Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Two Hundred Forty Sixth Post: Optics

I have found a great math book resource. I only have one of the books. The one I have is a self study in linear algebra. It seems to explain the theory very well, so the reader has an understanding on where the applications come from. If you are interested the link is: http://store.doverpublications.com/by-subject-science-and-mathematics-mathematics-general-and-popular-mathematics.html

But most recently I have had a question in optics. I have yet to study optics. But I have a stigmatism and wear glasses. Now wearing glasses isn’t so bad. However there are situations that they become undesirable. For instance, when qualifying with the rifle on the Army test. I would look through the site through my glasses, but if I wasn’t careful I would get a different sight picture each time depending on where I looked through my glasses. I had to adjust making sure my glasses were on straight and I looked through the focus of the lens. This becomes more difficult when you head is tilted and you are pressing your nose against the rifle to maintain the same sight picture with every shot.

So there are a few fundamentals of marksmanship. They are aiming, breathing, and trigger squeeze. With aiming comes judgement of lining up the sight, but also one of the most important factors to learn which is sight picture. Sight picture is just choosing the same way to look through the weapon and lining up the site in the same place for each different shot. This can be tricky with glasses, but there is no reason someone with glasses couldn’t shoot expert.

Now back to the science of glasses or optics. I have noticed with my nearsightedness due to a stigmatism or slight unfocused image on the retina caused by the shape of the eye, that objects are slightly blurry, or focused on closer objects. This is normal in fact, it is the definition of nearsightedness. But what I have notices is when looking through an enclosed tube such as a gun sight, hole in the top of a baseball cap, or other small tube my vision can now see things much more in focus than it could not looking through a small tube. The image is not perfect, but is noticeably better.

So what is my theory why this is so? I think light is hitting the eye’s lens and is out of focus. The lense is focusing the image right. We know that. But along with the image, light other than the focus point of the lense is getting focused along with the intended image the eye was focused on. In other words undesired light is being focused. That is why when the viewer looks through a small hole which blocks most of the light, the eye can better focus the image that is available. The further away the viewer looks over distance the more interference of the light due to a wider field of vision. I don’t know why a tiny hole in paper or gun sight would aid vision. This is just my theory. I don’t know how to make a lense that would utilize this. If this is true a person with a stigmatism should see slightly better with sun glasses. It is a question to ask your eye doctor or research why if you were glasses you need them.

But until I invent a new form of prescription glasses... May the Creative Force be with You

Monday, January 30, 2006

Fifth Post: Fan Fiction

Two Hundred Forty Fifth Post: Fan Fiction

I have been looking at the book “Old and New Unsolved Problems,” by Klee and Wagon. It is a little difficult to follow because complete problems are condensed into a 4 page description. But this isn’t a test prep book, it is for researching and trying new methods. So with a little research anyone can understand the basics of the problems.

One problem that has me interested is the question: Can a circle be decomposed into finitely many sets that can be rearranged to form a square? This is a volume problem similar to filling up a circle with water than finding the square that will hold that exact amount of water. Admittedly I have no clue about solving this problem, but I bet its solution is informative. I haven’t looked at the answer. It was solved by a man named Miklos Laczkovich. I think this problem may have many practical applications, but I need to research it more.

In the December 2005 Popular Mechanics I missed an article that described a proposed mission to Mars by Buzz Aldrin. I have found my misplaced copy and read the article. It is interesting proposing the solution to set many docking stations in orbit around Earth and Mars. That way the time would be decreased and the resources such as fuel and oxygen would be available. It is worth checking out, but the concept sounds impossible with which I believe would be two many tasks such as docking having to much a chance for error. But these guys have been busy calculating all the trajectories and they are well respected professionals.

But my biggest find of the day was a fan fiction site. That site is about fan fiction to no other than Macgyver. Here is the link. Check it out: http://www.uplinktech.net/macgyver/fanfic/index.html,
But until astronauts float weightlessly on there trip back home from Mars... May the Creative Force be with You

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Rediscovering Woodworking

Two Hundred Forty Fourth Post: Rediscovering Woodworking

One thing about wood is that it is very versatile and easy to form making it especially good for building. But with all the modern metals and plastic composites, it is still one of the cheapest building material. Also it has a long history where many designs and plans have already been figured out allowing for easy research, and it makes the knowledge of the craft easier to learn.

So why am I interested in woodworking. The fact is that it is just interesting. I love looking at all the plans, many of which are free. I am not much of a builder. When I build a model I like the plans, I like the design, the only problem is that I don’t like the building as much as the design. Sometimes when building something you get to see what you designed or researched reach its potential as finally being built. I like that too, but I am so slow on the building part. Admittedly, I have had many unfinished projects.

But this time the project is different. All I have to do is measure and cut following the plans that cost a dollar. I will be building a picnic bench. If I get good enough I may attempt something more challenging.

There is just so much information about woodworking. I am surprised designers are able to find new projects to write about in Popular Mechanics. I think that Popular Mechanics has covered everything, but still cover much more each month.

