Forget Adobe CS2, Get GIMP Instead

When I awoke yesterday morning there was a rumor bouncing around the internet that Adobe was giving away Creative Suite 2. Well, according to Adrian Kingsley-Hughes from Forbes, all that speculation was unfounded. I hope there aren’t a lot of people upset about this turn of events. If folks are heartbroken, they shouldn’t be. Although Adobe makes killer graphics software, there’s a great alternative to Adobe’s product that works on all computer platforms.

GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed piece of software.

 

GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) does amazing work. This versatile application is powerful, has a consistently helpful community of users, and is FREE. In fact, GIMP has been free from the beginning. Rather than moping about Adobe CS2. Download and install GIMP and get started making and editing graphics with the satisfaction of knowing you can do it without spending a cent.

Let Me Explain: Why I’m Enjoying Lee LeFever’s Excellent Book

The Art of Explanation by Lee LeFeverAt some point or another, we’ve all been expected to create an explanation to help family, friends, or co-workers understand our ideas. We share facts and our expert knowledge only to be left with clueless or apathetic expressions. What a frustrating experience–ugh! What if we could easily learn to plan, create, package, and deliver explanations that convince others that our ideas are worth caring about? There is a handy solution! People who are picking up Lee LeFever‘s book The Art of Explanation can explain while they have a reason to smile. Want to feel good about delivering powerful explanations? Get this book!

I’ve been poring over The Art of Explanation by Lee LeFever and I thoroughly enjoy what I have read so far. The book is excellent! The content is a magnet for the reader’s attention. Mr. LeFever, Chief Explainer at Common Craft, consummately practices what he preaches. Beginning with the preface and continuing through the following pages, the author makes a compelling case for examining and honing our ability to craft powerful explanations. What makes LeFever’s work so engrossing is that he does a masterful job explaining what he suggests we do. In brief, the writer :

  • gets us to acknowledge that better explanations are vitally necessary and serve to improve the world and subsequently our quality of life
  • lets us know why crafting better explanations should matter to everyone
  • creates a number of believable (contextual) narratives that help us see explanations from a new perspective
  • links new ideas about and skills for explanations to situations/concepts we are familiar with
  • helps us discern where (in our explanations) we should focus on explaining why or how
  • summarizes what we have learned and moving us forward to the next steps we need to take

Moving through text, we learn how to differentiate words that are often–and erroneously–used interchangeably with the term explanation (e.g. description, definition, instruction, elaboration, report, and illustration). The author convincingly explains the importance of empathy in crafting and “packaging” effective explanations. LeFever makes the point that meaningful explanations help an intended audience clearly understand why they should care to know more about a given topic. He also helps us understand why we fail to properly explain our ideas and goes on to clarify how we can effectively plan our explanations.

I can’t wait to dive back into this book!

Related resources:

Want to know more about the fellow who is widely credited for inspiring the video explanation industry? Read Lee’s biography.

Intrigued? Buy the book!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki

Today, Hayao Miyazaki, director, animator extraordinaire, and beloved guardian of imagination, celebrates 72 years of making the world a happier place. His works and the colorful characters that populate them are absolutely endearing. Watching a Miyazaki movie is like being allowed to step outside of (if only briefly) the chaotic reality where we usually reside. Our respite takes us to an alternate universe where beauty reigns supreme. During our visit in Miyazaki’s constructed world, we generally meet a strong female protagonist and explore themes such as the wonder of flight, the importance of nature, and the transition from childhood to maturity, and the power of kindness.

Miyazaki’s stunning works of cinematic art include:

Happy Birthday, Mr. Miyazaki!

Note: The image used in this post was a derivative of the original photograph composed by Natasha Baucas on July 28, 2009 at the San Diego Comic-Con.

Slim, Vout, and All Kinds of Hep Conlangs

Slim Gaillard, musical Renaissance ManThe world became a little more grar-sa on this cee-met-o in 1916. That’s when Mr. Bulee “Slim” Gaillard first graced the universe with his unconventional presence. Actually, the date of Slim’s birth, his birthplace, as well as his lineage are still being disputed. What is known about this remarkable fellow is that he was one of America’s most innovative performers. Gaillard was something of a Renaissance Man. He was a clever songwriter, jazz singer, guitarist, and thoroughly mesmerizing pianist. For an entertaining sampling of Gaillard’s vocalese variations, drop by the Internet Archive’s collection of Slim’s collaborative tunes with Slam Stewart or listen to the embedded selections below.

Gaillard also constructed his own language, a lingo called Vout. Slim’s tongue-in-cheek speak is sometimes referred to a conlang or constructed language. Wikipedia has an engrossing list of constructed languages that features communicative creations of authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling. Also of interest is the Wikiportal devoted to constructed languages.

Note: The picture accompanying this post was constructed from an image that was originally posted to Flickr by Never Slim at http://flickr.com/photos/39989459@N00/371852605. The original image is licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.

Python Counterstrike: Squirrel Ambush

Kurt Grandis, a soft-spoken software engineer from North Carolina, delivered a humorous and informative presentation at PyCon 2012. PyCon is the largest annual gathering for the community using and developing the open-source Python programming language. During the course of his presentation, Militarizing Your Backyard with Python: Computer Vision and the Squirrel Hordes, Kurt describes how participating in citizen science (ala the Backyard Bird Count) led him to use Python to tap into computer vision libraries and build an automated sentry water cannon capable of soaking bushy-tailed backyard bandits.

Related Resources:

  • Kurt mentions OpenCV in his presentation. What is it? The Wikipedia entry for OpenCV (or Open Source Computer Vision Library) states that it “is a library of programming functions mainly aimed at real time computer vision.”
  • He also talks about support vector machines (SVM) as a means of analyzing images so as to recognize and distinguish bird shapes from squirrel shapes.
  • Canny edge detection also comes into play.
  • NumPy (also mentioned in the presentation) is the fundamental package for scientific computing with Python.

 

A Band-Aid Approach to Fighting Cancer That Just Might Work

I’ve just finished reading Alex Goldmark‘s uplifting article for GOODThe Next Time You Cut Your Finger, Save a Life. Go read Alex’s work! What makes this story so compelling is how wonderfully simple and powerful an idea be. You’ll also get to know Graham Douglas. Graham has a brother who, despite daunting odds, was fortunate to find a donor match for bone marrow. The treatment helped Graham’s brother survive leukemia. The experience inspired Graham. He focused on how to find even more potential donors. His approach was both unorthodox and brilliant.

Help adhesive bandages

Picozu: Flashy Without Flash

I just started tinkering with Picozu. It’s a drawing and photo retouching application that’s built on Javascript, HTML 5 and CSS3. Since Picozu doesn’t run on any Flash or ActionScript, I’m predicting that mobile phone developers will enjoy playing around with it. As for me, I want to see how well it works on a Google Chromebook and an iPad as well as an old laptop where I’ve installed Wubi.

Up until now, I’ve been steering my students to Aviary and its rich assortment of tools. I am eager to see what they make of Picozu. I’m always on the lookout for tools and resources that don’t lock my learners into one way of doing things. Today’s students shouldn’t be dependent on vendor-specific plugins (like Flash) or tied to a particular machine.

Picozu