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April 2007 Archives

April 1, 2007

Smith & Jones (mild Doctor Who Season 3 spoilers)

I'd actually had a Doctor Who-related dream the other night, involving Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones, and several incarnations of the Doctor. I don't remember everything from it, but I do remember that Colin Baker, the Sixth Doctor, looked uncannily young and svelte in it. Even when he wasn't standing next to Mel Smith, I mean.

The real first episode was pretty good. Though I was disappointed by much of Series 2, I'd missed the guy and was looking forward to seeing him again with a new companion. "Smith and Jones" wasn't perfect - the plot was stretched a bit thin for 45 minutes - but it had a sense of fun that was missing in much of Torchwood, built up the tension well, had a few laughs, a lot of running-in-corridors and some neat visuals. It was formulaic, but the formula was executed well. I like new companion Martha Jones - she's smarter and less "primal" so to speak, than Rose Tyler was, and hopefully won't be as clingy towards him. She's pretty pleasing to the eye as well, and there was definitely a sexual dynamic between the two, so fanficcers can start sharpening their pencils right now.

The best direct comparison between the two companions is of course the bit where they see the inside of the TARDIS for the first time, a gag that the Doctor can't get enough of and neither can I. Where Rose just ran around it and went "ook?", Martha Jones stayed calm, talked, analysed, tried to figure it out, and of course failed, because there isn't really anything to comprehend. It's bigger on the inside, is all there is to it. Throughout the episode it was clear that the Doctor wanted to work with someone who used her brain, and Martha passed that test.

A good start to the season, I think. I'll definitely go on watching this.

April 3, 2007

Crossover delays

Co-bloggers Jeroen and Adam helped me out with today's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic in which Jake visits the world of Dangerous and Fluffy. That wasn't intended as a full guest comic; it just so happened that I had already asked Adam to script it and then fell behind as a result of illness and overwork, so we thought we'd ask Jeroen to draw it. And he came through! Otherwise I'd have had to delay it, and that would have been a bad thing to do in the middle of a crossover.

In the end, ROCR may well be the only comic in this crossover thread that isn't delayed, though. Pimpette was already out for the count; new updates are finally being published, but it's still well behind. And yesterday's outage at webcomics host ComicGenesis means that some others haven't been able to upload their contributions yet. Caitlin Woods of CameoComic mentioned in her journal that she was going to reschedule her work on the comic if she wasn't going to be able to upload it anyway, and that sort of thing is hard to go back on even if the webhost does come back up all of a sudden. Since the problem was caused by ComicGenesis's own DNS server breaking, it may not, in fact, be up for everyone. I can see the sites just fine, but I don't know if Caitlin can.

So, today's ride may be a bit rough and I may even decide to delay tomorrow's comic in order to re-synchronise things with the folks I'm collaborating with. Apologies for the inconvenience, can't do anything about it guvnah, it'll be right as rain in a day or two.

April 4, 2007

Comicgenesis troubles and Crossover Wars, continued

I wouldn't normally write about this, because normally, service interruptions at webcomics host Comicgenesis don't affect me directly. I still have a website (two, actually) there, but it hasn't been my main webhost for a long time, and I can take or leave a new update there being on time.

However, now that the updater problems have gone into their second day, they're making this massive multi-artist crossover event I'm in a bit confusing. I mean more confusing than it would be if everything was still running smoothly. So, a few practical things:

1. All comics are being collected at the Crossover Wars hub, including the ones linked from my archives that aren't currently updating. CameoComic for April 3. CameoComic for April 4. This is done manually, so there's still a delay, but the material is finding its way online through people's Photobuckets and alternate hosting solutions. (I would particularly invite cartoonists to get a free account on Webcomicsnation because setting up a series there is easy, and the cross-promotion works, but there are plenty of other good, free solutions. BTW, I would definitely classify Comicgenesis as both free and good, these days, even taking into account this annoying glitch.)

2. I am keeping the links in my archives as they were originally planned, unless someone pipes up from Comicgenesis and says that the problems will persist for the long term. If that happens, I will start linking to people's permanent, alternative solutions. Otherwise, I'll have the devil of a time reversing all the changes once the problem is solved. In the past, I've found that crossovers are high-maintenance things to have in an archive, and I don't want to give myself more of a maintenance load than is strictly necessary.

3. Pimpette still has long-term problems getting back on track, so I'll hold off on linking to any more of Norla and Ottar's adventures in that webcomic until things are normal again.

Things happen. Points to reader Alun Clewe, creator of the webcomic Soup, for predicting that something like this would happen, but more points go to L.P. Hogan, organiser of the event, for taking precautions.

