Happy New Years!

My New Years e-Card 2009 from Allison Walker on Vimeo.

2009 was a big year for me. And, I spent some time today reflecting on how I relied on the help of a lot of people, both personally and professionally, to make this year a success. I met so many fun and exciting people, and my life changed so much, I just couldn’t ring in 2010 without writing something to thank them.

The problem is writing/sending something appropriate for both professional and personal contacts. That led me to look for a nice e-Card that wasn’t too sassy, but still fun. Well, I looked for a card and frankly, I didn’t like them so much. I guess the ones that were so generic to work for everyone seemed like cards I could make myself. So, I did…

First, I had the content, or copy, and figured out what I wanted to say. Then, I looked for the picture I wanted, and found a nice one of the Statue of Liberty that I’d taken earlier this summer and had already adjusted the colors. Then, in Photoshop, I continued to add text and image layers, and adjust color balance just to what I liked. When I was satisfied, I pulled it all into After Effects.

In After Effects, it was pretty easy to pull the composition together. Since I ended up animating one big image, instead of an arm or mouth, the animation part was super quick, relatively. Finding the image files was sort of difficult, but not too bad. I didn’t edit the sound files ahead of time, mostly because my impression was that After Effects could handle what I wanted, which was just fade in and out. Sort of, yes, but after this project I’d probably use any sound editor other than After Effects. It works but it’s not a sound editor – much like double-stick tape will help in a pinch, but it’s not sewing.

Then, when all was finished, I exported as a .mov file and that was that…or not. Rendering so I could watch the animation and the sound together took kind of a while, and I made a couple of .mov files as I made small changes here and there. (Actually, the RAM preview and exporting eventually took about the same time!)

In the end, I ended up with a generic enough card, that also includes something meaningful to me and New York. Not perfect, but it works.

Article: Merging Man and Machine, The Bionic Age

Image of a mechanical arm from a National Geographic article

The cover story to the January 2010 issue of National Geographic is an article about how bionics, or “the study of mechanical systems that function like living organisms or parts of living organisms”, is being used to help people with limited abilities and handicaps, due to accident, genetics or age. In addition to a very nice slideshow, the whole article (maybe?) is available here. The following is a small clip…

Four years ago an automobile accident robbed Amanda Kitts of her arm and the ability to do things most of us take for granted, like making a sandwich. “I felt lost,” the teacher from Knoxville, Tennessee, tells writer Josh Fischman in this month’s cover story on bionics.

Then Amanda met Todd Kuiken, a physician and biomedical engineer who knew that the nerves in an amputee’s stump can still telegraph brain signals. He fitted her with a bionic arm. Bionics is technology at its most ingenious and humane. Most of us first encountered the word in science fiction books or television shows like The Six Million Dollar Man. In that 1970s series, pilot Steve Austin is injured in a crash. His rebuilt body, which includes a bionic arm, eye, and legs, is nothing short of superhuman.

But the bionics of modern medical engineering has little to do with enabling someone to run at 60 miles an hour or use an eye like a zoom lens. It is more about the quiet miracle of holding a fork or seeing the silhouette of a tree. It’s about allowing people like Amanda to reclaim what they’ve lost.

A year ago Ray Edwards, a quadruple amputee, was one of the first people in the United Kingdom to be fitted with a bionic hand. When he flexed his new hand for the first time, he cried. “It made me feel I was just Ray again,” he said. The restoration of one’s normal self is a powerful gift.

There’s also an interactive section about bionics and current advances in prothetics relative to specific body parts.

Just an added note: In the slideshow, there’s a picture of Kitts laughing as her prosthetic arm squeezes a bottle of mustard. Frankly, it’s a pretty awesome photo – and, I definitely find much more joy this photo than I do of that other photo of Jenny McCarthy squeezing a bottle of mustard in a bikini. (Not added, but easily found if you search.) Anyway, if Kitts ever sees this post, I hope she’ll appreciate my comparison between her and her bionic arm, and McCarthy.

Article: Bacteria is put to work turning gears

I came across this interesting article about biological and “micromechanical machines” this morning while eating oatmeal and toast.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern University have discovered that common bacteria can turn microgears when suspended in a solution, providing insights for designs of bio-inspired dynamically adaptive materials for energy.

More on RDmag.com….