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July 2007 Archives

July 1, 2007

Last of the Time Lords

See The Sound of Drums.

Edit: No, on second thought, don't. I'm watching Confidential now, because I'm such a nerd, and seeing those scenes again, even as the actors and crew are working on them, puts a knot in my stomach from the sheer stupidity of it all. It's an embarrassment. The fact that I was watching the episode on Sunday morning with, if not an actual hangover, enough alcohol residues in my system to take the edge off me a bit, allowed me to let it wash over me just the one time, but the moment the brain gets engaged at all, it rejects what I've just been watching as utter shite. I'd just as soon have another shot at watching the Sixth Doctor storyline Mark of the Rani as look at this again.

Confidential made me realise another thing. People made this. Actual actors and directors and camera crew and set designers and whatever else spent weeks of their lives making this. The actors and director in particular spent a lot of time in tone meetings and read-throughs and rehearsals with the producer and script editor and other powerful people in a position to stop this, and none of them said "Russell, love, this is shit." David Tennant, Freema Agyeman, John Simm, Adjoa Andoh, no matter how good your acting performances were, you are as much to blame for this as Russel T. Davies is. The other day I watched a documentary about Tom Baker's final season, because I'm such a nerd. And I'll tell you this: Tom Baker wouldn't have stood for this. He'd have gone on strike, gone to the pub one lunchtime and not come back until he'd had a completely revised script that didn't suck. And then he'd have done the next filming session completely hammered, just to discourage the writers from ever pulling that shit again. There's something to be said for difficult actors.

But apart from that, surely there was someone on set, maybe a humble key grip or best boy or whatever those people down the credits list do, who could have thought, hey, I get minimum wage for this and there are plenty of other jobs to go around, and gone and dropped the higher-ups a memo to say that, you know, this script is really, really rubbish?

July 3, 2007

On anniversary arts, stupid mistakes, and my failures at getting people to kick my ass.

Two things:

1. Yesterday's anniversary art has been moved to its own section on the archives all the way down the list. Or you can look at the submissions by following the link to my own drawing of Jodoque as an avenging angel and going on from there. I want to thank all the artists involved for responding to me at short notice and drawing art for me. There are few things I find more encouraging.

2. There are few things I find more discouraging than realising that a prominent front page link, like the one to my drawing of Jodoque as an avenging angel has been broken for almost a day and no one has said anything. I used to have a link for emailing me about broken bits on the front page, but nobody used it except spammers, so I took it down. I still have a generic contact link on the front page in the right column, but nobody uses that either - people seem to prefer to try to contact me with email addresses that have been dead for over two years (nevermind how often I've mentioned it being dead during that period), or using a comment to an archive entry that's unrelated to the part of the site that has been broken.

Well, the email link is now back. I'd have it flash and blink and make adorable "click me" noises, but I doubt it would help. If anything's broken? Email reinder.dijkhuis@gmail.com and I'll drop whatever I'm doing to fix it. I'll even turn off the gas when I'm cooking dinner. Honestly. And I will be grateful to you for kicking my ass. Emailing any other address, or putting your complaint in a comment where I won't find it until hours later and then go "huh, whatshetalkingabout" at it, will probably just trigger another public sulk like this one.

Uhm, apologies for the inconvenience. Yeah, I make mistakes. I'm a bit thick, really.

July 4, 2007

Caffeine addiction and schedule wobbliness

I was going to keep this to myself, but since it affects both comic production and my general online behaviour, I ought to give you all a heads-up. Don't worry, it's nothing bad.

I'm trying to kick my caffeine habit again. Unlike the last time, a few years ago, I'm not going cold turkey. But I am restricting my caffeine intake to the period before noon. So far, the effect on my mood and intellectual/creative performance hasn't been nearly as bad as it was the last time, but I did get a moderately nasty withdrawal headache yesterday, which the morning's coffee intake didn't manage to dispell, and I did spend the day being muddle-headed and in a foul mood. It also showed in the quality and timeliness of the work I did on today's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan update and in the many mistakes I made posting text to the comic and blog sections yesterday.

On the plus side, I've had two great nights' sleep. Coffee had been fucking up my sleep rhythm so badly that for the past two decades I haven't had much of an idea what my real sleep rhythm actually was. And I'm a lot better today. Still not optimal, but almost as good as I've been with regular doses throughout the day (which admittedly wasn't very). In another week or so, I expect to be feeling great.

Nevertheless, I'm doing this at a time when I'm already having trouble keeping up the pace of the comic. There may or may not be an update tomorrow. There will be four regular comic updates this week; I just don't know what days they will appear on. After this week, unless people suddenly start donating money again, I'll be back to three comics a week, which will be a relief.

