Shared posts

19 Sep 14:39

Keep The Post Office Public

by Donovan Beeson
Sithel

:(

Post office public
Lately, it seems like nothing but doom-and-gloom reporting when it comes to the U.S.P.S. Just yesterday, the court found that the latest stamp increase of a nickel was illegal. Every other op-ed I read about it has a new speculation, and none of them are good, if you want my own opinion about it. Recently, Amazon announced they wouldn't use FedEx for a portion of their shipping anymore. That touched off a rumor that Amazon is going to launch a bid for privatizing the U.S.P.S. 
 
The U.S.P.S. is already working with Amazon in a deal that might look good on paper, but seems to be running the postal people into the ground. Everywhere one looks, it seems like the "experts" want to solve the problems of lower revenues with cuts in service, both to the public and the postal worker. In addition to pension and insurance changes, 5-day delivery is being floated; so based on what is happening right now, that would probably mean only Amazon delivery on Saturday/Sunday. 
 
If the U.S.P.S. becomes privatized, we will all suffer and not just those of us in America. Almost half of all the mail in the world is processed by the U.S.P.S.  It delivers more in sixteen days than UPS and FedEx deliver together during the entire year. I don't have the answers here, but I do think that the congressional mandate that benefits for future employees of the post office be pre-funded is ludicrous and should be eliminated. The U.S.P.S. should also have greater control over themselves. They run without any tax dollar benefits, but are constricted in their operations as if they were funded by the government. It really seems like a rock and hard place situation for them. 
 
As long as they keep taking our letters, we'll keep sending them. We value what the mail and the postal service do for our community, both in life and online. We should keep the U.S.P.S. ours. Sig
 
P.S. Instagram image from the Arizona Correspondence Society, featuring a rubber stamp from The Well-Appointed Desk.
 
12 Sep 15:13

Unreachable State

Sithel

Sounds like comments I've written before in my code...

ERROR: We've reached an unreachable state. Anything is possible. The limits were in our heads all along. Follow your dreams.
28 Jul 19:18

hi hello alert so that classic tumblr flowing jungle river post...

Sithel

I look forward to reading this section! My copy arrived this week!



hi hello alert so that classic tumblr flowing jungle river post is now cited in a real book like an actual paper book and it’s called because internet and it’s all about the evolution of internet language and how TUMBLR DID THE THING and you can get it here

25 Jul 05:43

Spreadsheets

Sithel

To real

My brother once asked me if there was a function to produce a calendar grid from a list of dates in Google Sheets. I replied with a single-cell formula that took in a list of dates and outputted a calendar. It used SEQUENCE(), REGEXMATCH(), and a double-nested ARRAYFORMULA(), and it locked up the browser for 15 seconds every time it ran. I think he learned a lot about asking me things.
23 May 14:52

Alternate Histories

Sithel

I love this one more than usual for some reason...

"So their universe wouldn't have the iconic photo of a screaming Truman being hoisted aloft by the newspaper-printing machinery..."
04 May 23:02

Heists And Escapes

Sithel

What I spend my evenings thinking about when I'm stoned...

The interactive experience is built on a single theological framework that unites Dante, George R. R. Martin, every major heist movie, and Erin Gloria Ryan's "Kevin is dead" Home Alone theory.
27 Apr 19:59

Borderlands Cafe to Close

by Borderlands Books
Sithel

:'( Sad to see it go, but also reasonable... can't actually say I patronized the cafe much... I'm going to miss them on Valencia when they're gone...

by Alan Beatts

Most of the time I think that it's better to explain a thought process first and put the conclusion at the end.  But sometimes it seems better to do it the other way around. This is one of those times.

We're shutting down the cafe element of Borderlands this Tuesday, April 30th.  It's not a wonderful thing, but it's not a terrible thing either.

We opened the cafe in 2009, right in time for the recession to really start to bite (at least in the Bay Area).  Keeping the cafe going took a lot of very hard work, not just from me and Jude, but from all the original crew.  But we did it and the cafe became a modest success.  Certainly we found a group of great regular customers who liked the place we made and what we did.

