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March 2006 Archives

March 1, 2006

The Death Warrant has started


Alchemists has ended, and the project to bring the pre-web Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan stories online continues with The Death Warrant from 1993.
In The Death Warrant, Tamlin and his gang intercept the King's Death Warrant for their most dangerous competitor, Barnardus Pothelmus. When the courier who was carrying the documents escapes them, they are faced with a dilemma: should they deliver it themselves and risk capture, or miss the opportunity to get rid of their enemy? What they don't know is that the hanging, if it happens, will be the scene of a plot against the King.

The Death Warrant is black and white, and after 13 years, its faults are painfully clear to me. It's crudely drawn and often nonsensical. But on the other hand, it's fast-paced and joyful. There are a lot of laughs in it, with many fun characters and puns that can kill cattle at a hundred paces.

I've made some changes to the archives: Headsmen and Alchemists have been moved to the beginning of the archives where, chronologically speaking, they belong. If you've missed the final few episodes of Alchemists, they're here: Episode for Monday; Episode for Tuesday. This means that the filler story from almost a year ago has returned to the position of "last story before the current one". That thing keeps coming back like weeds!

March 2, 2006

Katie Rice and Radicalstab, for the Inspiration Files

I keep having to go back to Drawn to look for their entry on Katie Rice's Funny Cute blog with its lovely caricatures of girls. I've been unhappy with my inability to draw as wide a range of female faces as I want to - the main Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan cast pretty much exhausts my repertoire in that respect. Those simple character designs should merely be the beginning; they should be surrounded by more striking-looking gals.

I also like DeviantArt user Radicalstab's drawings of girls - her characters don't have that range of caricatural portraiture, but they are cute and have confident linework, good colours and a very strong "cool factor". She has a collaborative art blog in French.

Many artists, not just male ones, have trouble drawing more than one type of women, and while I do my best, I'm definitely one of them. So I'm throwing these links out as reminders to myself and hopefully to inspire others.

[Einar] Poor Jodoque....

In a shocking revelation, Reinder today provided us proof of an affair between Tamlin and Kel! We see them here, in a romantic hot tub together, with no sign of Jodoque in sight. Fans of the Tamlin/Jake, Jodoque/Kel, and Green Knight/Tamlin pairings have already begun to respond.

"What?! That's preposterous! How dare he misuse his characters so! We'll show him! We intend to be even stupider than some of those fellers in the Harry Potter Fandom! " said a Miss Andir.

"I'm alright with it, but then, the picture just supports my Tamlin/Beer pairing, doesn't it?" said Yair Roon.

"Bah! Should be Jake in there with Tamlin! But dwarves never get any love. No wonder we turn to sheep," said another, an I. Narr.

"You only like sheep because they're as woolly as you dwarves," responded Miss Andir.

The meeting then degenerated, and five fans are undergoing treatment at the Royal Gnomian Infirmary to remove the sticks from their arses.

March 3, 2006

If we don't draw the line here, where do we?

Allright, allright.

So we can't rapidly naturalise soccer player Salomon Kalou until he qualifies according to the same criteria that apply to other immigrants. Kicking a ball isn't a compelling national interest even if you can add millions of Euros to the gross national product if you do it really well.

And apparently, Taïda Pasic sneaked back into the country after having returned to Kosovo with her mom, and then fibbed in her application for a temporary residence permit allowing her to finish school in the Netherlands. Or maybe she didn't - Minister Verdonk's public pronouncements on the matter have muddied the waters to the point where I for one no longer know who to believe. Well-played, Messalina. In any case, she's eighteen and pretty smart; she'll get by.

But let's not send Saba Rawi to Iran to be raped and tortured to death on the orders of Ahmadinejad and his mullahs for being gay, OK? We don't hate immigrants and refugees that much, do we?

[Via LGF Watch. NB: I would like to be pointed to Dutch mainstream media reports on this case.]
Update: RTL news and NOS at least give Verdonk's considered opinion, which is that gay people are safe in Iran as long as they don't have gay sex, do anything gay or mention that they are gay. Christians are also almost tolerated as long as they keep their religion a closely guarded secret. I also heard her quoted along similar lines on Dutch news. She insists that the two homosexual boys who were put to death in Iran last year were guilty of rape, as determined by a fair and impartial, not at all homophobic court of -

Enough of this. We know what kind of place we're sending this man back to, right? We know what the Iranian courts are worth? And Verdonk knows it too. She is trying to murder a man from her desk.

Edit by Jeroen:
Apparently Rita isn't going to impliment this policy untill it has been discussed in parliament. Which in other words, one week from an election, smells like politics. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if she's not really planning anything of the sort, but it does make her look like a tough bitch on immigration, which should get her party some votes. Let's not forget she has a habit of suggesting stupid things, like the "Dutch language only in public-law" she suggested not long ago.