So, what's the problem? Well, as far as I can tell, it started with hardware failure in the box that handles their Domain Name Service. They had two servers for that, but both broke at roughly the same time. Yet another case of redundancy not working. As it happened, they were working on one of those boxes when the other broke, so they could fix that relatively quickly. But ever since, the updater has run very slowly. The updater is a script that creates static HTML pages at the time set by the account holder - a new front page, a new archive page, refreshed pages that link to the new archive page, and any other stuff that the account holder may have queued up to be generated - for all accounts. And there are thousands of accounts. The current script has been revamped since I had ROCR.net on Comicgenesis, and is presumably a lot more powerful, robust and intelligent than it was then, but it's still the most vulnerable in case of something breaking, and when it gets behind on running through its queued updates, it can take it forever to catch up, especially when some other part of the system is still broken. So Caitlin and Ti-Phil and all the others involved are now having to wait for that to finish. They're producing their comics all right, but the site automation isn't taking them. Latest reports I've read on the forums said the queues were only getting longer, which is something I've seen before. In the past, that's been the harbinger of an even more catastrophic problem. While I don't think this will be the case this time, it may be a good idea for CG cartoonists to back up their archived material.

April 5, 2007

Misattribution

PRINCESS ZARA:

A complicated gentleman allow to present,
Of all the arts and faculties the terse embodiment,
He's a great arithmetician who can demonstrate with ease
That two and two are three or five or anything you please;
An eminent Logician who can make it clear to you
That black is white — when looked at from the proper point of view;
A marvelous Philologist who'll undertake to show
That "yes" is but another and a neater form of "no."

SIR BAILEY BARRE

Yes, yes, yes,
"Yes" is but another and a neater form of "no."
All preconceived ideas on any subject I can scout,
And demonstrate beyond all possibility of doubt,
That whether you're an honest man or whether you're a thief
Depends on whose solicitor has given me my brief.
-Utopia Limited, W.S. Gilbert

This is one of Gilbert's best satires - indeed, the whole Act I Finale is marvellous, a concise parody of all the British types beloved of Victorians and of colonialism (the plot literally involves floating an entire country on the stock market - something not as far from reality as one might like, it must be admitted - and satirising every part of it, from the governmental red tape holding back any innovation in Britain to censorship.

It has some dialogue problems - Gilbert's ability to revise was in decline by this point, and so very overly-wordy, formal sentences prevail (it's usually reworked for performance nowadays), but when it does pull together, it's Gilbert at his finest and bravest.

...So you can see why I'm peeved that so many quotation sites insist on attributing part of it to Benjamin Franklin.

April 6, 2007

As of today...

... I've been sick with flu or flu-related complications such as bronchitis for one month out of the last three. I'm heartily fed up with it.

When the latest epidemic was first confirmed in late February (I was in the tail end of my first bout of the year at the time), some dim-witted trollup on the radio said something like " ah well, if you've got it, chin up! You'll be sick for a day or three and have immunity for a year." I wanted to call up the station and tell her that that only worked if by three days she meant three weeks and by a year she also meant three weeks. I didn't have the energy or the breath to, so I didn't.

I just might be going back to bed after posting this... No comics are due until Monday. On the other hand, I really don't like the look of the latest installment and kind of resent the idea of it staying on the front page all weekend.

April 8, 2007

The Last Battle

I was rereading C.S. Lewis a while ago. I remembered that the last Narnian book wasn't very good. I had forgotten just how bad. Ignoring the simple things: poor characterisation, continuity breaking, new characters who are forced to act like idiots to forward the plot, and Susan not getting to come to Narnia because she decided she liked dating men, we hit the deep problems: The whole thing is about how evolution is a devilish trick that will damn us all, and how horrible Muslims are.

The plot, in simple form, is as follows: A monkey, who later puts on clothes and claims to be a man (spot the allusion to evolution) disguises a donkey in a lion skin and claims he's Aslan. All the other characters act like idiots, so the monkey is able to manipulate things, make deals with an Arabic country to take Narnia over and exploit it, and this causes the end of the world as per the Revelation of St. John. In the process, anything Lewis disliked is bashed, from young girls wearing makeup to evolution to skeptics (there's a group of dwarves who are so wrapped up in not wanting to be tricked that in the end they delude themselves that heaven is a mucky stable, because they entered it through a stable door. Those of you who know my love of dwarves can imagine how I feel about that.)

The first half, with religious feeling leading all the Narnians to bow down to the will of a donkey in a lion skin costume, going so far as accepting their enslavement by the Calormenes (basically, Arabs) because "Aslan" wishes it, is almost a parody of religion. The intended targets, however, remain evolution and Muslims (with a side of skeptics), with the foolishness displayed by the religious evidently being considered absolutely appropriate, I suppose. Lewis' views on evolution are explained further here, where he's quoted saying that Darwin's "monkeying with the ancestry of Man", as well as the study of psychology, stripped away (in that article's summary) "rationality, purpose, volition and freedom, imagination, commitment, [and] the image of God."

...What? So using rational thought to investigate man's origins and modes of thought is less rational than blind belief? Are the vague purposes given man in the Bible - to basically serve God as his servants every waking moment - conductive to volition and freedom, or are they in fact subsuming yourself to a God that cannot be as he is defined in the Bible? Is imagination destroyed by showing us the full spread of reality in all its myriad forms - the animals of Cambrian explosion, the strangeness of nature as a whole, the stars spiraling above us? Or is it destroyed by narrow-mindedness and refusal to consider new ideas that contradict with a single book? Commitment to what? Is this a request to return to the days when beaten wives were forced to remain married to their husbands and put up with it? And what exactly is "the image of God" anyway?