July 5, 2007

No new comics until Monday

Sorry all — I'm taking a break from updating regularly until Monday, July 9. It's the only way I can stop chasing my own tail, get the production organised again (which it hasn't been since the week both colourists dropped off with computer problems) and get a decent quality of work out of my hands. Let alone do a whole bunch of non-comic things that I've been delaying for too long.

I'll try to catch up with the schedule next week, though. I was going to drop back to three a week starting that week, but once the organisation is back on track, I might be able to do four for a little longer to make up for lost time. We'll see.

Caffeine really is an amazing drug.

One possible reason for me not to kick the coffee habit entirely:

This coffee and asthma treatment can help a patient who is suffering from an onset of asthma symptoms and finds himself without an inhaler breathe more easily until the inhaler can be obtained. This emergency treatment has proven extremely effective due to the similarities between caffeine and a tried-and-true asthma medication known as theophylline.

The similarities between these two chemicals lead doctors to routinely advise patients who are about to undergo tests for lung function to avoid coffee and other caffeinated beverages for one to two days prior to the time of the test.

Several large coffee and asthma studies conducted in the past few years have examined the relationship between drinking coffee and the prevalence of asthma. A study of over seventy thousand Italians showed that there was a significant reduction in the appearance of asthma amongst patients who would regularly drink coffee.

The risk of asthma symptoms fell by 28% when patients drank three or more cups of coffee every day.

In 1992, the Second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES II) examined over twenty thousand Americans. The study found that the risk of symptoms from patients with asthma going into the study fell dramatically (over 29%) when patients who regularly drank coffee were compared with patients who did not drink coffee on a regular basis.

In addition, the risk of patients suffering from wheeze fell almost 13%. A relationship was also found between the amount of coffee consumed and the effects gained by the asthma patients. Those who drank more coffee had fewer symptoms; those who drank less coffee had more symptoms.

And I was browsing through old issues of Runner's World at my club's home the other day, and it mentioned that filtered coffee also works as a cholesterol reducer. Unfortunately, I've become rather fond of cafetiere coffee since Adam's last visit...

Update: I would like to note that the site that article I quoted from was on looked more than a bit sploggy to me, and that a Google search for "Coffee asthma" turned up a number of borderline quacky sites. It would seem that caffeine's bronchodilatory effect is fairly well-known. A summary of one of the studies mentioned (though not properly cited) in the article can be found at Chestjournal.org.

Headsmen art for sale

It's time for me to start worrying about next month's rent again, so I'm offering some more new originals for sale through the webcomicsnation swapmeet. But you can buy them from this page as well. These are some of my favourite pages from the Headsmen storyline:

Headsmen1a - click to view
Page for January 9, 2006. $ 80 including shipping and handling. Description

Headsmen1b - Click to view
Page for January 10, 2006.. $80 including shipping and handling. Description

Headsmen 5a -Click to view
Page for January 19, 2006. $80 inc. shipping and handling. Description

Page for January 20, 2006. $80 including shipping and handling. Description

All payments are handled by Paypal. You don't need a Paypal account to buy; a valid Visa or Mastercard will do the trick quite nicely.

The listing system at Webcomicsnation, as observed before, is clunky and doesn't allow me to show the products properly. Entering this listing in the blog was sheer torture, with the first Paypal button appearing broken in the preview (I will have to publish this entry to see if the problem shows up in publication as well). I will investigate some way of making the process of listing, selling and buying original art more straightforward. If any of my readers have any experience with e-commerce systems such as OScommerce, please let me know.

July 8, 2007

Possibly the most effective fundraiser in webcomics

I did some advertising on the fantasy webcomic Exiern a while ago. The comic is not my favorite thing in the world (see Robert A. Howard's capsule review. While his comparison between writer Drowemos' early art and that of Jamie Robertson is absurd, the rest of his description is good enough), but advertising on it has been worth my while.

What I do find fascinating about it is the money it attracts. According to its Project Wonderful stats, it has an audience of about 10,000 visitors a day, which is quite impressive for an obscure webcomic. But from that audience, it has managed to raise $1800 in a month to pay its artist with and the writer is about to start up new web projects with the money. While there have been other webcomics that have raised as much in a similar period, they tend to be better-known ones that generate more buzz and inspire visible fanaticism from their audiences.

Drowemos should rent himself out as business manager to struggling webcartoonists. He seems to be doing the obvious thing: create donation-only wallpapers, offer subscriptions to uncensored versions of Exiern, that sort of thing. Yes, we know that tittilation works, especially in combination with good art. Drowemos and Studio Boom have made it work much better than I've learned to expect. And it's bringing in respectable Project Wonderful money.