March 4, 2006

I knew where to stick it where no-one would nick it - right back in the bin!

Continental European Deep Purple fans: Do not buy the Tour Edition of Rapture of the Deep by Deep Purple until the harmfulness of its "copy protection" is established.

Even though I already own a copy on vinyl, I'd been eagerly awaiting the Tour Edition of Deep Purple's Rapture of the Deep, because there's a whole CD full of bonus material including several live tracks. (BTW, I've warmed a lot to the record since my initial review.) Today, I finally saw it in the shops, but as I was waiting in line at the checkout, I noticed a "Copy Protected - Not Playable On PC" on the back, with a logo that I hadn't seen before, so I put it back.

80% of all my music listening is done on either the iBook or the home PC, which means that the "Copy Protection" (assuming it works at all) reduces the value of that bonus CD from € 19.90 (the price at which I was willing to buy it before noticing the logo) to € 4. And that assumes that the "Copy Protection" doesn't affect playback on my DVD player or Diskman (which "Copy Protection" on CDs invariably does in my experience), and that it isn't some sort of rootkit-based crap that would try to compromise my computers (they're likely to be immune but who knows), which would give the disc a negative value. So back into the bins it goes, and I'm warning Deep Purple fans in continental Europe to be very cautious with this disc, and, when in doubt, not to buy it. Does anyone know if the UK edition is clean?

A Proposal

If music magazines want to be useful to the listeners, they should incorporate the playability of the sound containers into their reviews, and cap the final star rating of CDs that have software compromising playback on them. I suggest that CDs claiming to have "Copy Protection" on them should never get more than three stars out of five; that CDs which are proven to have playback problems should never get more than two out of five; that CDs that are actually unplayable on a computer should never get more than one out of five, and that rootkit CDs and similarly dangerous items should get a big red zero and a warning under the review. That is about the degree by which the listener's enjoyment of the product is capped as well.

Update (March 20, 2006): Responses from the Highway Star Blog indicate that the "Copy Protection" doesn't prevent much of anything, so Edel records merely wasted their money. I've also noticed that the regular CD edition had the same "Copy Protection", at least in the Netherlands. Good thing I got the vinyl version instead. Meanwhile, both the regular and the Tour edition are available on BitTorrent, as are several bootlegged concerts.
Actually, the economics of record manufacture suggest that bootlegs are much more likely to suffer from file sharing than legitimate records. After all, bootleg CDs are more expensive and harder to find than regular CDs, and most of them don't offer the added benefits of good or even coherent artwork and that warm fuzzy feeling of giving 3% of what you just spent to the recording artists. Also, most of them are already of low quality even on CD so the quality loss inherent in converting the songs to MP3 won't make much of a difference. As Bittorrent offers nearly cost-free distribution, much-bootlegged bands like Deep Purple could finally put the bootleggers out of business by converting soundboard recordings from their concerts to MP3s and sharing them. There would, I am sure, still be a market for properly-mixed DVDs with good video quality even among those who have already downloaded the concerts in MP3 form.

Saba Rawi update

LGF Watch rounds up the latest news on the Saba Rawi case, including both mainstream media coverage and political responses. Some of the links are a bit messed up right now, but from a brief look at one quoted article in the Volkskrant, the English translations seem to be accurate enough.

Viking-era women's costume

I've been working on a minor restyling for the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan characters, especially Krakatoa. What she needs for the story is a look that highlights her sexual aggressiveness. The problem with that is that so far she has mainly been shown wearing Viking-style costumes, which, while quite charming, don't exactly scream "sex" at a modern reader. So I hit my reference books to see how much variation was actually possible in that style of dress.

Well, it turns out that the more you know, the less certain you get. There aren't actually a lot of Viking-era textiles that have been preserved, so most reconstructions used today are based on matching the available evidence in the form of brooches, pins and scraps of textile sticking to them with illuminated manuscripts which may not be all that accurate.

Via the DeviantArt group Historic Costume I at least found An article on Female Viking Clothing that at least summarises what we know and gives some concrete instructions on how to assemble the costume.

March 6, 2006

Viking dress redux

Krakatoa in Viking and Slavic dresses.png
Well, it took me all weekend, but I got two designs on paper for Krakatoa's dress. One of them is a Viking dress adapted for Krakatoan use by lowering the neckline and having her wear the brooches at about nipple height (they are normally at the same longitude but a higher latitude). The one on the right is Slavic in origin, but doesn't contain any elements the Norse wouldn't have been able to made, and besides, as Geir remarked in email to me, the Norse were known to travel far and wide for both business and pleasure so they could have bought or stolen costumes like this one.