Some woodworking sites I have found are: http://www.freeww.com/ ; http://www.woodcentral.com/ ; http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~flip/plans.html

But until you build your bench that folds into a picnic table... May the Creative Force be with You

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Programming Bits

Two Hundred Forty Third Post: Programming Bits

I’m still reading a little about C++. I mix it in with some other projects so it doesn’t get boring just studying the material. One thing that is learned about “classes” is that the variables could be “public” or “private.” This is to keep the variables to be written to unintentionally. Now the interesting part. If you did have access to these variables, you would basically be able to control how the program runs. I don’t know how you would go about it, but if the method was found, the program would be hacked.

Another way to hack (which I would like to know how) is to modify the DLL files. Since the program accesses these files, if the DLL is changed the program is hacked. That is why Quake 3 didn’t use DLL. If a mod was made the writer of the DLLs would have access to the users entire computer.

The book “Hacking Exposed” states that only a few percent of the computer user population has enough knowledge create or discover ways to defeat security. However, it goes on to say that once these vulnerabilities become known anyone can use them.

Just a little look at the hacking world. When you are first learning programming, you may wonder how anyone can hack something that is so complex. I guess it is just like any other project in that the user learns over time tinkering until hopefully a security flaw (or discovery) happens.

But until you find that security leak... May the Creative Force be with You

Focus on Mod Programming in Quake III Arena, Shawn Holmes
Sams Teach Yourself C++ in 24 Hours, Jesse Liberty
Hacking Exposed Fourth Edition, Stuart McClure, Joel Scambray, George Kurtz

Friday, January 27, 2006

Starting programming is easier

Two Hundred Forty Second Post: Starting programming is easier

Back in the day, when I was learning BASIC, programming was complex and tedious. As a student you didn’t know why you were learning the parts of the language, but more importantly, you couldn’t use your programs to interface with the computer. I mean integrating the programs with Windows to do something. It seemed you could just write a loop to average two numbers.

Of course with BASIC, students are just learning the fundamentals of programming. Compared to today programming has grown, but it is still easier to get the resources need to learn. The web was new back then. Now the web is full of free source code to learn from. From www.sourceforge.net to www.codeproject.com , it is easy to find a program.

The one drawback though is the immense knowledge need to learn. Someone can understand the fundamentals in a week, but to actually learn to make programs that we use in Windows today, they would have to have worked with the programming language for some time.

But at least the programming interface is user friendly. I used to hate to type “list from 1 to 100,” and “list from 230 to 270” in order to view different lines of the code. The programs were simpler but fortunately navigating the code has become easier.

I write this as I have just finished a 3dbuzz VTM. I must say it went fast and I’d have to watch it again and do some research before I fully understand it. That is a little hard work it takes to learn something new.

It has been found that children from 3 and less just seem to “absorb” the language of their culture. No other time is language learned as fast. When we try to learn languages at a latter age it becomes hard. A child could learn it much more fluently in less time. So what if someone did an experiment to see if younger children 5 and under could learn a simple computer language. It would have to have a verbal language because writing is learned after speaking. The kids still could relate symbols to words. The only reason it probably hasn’t been done is the difficult to create the language. However, if apes and chimpanzees can communicate in a similar manner so could children.

Just something to thing about if you’re a cognitive psychologist. But in the meantime... May the Creative Force be with You

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Programming the Game Boy

Two Hundred Forty First Post: Programming the Game Boy

I was watching 3dbuzz’s C++ VTMs and found in the 3rd series of game programming, they ported the C++ game to the Game Boy SP. Unfortunately, they haven’t finished the VTM that shows how to port to the Game Boy . So I did a web search and found they was a book on the subject. I found free software to compile games and a free book to download. Unfortunately the HAM / VHAM software site wasn’t running, but I did manage to download the free book. You can get it at: http://www.jharbour.com/gameboy/default.aspx

The book was never published due to legal issues with Nintendo. I guess Nintendo foresaw a bunch of inexpensive of free games that might have hurt the sales of its published games. Basically they wanted to control their system. I think this would actually have got more units and more games sold if Nintendo would have supported the book.

That is why games are cheaper on PCs. The system is non proprietary and allowed many manufactures to produce hardware. It also left developers no license fees when producing software. The Mac was a better system over the PC for many years, but the non proprietary system of the PC made it number one.

I still have a lot to learn about C++, but seeing the possibility of porting a game to the Game Boy makes learning the hard stuff that much more rewarding. I have to admit on the last VTM I followed along but did not understand it completely. But the more you work with a language the more it makes sense. I tried to do some stuff in Q BASIC and it is amazing how much stuff I learned from BASIC 10 years ago that I still knew.

But until I find VHAM and port my games to the Game Boy... May the Creative Force be with You

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

An Excellent Adventure

Two Hundred Fortieth Post: An Excellent Adventure

I’m still thinking about the quadratic formula. I have a variable that should be positive, but comes up negative because of the squaring. There has got to be an easier way. There probably is but would be extremely hard to solve.

I am also thinking of physics. In the cartoon of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” they were falling to the ground while standing on some object. One of them came up with the idea that they would wait until the object was 5 feet about the ground and then jump off. When I was a kid, I couldn’t figure out why this couldn’t work. Of course now with a little knowledge of physics I know they would be moving at the same speed as the object towards the ground. It is a little question you can ask elementary school kids and see what kind of response they give.