Anyway. I just wanted to offer this up as a data point. There are comics out there that raise funds effectively and make themselves self-financing, while still staying under the radar of the big webcomics blogs.

The state of the assembly line

My very first job was in a powdered milk factory, filling cans on a conveyor belt. One day, the conveyor belt, which was one of three different but connected machines, broke, and the entire assembly line stopped. No one in the entire room worked until the conveyor belt, which was reputed to have been bought from a factory in the German Democratic Republic, was repaired. In the second room, the forklift guys continued working, but it was clear that they too would have to stop if the problem lasted long enough.

The assembly line for Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan is running again, but like the one at that factory, it's running at half speed while some persistent problems are being worked on. Calvin is available for a few hours a week to do backgrounds. DFG is available to colour, but her Internet connection is still shaky. Mravac's PC is still out of commission, and while he's making do with Paint Shop Pro 5 on an old machine, he can't do colour work on large comics pages that way. And there's my rather urgent need to spend less time on the comic and more time on finding work that actually pays the bills.

The update schedule will be back to Monday, Wednesday and Friday for a few more weeks while I sloooooowly buffer up again. I'd like to do more; we're very close to the end of the story, and I've got some nice stuff written for that. But three is what's doable so three is what you'll get.

July 9, 2007

People in Groningen who like cats, lend me your ear!

My brother is going to be in England for six months, and has been looking for temporary homes for his cats (he's managed to acquire seven of them in a year). Unfortunately, he's had to leave a week earlier than expected, and all seven cats are still in his house. My father will be looking after them once or twice a day for a week, but that's not something you can do for months on end. I took care of his cats over Christmas, but back then there were only four of them, and even then they triggered my allergies just a little bit, and, as I found out while visiting my brother's place yesterday, I get wheezy pretty quickly now that there are seven of them in the house.

So, if you live in or around Groningen, the Netherlands, and want a cat (or two - but no one is expecting anyone to take all seven) to keep you company for a few months, please give me a call. We have a wide range of colours, ages and temperaments on offer, ranging from nearly-grown kittens to elderly mother cats and from the extremely sociable to the very self-reliant. All but one of the cats have been neutered and all have had their shots, with papers to prove it.

My brother is also willing to let someone live in his house for free if they agree to look after the however many cats remain in there. Might be worth your while if you've got a temporary job in the city.

Your musical reading for today

Vanity Fair has a lovely eight-page article called Songs in the Key of Lacerating on the sprawling and very talented Wainwright/McGarricle clan. Read it. (Via)

I'm pleased to report that our studio hasn't been flooded. About half of our neighbours, on the other hand, are not so lucky.

At a little after six, just as I was done admiring the giant hailstones that had been falling around the studio, and had gone back to my laptop to tell some of my friends about it in IRC, Kitty from the costuming studio at the beginning of the hall came in to ask me for the corporate landlords' emergency phone number. She said that she had a major leakage from the roof, causing flooding in her studio and was going downstairs to the studio below hers to check if it wasn't seeping through there. I looked up the number, came after her to give it to her, and then got on with scavenging the area for buckets, waste bins and other containers to put under the leaky spot.

The leakage was bad! It looked more like a pipe had sprung a leak than the sort of thing you usually get with rain seeping through the roof. Her entire floor was submerged and the bucket she had put under the leak was already overflowing. As it turned out, the studio below her did have some minor seepage, but it was nothing compared to what was happening to hers. Two people from that other studio also helped out with buckets, moving vulnerable objects and also bailing out the floor. Luckily, Kitty's home decor taste runs to the Brutalist, so she has a bare concrete floor that water could easily be scooped up from. Not so luckily, her studio-mate, an animation student, had a case full of paper materials for his graduation project in the path of the flood water. Most of that was salvaged, though, but it was a close call.

That studio wasn't the only one affected by leakage though. At the other end of the hall, two other studios have been flooded - we could tell because water was running off into the hallway from them. Unfortunately, the users of those studios weren't in, and were unwilling or unable to come over to check the damage, so the extent of the damage there isn't known. I have reason to believe that in at least one of them, it could be considerable, because I paid a visit to the office below that one, and it looked like a pipe had sprung there as well.

As someone who wasn't personally affected by the flooding, I found bailing out, tossing buckets of water out of a third-floor window (and possibly onto the heads of poolgoers below), and mopping up the hallway afterwards rather fun. At some point I had to wipe a goofy grin off my face as Kitty, who saw her life's work and that of her studio-mate in danger, looked me straight in the eye. Yeah, I know. It wouldn't be fun if it was my stuff going to hell. But it was a break in the monotony, and an opportunity to meet the people on the floor below me, who I rarely exchange more than a few words with.