There are quite a few comments to the designs on DeviantARt already, and I've provided an alternate colour scheme for the Slavic dress. It's quite clear to me now that she needs to wear red and yellow. I still favour the Viking dress with its copious amounts of bling. I've decided not to put the pictures anywhere else because keeping track of what has gone into which gallery is becoming a bit cumbersome, and keeping track of discussion about any pictures even more so. If you want to comment but don't want to register on DeviantArt for the purpose, please email.

March 8, 2006

Uppallageez

Ah spind sow mutch tiem o teh Inntarneit reidin mispelt writtin thta Iv'e lorst teh abbillitee ta spel, tyep r prufreid. Soree. Alsow, thee Funie Kyoot bloger iz cawled Katie Rice, ont "Nice", liek Iw roat urlier. Appolloggees an Ih've carected meye mistaek.

March 10, 2006

So next week I'll hop over to the optician and use my remaining hand to put my new glasses on.

When I dragged myself out of bed this morning, I reached for my glasses and found the frame broken in two! I do recall leaning on them when I got out of bed in the middle of the night to use the bathroom... It was immediately clear to me that any repairs would have to be a strictly temporary matter, but what can you do? I dug up a pair of rancid old glasses I still had lying around, then took the broken glasses to the optician to get them soldered back in one piece, then spent the rest of the morning getting my eyes re-tested for both glasses and contact lenses and shopping for not one, but two replacement pairs. I'm being very thorough here, but I have to be: in addition to being old and gnarly and not very fashionable and weighing a tonne, those 16-year-old glasses are misaligned and give me a headache if I wear them for too long. The glasses that just broke, on the other hand, were very good to me for the six years that they lasted, so I used the same shop I bought them from and had them fix me up with nice, good new ones.

Shopping for glasses is pretty difficult for me. I have a strong prescription (minus six and a bit on both eyes) so standard glasses go well into the size category known as "bottle bottoms" - I need the spiffy, thinly-slised, ultra-cybernetic-precision glasses if I don't want to look like an idiot and permanently scar the bridge of my nose. Even then, I still can't have large glasses whether they're in fashion or not, and the trend of the moment, frames that are mercifully small but rectangular, disagree with the shape of my face. The guy who tested my eyes was in luck; he had a very angular, square-jawed face that rectangular glasses look perfect on. I on the other hand have a face made of curves, and poorly-defined ones at that. Also, I have prominent eyebrows so anything that emphasises those makes me look like I'm permanently scowling. The best I can hope for is a small, curvy frame that isn't too conspicuous. In the end, I found two frames that I can wear, one expensive model and a cheap one that the optician will throw in for the price of just one glass. The cheap one also gets the spiffy glassware in it, so I was still out by € 600 in total, which I agreed to pay without even blinking.
I didn't balk at the sudden expense because, for one thing, I will probably last out the rest of the decade and more with those glasses. My prescription strength hasn't changed since 1991, which is very rare, and I have a good track record at making glasses last. Also, I had been sort of expecting it. A few weeks ago, I couldn't find my glasses, and had to go through a similar procedure of finding the old, gnarly pair and then using that to locate my regular one. Doing that made me realise that my regular glasses were getting a bit old, fragile and scratched, weren't too up-to-date anymore, and hey, maybe contact lens technology has developed since I last tried contacts, so maybe I wouldn't have the same problems with them again as I had in 1996?
Oh, yeah, contacts. I also bought a pack of one-day contacts for those rare days when I'm not at a computer all the time. I'll test the water again with these. Another stroke of luck with my amazing eyeballs: not only are they stable, but the eye correction they need is the same for both, so I could simply get one pack of day contacts off the shelf. I will need to re-learn putting them in though, so I've got an appointment with the contact lens specialist for that too, bringing the total to three: One on Thursday for contact lens practice, one tomorrow to pick up the repaired glasses, and one at a date to be announced to pick up the new ones.
I can afford the new glasses out of my buffer money (I no longer think of it as savings, but rather as a fund for precisely these sorts of expenses) but even taking into account that it was sort-of expected and high-priority, it's still € 600 that I would have prefered, all told, to keep in my pocket. I'll be lucky if my insurance covers even a fraction of it. So don't be surprised if I start waving my Paypal button at the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan readership again...

March 13, 2006

Quick life and work stuff.

