mapping as a way to avoid doing the budgets

So I finally got Natural Scene Designer the other day, and while I wish I had the time to play with it just a little more, I did bring my laptop into work so my two co-workers could “ohhhh” and “ahhhhh” at all the fun tricks I can do now with map (I conveniently left out how much more I have to learn.)  They got a kick out of the program and gradually went back to work after doing several map overlays.  I noticed after that point though, that everytime I left the room and came back in, both were back at the computer, flooding landscapes and haphazardly adding trees.  So when I get the “skunk-eye” from my Admiral about the National Museum of the United States Navy having no budget to begin the fiscal year with, I fully intend on blaming Natural Scene Designer.

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Pencil or mouse…which provides better relief???

The relief shading exercise for this week provided lots of good practice in developing “the touch.”  To much or too little shading, the wrong size brush, mismatched coloring…all these factors can lead to a relief shading project a second grader would giggle at.  I tried printing the map out first and shading with the pencil, which was fun, but not as precise as I wanted the map to be as I struggled to get my markings the same shade as what was already given.  After many eraser markers, several flattened pencils and some harassing remarks from my sister (“I don’t know why you complain about school…all you have to do for homework is color”) I gave up on the pencil and moved to the color picker of Photoshop.  I’ve never used the airbrush tool much…it’s not as controlled as some other tools and I’ve always found it harder to use.  I wondered how to approach relief shading with Photoshop.  Lay down a base color first then add detail, or vice versa?  After trying each way I still can’t say if either way is right, but I thought the detail was easier to add first.  I did the ridges of the mountains with a finer brush and in darker gray.  As I went up in brush size, I went down a shade or two of gray, using the color picker to select something close to what was in the original image.  I wound up (after clicking the “undo” button more then I ever have before) with something I was happy with…mountains that looked relatively mountainous.  When the pencil was easier, and considerably less time consuming, the mouse spells relief.

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Reciepies for map makers

This is going to be short tonight.  For the past five days I’ve been told by my front office that “today is the last day toorder anything on this fiscal year’s budget.”  Everyday I scamble to get in what I can before the credit card holder leaves for the day, only to come back in the next morning and be told its a false alarm…I can still spend money.  This afternoon I recieved word that today was the “final day, for sure, without a doubt, positivily the last time I could spend any money.  So, as I type this I’m in between orders for artifact cabinets, water fountains and new phones.  I did spent hours playing on the TypeBrewer and ColorBrewer this week though…it ws kind of theaputic afterdays on end spent frantically searching GSA’s website.  These site are proof positive that greatthings come out of Penn State Univ…Peachy Paterno Ice Cream, football, amazing tailgating parties, and recipies for map makers.  For those of us with zero talent for putting design elements together that use complimentary colors and a pleasing typography, the Brewers are amazing.  Someone last week said Hayes was “porn for mapmakers” but I almost think the PSU Brewers are even more helpful because they show us HOW to recreate that look and feel of the maps in the Hayes book.  Almost like you go to Hayes for the inspiration, you go to the Brewers for the practicum.  I wish I had gotten more out of the relief shading site.  I really thought it was going to be an intensive tutorial from the home page and was really disappointed that it went into little detail about techniques used for shanding.  Oh well, as I’ve learned from a long week of government ordering, you take what you can get.

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Embracing the science…

For this week’s assignment I found myself very much being the scientist that Gaddis seemed so convinced history scholars could be.  I spent a better part of the week trying to decide how I would transcribe the notes I took on the atlas’ I looked at into something coherent.  I though about taking all of my notes and putting them in the standard “college paper assignment” format but didn’t really feel like that would make it easy for me to compare and contrast the differences between the maps analyzed.  For initial analysis, I created a document with a section for each one of the areas Dr. P asked us to look at, kind of like an observation sheet a scientist would use to record certain results from different things examine.  This document allowed me to go back and forth between the maps I was looking at and compare and contrast.  I thought, in light of the reading from last week, I might just keep my final analysis in the format in which I had been doing my initial observations in, albeit, a cleaned up format.  It occurred to me that this assignment crossed back and forth between the lines of scientific analysis and historic analysis, so why not create a finished product that does relatively the same thing.

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Gaddis-The voice of reason for Hist 615

Those of us that graduate Clio II together last semester and bellied up for another round this fall realize what we’re in for. The impression I get is that most of the “repeat offenders” have simply taken and deep breath, sighed the sigh of complete surrender (which only a student fresh out of Clio II can do) and offered our souls to the MAC gods for yet another 5 months of sleepless nights, dejected looks by significant others, and blissful conversations/shouting matches with inanimate objects that can’t possibly understand what it is WE want THEM to do for us.

