Friday, June 30, 2006

Art Critic

Three Hundred Sixty Seventh Post: Art Critic

So I posted a little animation on Constructor’s Corner. I realize that it is far from looking professional. However that is not the point. I admit I am not a great artist, but I like drawing and am trying to improve my skills. There are many reasons to do art. This time it is just for enjoyment.

Often people are afraid to show their work with worries that it will look bad compared to other’s work. But that goes against what art is. While it is nice to admire good artist and enjoy their work, there are just many joys of creating your own. If you want to keep it a personal work that is fine, but sometimes it is just fun to share it no matter the quality. Remember others will see different things in your work. Maybe someone will see a quality that was overlooked.

In highschool my experience with art was difficult. The teacher was very talented. But when it came to grading my work I usually got a C no matter how good of quality it was. However, he did give me more time to finish a kite project. I had used most of the balsa wood making a spider web kite. Others needed the wood so they took it apart. I made a much smaller kite. I put tissue paper on it and model airplane gloss. Over the gloss I added a coat of black spray paint. (There are some cool results mixing spray paint and tissue paper. It makes it hard and smother.) I was told my kite looked like the Batmobile. Well the kite had to fly. Mine broke upon hitting the wind. Guess what I got? I got a C.

When joining the Army Reserves they give me three job openings to choose from: 2 that are for a cook and 1 that is an artist or Multimedia Illustrator. I choose Illustrator also known as 25M. I had wondered how the Army had determined my job. Obviously they hadn’t talked to my highschool art teacher.

During my 25M training, I must admit I learned a lot. It is very helpful to have an instructor standing over you with tips and critics on what you are doing correctly. It is because of this training I became a good drafter and occasional sketcher. But I think drawing helped me in one other area and that is math (mostly geometry). When you look at an object the sizes of the object change depending on what angle you are looking at them. And don’t forget drawing is all about proportions and proportion is one of the most important element of math. Does drawing apply to calculus. Yes. Think of all the graphs. Where it helped me was finding the volume of a 3D shape revolved around the x or y axis. I’ve been told people are usually good at either math and art. However even though my art skills are not high, I would not have passed my math or drafting classes had it not been for the training as 25M.

May the Creative Force be with You

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Serious Math

Three Hundred Sixty Sixth Post: Serious Math

As I was taught in high school, serious math requires a proper math pencil. A pencil that is comfortable to hold, writes neat, and will write long and erase cleanly. The calculator however wasn’t needed as much. Fractions should be figured out and reduced. The calculator gave students that false assumption that math was just “plug and chug.” I believe that this is the proper way to learn. But once you learn to think through the problem a good calculator is just as important as a good pencil. This is especially true that calculators graph, can be programmed, and store the lines of calculations. Storing the lines of calculations is important to preserve and document your findings.

So the story is I went out and bought a serious calculator. My old one, a 10 year old graphing Casio fx-7400G, was the best calculator I ever had. If only I could replace the LCD screen. I bought a Texas Instruments TI-89 Titanium. This calculator is vastly more powerful. But there is one draw back. The buttons are hard to find. My Casio had them arranged by group. The Texas Instruments has so many functions it doesn’t have any simple way to arrange them. However, there is one important thing that makes the Texas Instruments nice to use and that is the huge amount of books and documentation about it. Ten years ago the Net was new making information take more effort to find. Most math books had calculator tutorials, but used the Texas Instruments as the standard.

So I have to learn the input system of the TI-89. I guess companies are trying to give advanced features will still making an affordable calculator. I have a much easier calculator for the Palm, but the Palm wouldn’t be allowed on a standardized test.

In my college chemistry class, I saw how students made use of the TI features. I saw little cheats like storing formulas. And if you had a cable you could share those formulas before a test. I don’t know if anyone shared info, but occasionally, little notes were added to the calculator. It is more humorous than it is serious cheating, but sometimes these advanced calculators aren’t allowed.

I have some math problems in the works, but that is just what it is, a math problem. I have notes of hunches and ideas, but sometimes it is hard to put them into order. I still haven’t forgotten about the Math Wiki. I see that I am getting spam on the message board. I still check it for messages often. Within 2 weeks I want to present a new problem on Constructor’s Corner. It will be something that can be worked on together. But meanwhile the contest is still on. It concludes on the end of July, so there is still plenty of time.

But until then... May the Creative Force be with You