  • I like writing Gang of Four episodes set in the school, but I fecking hate drawing them. They always take forever to do.
  • Running regularly and swimming when I feel like putting in more exercise have not resulted in measurable weight loss, not that I have a whole lot to lose but a pound or two off would have been reasonable. However, I do have more stamina and energy and my face is getting less pudgy. For one reason, fat always goes to my face, which is why there are pictures of me taken when I weighed no more than the 70 kilogrammes I do now, but in which I look like Jabba the Hutt or even Marlon Brando in his final years.
  • I need: new trousers, repairs to the dryer, a new electric toaster oven, or microwave/toaster combo, a new fridge, a new computer desk and a TV or at the very least a TV card to watch the next Doctor Who season with.
  • I want: a desktop-model Mac. No, I don't need one as both my home PC and my iBook are in good working order. No, I don't have a business case for buying one as Photoshop works perfectly well on the studio PC. I just want one, to complete my entry into smelly wankerdom.
  • I am now definitely in the market for some form of regular (if temporary and/or part-time)employment. If Donna Barr can be a bus driver to pay for unexpected expenses, then so can I. Apart from the not having a driver's license bit.
  • "Pay for unexpected expenses" includes getting a higher credit limit on my card. All my life I've had an almost pathological fear of getting into debt. But debt is perfectly justifiable if buying now and paying later allows for a higher quality of life than I'm enjoying now. As long as it isn't at the level where you can't pay it back.
  • Now that I'm a member of a Viking-oriented club within DeviantArt, I keep seeing posts there from people with Finntroll quotes in their signatures. Because I don't follow the metal scene much, I hadn't realised that they'd become so big, although the reception they got at their concert last year should have tipped me off. If I have a bit of time, I should take a look at their lyrics and draw some troll art based on them. I've been meaning to do that for over a year but always within the context of the ROCR/Gnomian Republic universe. Now, I think just drawing it in the form of single illustrations would be fun and would interest enough people to gain me some popularity there on DA.
  • When Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan returns to showing new material, there may be big changes, bigger than I've let on so far. Or not.
  • If there isn't a special place in Hell for password retrieval system builders who insist on sending you a new password when you've forgotten your old one, so that you have to remember that new password long enough to reset it in every single browser you'll ever log in to the site with, I'll gladly help build one. People are more likely to forget passwords than remember them and people will login from more than one location. Combine these two facts and you have a situation where users will drive themselves to the point where they go "screw it, I'll just use a password I can guess, and just to be sure, I'll write it down," and once they start doing that, they won't just do it for sites that have low risks involved. I'm looking at you, DeviantArt, now tell me what my old password is.

March 16, 2006

InkaLill on WCN

One of the most encouraging trends in webcomics lately has been the arrival of older, more established cartoonists from the print world onto the Web. It looks like more of these turn up on Webcomicsnation than elsewhere, probably because WCN is widely publicised and very easy for web novices to use.

One cartoonist I'm very happy to see online is Norwegian fantasy cartoonist InkaLill, whose work Geir alerted me to when I first visited Norway ten years (ten years!) ago. She is putting her long-running comic The Knights of Dor on the web, in English, starting with the very early work that I don't currently own in print.
The web processing, to be honest, needs some work, and like most of us, InkaLill did not exactly put out virtuoso work right from the start. But over the run of Knights of Dor, she learned a thing or two, especially about drawing expressive female characters and creating consistent fantasy environments. So this is one series to look out for. The second book seems to be subscriber-only, although it's not clear if there is anything other than the front page online yet at all.

March 18, 2006

Here's a guy with his head screwed on straight.

Pete Ashton:

Oddly, or maybe not, I've been contemplating putting myself forward for medical trials, the logic being as follows: 1) The noise made over the recent TGN1412 thing implies these things don't go wrong very often. 2) At the same time a significant number of people will be put off applying so they'll be looking for guineapigs. 3) I've been known to spend a couple of weeks feeling grotty and not getting anything done so I might as well get paid for it. 4) A couple of grand would free me up for a month or so of book writing. 5) Blog fodder! (Oh, altruism and for the good of mankind and all that too...)

Quite right. I've been thinking about it myself. The horror of the TGN1412 incident is making me fearful at an emotional level, but this is the first such incident I've ever heard of in my lifetime, and after that, the organisations doing those tests are going to be extra-super-cautious. This would be a good time to go into medical testing.

However, spending a month cooped up is just not on, so no test that involves that (as some do) will be considered.

Housecleaning

I finished up the 9th Gang of 4 page on Wednesday. Since then I've been doing some housecleaning, both mental and actual.

