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this video was made just for me [Jul. 30th, 2009|06:54 pm]

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whoah woah, thank you! [Jul. 23rd, 2009|11:51 am]
Thanks to the anonymous person who just got me an LJ paid account subscription. I am surprised and flattered! Thank you very much!

UPDATE: Upon closer reading of the emails it was a gift from lafinjack. Thanks man!
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LJ feed? [Jul. 23rd, 2009|11:19 am]
Hey, could someone with a paid account make an LJ feed for:


It is Jenn's new blog!

Update: thanks to _falnfenix_, it's now at jennipoos. Thanks!
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RIP CRT [Jul. 9th, 2009|08:56 pm]

When I moved to Toronto I took a computer monitor with me, and it was an CRT that I'd already had for a few years already. This was this was the monitor I used when I applied to grad school and the monitor I used when starting Dinosaur Comics.

This monitor had served me well, but the past year or so it was clearly dying. The display would get fuzzy, and then snap back. Now I use three monitors and this was on the screen I used mainly for status stuff, so it was okay. I could still read the text when I needed to!

It was getting old though, and this morning I actually thought I was watching it finally die: the screen slowly faded to black, over the course of about 30 seconds, like a movie would fade to black over a particularly dramatic coda. These were my thoughts as I watched my windows fade away. Even the little green power light on the front of the monitor faded with everything else. My old monitor faded to black I watched it die. Goodbye, faithful hardware!

BUT THEN it faded back! You guys, it faded back just as it had faded out. It was a death-bed deke, and I was totally taken in. The monitor did this cycle a few more times, but I was wise to it now. I wasn't going to be taken in again. Eventually the monitor stopped fading out entirely, and we both got back to what we were working on before.

That was this morning. Just now, it faded to black and hasn't recovered. The power light has died with the screen too, but its switch is still in the "on" position. Okay, so just now I turned the power off and on again and the monitor recovered perfectly fine. MAN I GOT DEKED AGAIN.

Okay, so clearly this monitor is sick but doesn't want to die; it wants a peek at its obituary before it goes. Well here you go, monitor, I've moved this window over to you and I'm writing this on you and this is your obituary. If you do anything awesome after I post this I'll update it appropriately, but I think this is where our two paths diverge. You have been a good and faithful monitor and I will probably not forgot many of the things I saw through you.

You were a good monitor!
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jenn's longboard has a Story To Tell [Jun. 1st, 2009|09:04 am]
[Tags|, ]

As Wikipedia will tell you, I am a longboarding enthusiast[citation needed], and this weekend when my sweetie Jenn and I went to Kingston to visit my parents, we brought our longboards. Mine has a picture of a T-Rex skateboarding on it! My brother painted for me and it is TOTALLY AWESOME. Jenn likes horses so Victor painted a horse skateboarding on hers, last year, when we both got her the board for her birthday.

Jenn is new to the sport, so she's still learning! We went down to the waterfront trail so she could learn how to brake and corner in a place where there wouldn't be much traffic. UNFORTUNATELY, Kingston's waterfront trail is really spotty, and ended in a vehicular road in a few places with just a sign saying "MORE TRAIL THIS WAY AT SOME UNDETERMINED POINT DOWN THE ROAD". But we found this nice 5m wide cement pier down by the water and it was perfect. Smooth, safe and dramatic. Here's a shot of Jenn!

Jenn almost lost her board in the water once, but not really - it wasn't in any real danger of going in. She asked me what we'd do if the board went in, and I said that the water probably wasn't that deep, but in any case I would instantly strip down, hop in, and pull the board back out. This is an example of "fore shadowing". A few minutes later, Jenn was working on her inside turns, when she bailed backwards, which, as you may know, is a bad sort of bail in this situation because as you fall, you kick the board out from under you. The board went speeding to the edge of the pier and straight into Lake Ontario. I ran over as fast as I could and saw the board sinking slowly, and true to my word stripped off my clothes and hopped in the lake to fetch it back.

What I had failed to realize were two things: one, that the waves crashing against the pier were high enough to splash over, and two, that the water was barely above freezing. I jumped in and instantly felt like I couldn't breathe: the cold was so shocking. I surfaced without touching bottom, and the board was gone. In retrospect it was pretty dangerous, and Jenn joked that if I'd died, she would have just thrown my board after me and driven back to Toronto alone, washing her hands of the entire matter.