Kitty's workplace has a drain duct leading right through it, and that was where the leak was, which explains why it gushed down so badly. I don't know about the places at the back of the hall.

I do know that one reason we (the five of us using no. 3-21) escaped from this was that we'd spotted a leak one or two years ago during a similar, though less severe, storm. That did mild damage to a few comic books, which is a low price to pay for being forewarned and prepared. Lucky us... but we're still going to look into insuring our studio against this sort of thing.

... After the storm, those of us who were still hanging around in the building were treated to a fantastic double rainbow. Also, walking down the tree-lined path by the cemetary on my way out, I spotted the biggest rainworm I'd ever seen, crossing the road at great speed and with more determination than I'd ever think a creature with no face or limbs could possibly be able to express. What this summer lacks in hours of sunlight, it makes up for in freakiness.

Update: Not to be outdone, Geir emails a link to an Aftenposten article with pictures of the flooding in Kongsberg, Norway, where he works. Damn those Scandinavians and their one-upmanship!

July 10, 2007

Minor site updates

I've updated my online biography partly to reflect the fact that I'm looking for work, but also to clarify that I'm in the Netherlands after a reviewer at the Giant in the Playground forums got that wrong.

I've also updated the full list of comics I've got online, streamlining the list itself a bit, adding a few comics and de-linking a few others. The ones I've de-linked are currently only hosted on my old personal website at http://users.bart.nl/~samizdat, which I expect to go down the next time my former ISP has to clean up its servers. I haven't had FTP access to the site in over a year, anyway, and at least one javascript on that site now does something completely different from what it did when I put it there. Time to let it go off into that great web archive in the sky. I hope my email address there gets shut down soon as well; it's been a repository of spam for some time, checked only for the one message in 10,000 that could possibly, conceivably, actually be a legit email message for me.

It's possible that I've forgotten to de-link some comics on the list or update some URL that is no longer valid. If you find one, let me know. The de-linked comics will eventually be back in re-scanned, remastered form.

July 11, 2007

Deaths of the Haemoclysm, by religion

Parrotline has run the numbers of the death tolls of the various wars in the 20th-Century haemoclysm, separating them by religious affiliation. World War II is, quite wisely, listed separately because it's a complex event and separating out all the religious affiliations involved is going to take the scholars until Doomsday. Numbers are shown for deaths in 20th/21st-century wars by religious affiliation of warring parties and deaths in worst 20th/21st-century genocides by religious affiliation of killers and victims. The final scorecard:

Wars involving European-Christians and Asian Buddhists (incl. WWII) have killed 154.8 million people in the past century. Wars involving Muslims (incl. WWII) have killed 25.6 million people in the past century.

Major genocides & atrocities committed by European-Christians and Asian Buddhists have killed 84.0 million people in the past century. Major genocides & atrocities committed by Muslims have killed 3.5 million people in the past century.


July 16, 2007

Comments on the comic under threat - new measures in place

If you've tried and failed to get a comment published in the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic archives, let me know. The comic has been under a sustained spam attack for over a day now, with almost half of all IPs and pageviews being the node that gets served when a comment is blocked. To deal with this more efficiently, Mithandir has installed an upgrade to the comment system allowing me to quarantine comment spam. Most of the new batch of spam doesn't get blocked until it reaches the content-based filters, which are processor-intensive. With the quarantine, I should be able to see what IP addresses are used for sending the spam, and block those, which is more efficient.

However, there's always the possibility that something has been broken in the upgrade and legitimate comments get blocked. I already know the upgrade didn't go smoothly, so I'm keeping an eye out for both legitimate comments getting blocked and oodles of spam passing through.

The above does not affect the weblog, where comments will remain closed for the time being.

Translation job-hunting linklog

Today, I'm looking for vacancies in the translation and editing fields. To help me remember what I've been checking out, I'll be keeping a log of sites I've visited and what I've done with the information I've found.

I'll be doing this more often, I hope. Last week, I finally did what I've been telling myself and others I'd be doing for a year or so, and signed up with the Centrum voor Werk en Inkomen and applied for income support. One condition for getting income support is that you actively look for work, meaning that on average, you send at least one job application per week. I don't find this all that onerous and fully intend to send more than that. I rather like the idea of earning money, I have plans for my life that I can't pay for with just a handout for the government, and I've even, over the past year, made my peace with working for a boss again. I've been a struggling sole proprietor for over six years, and while I haven't exactly been a starving artist, I've had to give up quite a lot to be able to do that. I'm a bit fed up with that, so it's time for a change. Assimilation into the System, here I come, and I for one welcome any corporate overlords willing to exploit me for financial profit.