There are a lot of inventive answers young students give when given a chance to theorize and apply what they learn. Sometimes it has to be more about invention then just memory alone when learning. For an example my fourth grade science teacher once set one of those orbiting pendulums (the ones with a ball weight attached on opposite sides of a circle) on the desk. It appeared to move back and forth without any power source. If the student could write a paper explaining how it worked they would get an A for the semester. Of course there is no thing such as perpetual motion, but imagine how hilarious the answers that were given were.

When ever you have to work out a solution by yourself you become a master of that subject. There used to be a fact that by reading you retained so much information, by hearing you learned so much, but by teaching you mastered the subject the most. I thing that problem solving and research ranks as high as teaching. But until you enter a phone booth that takes you to a different time... May the Creative Force be with You

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Therio Quadratica

Two Hundred Thirty Ninth Post: Therio Quadratica

My high school math teacher once told the story of Therio Quadratica. He was a hard working family man whose job was to factor out polynomials. The process was very hard work taking long hours just to get two solutions. That doesn’t mention how many polynomials couldn’t be factored and were wasted.

So one day Therio decided to tinker with the equations and find a better method of solving polynomials. What he came up with is now known as the quadratic equation. So Therio set out his own business mass producing polynomial solutions in less than half the cost and effort. He and his family could now live prosperously. The invention was comparable to Henry Ford and the assembly line.

The reason I bring up the quadratic equation is that although it has proven to be invaluable there are still a lot of equations it can not solve. Suppose you had a quadratic equation in correct form but the quadratic equation couldn’t give you a real number solution. Also, the equation could not be easily factored. The thing that is notable is that you know of another equation that solves the same problem. So is this fact of any use? I don’t know, but it is a little, impossible problem I am tinkering with. If someone is able to solve it they could start their own polynomial factory and earn a lot of money. Well if not a lot of money, a little discovery could be made. But until then... May the Creative Force be with You

Monday, January 23, 2006

Math as its Own Language

Two Hundred Thirty Eighth Post: Math as its Own Language

We all heard of math being explained to be its own language. In order to understand it one must know the syntax and some rules. That isn’t to say that you can’t do some very powerful and useful calculations only knowing the basics.

On Constructors’ Corner I try to explain the math as descriptively and simple as I can. However, I can see if someone did not have a little math background it could be confusing. Don’t let that deter you though. There are some interesting things in those problems and anyone can pick up a little by following along.

I myself have done a little reading on linear algebra and differential equations lately and realized while reading examples on the web how much easier it is to use a text book. The online examples are invaluable, but often require previous knowledge of the subject. This is where a textbook would break it into simpler, sequential steps.

But I must say not knowing all of math is what makes it fun. I get to use my imagination and experiment with the new theories and problems. Mastering math not only involves learning formulas and theory, it is about thinking through a problem sort of like an artistic way of manipulating equations.

Just in case you are interested on the problems on Constructors Corner, I am working on a test math VTM. I know how to get a reasonably small files size, it is the teaching part that is a challenge. I am trying to explain a math concept in 3 minutes to an audience that might not have a mathematical background. I know I have been slow, but I will try to get the VTM finished.

As for math, it has had many contributors and developed over thousands of years. So until we make our own little contributions... May the Creative Force be with You

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Here We Go Steelers!

Two Hundred Thirty Seventh Post: Here We Go Steelers!

Here we go! As everyone knows by now the Steelers beat Denver. And they will go onto the Super Bowl and beat the Sea Hawks. I have never seen Seattle play. They are a west coast team and other than the playoffs the games aren’t televised here. But with the Steelers capable of both a pass or run offense and it being Bettis’s home we will see some good Steelers football. I will tell you why the Steelers will win in a future post. There is a while before the Super Bowl. This game was just won.

Here is a question I ask on www.scienceforums.net . Let me know what you think. Has anyone who reads this Blog had any design experience? Let me know on the message board or email me at: trurlthe_constructor@hotmail.com Even if you’re an amateur like me, what projects do you do. Meaning models, video games, drawing, experiments, math, or some type of engineering inventing little things.

Here it is:

I know that engineers have many different duties, but I am concerned with research. First, how do you show progress with inventing something new. I mean as an amateur I do little projects and sometimes they don't work and all I have is scrap paper with some math on it. How do you show progress to keep the research going.

And the second problem I face as an amateur (doing my own small (very small) projects) is finding projects that are worthwhile and have enough information. I mean those things you would probably have given on a job, but wouldn’t think of otherwise. Something like the scientists of the Manhattan Project knowing e = mc2 but not having the access to Uranium or know what kind of plane would deliver the bomb.

I think that’s why amateurs are often forced to reinvent the wheel which may or may not lead to a discovery. Still it would be difficult to invent something new without having the right problem and conditions. So with that do you guys have any advice for amateurs? How would you guys set up a small design project?

How would you answer the question? I will talk more about it in a future post.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Questions about Engineering

Two Hundred Thirty Sixth Post: Questions about Engineering

I have a lot of questions about actually working as an engineer. I have had about 1 ½ years of school, but I always wondered how do you get paid to do research. I mean how do you have a job to build something from scratch having the high possibility of finding nothing.

I know that a lot of research is done at universities where there is teaching and research happening. Also, if research projects that don’t produce results aren’t tried there will never be a project that makes a major discovery.