...In short, skip the book. The whole thing, save maybe the last 10 pages, (which it must be admitted do manage, unlike every other depiction I've ever seen, to create a view of Heaven that might actually be livable in), is a badly-writted screed with all the subtlety of "All those with living fathers step forwards. Not so fast, Johnson!"

April 11, 2007

I like the cut of your jib, gal!

Tera Forming is a well-drawn, well-written autobiographical comic that is a lot of fun to read. The only downside to it is that it isn't inked, but even under the greyness of the scanned pencil lines, Tera Sanders' drawing chops shine through. Recommended, especially if you like autobios like Planet Karen, which you should.

Update: The comic seems to have disappeared from its webhost, Drunk Duck. Let's hope it turns up somewhere else soon.

April 12, 2007

Well, so much for Movable Type's nifty new spam prevention

The keyword blacklisting in Movable Type has one little drawback: it doesn't work. I've added several variants of "Good Site! Thanks!" including "ood site! Thank" to the blacklist but spams containing those phrases continue to get posted. Update: I've boned up on regular expression syntax and the rules for whole-word blacklisting, and it works well now.

Worse than that, because of Movable Type's insane resource consumption, forced mass rebuilds after a spam cleanup sometimes hit Xepher's resource limits, causing them to time out and the rebuild to fail, meaning that the spams don't get deleted from the posted entries (though they do get deleted from the database). This is Not Acceptible.

Worse, the filter's performance seems to be worsening. Spams that automagically get junked still outnumber spams that don't, but not nearly by as much as they did a month ago. I've got bad experiences with learning filters (Opera's, for instance, tends to learn it wrong even though I'm pretty damned dilligent about catching any spam the filters don't, and marking it as such before deleting it); I don't know which part of the setup is failing to learn about spam, but one of them is. Maybe it's not updating its blackhole list.

This weekend, I'm going to beef up the anti-spam defenses, installing Akismet and everything else that I can find that might block it. Until then, don't be surprised if you suddenly find comments closed across the blog. I'm leaving them open on this one in case someone wants to suggest a neat anti-spam trick or plugin, though.

BTW Trackbacks have already been shut off again, probably for good this time. I've switched off sending trackbacks as well, except possibly to the aggregators that Movable Type auto-pings.

Name that Princess!

The Dutch Crown Prince Willem Alexander's new daughter is to be named tomorrow. His previous daughters are called Amalia and Alexia, and many observers expect that the third daughter's name will be similar. I for one think Alcydia has a nice ring to it, but there are quite a few other names that might also work. Anhedonia, Arrythmia, Afasia, Anorexia, Ambrosia, Apathia, Anaemia... add your own in the comments (while they still work)!

Slight delay in Friday's ROCR

The Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic for Friday, April 13, will be appearing on the site a couple of hours late. This delay allows me to take another look at the colouring and lettering while also keeping today's comic, and keep the links to the crossover with Life and Death on the front page a little longer. Life and Death has finally updated, with an extra-long comic featuring Kel and Atra, and I've been able to find the permalink for Thursday's L&D comic, so I'll be putting that into the right places right after posting this.

April 15, 2007

Gridlock

The third episode of the new series was a cracker. Russel T. Davies has written some stinkers - this wasn't one of them. Not a foot wrong from the pre-credit appearance of the American Gothic-looking couple to the Face of Boe's (inevitable) final revelation, which was the predictable one, but it worked. Tense, claustrophobic, and well-paced. I was on the edge of my seat. Wonderful. More of this, please.

April 18, 2007

The Team takes a couple of days off

The Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan team is taking Friday and Monday off to enjoy a long weekend of recharge, relaxation and recuperation.
What that means is that I take tomorrow and Friday off before getting back into scripting the next part of the story over the weekend, DFG and Calvin will not be nagged by me for contributions until Monday or possibly later, Mravac will not notice that anything has changed as he hasn't had to endure any nagging from me in weeks, and you will see fillers on the ROCR website on Friday and Monday, and possibly on Tuesday as well. I'm not sure, at this point, about Tuesday. The fillers will have new art in them, by Calvin and others.

There's no more crossing over scheduled for me until the middle of May. Before that I want to do a section that involves my own characters only, fighting off the Nightmare Invasion back in Clwyd-Rhan. I'll end the story with a longish section that's currently being plotted out for me by Geir, involving Duchess Alcydia and the Witch Queen. In all, I'll add another 20 updates to this one, making it 60-odd to 70 updates in total. An average length for a Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan story.

The Crossover Wars have been very hard work for me (not to mention the other Team members), but I got a lot out of it. Most noteworthy is the fact that I got to post 47 new ROCR updates in a row, which may not seem like a lot in the context of the giant archives, but is actually the longest streak of new updates in two years. And, like I said, I'll add some 20 more, assuring that the site gets more new ROCR content added than it got in all of 2006.