But to keep myself on the ball, it's probably a good idea for me to not just report to the relevant bureaucratic institutions whenever they want me to, but to report to the readership of the webcomic and weblog as well. Just so that, should I find myself slacking, there's an audience of several hundred people willing to kick my ass. Have I ever told you people I like it when people kick my ass? Maybe I should look for a position as a professional submissive.
Also, my memory isn't all that good, so it's a good idea for me to write down both what I intend to do and what I've actually done (I actually have difficulty separating the two, which explains a lot about me) as the intention occurs or the action takes place, respectively.

So here goes, below the cut:

Continue reading "Translation job-hunting linklog" »

Studio flood update

Since last week's rain flood in our building, Kitty has learned that she will have her entire concrete floor replaced. It's still impossible for her and her studio-mate to work in her studio, because the water evaporating from the soaked floor causes paper in the room to curl up. Bummer.

The corridors here are still filled with furniture, appliances and artworks from the affected offices and studios. We could be looking at that for a couple more weeks at the least, unless the owners of the stuff decide to put it in storage off-site. There is talk in the corridors and workfloors of filing damage claims against the housing corporation. I think they have a good case; it's their responsibility to maintain the roof and drains. I do find it odd that one drain was routed through the inside of the building like that.

Anyway... new concrete on the floor is going to cost a bundle. And I'm not sure how it will affect our studio at 3-21. It's quite possible that construction work on the floor will affect our ability to use the studio. I'll keep an eye out for messages from the housing corp.

The running group as a network

At the end of the training this evening, one runner asked me if I had any vacation plans. I said "No, I'm broke" and told her about the work I'd been doing and the plans I had for a career change. When I mentioned translation, another runner butted in and suggested I applied with [company from the list I posted earlier]. I said I had been to their website and that I knew they were looking for both freelancers and staff translators. I asked her if she worked there. She said she worked for [company I had actually applied with in May last year], so I asked her if she was the one who'd stolen my vacancy.

She answered that the vacancy had gone to a candidate with eight years' consecutive experience. That was interesting - I hadn't got around to calling that company again and asking why they hadn't hired me, even though I knew I really ought to have. There was no way I could have beaten that candidate.

I asked her how the test translations were judged - specifically whether field-specific language use wasn't weighted rather more heavily in the judging process than companies claim it is. She answered that it was factored in in the case of freelancers, but not so much with staff translators.

While the end of a running training, when you're all sweaty and light in the head and gasping for breath, probably isn't the best time to evaluate information like that, I did come away with the impression that I need to work on my IT-related vocabulary. So my plan to do as many test translations as I can is a good one, but I also need to do some real work in the field. I think I should do some localisation work for an open-source software project, just to develop my skills in the real world. Preferably it should be open-source software that I use, because I'm more likely to already have domain-specific vocabulary for it. I'll look for a project.

It's interesting how much you can find out about people in your sports club. I know there's a fair number of nurses in my group, some sports instructors, one very well-traveled marketer in tailored suits, and when I'm face to face with several others, I could probably remember, or perhaps even guess, what industries they're in. And it's not like I spend a lot of time socialising with them after the training - perhaps I should.

Also, many people find it very interesting to be talking to an illustrator or cartoonist. Despite the fact that the VOIC alone has over a hundred members, it's very much considered a rare, even unique, profession to be in. Mentioning it has been a good ice-breaker in many places including my running club. One reason to hang on to the title for a little longer - at least until I've settled down in whatever my new career will turn out to be.

July 17, 2007

Arms Don't Work That Way

Look at this Before-and-after montage of, er, someone called Faith Hill on a magazine cover. It's hypnotic and freaky, but what's especially worrying is the arm in the published version. Arms don't work that way. If a comic book artist was found drawing arms like that, they'd be posted all over Scans Daily within a day.

July 18, 2007

Update on the caffeine reduction thing

Two and a half weeks in, I'm settling in to... well, still caffeine addiction but a lower level of it. I sleep better, and longer, at least if I let myself go to bed on time. I wake up earlier, and most importantly, spend less time hitting the snooze button and going back to sleep after the alarm goes off. When I get my morning coffee, it tastes better — partly because I'm more sensitive to it, but also because now, when I wake up, I'm actually rested enough to make coffee without misjudging the dose, breaking my cup or spilling boiling water on my feet. Win.

I'm moving closer to a regular, nine-to-five working day. That should be handy when I get a full-time job. Also, early-evening appointments (life drawing, running, seeing friends) are now easier to fit into my schedule. I do get sleepy earlier in the evening, but that is by design. I've even stepped up my exercise program to ensure that I'm good and tired by half past ten in the evening. This also helps keep the metabolism going after the coffee wears out. I run twice a week with the club and am now making an effort to swim every day, half an hour at a time. Half an hour isn't long, but it's an amount of time and energy I can afford to spend every day. I'll probably build it up a little in the next few weeks.

