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April 26, 2006

Back from FITC

Wow! What a conference!

Yes, the sessions were good, but it's really the people who make a conference. It was great to meet up with old friends, and to make wonderful new friends....just too many to list in a blog post. Two new and very dear friends (Mario and Alexandra) were so much fun throughout the conference. It was all such a whirl-wind that I didn't get to spend enough time with lots of people, especially Stacey and Ann-Marie. Robert, Keith, Aral, Simon...the list goes on and on. Really great people.

I had to tend to business as well, and may have a new sponsor for GalaxyGoo. I also got some good advice on the book-writing front, including the possibility of developing courses or workshops.

Even on the flight home, the conversations continued. Paul Ortchanian and I talked for a good portion of the flight. He's now based in San Francisco, but we'd never met before.

I can hardly wait for the next FITC.

April 25, 2006

The Pirate Shop Supports Writing Program

826 Valencia: The Writing Center helps kids develop their writing skills. A worthy goal, but how do they fund it?

With a pirate store! Yep, that's right, they run a store full of eye patches and pirate hats to fund their literacy projects.

For years now, while making small-talk at parties, the pirate store comes up almost every time the nature of my work is mentioned. The first time I heard of 826 Valencia and The Pirate Shop, was at a conference for non-profits. It was a session on the emerging earned income strategy, in the world of dwindling traditional funding sources. The whole idea of a store selling pirate-themed toys to support a program was crazy and brilliant. It works! Can it be duplicated? Maybe not, but it can inspire new ideas.

The key is to connect something that people want with something they want to support -- make it easier to satisfy the drive to "do good". Along these lines, I've been looking for things GalaxyGoo could offer to the feel-good market space.

This past November, we organized an amazing art show with works inspired by math and science. It was a successful show, but didn't raise a large amount of money or stir up a buzz in the local media. Why? I think that perhaps the ticket price on most of the pieces was outside the budget of our community of supporters. The Pirate Store is filled with inexpensive items, and they sell a lot of them.

But why no media buzz? Maybe we need to work on a smaller scale and get people more familiar and comfortable with the intersection of art and science. Reach out with something that they can hold onto. One thing we could do is to offer appealing products through services like lulu.com and cafepress.com.

April 19, 2006


Early tomorrow morning, my long journey to Toronto and FITC begins.

I'm really looking forward to this conference. I'm especially hoping to meet up with people who are active or interested in the OSFlash movement. Be sure to introduce yourselves! My talk is at 10:15 am on Saturday, in Pier 2 & 3, and is titled Beyond Usability: Building Meaningful Learning Applications.

April 18, 2006

first Dinosaurs, now Sharks!

I've got two long flights coming up, so I stopped by my local bookstore to pick up a book of sudoku puzzles. I have a lot of work to get done, so I just couldn't resist looking around a little bit.

I'd only been there for a few minutes when I spotted the new pop-up book by Sabuda and Reinhart: Encyclopedia Prehistorica Sharks and Other Sea Monsters: The Definitive Pop-Up.

This book is fantastic! I thought the dinosaur pop-up was great, but I have to say that this one is even better. It's as if they really let their creativity free. They've even incorporated some see-through plastic or mylar (I'm not sure what the material is) into the pop-ups, to give the impression that you're looking through water. Very cool!

Fault Lines in California --image from NASA

EO Newsroom: New Images - 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

This image shows the topography of the region using data from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. Several faults, including the San Andreas, are clearly indicated. As you can see, the fault does not actually go through San Francisco, but just to the west of it.

April 14, 2006

Back From DC Area

While I didn't have time to visit the Air and Space museum, I did get to visit the Lincoln memorial and walk around some of the monuments on Tuesday night.

The talk went ok, but it was in a very big room with few people in it. As a speaker, this is an uncomfortable setting. It's difficult to connect with an audience that is so spread out.

The fun part, for me, was after the talk when I got to see how some of the NASA images are prepared. I also had an expansion of my mental model of data. In my experience, both in scientific research and database programming, data comes in discrete packets or data points and text fields. To me, data is fluid and can travel from container to container. As with water, the data can take the shape of the container that holds it. With the satellite data I was shown, however, the visual image is a representation of a very large set of data points. I still think the NASA data is fluid, it just needs much bigger containers than most of the data I usually work with.

Next stop: Toronto for FITC

April 06, 2006

GalxyGoo in Washington DC

I'll be in the Washington DC area next week to give a talk (NASA: Committee for Education & Public Outreach - Calendar).

They've got some amazingly talented people there, and I'm really looking forward to this adventure.

Does anyone know if the cherry trees in DC are currently in bloom? Or a great lunch spot near the Smithsonian?

April 03, 2006

Flash Player 7 for Pocket PC

Woohoo! This is great news! With AS2!

Macromedia - Flash Player 7 For Pocket PC

Mathematical User Interfaces workshop

Someday, I'd love to go to one of these conferences (Mathematical Knowledge Management Conference). They've issued a call for papers on Mathemaitcal User Interfaces which looks very interesting.

Read the full post, to read the call for papers and description of the conference and workshop.

Someday, I'd love to go to one of these conferences. They've issued a call for papers on Mathemaitcal User Interfaces which looks very interesting.

:please distribute: :call for papers:

workshop on

Mathematical User Interfaces
10th August, 2006, nr Oxford, UK
at the Fifth Mathematical Knowledge Management Conference


Building on the success and interest of the first MathUI workshop,
this second one is intended to bring together researchers working on
MKM but from the perspective of mathematics manipulated by end
users. Accordingly, an emphasis is on providing users with
interfaces and software systems that enhance their mathematical working
experience. The topics of the workshop centre around, but
are not restricted to:

- presenting mathematical knowledge
- user studies with MKM tools or other mathematical interfaces
- novel, original or downright funky interfaces to mathematics software
- interactive mathematics

We are seeking submissions of either papers on and/or demonstrations of
user interfaces for mathematics. Videos, prototypes, mock ups and any
other sort of demonstration are welcome! Initial proceedings will be
online and we will discuss at the workshop the possibilities of a
special issue in a human factors journal.

Submission format: article of 3-8 (printed) pages,
in HTML or PDF format, which may include other electronic
presentations such as videos or animations complemented
by an abstract of less than 150 words.

- Either:
- Submit your presentation proposal by 5th June
- Or submit an abstract of your presentation
by 5th June and a revised version before 12th June
- Expect an answer on
27th June
- Enjoy the workshop on
10th August

David Aspinall
School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh, Scotland
Paul Cairns
UCL Interaction Center, University College London, Great Britain
Olga Caprotti
Research Institute for Symbolic Computation, Linz, Austria
Norbert Kajler
Ecole Nationale Superieure des Mines de Paris, France
Paul Libbrecht (organizer)
Competence Center for E-Learning, DFKI GmbH, Saarbruecken, Germany
Robert Miner
Design Science, Long Beach, California, USA

More about MKM 2006 can be found at:

More information can be read from the workshop's web-page