All of us at the cafe also had a chance to work with a wonderful group of people.  Numerous friendships were made, many of which exist to this day.  Relationships were started (some of which I probably still don't know about) and roommates were found.  It was, and still is, a great community.

But, over the past two years, it has become very hard to find and retain staff.  Food service jobs always have high turnover and Borderlands was better than average (our first employee still works with us and many of the staff have been with us for multiple years).  But, in the last two years and despite hiring almost constantly, we have almost always been short by one person.  At times we've been short by two or even three.  For a business that at full staff only employs nine or ten people, that's been very difficult for all of us -- especially Z'ev (the cafe manager) and me.

Why it's been so hard to find staff is something that I can only speculate about, but my guess is that it's not a simple matter of displacement, gentrification, or the higher cost of living in SF.  Though that has played into it, I think that it's also a matter of there being plenty of jobs out there that pay better and are easier than slinging coffee.  Working in a cafe is damn hard.  Certainly, I wouldn't choose it as a job if there was much else on offer.

Another factor is that high school students don't seem to be looking for food service jobs.  At one point more than half of the staff were in high school.  (Now, only one of them is, and he'll be graduating soon.)   The reasons for that are beyond me, but it may just be another aspect of the things I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

But, for whatever reason, we've had a hard, hard time keeping the place properly staffed.  And that's one reason for closing.

Another reason is that Borderlands was a cafe built for Valencia Street in 2010.  All of us suspect that it's not the right sort of cafe for 2019 or 2020.  Our aim was to make a place that was pretty simple.  No large selection of coffee varieties, no high-end teas, no very complex food with tasteful presentation.  To be clear, we're not against any of those things (hell, most of us like 'em) but we were aiming for a place to grab a cup of good coffee, a bagel, and have a chat with a friend.  Or play chess.  Or read.  Or write.  A place to relax or be creative.

I think that folks are looking for something different now.  Maybe more complex, maybe more of an experience, or, to be painfully honest, maybe something that's just simply "better" than what we do.  Whatever people are looking for, we don't seem to have it, and so business hasn't been very good.  Last year especially wasn't very good.

Initially we planned to deal with that by changing what we offered.  That's the reason we added more food options this year.  But, Jude, Z'ev and I realized that none of us had the time to really re-imagine the place.  Jude's working like hell to stay on top of the store and Z'ev's doing the same with the cafe (and they are both doing extraordinary jobs, under challenging circumstances).  I've got my hands more than full with the construction work on the Haight Street building, along with my work in the office.  So, we don't have the time to remake the cafe.  And, I don't think any of us really have an appetite for it either.

And that's another reason to close.  We don't think that the cafe is actually very well-suited to the market and, as a result, we're losing money.

The final reason is very personal.  As I think most of your know, one of our long-time booksellers, Cary Heater, passed away quite suddenly at the beginning of this year.  She was my oldest friend and she wasn't born much before me.  As it would for many people, that prompted me take a look at my own life and mortality. Very specifically, I looked at how I'm spending my life. Because that's what we all do -- you only get so much and, despite not always realizing what a valuable coin it is, we spend it until it's gone.

I have enjoyed running the cafe and I kind of like it.  But I love being a bookseller, more than anything I've done in my life.  I also love being with my friends and the family I've chosen.  As much as I can, I want to spend the coin of my life on the things that I love . . . not on things that I "kind of" like.

And that is the final reason that we're closing.

I'm very grateful to all our customers who have supported us over the years.  And I'm especially grateful to the customers who have made it truly fun to work the counter. But most of all, I'm grateful to the staff who made Borderlands Cafe a great place.  The real credit for what we made goes to them.

All Best Wishes,
Alan

PS  If you're wondering if this will have any effect on the bookstore; it won't.  The cafe and bookstore have always been run as separate businesses and so the cafe's closure has no effect on the store at all.

PPS  If you're wondering what's going to happen to the location; for the month of May we'll be using it for author events and as a showroom while we sell off the cafe's equipment (and, perhaps, some of the excess stuff in the bookstore -- we are going to be moving soon, after all -- anyone out there want a cat-clawed bookshelf? It's pretty cheap).  After that, there will be a soft-story retrofit which, thankfully, won't impact the bookstore very much.  Finally, the location will go on the rental market, because we have terminated our lease, effective May 31st.