I'm also slowly breaking the habit of procrastination. I spend less time distracted by blogs, webcomics and forums, though I need to cut much more deeply into that habit before I'll consider myself optimally productive. It's difficult, because most of the work I do is on the internet and is deeply intertwined with my online reading habits, but it will be worth it just to be able to combine whatever job I get with continued webcomic production. Of course, if everyone did that, there'd be no one left to read my work.

Back to the coffee: I tried cutting down from three cups before noon to two, but I don't think that's a step I'm ready to take, or indeed one that I need to. Coffee's not all bad, after all, as I mentioned earlier.

July 19, 2007

The Primate Diaries

PZ Myers pointed to an entry in The Primate Diaries, which from reading a few more articles, like this one on the Grandmother hypothesis, looks like being an excellent blog indeed.

I mean, squid and worms are all great fun and games to read about, and I'll happily waste some of my time reading about colour perception in squirrels or bee lifestyles, but for serious evolutioning, you need apes. Can't be helped. The true object of science is greater primates. I'll be reading this blog.

July 20, 2007

Because it's You-know-who day

The Hermione Crookshanks Experience
Harry and the Potters
The Remus Lupins
Draco and the Malfoys
The Harry Potter Allience
The Mudblood brothers
The Hungarian Hornbloods (just 8 years old!)
Neville and the Longbottoms

There are many, many more. You can spend all day on Myspace to get in the mood!

July 21, 2007

Feral to resume on Sunday, July 29, on Modern Tales.

The storyline I interrupted last year, Feral will finally resume publication on Sunday, July 29, 2007. It will run as a weekly comic updating on Sunday, on the Modern Tales ROCR archives.

I've been sitting on new Feral material for a long time, and used the fundraiser I did in late May to preview some pages in varying stages of completion, just to make the point that the story wasn't abandoned. The plan then was to resume work on it after Invasion was finished. However, Invasion has turned out to be one of those stories that overrun hideously, and while it is approaching the end, it has been ten pages away from the end for two whole chapters now. Also, there's a strong likelihood of a major continuity change at the end of that story, one which would take the edge off Feral if people didn't get to read that story first. The corners I paint myself into...

Anyway, I've thought about it for a while, and the recent server hiccups on ROCR.net made me realise that I have more than one website to put regularly-updating stuff on, so here's how things will proceed:
- I will publish Feral once a week on Modern Tales;
- I will mirror the already-published episodes of Feral on the Chronicles of the Witch Queen website, on days when Invasion doesn't update, in the hope of gaining some new readers for the series through Webcomicsnation's internal cross-promotion features. This rerun of the story will update three times a week, on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, until caught up. It will not show up on the COTWQ front page, though; Invasion is going to keep that spot.
- I may or may not decide to interrupt Invasion at some later point and switch back to running Feral on the ROCR.net front page. I'm leaning towards letting Invasion run its course through the expected continuity change, if only because interrupting a storyline just once was enough of a wrench for me not to want to do it again. I'm still undecided on this point, though.

Feral was, at the time I interrupted it, a very popular storyline and I know quite a few readers are looking forward to it. One update a week should be easily doable. I hope you won't mind bookmarking the ROCR on Modern Tales pages, and that you'll enjoy the new episodes of Feral!

July 24, 2007

I made a lot of drawings yesterday, but I'm only showing you these two

I promised a few people to show them sketches from the sketching trip to Emmen zoo that I took with some of the guys from Gr'nn. Unfortunately, I'm not all that happy with how the sketches turned out; it's hard to be satisfied when you're in the company of four others who kick your ass at drawing from observation, and even the good sketches came out very light and hesitant.
I'll post two, though.
Kodiak Bears
I thought these Kodiak Bears, lounging at the top of an artificial waterfall in their enclosure, looked bored and unhappy. Then again, these bears have face masks that seem to droop a bit anyway. There was a third bear that showed signs of neurotic behaviour, pacing around separately from the other two.
The view in the bear enclosure isn't too good; you can only really get a good look at the bears when they're in that waterfall spot. This turned out to be a blessing, because that one spot makes a very pretty picture. I tried to capture some of those surroundings, which made for a nicer sketch in the end.