This was very sad, as the board was now underwater, and we could see that the water was way deeper than we'd thought. We were quite a distance out from shore, and the shore we were on was built up anyway - the natural shore was further away still. The board was lost.

We consoled ourselves as best we could and went to Queen's campus where I insisted Jenn keep learning on my board. Here is a shot of us on campus looking sad:

Later that night we called Victor and told him that his artwork was at the bottom of Lake Ontario, snatched by Poseidon's watery hand. HE DIDN'T THINK IT WAS THAT FUNNY, even when I said on the next board he could draw a horse wearing a snorkel. It was a sad evening. The board was gone.

I don't have a picture here, but you have to imagine a shot of the board resting silently at the bottom of the lake, barely lit by a few silent moonbeams. Maybe a fish swims up slowly, pauses, and then speeds away.

The next day was brighter. My dad said that due to zebra mussels, there was very little plant life in the lake, and you could sometimes see to its bottom from that very pier. But even if we could see the board, the water was pretty deep there - beyond the range of most casual diving, he said. Plus, the water was way too cold to jump in anyway. It was time to take a box and then think outside of it!!

After we did that, we drove back to the pier with a shovel in the back seat: an extendible shovel that my dad bought to pull snow down off the roof. It had a range of 20 feet, and in tests with my board, I could hook its lip over a wheel and pull up a board. At the pier, however, we found that the water was actually 20 feet deep straight down, so I could only touch bottom by hanging over the edge, and couldn't maneuver the shovel at all. Worse, I found that I needed at least a 20 degree angle to get the lip of the shovel under a wheel: when going straight down, I couldn't do anything. The only good news was that, if we looked hard enough, we could just barely see the white highlights of the horse's mane at the bottom of the lake. That was good! The board hadn't been swept away. It was time to think outside of an even bigger box!!

It seemed to me that if we had a giant, heavy hook and could see the board, then I could probably get the hook under the trucks of the board and pull it up by its wheel. Jenn suggested that one hook would turn its hooky side away when being pulled through the water, but if we could get a grappling hook, we'd be set. Maybe an anchor? The local boat store had nothing useful, surprisingly, and the hardware store didn't sell grappling hooks even though we asked nicely. The biggest hooks they did sell were meant to be used to hang bikes from your roof - and they seemed like they actually might work. We bought three! To weigh the hooks down, we bought some 40 degree plumbing joints - the heaviest metal we could get for only $1.25 each, and put one at the top of each hook. Duct tape was used to tape the hooks together and keep them in a grappling hook formation, and neon orange rope to pull the hook back up.

We assembled the grappling hook in the parking lot, then we drove back to the pier.

I'm really excited by how awesome our grappling hook is. It is SERIOUS BUSINESS.

When we got there, the wind had picked up - as we later found out, the wind was actually at 35 km/h (that's a lot!) and was gusting to 65. 5 foot waves were soaking the pier, and me, as I stood on its edge and dropped the hook into the deep. Even so, I felt the board a few times, and once even hooked it! But it detached itself as I pulled it up - the water was just moving too much. Also it was freezing. Jenn left her camera in the car so there's no pictures of this, but if you ever saw the movie "A Perfect Storm" that was basically how it went down.

We drove home and checked the weather, and saw that the wind was to die down in the evening. We were supposed leave for Toronto at 3 pm, but you don't just abandon a board when you're this close. We could extend our trip, leaving just before sunset to get to the pier when the wind was more quiet but there was still light. Our plan was, if we failed tonight, we'd return to the house, sleep for a bit, and drive out at 4 am to try again when the water would hopefully be entirely still: this would leave us enough time to drive back into the city and get Jenn into work Monday morning. With our ACTION PLAN in place, I used some free time to take apart one of those dumb LED fiber optic toys and used it to upgrade the hook to the BOARDFIND MARK II: now with lights shining down! We would be able to see what the hook was seeing. Here's a shot of the upgrade, again facilitated with duct tape and also zip-lock bags, sealed with duct tape:

For Hallowe'en this year I may go as the BOARDFIND MARK II.