PPPS  Also, through May, the cafe will be available to the groups who have regular meetings.  Z'ev and I will be working with those groups to find other places that they can meet but, for at least a month, they'll still have a place.  They'll just need (or, "have the opportunity to") bring their own drinks and food.
18 Apr 05:03

Wanna See the Code?

Sithel

Beautiful analogies. Fitting. So perfect. Yes.

And because if you just leave it there, it's going to start contaminating things downstream even if no one touches it directly.
30 Mar 05:25

Copyright is a pain in the a&& and artists should stop worrying about it.

by Marc Taro Holmes
Sithel

This is great. Good info, good feeling

19March28_Infringment_Mat

Because I’m a painter, I move around in a constant state of inspiration.

Everywhere you go you see paintable things. You can’t look at the sky most days without seeing a great painting.

It’s unavoidable.

Naturally, I’m also addicted to social media – just like most of you – I’m constantly inspired by images I see online. 

I’m also constantly anxious and afraid to do anything about that inspiration.

19March28_Infringment_ Compare

For fear of Copyright Violation! (Cue Sinister Music).

As artists, we’re always hearing; “You can’t copy someone else’s artwork! You can’t paint from someone else’s photo!”

These regulations are always popping up in calls for entry, or in commentary about work online.

“That’s not real art, it’s just a copy!”

As if painting in nature, standing in front of the landscape, isn’t just a copy? Or sitting with a model or a still life or some flowers. Artists are just the world’s most subjective camera.

19March28_Infringment_Details (3)

So – I did some research and here are my thoughts:

  • I am not a lawyer so this is my lay-informed opinion.
  • Yes – diverting business income by taking work and re-selling it is wrong. Classic example: downloading artwork and making it into t-shirts. < (People have done that to me).
  • Also, commercial use of a recognizable likeness of someone’s face – this is a theft of income. Every human has the right to be paid for the (commercial) use of their image. (Though, not in every legal jurisdiction. Personality Rights are not recognized in NYC for example).
  • Same goes for commercial use of a building, a car, or even street art if it ends up in a photo. (Designers and Architects have the same rights).
  • No direct, mechanical copy FOR PROFIT < this is common sense.

BUT:

  • NON-commercial use of anything (art, photos, likeness) is totally fine.
  • Copies by students are an easy example. Copied work appearing in your illustration or portraiture portfolio is less obviously ok – but IS considered fair-use. (It’s a true demonstration of your skill, not a commercial product. The commercial product is the future work you might gain, not the copy itself).
  • AND >>>> most people don’t know this >>> one-of-a-kind original art is almost always ruled non-commercial.
  • The Graphic Artist Guild of America says: “Generally, works of fine art are not considered commercial even if they sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Courts are more likely to consider artwork commercial if it is sold as mugs or t-shirts…”
  • The key difference being, art is (generally) sold once (or a handful of times). The intent is not mass production.

19March28_Infringment_Details (5)

ALSO:

  • Being inspired by an image, making (and selling) a TRANSFORMATIVE work is totally NOT copyright infringement.
  • The existence of the new work does not in any way reduce the value of the old work. Often it actually increases value, by a kind of cachet effect. (The original work must be great if it inspires so many copies).
  • Examples of Transformative work:
    • Translating to a different media: Photograph recreated in line-art or weaving or say – an impasto oil painting.
    • Creating a composite image: Use multiple images for reference. To be safe, take no significant amount, or at least, equal amounts from each. (eg: collage).
    • Altering the source image: Enough that it would not be recognized by a stranger – not by the original artist. (They are too close to the issue). This also covers portrait-likeness. If a stranger (not the model) would not recognize the work, then you have not stolen their face – even if you admit to using their photo as reference.
  • Doing all of these things is bulletproof, but any one of these transformations *might* be sufficient to be within Fair Use. (It’s up to the judge).
  • Rules of thumb: Has the material taken from the original work been transformed by adding new expression or meaning? (Such as parody, or recontextualizing or juxtaposition). Was value added to the original by creating new information, new aesthetics, new insights, and understandings?