People who have visited my house in the past few years know that it's usually a great big mess, and readers of this blog may remember that on several other occasions, I've made attempts to get through the backlog of mail and other stuff that has piled up over the years and clear some working space. This time, though, I have a little more time for the project, and I'm making real headway. Slowly but steadily, my incoming correspondence (most of it from my bank and other institutions like that) gets sorted into junk, outdated stuff and potentially interesting, actionable items, and anything not in the latter catagory gets thrown out, as do many other documents, packaging materials, papers full of now-incomprehensible notes and even quite a few crappy doodles and sketches. The actionable items will be looked at on the basis of "will responding to this save me real money or prevent the paper piling up again?" and if the answer is no, out it goes. I'm discounting the fourth category of "official, necessary records" which for the time being I'm just sticking into folders and dumping in the desk safe. Sorting through them will be a matter for next week when I'll do my tax returns. Slowly, because unlike the past few years, I have time. Since Thursday, the surfaces of both my desk and the old, large drawing board have become visible again. The drawing board has been used as an overflow space for the past four or five years - I use a smaller one at the studio.

I've picked up both the two pairs of new glasses and the pack of contact lenses. I didn't get the contacts straight away because after so many years, the specialist wanted me to practice putting them in first. Turns out I can still do that; I suppose it's a bit like riding a bicycle.

I have paid most of my bills (one got lost in the sorting and rearranging, but I've found it again and it's now on my desk) and sent out €2000 worth of invoices to clients and to the studio-mates who I share an internet connection at work with. On top of that, I got an advance from Modern Tales (that's an advance on royalties yet to be calculated, not advance payment for work yet to be done) and sorted out some specifics for a string of cartooning workshops I'll be doing next month.
Getting that sorted out has allowed me to do some back-of-the-envelope budgetting, and it looks like I'm covered for everything I need and some of what I want. Ain't I lucky? Seriously, that's a good basis for planning for the future.

One of those plans is the publication of my first minicomic in a few years, and the first one in full colour. I'm not a big fan of making small print runs of comics, really; I've done too much of it already over the past 15 years. But... I promised a print version to the people who sponsored Headsmen, and now that I'm stuck with having to do it, I'm becoming more keen to do it as well as I possibly could. Right now, I'm thinking of putting out a full-colour A5 or even A4-sized book containing Headsmen and a colour version of Alchemists as bonus material. Adding another colour story wouldn't cost any extra as the pages would be printed on colour sheets anyway, and my test colouring has convinced me that colour does actually improve the art quite a bit.
So I've been comparing prices and doing test prints of individual pages. What I've learned so far is that the price per unit drops dramatically with nearly every extra unit bought if you're going with a local digital printer, much more than it used to do in the days of black and white photocopied interiors. Basically, every extra person I could count on to buy a copy of the book would not just help me make it easier to keep the cost down, but also help their fellow fans get their hands on a cheap copy of the book. With that in mind, I think I should set up some sort of preordering system in which people can sign up for a copy without immediately committing to pay for it, as the final price would be determined in part by the number of people signing up. I'm also thinking of formally reopening the sponsorship drive so people can contribute to both the upkeep of the ROCR website and the initial investment to get the book off the ground.

Of course, I'm still looking for alternatives. There are some promising semi-PODs around that could fill my needs. Ka-Blam looks good although the fact that it's in the US complicates things for me. Wouldn't be a big deal if it was a full POD press, but despite what it claims, it isn't, really. It's a digital small press that's primarily set up to ship batches of books to micropublishers and distributors. But the price is quite good and the fact that it's a fixed, low price per unit makes it a solution that's hard to ignore.

More on that later. I'll have some stuff to show to go into the book soon enough.

March 20, 2006

Time and space - Observations from an Uber-slob.

In my last post, I let slip that I had a bit more time than I used to. Some readers may ask "does that mean that we'll soon be seeing new Chronicles of the Witch Queen material?" Or not. It's not like that website had hundreds of eager readers when it was still updating daily. The answer, I'm afraid, is "no", anyway. I'll start the site up again when I'm sure I can do a decent job of it.
Over the past few years while working on my comics I've let a lot of things go to hell. The most important of those things is still being dealt with by the cleanup project - yes, I think of it as a project.

At the risk of boring you to death with tales of rooting through shelves and drawers and dragging out huge bags of paper... actually, I don't think that's boring at all. I find removing all the clutter and cruft that's been accumulating in my flat very liberating. Also, there are companies out there that offer advice and help to the incurably untidy, so there must be something interesting to say about it, especially from the perspective of a master-slob.