Most animals make terrible models. I did several pages worth of sketches of meerkats that were ruined by the little buggers' inability to sit still. The others, particularly Erik Wielaart, did well in spite of the lack of cooperation from the animals; it's a matter of drawing what you can and then waiting for the animal to return to the position you were drawing them in, which they often do. I guess I'll have to develop a knack for this.
This juvenile giraffe, on the other hand, sat perfectly still for the better part of an hour, allowing me to make several drawings of it from various angles. This one is the best of mine.
Giraffes are actually very interesting to draw. I had prepared myself by looking at Mithandir's safari pictures beforehand, so I had some idea what the shape and the mechanics of a giraffe's head were like (even though the ones in Mithandir's pics are a different species), which helped a lot. Still, I was surprised to find myself spending so much time on drawing them because I'm not normally interested in charismatic megafauna. I think trying to draw made them less familiar and brought home just how strange these animals actually are.

I will be doing this again. Like life drawing, I expect to get better at it with practice. For now, though, you'll be spared my sketches of meerkats, prairie dogs, gnus, porcupines, sharks, sturgeons, geckos and various unidentified fish. I also apologise for not drawing any cephalopods; the zoo didn't have any.

July 25, 2007

Quick life updates

- The two best-match vacancies I wanted to apply for evaporated on closer inspection. One had expired in June, one was run through an intermediary who was under strict instruction not to pass on resumes from people who didn't have a University diploma in English/Dutch Translation. I might still send an open application to the first firm though.

- Lifestyle-wise, I'm still moving towards more of a normal worker's schedule. I'm working on my habitual procrastination. I found out that not having music on over breakfast gives me more of a desire to get out of the house - today, I managed to cut half an hour's worth of dawdling that way. Dawdling in the morning is my biggest time sink - all the other distractions during the day are minor compared to that.

- I'm also looking more closely at my own assumptions on how I go through the day. I've always thought of myself as "not a morning person" but this only really holds true for my writing and drawing. Anything else, from dentist appointments to swimming to photoshop work on my art can and should be scheduled early in the day. I think. Maybe. Possibly.

- I did a bit of teaching work today. Fun. Well-payed too, and the contact who got me this gig may be able to get me more.

- I still haven't read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and I really should get started on it as the spoiler policies in the various Livejournal communities are more laxly enforced by the day. Even the HMS_STFU community on Journalfen, which is run with an iron fist and sarcasm, had a partial spoiler above the cut in one post.

- After today's training, I think I may be able to run a half-marathon in not-embarrassing time and without arriving at the finish limping and puking. I'll see how my bad knee feels tomorrow and then, if it's not killing me, start looking for a suitable event in September or October to train towards.

July 27, 2007


I'd never heard of Silverstripe before, but it's probably worth a spin in case I ever need to get a (non-blog) website off the ground quickly.

Thanks to studio-mate Jeroen, I'm back in the market for web development work. It's been a long time since I've done web development for anything other than my own sites, though, so I'm reading up and looking for some experience-builders. Simple things to do so I can say I've done them and know how to do it, and get a feel for the snags. So if anyone reading this needs, say, Wordpress installed on a clean system, or some Wordpress templates made, you just might be able to talk me into doing it for free if it's not a big job. I do hope to get past that stage soon, though.

July 28, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows spoiler-free capsule review

(Note: When I say "Spoiler-free", this should be taken as a statement of intent. I can't second-guess what other people will consider spoilers, and even minor revelations about the content of Deathly Hallows can be used to piece together the puzzle of what happens in the book, who dies, who wins, etcetera, before actually reading it. So while I go out of my way to avoid spoilers in this review, it still goes below the adcut (I removed the ad in an attempt to figure out what's breaking the template when the cut is used) in the blog, and under an LJ cut for those reading it through the Livejournal feed)

Continue reading "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows spoiler-free capsule review" »

Test entry

Trying to figure out why using the extended entry feature in Movable Type breaks the archive in Opera (though not in other web browsers)... So far, I'm stumped. A minimalist version of this entry, with just the word "Less" in the entry body and "More in the extended entry, inside an LJ-cut, displayed correctly.

Maybe the entry doesn't break until I have multiple paragraphs above the cut. (Answer: No)

Continue reading "Test entry" »

"Tamlin! NO!"

We interrupted Feral back in November, 2006, with this cliffhanger:
Last time on Feral.jpg
It's not exactly the threatened end of the Universe, but it did get some long-term readers all excited. And on Sunday, July 29, it's finally time for that cliffhanger to be resolved! From then on, Feral will update every Sunday on Modern Tales.

... the plotline about the woman living alone in the woods who was accused of being a werewolf will also be focused on again. Eventually.