How am I going to answer these questions? Simple I am going to use the web and post messages to actual engineers. ( www.scienceforums.net ) I have been told that invention seeks novelty. I would guess that everyone is a novice, exploring new territory when they are trying to invent something.

As far as discovery is concerned, the biggest discovery of the week will be when the Steelers beat the Broncos and discover that their Super Bowl dreams are real. But until the Steelers win on Sunday... May the Creative Force be with You

Friday, January 20, 2006

No Product Research

Two Hundred Thirty Fifth Post: No Product Research

In the book “Engineering Design: A Day in the Life of Four Engineers,” the new engineers find themselves with a task of designing an electric car. They don’t know the assignment is just an exercise to better teach them and provide valuable training that would have occurred any other way. So the moral is simple: If you don’t know you can’t succeed, you have a better chance of accomplishing the goal.

This is true of a lot of things from sports to school and throughout life. Failure or losing may cause a lack of effort and distract the participant from the main goal. However if you just play your game (or work to your hardest) victories occur. I once heard a highschool coach say something like, “When you work your hardest, give it your best no matter what, that is when opportunities present themselves.” In other words if you give up you will never see those opportunities. Opportunities that may be the way to win the game. So, “when you work as hard as you can, good things will happen.”

Just like this Sunday (01-22-2006), the Steelers will beat the Broncos. Not just because they are the more talented, but because of their desire to succeed. The defense is going to allow some first downs and at the start of the game Denver’s offense might be in a zone, but the Steeler are going to hold them to a field goal on their first drive. This should be followed by a slow start, but steady Steeler’s drive that gets a touchdown and sets the pace of the game.

Ok, so I don’t know the specifics, but the Steelers are going to win even lacking home field advantage and considered the underdog. They are going to win because they put their best effort into the game while not worrying about failing. They are just going to play their game.

But until the Steelers win on Sunday... May the Creative Force be with You

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Math Problem

Two Hundred Thirty Fourth Post: A Math Problem

I have a math problem that I have been tinkering with. It is about describing a circle with a square. I know the problem has a solution because I have seen it solved 2 ways. Yes, it is the “arched doorway” problem again. I know I describe the problem a lot, but there is just so much it can do in describing circles and maybe even curves.

I figure since the solution has been solved both by using calculus and using geometry, there should be a way to set up an equation. There are many equations that describe this relationship, but they all rely on knowing the radius. The radius can be written in the form of a linear equation, so maybe for solving for the matrices would result in a solution set. Unfortunately I haven’t completely studied linear algebra. However it is still one area to explore.

I still have the strong belief that there is a simple equation in which the radius can be unknown, that will describe the arc. I have some ideas that I will present on Constructors Corner in the following weeks. I still have to post my “intro to trig” VTM. I will try to keep all VTMs less than 5 minutes for simplicity and file size requirements. So check out http://www.constructorscorner.com/ for the “arched doorway problem” (already on the site under www.constructorscorner.com/ideas_and_gadgets/math/math_home.htm) and check back for VTMs in the following weeks. So until I organize my math work... May the Creative Force be with You

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Custom Designs

Two Hundred Thirty Third Post: Custom Designs

I was at www.makezine.com waiting for the next volume and on the Blog is a company called Big Blue Saw. The make customized machine pieces. You draw it in CAD and email it to them. Sounds like a good idea. If you are working on a project or fixing a car and you need a special piece just have it machined. Unfortunately there is much describing the company on their site.

So with companies on the web that produce printed circuit boards and companies that make machined parts the amateur has some pretty powerful tools at their disposal. Stuff that was just theory can be built, because building your own equipment would probably require more resources than having a shop put together prototypes.

There is one question what are the laws if an amateur was fortunate enough to come up with something new and revolutionary, how would they protect their work? The company probably keeps records on computer about all the customer’s design history. These people are technically capable so it wouldn’t be impossible to reverse engineer a design. In fact you just gave them the plans so there would have to be some legal agreement.

It is sort of like wood working projects. You can go to craft shops and pay a high price for a work that is ordinary or maybe it is a complex design. Either way once you buy the plans (and have some knowledge of wood working) and make your own. And if the project works and the tools are available you can sell them at your own shop. So the value of the plans has become more valuable than one piece.

So there are probably some legal issues, but the service is available if a part is needed. So until my Make magazine comes in the mail... May the Creative Force be with You

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Where is my Make vol 5 ?

Two Hundred Thirty Second Post: Where is my Make vol 5 ?

I am anxiously awaiting the latest volume of Make magazine. Sure I have enough projects to keep my busy, but I am waiting for the MakeShift question and previous solutions. I just got done watching Macgyver and figured writing the script would be like piecing together many MakeShift answers. But what comes first the stories plot or the situation where Macgyver goes to work? I guess it is a little of both.

I have also found interest in the game Myst. I have only read some reviews, but what I’m interested in is how the puzzles are presented and the interface the user plays the game with. I want to see how they keep the player’s interest will still coming up with challenging puzzles.

I am going to try to put together a resume and an art portfolio. Both are just ideas now. I have one more resolution this year. Maybe I’ll share it in anther thread... but until then, this is just a short one... May the Creative Force be with You

Monday, January 16, 2006

Return to the Weaponier

Two Hundred Thirty First Post: Return to the Weaponier

I blogged about the weaponier in my last post. I looked up the basics of how light guns work on the Net. The old Duck Hunt, Nintendo games made the ducks on the screen flash white. The gun would register if it detected white to determine if the hit was made. I am unsure how the Super Nintendo weaponier worked, but it was able to tell exactly where each and every shoot was made on the screen. It even allowed for analysis of the shoots. Something to research though.