In that other post, I mentioned that I was making headway, but the shameful secret is that the things I was managing to clear up were all overflow spaces: the main desk, the disused old desk, the disused drawing board, the floor. All of these were covered in paper, and piles of it. They're now clear, mostly. Clear enough to use, anyway. But the places where paper legitimately should go, the bookshelves and archival safe, are still overloaded, one of them with about double the weight it should maximally support. So I'm looking at their contents wondering if there's anything in there that might not pass the "what if I moved house?" test. Digging through some promising areas, I found quite a bit of handwritten (i.e. illegible) work by myself such as old term papers, as well as handouts from my University days. I kept those all those years because I was never sure which of these I would want to use again in my later career; it's now clear that only the medieval and renaissance literature stuff has anything to do with what I'm doing now, so that stays and most of the rest of it goes. It's not enough to keep those shelves from groaning, but it's a start.
I'm also looking at my unsold minicomics inventory with my mind on the same question, "Would I take that along if I moved house?" I'm not sure I would. But I'm uncomfortable with the implications of that. A few years ago, Indigo Kelleigh announced that he would destroy any of his old Circle Weave minis that he didn't sell by a certain date. I was shocked by that... it's just not something I could imagine myself doing. I suppose I'm like a Terry Pratchett dwarf in that - always wanting words that are written or art that is produced to remain (Note to self: Is it wise to post this somewhere where Adam will read it?). These days, I'm not so sure. If those old, unsold books are dragging me down, perhaps I should let go of them. Before I get to that point, though, I will try to sell them at a deep discount. I've already updated my Small Press Swapmeet listings accordingly and will announce a proper Spring Sale when I am ready to start taking preorders for the Headsmen mini.

Okay, about those master-slob observations. I've got two.
One: I suspect the minds of tidy people work very differently from those of folks like me. For tidy people, seeing a piece of rubbish or a stray sheet of paper lying somewhere is a constant annoyance and an eyesore. Until they remove it, they are bothered by its presence. When, on the other hand, something is cluttering up my space, I stop seeing it after a while. It becomes part of the background. This can take on an extreme form. When I got the extra bookshelf in December, I overhauled many things in the house and started "seeing" clutter again in quite a few places, for long enough to get rid of some of it. I threw out an old laser printer that I hadn't used in a year or two because it had been malfunctioning. But it wasn't until this week that I finally threw out the large cardboard box that that printer originally came in. That box had been slightly more useful than the printer because I could keep stuff in it, but I had already emptied it of said stuff back in December. Until I started the most recent bout of cleaning, I didn't "see" the box. Somewhere between my eyes and my brain, the connection got lost and with it the notion that in front of me was a large piece of clutter I could throw out.
Two: I'm trying to prevent slipping back into my old cluttery ways by not buying a lot of stuff for the time being, and by processing any incoming mail immediately. That's harder than it seems: most of my snail mail is from my bank, my insurance company, the housing corp or the local government. All of it can be divided into the following catagories:
* Useless mass mailings. Those make up the majority.
* Useful mass mailings. That is, mailings whose purpose is clearly to advertise, but the offers contained in them are such that they may save me money, improve my insurance coverage or - best of all - reduce the overall amount of incoming mail.
* Documents I have to keep: Updated versions of my insurance policies, or bank statements, or, in one memorable case, an apology from the housing corp for a mistake they made.
* Documents I may not need to keep but which I need to take action on. "Comply with this regulation or Else" mail from the local government, or the thing that the housing corp later apologised for (a complaint about the neighbours' polluting their back yard with garbage and dog shit had been sent to me instead of them).
Both my bank and my insurance company are very bad when it comes to sending me stuff I don't want and don't need. It's not a big problem right now, but when I was in a state of constant hurry, I would often leave mail from them unopened for a long time, having got burned too often on the content-free feelgood magazines that are apparently the latest, greatest thing in corporate PR. As a result, I've occasionally missed out on real offers that were useful, or on information that I really needed to know. Human beings are not good spam filters and spam filters that mimic the learning habits of human beings don't work. The only exception to that is Google's spam filter, which takes into account the experience of many many users. Unfortunately, I don't see that translating back into the meat and rock world.
One or two more observations popped up in my head while I was working on this post, but they've slipped my mind again. I'll post them separately when they pop back up, hopefully in shorter posts than this one.

In addition to cleaning, I'm also using the time I have now to work on my tax returns and get lots of exercise. Once I'm done with those things, I'll get back to Chronicles of the Witch Queen.

No Pink Ponies

No Pink Ponies by Remy "Eisu" Mokhtar gave me a few chuckles this afternoon. The "hot geek-girl in a world of smelly boy-nerds" schtick has been done before, but Mokhtar handles it well, and his art is nice to look at. It reminds me a bit of Candi only with better art.

No Pink Ponies is quite new, so checking out the archives to see if you like it will only take a few minutes.