Sunset began and we said our goodbyes to my parents, hoping that we wouldn't be back tonight. The waves had calmed some but was still blowing. When we got there, we found that with the sun almost set, the light wasn't enough that we could see the board. We'd have to do it blind. I dropped the hook where I remembered the board being and trolled it back and forth a bit: unfortunately the mounted light wasn't much use below six feet, as it was just too dark. Suddenly, I felt the hook catch on the lip of the board. I pulled it up, but no dice. I figured I'd caught the side, and needed the wheel. So, I dropped it in again, found the board, and this time pulled towards me for a bit before pulling up. It felt like I had something. I pulled up the rope and yes - soon the board's pink wheels were coming into view! We cheered and Jenn hauled her board up on dry land. It was none the worse for wear after its day and a bit in the briny deep. We cheered and hugged and an elderly couple walking by ignored us. Then we posed for VICTORY PHOTOGRAPHS!

Here's a shot of how much rope was used to reach the bottom, which also doubles as a good band photo:

We drove back to Toronto with the board and felt like we were pretty great. When we got home, we took one more shot: the BOARDFIND MARK II in the dark, which faithfully recreates what the skateboard itself and any sea monsters would have seen just before rescue.

Totally awesome!

Anyway that was my weekend!
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the calorie! NOW YOU KNOW [May. 27th, 2009|07:29 am]

I got a bunch of emails about the calorie yesterday! It is a ridiculous system of measurement and I did my best with it in the comic, but here's the deal. Unlike every other system of measurement ever, the word "calorie" refers both to itself and a unit of measurement 1000 times greater (or smaller, depending on your point of view)! It's like this: "calorie" can refer to the amount of energy needed to heat one giant kilogram of water by one degree celsius OR it can also refer to the amount of energy needed to raise one tiny gram of water by one degree celsius. Plus, there's the term "kilocalorie", but as Wikipedia's calorie page notes, the term "kilocalorie" and "calorie" are interchangable when dealing with food energy.


This is compounded by the fact that some (but not all) people use a capital-C "Calorie" to refer to the kilocal, while others don't. On food labels in Canada, capital-C "Calories" are listed, but so are capital-F "Fat" and capital-S "Sodium", where it has no special meaning, so that's not really much help.

In the comic, I went with lower-case "calories", as having everyone capitalize it every time looked weird, especially in panel 2. Most people wouldn't notice anything wrong, and for those that did, I had Utahraptor clearly define his terms in panel 5, so that folks would know what we were talking about. Unfortunately, unless you have just spent a few hours researching the calorie, it's easy to get confused and think that the numbers are 1000 times too big - or too small.

It gets worse! It turns out that the amount of energy needed to increase the temperature of water depends on the initial temperature of the water you're dealing with. There's the 4 degree calorie, the 15 degree calorie, the 20 degree calorie, the "1/100th of the energy required to move water from 0 degrees to 100 degrees" calorie, the "this is the amount of joules we've just decided upon and that's THAT" calorie, and so on. All are around the same amount, but of course, there are times where you want specifics.

In conclusion, the calorie is dumb and we should all deal in joules which are precise and which map to every form of calorie anyway. Besides, replacing "I'm counting my calories" with "I'm judging my joules" sounds way more like something we should be saying in the year 2009! You know it's true

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the regret index is back [Apr. 30th, 2009|12:12 pm]
Guys, post all your regrets!
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Star Trek: In Thy Image [Apr. 16th, 2009|10:55 am]
For those of you who wanted to see it, here is a torrent link for the 1.5 gig DVD version, and here's a link to a much more reasonably sized AVI version of Star Trek: In Thy Image, which is a re-edit of Star Trek V as if it were a TV show episode. It's shorter AND better!

It was made by Jack Marshall (he did some work on Star Trek: New Voyages and also some on Battlestar!). And hey, you can see his comments on the torrent link!

Jack I am glad we were able to organize internet folks to make this move more easily available.
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Star Trek V - TOS Edit [Apr. 14th, 2009|12:33 pm]
A few years ago I watched a version of Star Trek V in which someone had edited it as if it was a TOS episode. They cut it down to 60 minutes, removed a lot of the stupid stuff, added in 60s era titles and effects, and basically made what I thought was a pretty good TOS episode out of the worst TOS movie!

I have been searching online and can't find any links to this movie anymore, or even really any references to it. Has anyone else seen this? Can you help a brother out?
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on the newspaper comics page [Apr. 13th, 2009|04:15 pm]
At the Titans of Small Town show last weekend, I was chatting with some of the people there and someone (I've forgotten your name - sorry!) asked me about newspapers and comics and I had a revelation I'd never had before, which is as follows:

The death of newspapers is going to be great for comics, you guys!