I also got a chance to train on a video game. It had 3 screens and up to 5 weapons. The simulation played like a movie and had a scenario. One contact was made the team would try to shoot the enemy. The enemy could duck behind cover. The simulator used actual weapons that used an air hose for recoil instead of a round. It ran on 5 Pentium computers. It was one of the best training you can get out of the field. My Commander commented on how you can learn to shoot still targets all day, but this simulator you are working as a team (with targets that move strategically).

I was not a combat MOS and simulators like these are probably the only time (other than combat) that someone such as a graphic illustrator is going to get this kind of training. So the Military using video games is nothing new. The Army has had simulators for years. They used to be mechanical. Now there are more realistic and more affordable because standard computers can be used in some cases. It is similar to using the Super Nintendo for rifle marksmanship. So until I find an 3DS Max training disk I misplaced... May the Creative Force be with You

Sunday, January 15, 2006

I told you the Steelers would win!

Two Hundred Thirtieth Post: I told you the Steelers would win!

The Steelers won! However it was too close with the Colts coming within 3 points. We almost lost it on Bettis’s fumble. The Colts didn’t stop when we were on the 1 yard line. Then after Big Ben tackled the guy, the Colts drove up the field to what seemed like an easy field goal. Too close for a game the Steelers controlled up until the last 5 minutes.

Two design things that I have been thinking about. I saw a website on how to make a Nerf gun. (http://nerfhaven.com/homemade/boltsniper_far/ ) . Here the builder converted an actual weapons construction into PVC pipe equivalents. He made a Nerf shooter. Looks like it took some time. What caught my eye was the schematics. They were saved as an Excel file. I didn’t know you could use Excel that way. Also interesting was an animation of the Nerf shooter. I don’t know what program was used for that.

But as long as we are on the subject in the Army we used to use a weaponier. The were a couple of varieties of weaponiers. Some were mechanical and used marked the paper where you aimed. But there was a cool weaponier. This one used a decoy rifle with actual sights and used the Super Nintendo machine to act as a computer to control the targets on the screen. It sighted itself based on the target grouping and had a variety of different modes from far targets, moving targets, to the actual Army regulation qualification course. The thing was awesome and a whole lot of fun. It was also portable with the biggest thing to move being the monitor. The only special equipment was the game cartridge and the light gun.

But what if those same principles where modded to work on a PC. The physics would just be basic mechanics focusing on the bullets trajectory. So where the soldier aimed factored in with the parabolic path of the round rising or dropping would be the main calculations. Seems like something that could hook up to a laptop. Sounds like a great open source project. Just something I am thinking about when I am trying to learn basic C++ programming. The math is easy, but the light gun construction and graphics program would be difficult. So until I watch the advanced C++ VTMs.... May the Creative Force be with You

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Projects on the Web

Two Hundred Twenty Ninth Post: Projects on the Web

I have been downloading a lot of podcasts from iTunes. I only have dial-up so downloading the movies isn’t really easy. These podcast are great and their free. Make magazine (www.makezine.com) has podcast about its projects. I visited their website and found that they are also busy searching the web looking for new and interesting projects. It is a good place for us tinkers to learn what others are doing and maybe even see our own projects on the Blog someday. So many interesting projects, but only some much time to go through them.

But let’s talk about how the Steelers are going to beat the Colts by 10 points. The Colts have grown rusty and are not going to warm up on offense until the second half. The passing game just won’t get unsync which will allow the Steelers’ defense the time it needs to shut down the Colts. Expect the Steelers to pass more and be successful. If they can get ahead by 2 touchdowns they will be able to run the ball and take control of the time. So expect a Steelers victory tomorrow (01-15-06). I see the Steeler getting ahead early and the Colts having to battle to come back. It is going to be within 7 to 3 points the whole time. The Steeler’s 10 point lead will just reflect them winning the time of possession.

Not so much to Blog today, but... May the Creative Force be with You

Friday, January 13, 2006

Thinking Back

Two Hundred Twenty Eighth Post: Thinking Back

I am still thinking about grade school. That is particularly lunch. There used to be bowls of condiments on the tables. The students learned they could mix the relish with the mayonnaise so that all the bowls were a mixture of condiments. Better yet they found that the could use the spoon in the condiment bowl to fling the condiments across the room and have a food fight. It took the lunch ladies awhile but they finally designated a table close to the tray area to hold the condiments.

But there is other fun things. Ice cream was 30 or 50 cents and you would easily find a kid who was a quarter or 10 cents short. This is when you could mix different foods on the tray and see what they would taste for 10 cents.

But of course, I learned useful stuff in grade school. Pizza Hut use to give personal sized pizzas for reading so many book. I don’t know if they still do that, but it was a very good idea. I don’t know if the following idea came from the books I read for the pizza, but it is interesting no less. In a science book it claim as a future prediction, scientists would spray the planet Venus with algae. This was to create new life and watch it develop. With the hope to ultimately have life like Earth. Sounds a lot like Project Genesis in the Star Trek movie.

