but you need a good one and it may be a program needed that was overlooked.

The seventh program is a text editor. This is different from the word processor because of how it formats text. Problems arise with graphic art that sometimes require programming even if it is just editing HTML. I use ConText. It puts the correct format from everything from Java to C++. It helps by highlighted keywords and formatting the code to get it ready for the compiler.

These are the programs I recommend. Your list may be different. I left out programs that edit video. Most small jobs can be handled with Windows Movie Maker that comes with Windows XP. For advanced video editing I would recommend Combustion, but again its all a matter of personal preference. If you want to get started in graphic art I recommend starting with Photoshop and then moving to Flash. Good Luck!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Make Revisited

Thirty Sixth Post: Make Revisited

“Make” is a magazine filled with all sorts of projects. The projects are usually involved and since the book is filled with projects the reader must pick a project and go with it. But that does not mean there is not simple projects. There are projects for everyone.

A project that was in the form of a comic tells the reader how to make a marshmallow air gun. The reader blows a short blast of air which is powerful enough to send a marshmallow 25 feet. The design is simple yet ingenious.

The book is loaded with projects and challenges. It has a lot of circuit board projects that are rather involved, but it walks the reader through it step by step. If the reader skips the electrical projects they will still find a project that interests them.

But the focus here is the “marshmallow shooter.” It takes 2 ft. of ½ inch diameter pipe and can be assembled in a minute after the pieces are cut. To see the instructions get Make: vol. 02.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Story Time 2: First Day at New Unit

Thirty Fifth Post: Story Time 2: First Day at New Unit

It was my first visit to my new Unit the 303rd located in Pittsburgh, PA. My recruiter had driven me there and we were surprised that we had been able to find the building. Today was a good day to visit the Unit because the were going to perform their physical fitness test and swim qualification.

The First Sargent of the Unit took my recruiter aside. Later on when we drove to the stadium, my recruiter told me the First Sargent had taken him aside and ask him if he was sure he wanted me to see what they were going to do in fear that I would not join the Army.

We arrived at Pitt Stadium and I took my first unofficial PT test. I passed pushups and setups, but failed my 2 mile run by less than a minute. The test finished and we went to the pool. They completed their distance test and then it was time for the fun part. I watched as the soldiers were blindfolded and then guided off the diving board. Here they would lift the dummy weapon above their head and plunge into the water blindfolded. Quite an interesting thing to watch. To do it, the soldier needs not only confidence in their swimming ability, but must trust the soldier who is guiding them of the diving board.

When my recruiter and I left, I was impressed by the units activities today. These guys are awesome. Heck some of these guys even jump out of airplanes. So, I left that day with a good impression of my new Unit.

Monday, July 04, 2005

America’s Birthday

Thirty Fourth Post: America’s Birthday

As you, the reader, knows Today 07-04-05 is America’s birthday. The day that she claimed independence from Britain by means of “The Declaration of Independence.” You can read it at http://www.usacitylink.com/usa/ . This is a good, patriotic site and also has links to “The Constitution of the United States of America.”

Today is a day of celebration, but also a day of recognition as to what America stands for. Who makes America? “We the people” do. As a song, “We The People” by Billy Ray Cyrus states:

“We the people move it – We the people know – We the people – We run the Country”

Simply Stated the people of the United States are the United States. It comes with both rights and responsibilities. And today is the day we remember those rights and responsibilities.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Writing Poems

Thirty Third Post: Writing Poems

Writing poems is harder than you think at first inspection. Not only must it be an artistic format, it must convey a message and have a meaning. It needs an underlining theme and must express complex meaning through plain words. So it is more than just rhyming words. It is describing thoughts, emotions, and telling a story.

Where does a person start when trying to write one? Start by choosing a theme or story that you wish to describe. Write down what it makes you feel and what other people think about it. Then just write about the subject briefly without trying to rhyme. Then go back and add you artistic signature by adding a format to your work.

This may not be the best method, but it is a place to start. I have tried to make poems in the past and it has proven difficult. I was able to rhyme words, but I did not capture a theme the way I intended. I have decided to write until I am happy with my work. You can look for it at: www.constructorscorner.com .

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Learning Skills

Thirty Second Post: Learning Skills

The United States is always thought as behind in the world compared to the schools of other countries. Is it true? If you were to visit the store, Holcomb's, which sells learning aids and books, you would notice that all the aids are developed for only K-6. If you explored further, you would find that the learning materials are great. This is what America’s children need to learn.

The only problem is that you cannot find learning aids for grades 7-12 in the store. Why is that? That is a good question. There are great learning devices America’s young students need, but the teacher is left with the task in finding them.

Also at Holcomb’s the shopper will find pattern blocks. A working hypothesis is that if you were to test the average child with building puzzles with these blocks, they would excel. Children get a lot of exposure to 3D images and 3D worlds with video games, they should be prepared to build any puzzle one thinks of. But the question is if the same child could apply his knowledge of puzzles and 3D spaces to a more concrete and tangle task such as building a tent.

Another thing along side of academics is athletics. Are America’s children physically fit and are they eating right? This is a tough problem to solve and is something that schools can not provide for completely. Are these video games stopping children to play outside with sports or bikes?

There are a lot of questions here which could lead to many discussions and debates. It must be an answer you have to answer yourself. Did your school prepare you for college and the work force and what memories do you have from school?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Creating a UFO

Thirty First Post: Creating a UFO

In the book “The New Adventures of The Mad Scientists’ Club,” by Bertrand R. Brinley, the group fools the entire town by constructing their own flying object. They used a helium balloon with a bamboo frame. The flying object was simple and easy to create, yet fooled the entire town.

This leads the reader to wonder if they could create or fake a encounter with a ship from outer space. Since the Mad Scientists Club books were written, movies had come up with many UFO encounters including special effects make the UFO seem real. What if someone could use these effects to create the facade of a true UFO?

But what if you, the reader, did not want to go do the trouble of creating a working UFO, but only to capture a photograph of one. So the goal is too try and see who can make the most realistic, fake photo of a UFO. Today with programs such as Photoshop this may not seem to be a challenging fact. Although the tools are there, the photo still has to have realistic elements such as correct proportions, correct background, correct angle, and correct perspective. The tools have changed with the times. In the old days, before Photoshop, the special effects of the UFO were made by throwing a frisbee in the air and snapping a photo.

The Mad Scientists’ Club book also mentions what Henry, a character in the book, refers to as “ghost lights.” It simply was a plastic bag with a heat source in it that works similar to a hot air balloon. (At this time I do not have the exact directions on how to build them.) They float through the air doing all sorts of tricks in the air current.

With a little imagination a person can complete all sorts of UFO projects. The idea is not new, but all a person needs to do is think of basic characteristics of the ship. (how does it land, does it hover, how does it fly through both space and a planets atmosphere, etc.) Reading the “Mad Scientists’ Club” book may just lead the reader to try and create their own UFO.