And here's how I defend that:

When you say "comics" to people, they'll think of what they're familiar with. And if you say "comics" to most people in North America - and here "most people" unfortunately means "people who have never stepped inside a comics shop" - what they'll be familiar with will probably be three things: superheroes, Archie, and newspaper strips.

Superheroes are pretty easy to avoid if you don't read them: they're sold in comic shops, and the only time they intrude out of that is on amusement park rides and when movies come out. Archie you'll see in the checkout at grocery stores, but I don't see many adults (besides myself) flipping through them while waiting in line, and I don't think they sell much beyond the under 12 set. I think it's fair to say that newspaper strips are the only comics the average adult in North America has a chance to read every day. They're in the same paper that the news comes in! That's CONVENIENCE.

And what sucks is that most comics appearing in newspapers are BLAND. Terribly, similarly, depressingly bland.

There are exceptions! There are some great newspaper strips, I am pretty sure. And while it could be that newspaper syndicates offer a huge array of really good comics to papers, what the editors of every mainstream newspaper have overwhelmingly chosen, in every city I've ever lived in, traveled to, or otherwise read the papers of are the safe ones, the standbys: Garfield. Hi and Lois. Blondie. Hagar the Horrible. Beetle Bailey. Born Loser. Frank and Earnest. The Wizard of Id. I say "mainstream" newspapers because I've never seen an alt weekly running "Beetle Bailey" unless they're being particularly ironic. Look, The Onion's print edition thought it would be funnier to run Cathy in Spanish than it would be to run it in English, the language that the rest of the paper is printed in.

I'm referring to these comics as "bland" because they're all telling the same sorts of jokes, jokes that have long become predictable. I'm not saying they're terrible, because they're obviously appealing to an audience - and judging by the interchangeability of their humour and their comedic aesthetic, it seems like they're all appealing to the SAME audience.

That's where the problem is! The comics being printed in most newspaper comics pages don't appeal to the majority of people. Obviously one comic is never going to appeal to everyone, but there's so little variety in most comic pages that it reduces down to presenting only one sort of comic, only one sort of comedy, day after day. There's a variety of reasons (safety, momentum, the syndicates themselves) that these comics, the safe ones, are the comics that most people are exposed to, day after day. Can you really fault the public for deciding that maybe comics just aren't that good? For confusing the medium with the only examples they've seen of it? After years of reading the comics page and finding only one good comic - or worse, of reading the comics page and finding nothing but a sea of depressing comics that follow the formal structure of a joke, but are so wholly and unambiguously unfunny, they defy classification as "humor" - can you blame them for finally concluding, "Wow, maybe comics just aren't for me."?

And with newspapers (in their current format) struggling, so too is their comics page. It'll either die slowly or it'll morph into something different, and either way it'll be an improvement. It's going to be great, you guys! In 15 years, when young people hear the word "comics", they're not going to think "Garfield". Nobody but Garfield fans will think that! The rest of us will either be thinking of a comic that WE enjoy, or we'll never have actually read a comic and have fewer negative preconceptions about the form.

I want to be clear: this is not dissing newspaper comics, beyond those that I named, I suppose. I'm not saying all newspaper comics are terrible: in fact, I'm certain there's actually MORE terrible comics online than there are in print. And I'm not dissing print as a medium either - whether print or web comics, we're both doing comics, guys. What I am dissing, what I'm prematurely celebrating the death of, is the standard newspaper comics page: that ambassador which, for whatever reason, ended up privileging blandness over interest, sameness over change, safety over risks. That ambassador which once reached into the homes of most everyone in North America, introducing comics to a whole generation with a depressing, bland handshake that went on for 80 years. That ambassador which started out great, but which ended by giving a whole generation the smallest idea of what comics can be - of what comics ARE, right now.

This isn't a problem online because there is no syndicate there deciding which comics to price at which rate and no newspaper editors deciding for you what to read today. There's just comics - most of them free. If you find one you like, odds are the author is also linking to his or her favourites too, which is a great starting point for assembling your own reading list. There's tons of great work out there - you just need to go exploring.

The good newspaper comics will still be just as good when you're reading them online.
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