There are many things about life that could be learned, but it also sounds dangerous bringing changes to a large planet without knowing what it would produced. What would it produce? Will live evolve without some kind of intervention of an outside force? Many questions a very interesting topic. But until Spock is reborn on planet Venus as an effect of “Project Genesis”... May the Creative Force be with You

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Teaching Points

Two Hundred Twenty Seventh Post: Teaching Points

I have tried to create an easy trig lesson because a lot of the problems I post on Constructors Corner use trig. But I have run into some teaching problems. Number one is to have a clear, concise discussion of the problem. Remember I usually only solve problems. A write up is as close as I get to teaching them. I find that while it is nice to have a step by step procedure to solve a problem, I often approach my problem in a different way that relies less on a given set of steps. This leads to a more difficult way to explain the problem. Instead of steps I just take the given theory (when I am using a text book) and just ask myself which law best fits the problem, but this must be checked on how the theory would describe the given problem. You must ask yourself what does the theory mean and how does it relate to the problem.

The second point is if you are giving a lecture you must not only present the problem you must describe it and tell what it means. Often it helps to have a problem that shows the theory demonstrated. Both are good points. And I am going to try to use them in my own VTM. I am going to start with a simple one, and I am going to need feedback telling me if the message was understood. I hope to post it within the next week.

But talking about teaching brings me back to memories of grade school. My friend’s lunch was always packaged in tin foil. There is so much you can do with tin foil. It can be bent to formed tin foil men or crunched into a ball to throw. The most interesting use is when you rub 2 pieces of foil together. It produces ink.

After lunch was recess. I see that some schools have done away with recess. It is such an important part of school not only to exercise and have fun, but to socialize. Many studies show that “play” is serious stuff. It use to be the coolest part of the school day. When I was in school we’d play football or climb the monkey bars. There has just got to be a recess.

But until I make my VTM... May the Creative Force be with You

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Easiest way to learn Trig

Two Hundred Twenty Sixth Post: Easiest way to learn Trig

What is the easiest way to learn trigonometry? Trig is a very challenging subject when you are first introduced it, like any math. The secret is to study your geometry and geometric constructions. Drafting often complements math especially geometry and trig.

But there are two ways to be introduced to the sine and cosine. One is the “unit circle” and the other is defined by triangles. In the trig book I learned trig from (Analytical Trigonometry with applications, Barnett, Ziegler) the triangle method is introduced first then how a segment of a circle relates to the radius is explored. After the law of sines and cosines the unit circle is finally introduced.

It leads to a great way to learn trig, but what is the student wants to learn the basics overnight. That doesn’t mean to learn all of trig before the final. It means to be introduced to trig to get a rough understanding to follow problems and examples that will apply the theory and encourage students to learn.

My method to learn is just to simplify everything. Instead of using a triangle or a unit circle the student will be introduced to a line. And as this line moves (rotating around a fixed axis) its size will change. It will show that trig is just a proportion of lines.

Of course the technique is just a faster way of what any trig book would teach. The thing to note is that it is simplified enough not to intimated the student with complex theories.

But until I finish my trig VTM and get a small files size... May the Creative Force be with You

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

This is Boring

Two Hundred Twenty Fifth Post: This is Boring

In high school you often hear students yelling out: “This is boring.” or “You can’t teach.” And as a student in class you think the same thing: “Why are we learning this? Were never going to use it.” Well the truth is you can use everything you learn in everyday life and the more you learn the better. But what was that? The teacher can’t teach?

Try making a VTM (video training module) and you will learn just how challenging it can be to teacher. And that is just performing the lecturing part. Handling students would be another problem in itself. But putting together a lecture you learn that speaking ability, knowing what material to cover and when to introduce it, covering the material in logical steps, and keeping it interesting are all very challenging. Showing that you can do all those things will determine if the point of the lesson was learned by the viewer.

So how can you quiet a student that complains that class is boring? Give them a speaking assignment, or even better, use modern technology and have them make a VTM. The teacher could probably wait to the student entered college and found out that the lectures require more attention and the learning is done more by the student themselves. But it would probably be better to learn it the easy way than the later.

But until you try to put together a VTM and see the art form behind it... May the Creative Force be with You

Monday, January 09, 2006

Surprise by Design

Two Hundred Twenty Fourth Post: Surprise by Design

I once considered looking for anything to do with graphic art (other than my website) because that had been my job in the Army. However with computers and graphics on file anyone with a little computer experience can become a graphic artist. So I really don’t know what the demand for graphic artist is. It seems to me that it would be hard to get a job.

But with computers and the Internet to find art and photos shouldn’t the job of graphic artist be easy? The truth is it is not. (Speaking from my short experience.) You see a lot of graphic art every day from magazines, newsletters, websites, and television and a lot of it looks like it took 5 minutes to make. The reason for this is that graphic art is difficult.

You are often give a slogan or sentence to work with and have to come up with a picture and design that would explain that sentence. This is where the bad art comes in. The message is often lost because the picture was found on the Internet and has nothing to do with the message. The second thing that makes graphic art difficult is the time limit. If you had day’s to make a message it would be perfect, but there are deadlines. This is another reason the message and graphic don’t get across what was originally intended.