Also, I got a significantly greater readership out of it. I'm now hovering around the 1300 unique visitors per day line, which is over 300 more than I got at the start of Invasion two months ago. There are almost certainly some prior readers giving this storyline a miss because they don't like crossovers, but they're definitely in the minority. Of today's readers, only 140 have come directly through a link from a site associated with the crossover, so the rest of the difference between two months ago and now must be made up of people who have been sticking around since the start of the storyline. Welcome to the comic, and thanks for reading!

Finally, I got to do some collaborative cartooning. To be able to do the work, I've had to assemble a team of people helping out with backgrounds and colouring (though there have been days when I've had to do either or both of these jobs myself - unless and until I can pay people to assist me, I can't count on them being available all the time), and working with Calvin Bexfield, Drooling Fan Girl and Mravac Kid has been both a joy and a learning experience. In addition to that, work on ROCR has been done by Stephen Crowley (one guest comic scripted by me), Adam Cuerden, Jeroen Jager (guest comic in which Adam and Jeroen did most of the work) and, Geir Strøm. Finally, I've enjoyed working with the artists and writers on the other side of the crossovers: Hogan, Caitlin Woods, Ti-Phil, Jonathan Oliver, Inemesit Imoh, Gothia and Stephen Southworth (who hasn't technically crossed over with ROCR yet, but he's let me work on his scripts for the sequence he's doing now) and all the others who have been putting in their two cents.

Having said that, the downside was that even with all that help, it still took a lot of time and effort, and in past two weeks, I've been skimping on the art quality quite a bit. I'm overdue for a break. So enjoy the background articles I'll be posting as filler, and see you on Tuesday or Wednesday!

April 19, 2007

Project Wonderful sophomore slump update

I'd be remiss in my duties as a Project Wonderful watcher if I didn't mention that since my last post, my Project Wonderful earnings have gone up a bit (though not so much that I can start taking money out of the system, yet), and that I've seen some new advertisters crop up both here and elsewhere. Most notably, I saw an ad for Republican Presidential hopeful Ron Paul on the Clan of the Cats front page. It would be nice to think that the ad was placed there by Congressman Paul's own campaign committee, and in the long run, I can see that happening at least with the lesser-known, lesser-funded campaigns (I had heard of Ron Paul before, mostly in the context of his anti-war stance. But a likely contender he probably ain't). After all, PW isn't all that different from Blogads (now there's a thought - how about a Blogads-style ad format, with text, within the PW system?) as both are inexpensive, turnkey advertising systems. In this particular case, though, it looks more likely that a supporter of Mr. Paul bought the ad on his behalf. Which is a nice enough way to support a candidate.

It would seem that the Project Wonderful sophomore slump is over. I note that for some websites, such as Girl Genius 101, the slum appears never to have happened. Those big-audience webcomics can pull in $ 35 a day minus PW's 25% cut from Project Wonderful advertising. For a webcartoonist, that's pretty good money.

While I'm at it, here's that list of my ad slots again:
Buttons on all my webcomics pages, currently going for $ 0.09 each.
ROCR front-page only square ad, currently going for $ 0.20.
ROCR archive-only leaderboard, currently going for $ 1.80.
Square ad on the blog, currently going for the princely sum of $ 0.04.
Skyscraper ad on Chronicles of the Witch Queen, currently going for $ 0.30.

Readership on the webcomics pages has been going up steadily, so they may well be better locations for your ads than they were just two months ago.

April 20, 2007

La Planète Sauvage

I found the DVD edition of this in the shops: La Planète Sauvage, an influential, cult, animated movie by French director René Laloux. Didn't buy it because I can't afford any luxuries right now, but I did find that the entire film was on YouTube so I can at least preview it and share it with you. I've only seen the first two nine-minute fragments, but I can tell you it's trippy stuff. I've been told that it gets more disturbing and horrific as it goes on.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Update: I've seen the whole thing now, and while there is a lot that's interesting in the film from a visual style point of view, the thing falls apart a bit towards the end, and the supposedly horrific scenes actually look comically cartoonish, at least in the small YouTube window. May be different on a larger screen, I guess.

Also, my French has completely gone to shit and I can't follow half of the dialogue anymore. I need subtitles. So I just might get a copy of this movie if and when my financial situation allows it again.

This post is work-safe, if you're self-employed

From IRC, just now:


reinder: http://comics212.net/2007/04/19/afraid-of-cock/
M___ is not going to follow that link from a work PC
M___: In fact I think I'll go crash the server to corrupt the logs just in case
reinder :As far as I've read it, it's safe for work
reinder: Except if you're afraid of cock, I guess.
M___: See, that word ... it's not safe for work
M___: I think you're confused because of being self-employed

He's got a point. I make a point of taking full advantage of my self-employed-ness: I may be permanently stressed-out and one month away from eviction, but at least I can set my own hours and I can read the word "cock" on a computer I also work on.

The article with the word "cock" in it is a hilarious look at cock, specifically, cock appearing in an Alex Ross-painted cover sollicitation for Justice Society of America # 7 and the fanboys' reaction to it.