July 29, 2007

Harry Potter and the Botherers of God

While we're on the subject of Harry Potter (and I suspect we will be for a little longer), Sara Robinson at Orcinus wrote a good piece on why fundamentalists are so bothered by myth-and-magic stories in general and Harry Potter in particular:

The common thread that runs through all of these is magic. And that, I think, is the real burr that gets under fundamentalist saddles. In fundieland, magic is the most frightening and legitimate of all the competing myth systems -- the Devil's own preferred alternative to prayer and submission. Other belief systems (Buddhism, Hinduism, the Greek myths) are viewed as sad and rather pathetically delusional; but anything that smacks of magic is feared as actively Satanic.

Why is magic such a hot button? The reasons go to the heart of fundamentalist theology. At their core, fundamentalists believe that humans are wretched creatures who aren't really even human unless touched by God's grace. (And, yes, this does mean that those of us who are unsaved can rightly be considered subhuman.) We cannot do anything right; we do not deserve to have control over our own affairs; and any notion that we have intrinsic power to achieve good in the world (or even the authority to define "good" or "bad" on our own terms) is a diabolical delusion. Left to our own devices, we will not only screw it up for ourselves; we will ultimately ensure the Devil his victory over the world -- including them -- as well.

Implicit in this is the idea that all authority is necessarily, rightfully external. The fate of the entire world depends on how completely we can give up our desire to control our destinies, and submit to God and his appointed earthly overseers. This obsession with the need for external authority is, in a nutshell, is why fundamentalism is a form of religious authoritarianism.

Stories about magic openly defy this whole belief system. Magic-using characters like Harry usurp the supernatural power and prerogatives of God -- a sufficient heresy in its own right. But it's worse than that: they're also exercising their own internal authority, and acting out of their own agency. And that's the last thing fundamentalists want their children -- or anyone else -- learning how to do.

That's why we're hearing all the shrieking hysterics from the fundie side.

Read the rest, and read the comments, as Orcinus is one of those sites where the quality of commentary is usually high.

July 30, 2007

David Attenborough and the Botherers of God

I was going to write about this, but I was too lazy to look for an English-language source. Luckily, Martin Wisse has been more dilligent:

Dutch broadcaster censors DavidRichard David Attenborough on evolution:

The Dutch public broadcaster EO (Evangelische Omroep/Evangelical Broadcaster) has a reputation to uphold when it comes to broadcasting quality wildlife documentaries, both their own as well as series they've bought from other broadcasters like the BBC. One series they recently broadcasted was David Attenborough's excellent (as per usual) Life of Mammals. However, something strange has happened with that series when it crossed the Channel: for some reason the Dutch version only has nine episodes, while the original has ten --and that's not the only difference.

It turns out that the EO has deliberately removed all references to evolution from the series, as demonstrated by the three videos below. Which is not too surprising, considering the EO is after all a fundamentalist Christian broadcaster and adhers to the doctrine of the literal truth of the bible. What exactly the EO has censored in Attenborough's series is now documented in several youtube movies, uploaded by somebody called Odurodon...

If the EO had problems with the views expressed in Life of Mammals, they should either have declined to broadcast it or put in disclaimers at the start of the programme, not censor it. That they have done so shows a lack of intellectual integrity worrisome in a public broadcaster. Especially since they are using public funds to do this.

I'm actually a bit disappointed by this. In the past decade, journalistic standards at the EO have actually improved considerably (i.e. they now have people working for them who are journalists as well as foreign correspondents who understand the languages of the places they're posted to), and while they continue to lie on hot-button issues such as abortion, they have come a long way since the days when they classed dinosaurs with fairytale animals in their quiz shows. This may sound like I'm damning them with faint praise but ten years ago I'd have been damning them with profanity on a regular basis. And now this.

I wonder how much of a culture war is going on internally within the EO. I can imagine that the actual journalists and the people who did the Vincent Bijlo interview (several years ago, Christian comedian Bijlo was interviewed about his anti-evolution song, clearly in the hope that they would get a quotable statement out of him about evolution being wrong. What he actually said was that evolution was silly and absurd, just like gravity, and that he didn't see the point in either. The interview was kept) aren't too pleased about cutting up documentaries from such a respected director as Attenborough.

What disappoints me most, though, is that according to the news reports, the BBC allowed this butchering of their work. For shame, BBC!

More on this (in Dutch), on Evolutie which gives a full transcript of the changes in the first two episodes of the series, and brings home just how disgraceful the BBC's collusion is: by selling exclusive rights to the series to a broadcaster that cuts out references to evolution, they have effectively prevented the uncut series being shown by another broadcaster. That way, the EO can effectively censor the series for the general public.

Update: It was David after all. Not Richard. I had it right to start with, then corrected it wrong. It should be correct now. I'm just glad the Dimbleby family didn't spawn a famous nature documentary maker.

About July 2007

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

June 2007 is the previous archive.

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