If you are looking for good examples of graphic art check out the art of Conan O’ Brien’s show. He is matching a joke with a picture which is sometimes more difficult than matching a fact with a picture. It is almost like drawing a comic.

Of course, there is also good examples in graphics art in everything from newspapers and magazines. When you notice a good one just think about how difficult it was to come up with a new and interesting theme. It is not always the good drawings that make it good, sometimes it’s the concept. It is just like all art an artist doesn’t paint a great work overnight. It takes practice. Also note that the artists has many works with some that stand out more than others. If there was enough time to come up with a design chances are that the caption and graphic are going to fit together better.

In short, we should all be looking for ways to improve are “art.” In doing so, we must ask questions about how the message will be interpreted. How will someone who didn’t draw it and has no other information about the subject interpret the ad? These little design steps will make us better graphic artists.

But until you draw that magazine ad or design a website... May the Creative Force be with You

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Steelers vs. Colts

Two Hundred Twenty Third Post: Steelers vs. Colts

I think that although the Colts remained almost undefeated in the regular season and beat the Steelers Monday night, the are still going to be defeated by the Steelers when they meet this Sunday (01-15-06). However, there are some things that must be done for the Steelers to win. First they have to stop the Colt’s offense on 3rd down. If they let as many 3rd down conversions as they did with the Bengals, they will lose because the Colts offense is too explosive. The second key to win is for the Steeler’s offense to score early and not wait to the second half to take control as they did with Bengals. The Steelers are probably the underdogs, but they have a chance to win it. And if they can beat the Colts the only team to worry about on the road to the Super Bowl is New England.

So I finally updated Constructors’ Corner with my MakeShift04 solution. I welcome any feedback. I am also tinkering with a new math problem. I have some good theories but nothing that works. If it works I will put it into a VTM. I need to find a way to make the size of my movie small and still record the screen. It isn’t too tricky, but I have been getting huge file sizes. I want to keep it under 5 Mb.

I’ll discuss more about the Steelers in other posts but for now... May the Creative Force be with You

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Right Wing / Left Wing

Two Hundred Twenty Second Post: Right Wing / Left Wing

Ok so let’s discuss liberal vs. conservative views. I don’t consider my self to be either one. I think that both sides have good and bad points. The funny thing is when they try to explain why their side is right and go off on some tangent to prove their side’s view is right although it clearly doesn’t make sense. I am talking about when an elected official makes a bad decision and they were clearly wrong, some radio talk show hosts describe it as being the best decision every.

Of course, a radio show host is there for more than to get across and opinion. They are entertainers. I listen to both liberal and conservative host if not just for the debate, but to learn the political happenings.

I really am not sure of the impact on liberal and conservative views. Is the country really that different in their views? I read the 1st chapter of Al Franken’s “The Truth.” He talks about Senator Kerry losing the election. He argues the point that Bush was given a mandate of his victory when in actuality he only won by a near margin.

I look back at why I think Kerry lost. He had good ideas and pointed out a lot of Bush’s deficiencies as President such as the war, reputation with other nations, and health care, but he claimed to be able to solve all the problems in his term and I don’t think he convinced enough people that he could do it. Bush on the other hand ignored such issues and tried to argue why Kerry wouldn’t make a good President, instead of promoting his own policies. This is where Al Franken’s book starts to describe the election.

Well whoever we voted for Bush won and we must stand behind are President. But when he is wrong we must tell him. I read a political cartoon by artist Rob Rogers in the newspaper. It had Bush writing resolutions. He wrote: “1: Continue to do whatever I want because I know what’s best for the World. 2: Boost my sagging Poll numbers.” An advisor to him, “I think those two cancel each other out.”

So we have 3 more years of W. So instead of explaining there is some reason behind everything he does like some radio entertainers, we need to let the President know how we, the American People, feel.

I tried to not favor one side more than the other... but until then.... May the Creative Force be with You

Friday, January 06, 2006

A Hunch

Two Hundred Twenty First Post: A Hunch

Ok, you studied geometry, trig, or calculus and you have been tinkering with one problem that you found more interesting than the rest. You think it will lead to a little discovery or if not just an cool problem to solve. What did you base this on and why have you spent so much time on this one problem. Chances are, it is all based on a hunch.

That is right a “hunch.” The only clues you have to why these problem is special is based on the way you have thought about the problem. You just can’t go about a math problem with a certainty that a solution will be found. If it was that easy previous tinkers before you would have already found it.

So does this make the effort less fun since you can’t tell what problems will give results. The answer is absolutely not. If you didn’t have to tinker to find a solution what fun would that be? Finding the right problem and then finding the uncommon answer is all part of the job.

So that is why when you get a hunch, a certain feeling that lets you know there is something to be learned, you must write it down to record it and begin the effort to solve the ultimate puzzle.

So until I solve my hunch.... May the Creative Force be with You

Thursday, January 05, 2006

It’s in the Instructions

Two Hundred Twentieth Post: It’s in the Instructions

In our computer that is five years old we had to replace the chip fan today. We also added a case fan to keep everything running good. Installation of a fan is pretty simple, but what about if you need to refer to the instructions to make sure it is right? Fortunately it isn’t hard to figure out.