First and foremost, there's a reason that "Comics Should Be Good" isn't linked from my site, and the above is a good indicator of why. Second, that's what "Queer Fear" is, in case you were wondering. Brian and his 'buddy' Jake are 'creeped out' by a bulge in another guy's pants (artistic or otherwise). The idea that an artist chose to give a character an impressively-rendered package is actually frightening to these fellas, and the idea that his model might've had a good-sized package in real life? And Alex Ross decided NOT to neuterhim for some insane reason? Equally as creepy.

Needless to say, I'm pro-cock. Even as a kid, I found it vaguely annoying that so many comic characters had nothing whatsoever in their pants. It wasn't a showstopper of a flaw, but it did make many characters look more than a bit freaky. And in today's more adult-oriented comics culture, there's clearly been a double standard for some time. Read the article, which is lovingly backed up by reference pictures of male underwear models. Who have cocks. Cock-cock-cockkity-cock cocks. (Via Journalista!)

April 22, 2007

First, they exterminate Manhattan, then they exterminate Berlin.

First impression of Daleks in Manhattan: not very good. There were some good ideas in there, but the execution left a lot to be desired. The biggest problem was the acting: the BBC obviously has a huge, huge talent pool, but some things are simply too much to ask, and asking an ensemble cast of British actors to perform well while faking American accents is clearly one of them. The problem wasn't so much that the accents were bad, as such, though some were. Compared to Nicola Bryant's attempts 25 years ago, the bar has clearly been raised; the accents were consistent and there were even some attempts at diversification, with the black New Yorkers sounding like (generic) black Americans, the kid from Tennessee having a bit of a southern drawl going, and the showgirl type being from Queens or Brooklyn or wherever those showgirl types always come from. I can't pinpoint her accent with that much accuracy, but I'm sure some people would be able to. However, the effort involved in maintaining these accents hamstrung the performances and many of the characters came across as stiff and unconvincing as a result. This put a big damper on my engagement with the story.
The other problem was the reveal at the end, which managed to look even cheesier than the portrait of Dalek Sek's new form on this week's Radio Times.

A bit of a pity, really, because there was a lot to enjoy. There were lots of little filmic references (the corridor in the theatre looked like a shot out of The Blue Angel with the sad clown in it, the scenes on the scaffolding of the Empire State Building looked like classic photographs of working men from the era), there were Daleks using the brains they were cultivated with for a change, and the honest poor folks in Hooverville were painted as people you'd want to know more about. The script had some nice paralellism between what Solomon, the Hooverville community leader person, and Diagoras, the foreman-who'd-become-a-Dalek-stooge each brought back from the Great War, with one of them being ennobled by it and the other hardened and corrupted. This will probably be a setup for the next episode, as we're constantly reminded that the Doctor himself fought in a Great War.

Their names, incidentaly, are possibly significant. Solomon is wise and even hands out a Solomon's judgement (splitting the bread); Diagoras is apparently named after a Greek atheistic philosopher. I got that last tidbit from the Doctor Who communities, by the way.

I do hope next week's episode is a bit better. It's going to be difficult, because being the second part of a two-part story it will likely have the same problems as Daleks in Manhattan, but at least it will have all the mysterious business out of the way and all the players in position for a confrontation. AND there'll be some exterminatin'. That's what we want from our sink-plungered-pals, right?

April 23, 2007

Your blog comment may not appear immediately, but commenting still works, for now

Overnight, the SpamCatcher plugin on my Movable Type installation failed rather spectacularly, allowing some thirty spams to pass and get published without even getting flagged. Half of these were gibberish comments, which are very difficult to filter, but the other half were "Good site! Thanks, have some spam" comments, which the regular expression filter should have caught, but didn't. In other words, under conditions which apply to a small blog that only a handful of people post comments to, SpamCatcher can not be relied on to work properly. Bit of a disappointment, that.
Cleaning up spam takes a lot of time, especially because another misfeature of Movable Type is its resource hogging. Every rebuild of a post here comes close to hitting the resource limits Xepher.net imposed after a spam attack on this very MT installation took down the entire server two years ago. Mass rebuilds such as those I carry out after a spam cleanup hit those limits, causing the process to time out, so that the spam stays on the published site.

I really don't want to close comments, so instead I'll gradually escalate my spam defenses. Step one is raising the junk filter threshold, so that more things will get junked based on the probability of them being spam. This will not reduce the time spent looking over the comments in the backend, as I'll have to fish legitimate comments out of the junk folder, but it will cut down on mass rebuilds. It also won't make the regex-based filtering functional, but it should at least get me rid of the gibberish.

If it doesn't work well enough, I may hold all comments for moderation, or go to authenticated commenters only. Or as a last resort, I may switch off commenting again until an anti-spam system that works can be installed.

I'm even open to switching blog software, though this will also lead to me having to do work that I Really Don't Want To Do. I'm unimpressed with Wordpress, because it's a single-blog system that you need to arm-twist and wrangle into doing multi-blogging, but there may be other systems that do what I want a blogging application to do.

