Friday, October 30, 2009

Genetic link to lousy drivers

Astounding scientific discovery from the University of California at Irvine: bad driving may have a genetic basis.

According to a recent study by Dr. Steven Cramer, an associate professor of neurology, and the leader of the study, people with a certain gene variant perform more than 20% worse on a driving test than people without that gene.

People with the variant have a smaller portion of their brain stimulated when performing a complex task like driving.

I'd like to see some research explaining why these same people are drawn to driving in Subarus.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I plink, therefore I am

A news item released today, Music makes you smarter, says that regular music practice can improve cognitive skills.
There is growing evidence that musicians have structurally and functionally different brains compared with non-musicians. In particular, the areas of the brain used to process music are larger or more active in musicians. Even just starting to learn a musical instrument can changes the neurophysiology of the brain.

“My brain? That´s my second favorite organ.”

-- Woody Allen

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ihagee in a box of junk

Over the course of too many years, a little black case, which once belonged to the father-in-law I never met, has followed us about. Inside it were the remaining dreck of his photography hobby: unexposed rolls of Kodak film from 1957, a movie camera lens, and an assorted collection of Ihagee filters and unidentified components.
I've since had a photographer buddy explain to me that the Ihagee brand has a long history and a devoted following. The company was founded in Dresden, Germany, between the World Wars.
One of the boxed components contains what I think is a film holder for a large format camera. Unique among the other assorted boxes, however, the reflex finder box sported an interesting company logo.
Rather than photographing it, however, I decided to try to reproduce it in Adobe Illustrator. This hardly does it justice, as some jpeg artifacts are marring the outside edge of the circle. I also think that I could have done a better job of centering the artwork.
It will be curious to see if there's a market for this kind of stuff on eBay. Hope springs eternal.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Going the Egg-stra Mile in Illustrator

In additions to creating Illustrator design patterns for virtual "rushnyky," I had also dabbled with pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs). When you look at the picture of some of the eggs that I have done below, perhaps "dabble" is a bit of an understatement. But I'm okay with that.

At first, I started out completely in the dark, developing my technique as a went along. I was a shameless cheat, creating symbol sets from GIF and JPEG files of patterns that I had found on the web. Soon, however, I found images of actual pysanky that I admired and tried to imitate. This forced me into learning a variety of new design techniques.

In addition to practicing and learning Adobe Illustrator, I learned more about the symbolism behind authentic pysanka designs.

If anyone has Illustrator and wants to try their hand at creating an egg, I found an excellent tutorial, Create and color an eco easter egg in Adobe Illustrator, that will give you an impressive start.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Re-discovering Adobe Illustrator

I had worked a little bit with Adobe Illustrator years ago, in another job. Recently, I've had a chance to get into it again as part of the CS4 collection. A couple of things really made it click for me. One was access to the wonderful on-line training at The other was an interest in the colorful, geometric Ukrainian folk art that one typically sees on Ukrainian Easter eggs (pysanky) and embroidery. The typical venue for embroidery is the rushnyk, which is a kind of ritual towel.

I've had a lot of fun learning to duplicate some of my favorite patterns into Illustrator. After learning to create and transform geometric shapes, I challenged myself to duplicate the actual look of the stitching.

Here is an example of my most elaborate work to date. This is a jpeg of a greatly reduced image. A single pair of the diamond patterns in Illustrator is about 800 points high. Once I create the core of the pattern, I convert it into a "brush" in Illustrator, after which I can apply the brush to any line or arc.

Since these brushes only repeat along on axis, I cannot make decent rectangles. I can, however, make some pretty cool circles.

I've found that because I'm building these patterns out of imitation cross-stitches (each is a colored "X"), the overall colors are somewhat pale. This example, for instance, is composed of black, red, green, yellow, violet, blue, and organge. Pretty hard to tell from this distance.

When I tried to render a complex pattern such as this into Photoshop, I frequently run out of system memory.

Right: a previous attempt at creating pseudo-cross-stitch.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Playing the Race Card(inal)

A couple of days ago, according to the Associated Press, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana said that in light of President Barack Obama's election, there is no reason why the next pope couldn't be black.

Assuming that Cardinal Turkson was speaking of his own chances at becomming pope, my main concern is going to be over the validity of his baptismal certificate.

  • Does it have a raised seal?
  • Is it signed?
  • Does it have any creases?
  • What proof will we have that it's an authentic baptismal certificate?

Would any of that even matter? You can go out on the net and download your own template for a baptism certificate.

After all, it's one thing for a black man to be president of the United States. It's another thing altogether to have one as the spiritual leader of the Catholic world. Look what happened when we had a Polish pope.