Uberslob observations # 3 and 4

Addendum to Time and Space - Observations from an Uberslob:
Observation #3: The "What if I moved house?" test works. It probably works better if you're actually moving house, but it puts the value of your junk into perspective.
Observation #4: If, like me, you're a little bit geeky and prone to obsessiveness, making your house-cleaning rule-based also works, provided you stick to it. For every item you bring into the house (excepting food), make yourself throw out two items of equivalent weight or volume. Throw out stuff you haven't used for X years - I like a very large value for X because I'm also a penny-pinching cheapskate who wants to squeeze every bit of use out of his belongings, but any value will do.

My mother and my aunt are both big fans of that last rule, by the way, although they didn't get into it until after I'd become set in my piggish ways. Oink.

In which Reinder squeals like a fanboy

Like I wrote in an update to the post on Rapture of the Deep Tour Edition, the "Copy Control" on that album seems to do exactly nothing although one or two commenters on the Highway Star blog have complained about distortion on the CD. This may or may not be the result of paranoia from people who are specifically looking out for artefacts caused by the "Copy Control" process.
In any case, it looks like the CD is safe to play, and the pointlessness of "Copy Control" is demonstrated by the fact that the album is on Bittorrent like everything else. I've just listened to the live tracks, and feck! I don't think I've ever heard them sounding this good. These guys, none of them younger than 50 and led by a writing team who turned 60 last year (Ian Gillan and Roger Glover) are on fire this tour. One criticism that had been leveled against Rapture of the Deep in the press, which I agreed with even after I warmed to the record, was that the group were staying in their comfort zone too much. This may be true, but Roger Glover in particular has extended the comfort zone of his playing quite a bit, and the comfort zone is a good place to be in while playing live.

With that in mind, I'm going to get that live disk first thing in the morning, and look for tickets to the summer festival they're playing in the Netherlands this year (Arrow Rock, where they're probably the only act I'm remotely interested in).

The consumer warning in my previous post on the matter is hereby withdrawn.

March 21, 2006

Banking - it's not just for serious grown-ups anymore!

Are the Postbank even trying to be taken seriously as a bank anymore? Over the past year, in addition to the Content-Free Magazines that every other financial institution insists on sending me, they've done this big promotion for the option to Personalize Your ATM Pass with a design of your choice for the low, low price of €9.75, and their latest special offer is even sillier: instead of paying a competitive interest rate on their savings accounts, they give you Rentepunten (Interest Points) which you can save up to get discounts on goods from a catalog.

Memo to the marketing folks at the Postbank: Guys, I don't use your bank for fun. I use it to keep my money in a checking account and save a little for a rainy day, that's all. I have no interest in your attempts to forge a relationship with me, as you should have realised when I didn't even bring you flowers on the 20th anniversary of me opening my first account with you. If you want to make me a happy customer, you can begin by not trying to railroad me into switching to your online banking service, by paying interest above the level of inflation on savings accounts, and... oh, here's a good suggestion: by not charging me for services you used to offer for free. I swear, when the time comes I can impress my grandnephews and grandnieces with the hardships I used to undergo in the olden days like the Yorkshiremen in that Monty Python sketch, "... but on the other hand, bankin' were free" will be the punchline to every last one of the yarns I spin at them.

But the way things are going, I'm likely to overcome my inertia and switch to a real bank any day now. Except it may be hard getting a credit card from any other bank with the income I have now. Damn.

Of course, it could be that they're all as bad, anyway. Do other Dutch banks spam your mailbox with silly offers and Content-Free magazines? Are they all in a race to the bottom to see who can cut their services and increase charges the most for services that used to be free? Are there any left in the Netherlands that offer proper interest on small-scale savings accounts?

March 22, 2006

In progress: colouring for Alchemists

I'm colouring the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan story Alchemists for inclusion in the forthcoming print edition of Headsmen. I like the results so far. Once it's done, I'll replace the black and white versions on the ROCR website with the colour ones, but until then, you can preview the coloured versions on my DeviantArt gallery.

Alchemists 1a Alchemists 1b Alchemists 2a Alchemists 2bAlchemists 3a Alchemists 3b

Colouring those old pages is a lot harder than colouring new ones, but the look of the finished work is strikingly similar to that of Headsmen.

March 27, 2006

Republican War on Science seminar at Crooked Timber

I loved the last two Crooked Timber seminars, but the latest one looks like it'll be a doozy. It's on The Republican War On Science, both the book by Chris Mooney, who is taking part, and the concept of the RWOS itself. I'm reading it now.

March 29, 2006

ROCR website redesign

So I've redesigned the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan website.
ffwebsite.png
It's really more of a re-skinning than a full redesign, to be honest: the design is still based on my old Movable Type templates, and even within those limitations, the changes mostly affect the area above the fold. Still, it took me quite a bit of time, simply because I haven't been doing this as my day job since 2001. Also, I had to create some custom artwork especially for the project and do endless cross-browser testing for every piddling change.