Take Pharyngula to number one!

Sure, I'll help Pharyngula become the number one Minnesota blog, no problem. It's one of my favorite blogs, covering atheism, evolutionary biology, adorable cephalopods and lately, the thorny subject of how to talk about science (he's in favour of the revolutionary approach of letting scientists be scientists). There's the occasional bit of Internet drama, which also helps, and Professor Myers has got a good sense of humour and pulls no punches. Go read it. You will enjoy it. I ORDER you to enjoy it.

In the latest blog redesign, I ended up declaring "to hell with the blogroll day", but I still follow all the blogs that used to be on the published blogroll, and more. Never mind. I just about qualify as a Z-list blogger by default, because there aren't any more letters in the alphabet unless you start using the Scandinavian alphabet, in which case I'd be an æ-list blogger by default. And anyway, I like linking inside a post better.

Slower update schedule for a while, with more fillers and side-comics

Just a few days ago, I thought "hmmm... if my readership goes on riding so high, it would be almost a crime to cut down on updates" and even said in a few public places that if I passed 1500, I'd compensate for the fillers, and progressively increase the update schedule if I passed other readership thresholds.

Well, when my readership didn't pass 1500 that day, I was actually a bit relieved. And... I'm eating crow, right now. I've thought about it, and there are so many other things I have to tend to this week, and I want to increase the quality of the art a bit from its low points of the last two weeks, and if I go on working like I did over the past two months (as well as being a complete slave-driver to the kind people who have been assisting me), I'm going to drive myself over a cliff, health-wise and financially. It would be much better to allow myself some recovery time so I don't work on my pages while tired. In short, I'm going to cut down the schedule of real updates to three a week for the next two weeks, after which there is more crossover stuff planned again. Increasing the schedule over and above five a week is out of the question under any circumstances, except people giving me lots of money.

This week, new comics will appear on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Next week, it'll be a more conventional Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule, with fillers inbetween.

I will add more fillers like the ones I posted Friday and today, though. Giving cast and worldbuilding pages on the front page guarantees that they will be read, proofread and commented on, and that in turn guarantees that by the time they are moved to their final place in the Cast and World sections, they'll be worth reading, correct and exhaustive. Everybody wins!

Also, I'll dig up and post the final unremastered Pin Drop comics and get started on re-re-re-mastering Tips for Lazy Buggers from the old site on users.bart.nl/~samizdat, which will soon be shut down. My pledge to post 365 updates in 2007 still stands, even though we're a dozen or so behind right now.

Health update

For future reference: I am now finally free of the flu symptoms that have been plagueing me on and off, but mostly on, since the beginning of March. I've still got a lingering sort of a cough, but that seems to be largely the result of throat irritation caused by coughing.
I went running today with my club, and found that I had full use of my lungs and no major loss of condition. Good. I feel flabby though, because I haven't been very physically active lately. Time to step up the exercise regime.

This flu epidemic seems to have been a hard one to beat. My father told me his flu symptoms kept coming back, and I've read similar from Crossover Wars participants on their forum. They feel better for a few days and it's back to the sickbed. Pete Ashton seems to have had it particularly bad - staying housebound for so long that after he got better, he took a flyer delivery job just to get back in shape! Good thinking, that. I should get a job like that. And he came out of the ordeal a non-smoker, at least for the time being.

I can't help but wonder how much productivity this year's epidemic has destroyed, and whether that alone may not be a good reason for governments to increase their vaccination capacity and offer free vaccinations to a wider range of people. It's likely that that would pay for itself. It would also improve herd immunity protecting individuals like myself who are at an increased risk of death from the flu. Of course, I've pretty much got my own life in my hand as far as that's concerned. Did I mention that I will never, ever, forget to get my flu shots again? I think I did.

April 24, 2007

Bill O'Reilly's interview of Richard Dawkins

Bill O'Reilly, an American right-wing pundit recently interviewed Richard Dawkins about the God Delusion. There's a Youtube video here

I think what's most surprising is how nice things were. Yes, most of O'Reilly's points were pretty stupid, but he was calm, polite, and in the end said "I will say, your book is fascinating and thank you for coming on here." O'Reilly's views are probably not far off from a good proportion of his audience's, so having them brought out in the open and the reasons why they're wrong explained politely can only increase the acceptance of atheists and agnostics in America. Given the recent incident of atheists being hounded out of their home and job, this can only be good.

...This was a surprising polite debate, covering some of the (very) basic main points, and letting Dawkins have his say more than I expected. O'Reilly obviously differs strongly from Dawkins, but must deserve credit for allowing - even fostering - debate on his show. Good on him.

-Adam

Cute overload in the deep seas

Jelena sent me the link to a page of photographs of animals in the deap sea commenting that I'd find those freaky-yet-cute creatures inspirational. I guess I would.