I also watched a VTM from www.3dbuzz.com on trigonometry. The video is free and from what I watched was just a simple and straight forward method of teaching trig. However if I every to get my VTM started it will show math in a different way. As for the MakeShift 04 solution, it is on the way. My VTM has been delayed until I write up the math problem (more instructions).

It has been a slow day. But it is days like these that are just as important to the projects as the hard working days. But until then... May the Creative Force be with You

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Post: Updates

Two Hundred Nineteenth Post: Updates

I still haven’t got my MakeShift solution on Constructor’s Corner yet. It will be there in the next few days hopefully. I am also going to test a VTM (video training module) made with Cam Studio. I have never used the software before so this should be interesting. Also, the math lesson I will be teaching might not work. But as always I will need some feedback.

What is the math problem? It is just a simple geometry problem that should take less than 5 minutes to explain. It is simple yet thought provoking.

I’ve found a excellent book on fantasy art called “Drawing and Painting Fantasy Figures” by Finlay Cowan. It is what “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way” is to comics as it is to fantasy art. I’ve had the book for awhile, but only skimmed through it. I want to start drawing more this year and this is the place to start. As I have learned from the Kubert’s books and website, to learn to draw you find an artist you like and practice from his style. It just gets the student to learn the right techniques and proportions. Eventually the student develops a style of its own and is a skilled drawer.

But until we find that little discovery hidden in the simplest parts of geometry... May the Creative Force be with You

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Back and Forth Motion

Two Hundred Eighteenth Post: Back and Forth Motion

In the 198 post of this Blog, I mentioned the need to generate a back and forth motion. It was needed for a machine to go back and forth with a “piston like” action to pump water. The intro story is in the MakeShift 04 design problem. http://www.makezine.com/ It was my entry, that I will be posting on http://www.constructorscorner.com/ soon, where the idea originated. I needed to make an improvised pump, but in order for that pump to work it had to move back and forth.

This back and forth motion is a mechanical design problem. On the RadioShack VEX robot kit there is regular rotating motors and “servo motors” that spin one way and then back the other (producing a back and forth motion.) Admittedly I don’t really know the workings behind the servo motor, but I have a few guesses. This is still an idea I am tinkering with and going to research.

I want to blog about my MakeShift 04 entry and why I chose this solution. First my solution is a detailed drawing. It is more difficult to create many drawings so I included the original file with accurate proportions. I could have had a numbered drawing explaining the parts, but that would have taken too much time when the project does not require it.

The problem solution dealt with a need to move large amounts of water across a field of crops. I felt the only way was to get the water into the oil tank and then move the tank with the donkeys. The trick is getting the water from a pond into the tank. What is the most practical way to do this? The solution is a pump. Not just any pump, there has to be one that uses the principles of pumps with the ability to be improvised and built within 3 to 4 hours.

I’m going to post this solution soon. You may post you feed back on the message board or email me any questions. See for yourself if you think it is a practical solution. You may want to visit www.makezine.com and look up MakeShift04 to fully understand the reason behind the solution. So as I wait for MakeShift 05... May the Creative Force be with You

Monday, January 02, 2006

Need Ideas

Two Hundred Seventeenth Post: Need Ideas

Today really hasn’t been too busy. I just been “farting around.” I started strong with a little over 200 posts. The easy way to get ideas is to take topics from the news and express one’s own opinion. That is what they do in most talk radio and many comedians’ monologue relies on the news. This doesn’t mean the idea is stolen. It is just a reflection of one’s opinions. I tend to deal more with things relating to design than world events, but there are many debates to be made. If you opinion is different than mine that would be good. We all form are own opinions. Just remember it is only to show a different way of thinking. We are not politicians arguing in front of Congress.

For myself I have made some resolutions for this year. Some I have shared on the Blog. I want to start some sort of group in the community or get involved in some ways. I skills lie in the math and sciences. I could tutor those. Also, I was a graphic artist and know how to tweak graphics on the computer. Starting a small business is also an option. The problem is that I don’t know what that business would do. The graphic design market is highly competitive because there are so many artist. Also, the only way to sell math and scientist skills other than being an actual researcher is to teach. So I have some options, I just have to find what it is I want to do.

I am debating rather I should post each day. I think as long as a have new ideas I will continue blogging daily. My Blog allows feedback, but you have to be a registered user. But don’t worry I am not completely out of ideas yet and the Blog should only get better in the following year. It may have less posts, but the posts that are there will be more meaningful. So until I think of the next subject to blog about.... May the Creative Force be with You

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Two Hundred Sixteenth Post: Updates

I updated Constructor’s Corner with a simple post today. There are also more small post on the way. The trick behind this post was to create an inventive design that didn’t take up much bandwidth. I made a large gif animation. It was too large, so I decreased the quality. It gave a cool effect for something that took less then an hour to make. Still, I need to start designing my pages with just a picture and some text. I am referring to the overall layout. It is some designs to work on.

I learn a lot about game design from www.3dbuzz.com . They have VTMs (video training modules) that show the computer screen as they work and lecture. The software is free, so anyone can make VTMs. I would like to see some drawing VTMs, but I am not sure how the course would be formatted. That could be why I am the student and not the instructor.

2005 was a year of Podcasting and iPods. My prediction is that 2006 will be the year of the VTM and video iPod . That isn’t really a ground breaking prediction because it is happening now. But until then.... May the Creative Force be with You