What I've done:

Well obviously I've created a large header banner and got rid of that awkwardly-positioned by-line that had been on the top of each page since October. For better or for worse, the byline is now integrated in the header graphic although it can also be found in the tags in the HTML headers. The header graphic is now served from within WillowCMS so I can change it for the entire site with just one change to the 'home' node.
I moved the button bar back into the sidebar again. It never aligned right and pushed the comic to the button. The header area is now a lot smaller vertically. From a code order point of view, moving those buttons to the end of the HTML source is less than ideal, but it does look a whole lot better, without the awkward positioning tricks involved in so-called "One True Layout" templates. Eventually I hope to return to this problem and recode the templates so they have both correct source code order and a pleasing visual appearance, but I don't consider this an urgent problem.
I've changed the body background colour to a dark green, to fit the theme of the banner. This won't be all that noticeable to people reading the comic at 1024*768 pixels, but the green becomes a bit dominant at larger screen sizes. New colour schemes always take some getting used to, so we'll see how everyone likes it in a few weeks.

I have cleaned up a lot of cruft from the CSS file. There was a lot of Movable Type-generated stuff in there that I no longer use. I've also cut some of the front page HTML to compensate for the larger file size of the header graphic.

ONR search box - this is not a real widget!I've added one new feature to the website: a search box. The fellow in the icon is the mascot of Oh No Robot engine, which is where the search gets delegated to. I can't believe ONR didn't have a miniature version of their mascot available, but I had to make the 32x32 version myself.

ONR transcribe button, not a real widget
Oh No Robot also turned out to be the biggest source of problems with the rollout of the new design. The "Transcribe this" buttons in the archive don't fit in their borders if left as part of the nav-links bar. I'll need to think about where else to put them. In the meantime, there are two ways readers can get rid of those unsightly things: you can transcribe the comics the buttons occur on, or if you have Firefox with the appropriate extentions, you can right-click and ad-block them. I'd prefer the first option, because right now the search box covers fewer than half of the published episodes, but the other option would not be any skin off my back.

top left in firefoxI normally prefer to stick to fairly standards-compliant HTML and CSS if only because workarounds always make my head hurt, but I did use one Mozilla-only CSS feature that doesn't do a lot of harm in other browsers but makes the design a little less clinical in Firefox: I sprinkled block-level elements with the -moz-corner-radius attribute to get rounded corners. There are other ways to get rounded corners but they tend to be javascript-heavy and complicated and I can't be bothered with them. These are an easy way to reward readers for not using Internet Explorer, without depriving them of my stuff entirely.

I expect I'll have to do some clean-up and fixing over the next few weeks, and I'm sure I'll find out what some of the downsides to the new design, for example the fact that it is a lot more bandwidth-intensive, mean in practice. But for now, I'm rather pleased with how it's turned out, and glad that it will be easier to adapt in the future.

March 30, 2006

Lucifer # 16 on Scans_Daily

I love Creation/Fall stories (and am happy that When We Had Tails has stood up so well in the 8 years since Geir sent me the script) and this comic from the series Lucifer is no exception. I had never heard of this comic, which I presume is spun off from Sandman (checks the "Lucifer" tag in the community - yep, looks like it). I never got into Sandman for some reason even though I quite like what I have read of Neil Gaiman's writing.

This story's a good one. Take some time to read it.

Praise for meta-post

Introduction with link to post in blog.

Salient quotation with extra-salient bit in bold.

Equivalent of "Heh, indeed".

Obligatory reference to webcomic doing it first. Implicit challenge to provide earlier examples.

March 31, 2006

Preorder Headsmen Mini now

Headsmen minicomic cover art

After many years, I'm finally getting Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan into print again. But this time, it will be in English, and in full colour!

I'm very ambitious with this one. The plan is to include the recent story Headsmen and the 1990s story Alchemists, both of them in colour, in A5 format. If the test prints I made are anything to go by, it will look really good, as vibrant as the colours on the web version, but much, much sharper.

There's only one problem. Setting a price gets a bit complicated. Just like in the old days, the price per copy goes down the more copies one prints, but the curve is a whole lot steeper, to the point where adding just one or two more copies to the run can make a big difference.

To set a price, I need to have some idea of how many people would want a copy. So instead of offering it for sale right here and now, I would like to ask you to sign up by sending me an email. Other methods for contacting me will also work, as long as I can get your name on the list. You won't have to commit yourself to buying a copy just yet - just inform me that you might want one.

About March 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Waffle in March 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2006 is the previous archive.

April 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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