I've got my doubts about readigg.com, though. It looks sploggy to me - a fake web directory cobbled together from scraped RSS feeds and stolen content for no other purpose than to have something to have advertising on. On the other hand, it does host the images itself rather than deeplinking them from the original site The Deep from where the photos are taken, and it does present them in a way that's less clumsy than on the original site's javascript-driven gallery (though the original site is prettier), so it does at least add some value.
Officially, I urge you all to go to The Deep, but I don't think I'd have had the patience to look at that site if I hadn't first seen the photos presented in a normal web page on the presumed-to-be-thieves' site.

(Link to readigg nofollow-ized, the first link in a blog post here to earn that dubious distinction. Link to The Deep's gallery extracted from a longer javascript link)

By the way, the oldest book I own that I still use on a regular basis is a Dutch edition of the book Fishes of the World by Danish author Hans Hvass. My aunt, a librarian, took it home from the writeoff pile and gave it to me when I was, er, eight? Can't quite remember. I was fascinated by it and would often spend idle hours just browsing through it looking for freaky-looking fish. These days, I use the battered volume as a reference work in case Kel and Krakatoa get into one of their regular fish-slapping fights. I don't want them to assault one another with the same species of fish every time.

Unfortunately, some of the coolest fish are tiny, inedible or just not available in a setting based on Western Europe, ca. 1000, so they I can't make them fight with angler fish or spookfish. Though I guess I'll cheat, one day.

April 25, 2007

Wednesday running: heat, flies, frogs and more heat.

First Wednesday training in months. The Wednesday trainings at my club are more strenuous than the Monday ones, so being able to do one again and finish it without pain is a big step in the right direction.

I'm paying more attention to figuring out what I do and don't like. I think I mostly like running:
On asphalt;
In cold weather; and
Steadily over a middle-to-long distance.

I dislike running with poor visibility. I don't mind dynamic exercises in moderation, such as a quick dash up a slope, but I don't like spending the entire training doing that. And I think I don't like running in hot weather, such as what I had to endure today.

But apart from the heat, I got what I wanted. Mostly paved, flat track, and we did a middle-distance exercise, running along the Reitdiep from bridge to bridge, in a group, with either a single runner or a pair of runners taking turns to lead the group. I think dynamic exercises would have been a pretty bad idea in the heat anyway, so I pretty much expected that distance running would be on the menu.

Running along a canal is pretty nice right now. There's a lot to see if you have the energy to look around you. Lots of people enjoying the evening air, migratory birds coming back from their winter residences, and towards the end I took an opportunity to stop for a bit to take a look at the frogs that were making a big racket in the ditches. There were a lot of them, and they were quite big, and randy enough not to care that people could see them.

Unfortunately, the club is closed next Monday because of Queen's Day, April 30. I might go for a run on my own, and I'll definitely be back next Wednesday for hopefully more of this.

April 27, 2007

Jon Swift has a drawing assignment for you

Jon Swift:


If Chris Muir drew Charles Schulz's Peanuts, for example, he wouldn't have bothered drawing a panel showing Lucy pulling the football away at the last minute when Charlie Brown tries to kick it. That would be too Old School for him. Instead, Muir would just have Lucy say, "Democrats always pull the football away at the last minute when you are trying to kick it, Charlie Brown." Lucy and Charlie Brown would also probably be in their underwear.

Internet meme in 5... 4... 3....

April 30, 2007

A pig in a poke (spoilers for Evolution of the Daleks)

No, no, no, no, no!

Last week, some Doctor Who fans on Livejournal responded to criticism of Daleks in Manhattan by saying this was the best Dalek story since Genesis of the Daleks, Evil of the Daleks, Planet of the Daleks, you name it. THEY-ARE-INCORRECT!
Taken as a whole, the two-parter of Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks wasn't even the best Dalek story since Doomsday. it wasn't a Dalek story at all. It was a Cybermen story with the word "Cybermen" struck out and "Daleks" scribbled above it. Some other superficial changes were made: instead of a Cyber Controller in his station, we got a battle station that a Dalek fits into; instead of a cybernetic laboratory where the victims were hacked and slashed to bits, we got a genetics laboratory in which dead people's brains are filled with Dalek DNA —

And that brings me right to the second thing I hated about this episode. Just for once, could we have an episode where the science isn't 100% bullshit? 90% bullshit, I'm with you; 80% bullshit and I'll take time out to specifically praise the science in this here blog, 70% bullshit and I'll be as happy as a pig in shit. But for God's sake, try. Five minutes with the Great Gizzoogle and Wikipedia will take you to the level where 10% or more isn't baloney, bunkum or balderdash. And we'll have none of that "using gamma radiation from a solar flare, looking exactly like lightning, powering up the DNA-splicing machine that turns quasi-dead empty shells of human beings into Daleks with human bodies, only not really, because the Doctor is on top of the lightning rod when the flare strikes so that his DNA gets mixed up with that of the quasi-dead empty shells of human beings hundreds of meters below instead". Those aren't ideas you engage with or even suspend disbelief for. Those are ideas you point and laugh at before launching into a reactionary tirade about how science education in Britain has clearly gone to shit. Besides, everyone knows that gamma radiation will make you green and musclebound.