It’s not that we fear learning the new programs of this semester, or that we think said learning will be terribly difficult (really, can it get much worse then learning Dreamweaver in a matter of weeks?) Our “deer in the headlights” looks has been replaced with an air of cockiness that only comes from a web design student who has four or five hacks up their sleeve and now clearly thinks him/herself a master of the universe. All this is not to say we approach 615 afraid of nothing. What I, and I assume many of my fellow “repeaters,” fear is selling our souls to yet another project that will never meet our expectations. While our final project may wow the class, the Clio II graduates know true personal zen will not be accomplished. In the end, we will end up ripping ourselves away from what has become an obsessed goal of trying to address every little detail for fear of imminent lose of sanity. My fall semester resolution…listen to John Gaddis.

“We avoid the literal in making maps, because to do otherwise would not be to represent at all but rather to replicate. We’d find ourselves drowning in detail: the distillation that’s required for the comprehension and transmission of vicarious experience would be lost.” (p. 32) Avoid replication…fresh out of Clio II…doubtful. Clio II students LOVE detail…we spend hours making sure things line up perfectly in different browsers and rollovers are timed right, and font and color are pleasing to the eye (an, of course, are screen readable.) The nature of many aspects of my Clio II projects were replication. Replicating design element, replicating code for rounded edges and drop down nav bars, etc, etc. I plan to keep this in mind as I start to drown in the detail of my projects this semester. Gaddis also writes “despite their obvious utility, there’s no such thing as a single correct map.” (p.33) Important to keep in mind come November when I become convinced that there is only one way to do an architectural reconstruction. I pledge to also come to terms with the concept of simulating a historical narrative based on limited generalizations (which I think will prove to be easier said then done with the sort of projects we’ll be working on.) Finally, I’m going to learn to say “when,” to appreciate the concept that at some point, according to Gaddis, you have to stop tracking a historical event or risk introducing “diminishing relevance” into a project. (I suppose this is a good principal to keep in mind as you design a website. You can have a site riddled with cool little design tricks, but do they actually take away from the true message of the site if only employee because it took you a week to learn how to do them.)

I think Gaddis had us over-achievers from Clio II in mind when he wrote Landscape of History, and I don’t want to disappoint him. So, as I feel this post has reached a point of diminishing relevance, I’m going to go to the pool…

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rollovers and java

I know I’m not supposed to use java in my site…but why, oh  why does Dreamweaver make it so easy to create rollover images in the toolbar?  I struggled with whether of not to fix my rollovers in my assignment tonight, but decided I’d get the opinion of the class before I did so (which, I’m sure I’ll regret.)

It’ s not a lot of java, but its probably enough to irk the powers that be…

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Leaving learning to kids…

I’m the child of two life long public school teachers, and over Easter someone made the mistake of mentioning how great Montessori school and public charter schools were at the dining room table, which set off a conversation that ended in a lot of red faces, shaking fists and empty bottles of wine.  I forget exactly what was said (all I know is I didn’t start the fire) but it was something along the line so of “isn’t it great how some of those charter schools let children decide how they are going to learn a lesson, and what they are going to learn about.”  My parents are not against Montessori schools or charters schools, but they have definite opinions about the manner in which children are taught and what they are taught.  I don’t think I’ll be sending them James Gee’s article, Learning by Design, to read…I’ll never hear the end of it.  (You can find the link to the file at: http://www.archiva.net/hist697ay07/hist697ay07_schedule.html)

I agree that “different styles of learning work for different people.” I don’t agree that “classrooms adopting the principle would allow students to discover their favored learning styles and to try new ones without fear.” And I definitely don’t buy into his argument that, “in the act of customizing their ow learning, students wold learn a good deal not only about how and why they learn, but about learning and thinking themselves.”  What a load!  I understand that Gee is promoting the “free choice learning” (fancy museum education term) concepts used in video games in the classroom, but teachers  would be eaten alive if  every school day consisted of a series of “choose your own adventures” to teach a lesson.  Kids have to have structure, and a majority of the instruction they receive has to be structured-they have to be told how, what and when they are going to learn something.  There are, of course, students are physically/mentally unable to respond to structured learning…but I’m not really addressing them here.  I  don’t think your average child can be relied on to create their own learning experience as Gee suggests.

You can learn from video games (although I still haven’t learned a thing from Myst) and the concepts of identity, learning by design, customization, etc, etc, are interesting concepts to introduce and use to a minimal degree in the classroom.  Video games are not a solution to lessons students find boring though.  I hated historiography, and I’m not sure I’d like it any better if I was learning I through a game (what would that be like…The Sims: Appleby, Kuhn, Siad, and Ulrich-Thatcher?-scary.) I had to learn it though, and whereas I though it was boring as hell, I respect the way a difficult subject was taught to me by a trained professional.

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