Rrright. I think that gets the criticism of the script out of the way. Sorry about the vulgarity – I mean sorry about it being insufficient. I should have been much ruder but I'm not feeling inspired today.

Thing I Hated Number 3. The acting. And I mean "acting" in the loosest sense of the word. What I said last week about the accents not being Nicola Bryant-level bad? I take it back. Tallulah even took over some Peri-like mannerisms. Solomon's accent slipped (though considering what he had to work with in this part, I can forgive him), as did Frank's. And I liked his character. Decent, average young man caught in a terrible situation and holding his own. Very American Dream, even if the girl decided to stick with the piggy in the end. He just about scraped through, believability-wise, but he didn't sound like he was from Tennessee at all.

Were there any good bits? Well, yeah. Despite it not being a Dalek story, I enjoyed the scenes in the basement, with the Daleks' interaction with Ex-Dalek Sec, the Doctor and especially one another. There was a wonderful moment where one Dalek spoke eyestalk-to-eyestalk with another, discussing what they thought about Sec's behaviour, and the second Dalek turned his head to look if no one was watching. The director and the Dalek operators at the BBC were clearly having a lot of fun making those things act. Nicolas Brigg's timing in that sequence was impeccable as well.

Solomon's extermination was a nice surprise; I expected hick-boy to be the one to buy it. I liked the switch from the Doctor seemingly launching into a Star Trek style appeal to Sec's humanity, using the radio and its music as a prop, to turning his sonic screwdriver on it and making it produce a ghastly noise that Daleks couldn't handle. Though now that I think about it, it's a bit strange that Daleks would be so vulnerable.

Finally, once you accept that Manhattan/Evolution really a Cybermen story, it's not so bad. At least these Cybermen didn't plod and plonk about looking bloody stupid; they had lovely 1940s costumes on and ... oh, who am I kidding. They did look pretty stupid. But better than the silver stompers.

Tennant and Agyema were good as always though. Sorry, force of habit here. I thought Agyema was a bit crap in this, too, to be honest. Miranda Raison's horrible acting must have been contagious. Tennant was good, but not as good as he's been earlier in the series. I think both can do a lot better.

First update: Gamma Radiation bursts from earth triggered by lightning, a scientific explanation of a phenomenon that is almost entirely, but not completely, unlike what Helen Raynor put in the script. Even so, we're at 99% bullshit and falling. (Hat tip: John Nor commenting on Behind the Sofa.)

New Project Wonderful ad and future donation campaign

In response to the recent, slight uptick in Project Wonderful advertising I've observed, anecdotally, on my own and other sites, I've added another ad slot on the front page. This is a single, half-banner-format ad between the comic and the blog. As such, it might be good for advertising things that aren't strictly comics, things that appeal to the part of the readership that scrolls on below the comic to see what rants my co-bloggers and I have to offer. If you want to appeal purely to Waffle readers, though, the square ad on the blog itself may be a better match for you.

I've also tried to put up another donation button, going back to basics with the standard Paypal button using the latest revision of their button code. Unfortunately, what should have been a five-minute job of picking a button from Paypal's website and sticking it into my front page template where I wanted it turned into an hour-long brainracker that ended in failure. Wherever I put the button, it displays at double size, and I no longer understand my own stylesheet code well enough to fix that problem. I'll either have to create a button that fits the dimensions my style sheet dictates, or comb through the style sheet to simplify it to the point where I can understand what's going on, removing code that's no longer used and sorting things so that everything is legible again. Both tasks will cut into my drawing time, though, and I'm already very late with Wednesday's comic. I don't even have enough material for Tuesday's filler! So no matter how important and urgent this is in my current, dire financial situation, it'll have to wait.

For testing purposes, here's the button code, as created by Paypal (so with my previous attempts at wrapping it into divs to control the display removed):

It looks all right on the blog but when I put it on the rocr.net home page, it's so big an eyesore that I can't leave it there while I'm not actively working on it. Feel free to click it and donate! But right now, I'm more interested in hearing why it's not displaying as it should, and what I can do about it. My stylesheet code is here.

No front page comic on Tuesday - archival Pin Drop comic instead

I didn't get as much as a filler done for Tuesday - I got started on Wednesday's proper Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic unexpectedly late, and by the time I was able to send it off to Mravac for colouring, it was already 1 AM, and I draw the line at starting a new drawing or background article at that time of night. My apologies. Things will be back to normal soon, scheduling-wise.

Instead of posting a filler, I've scanned an old one-pager, Juggling, and posted it in the Pin Drop archive. Juggling isn't all that significant by itself but it is part of the greater whole of what I was trying to do with the run of wordless comics I was doing between 1997 and 1999. With the addition of Juggling, that run is now almost completed. The twelve-page story Injury and the one-pager Sponge, which is similar to Juggling still need to be scanned and posted, which will happen real soon now. I've got the master copies of Injury ready at the studio; Sponge will take a little longer because I can't find the original. It's still in my archives, though. Somewhere.
I'm babbling, ain't I? It's because I'm very sleepy right now.

About April 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Waffle in April 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2007 is the previous archive.

May 2007 is the next archive.

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

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