19March28_Infringment_Details (4)

OK! Still with me?
That’s my rant about why it’s OK to think and act upon your actual creative thoughts.

Every thought we think comes from somewhere.

You see something, you read something, and you combine old ideas into new ideas. There’s nothing new under the sun.

Don’t be ashamed of seeing a great painting or photo and thinking – man – I would love do my own version of that!

Trina Davies

All that said: you should still credit your sources.

[Photo: Trina Davies, Playwright of Waxworks, Shatter, Silence, The Bone Bridge and the GG-nominated The Romeo Initiative; http://www.trinadavies.com].

It’s just good grace between artists, and, if you are confident you’re doing transformative work, then there’s no reason not to.

19March28_Infringment_Details (2)

16 Mar 18:20

Quill: A Letter Writing RPG

by Donovan Beeson
Sithel

Iiiiiinteresting... I've never played a solo game before. Adam and I always joke about the solo versions of Race for the Galaxy... but this... this is... interesting...

QuillI've gotten a number of recommendations to look into an RPG called Quill. For the unfamiliar, an RPG is a Role Playing Game. Letter writing and role playing game are part of the Venn diagram that is my life; so this is something that I clearly should know more about. Maybe you should too! Let's learn together!

From the Drive Thru RPG blurb:

"Quill is a solo role playing game with a twist. Instead of hacking goblins and looting caves, you are writing letters. Rather than having attributes like strength or dexterity, characters in Quill use Penmanship, Language and Heart. In a game of Quill you will write real letters, with the aim to craft the best, most beautiful missive possible in order to get a favorable response. You will use words from the Ink Pot to inspire your letter - but be warned, should you roll badly you could end up writing a bad letter."

From the rules:

"In a typical game of Quill the aim is to impress your recipient into responding favourably to your letter. You will accomplish this through deft use of language and presentation, rolling dice to determine whether or not you succeed in using the right words, the best descriptors and the most beautiful penmanship. Once you have completed your letter – one which you will actually physically write yourself – you will count up your total score and discover how your letter has been received."

In the interest of science, I did download the PDF. To start, it's a little different from what I'm used to because it's a solo, meaning one player, game. My experience with role playing games has always been collaborative.  This game basically asks you to play along with the scenarios and characters presented in the rulebook. There are dice to be rolled to determine whether or not you can use the "Superior" word or add a "Flourish" to your point-winning phrase. It's all self-policed, but I find it a charming concept. I am unsurprised to read that teachers have been using it as a learning tool. People have been doing really fun things with it. Look at this!

Quill goes on the list of things that I would be all over if I had the time. How about you? Have you played? Would you play?  Donovan.gif

 

21 Feb 16:20

Night Shift

Sithel

oh god, this concept. I can imagine it being a thing in the not-so-distant future and I want it...

Help, I set my white balance wrong and suddenly everyone is screaming at each other about whether they've been to Colorado.
29 Jan 03:24

Biff Tannen

Sithel

oh my god, yes. A & I were just talking about this movie yesterday... also discussing dystopias and the nature of time and fate.... so I guess we're just part of a general mood sweeping many a-person... but this is flippin' uncanny.

I can't help myself; now I want to read a bunch of thinkpieces from newspapers in Biff's 1985 arguing over whether the growth of the region into a corporate dystopia was inevitable.
28 Jan 03:36

Today’s Creative Use of English Swear Word Morphosyntax...

Sithel

Chap hop pleases me...



Today’s Creative Use of English Swear Word Morphosyntax Award goes to this song:

I’ve no more fucks to give,
My fucks have runneth dry,
I’ve tried to go fuck shopping
But there’s no fucks left to buy

25 Jan 16:40

Internet Archive

Sithel

I've a friend working at the Internet Archive and I'm pretty sure I briefly worked with the left-pad guy. The world is small... and this comic is true..

The fact that things like the npm left-pad incident are so rare is oddly reassuring.
25 Jan 16:38

Critters, How Do You Want To Do This??

by Jen
Sithel

Happy to see CR reaching an ever broadening audience...

I have a slightly unusual way of finding new fandoms, guys: I follow the cosplay.

John and I go to so many cons that its easy to track the newest and most popular shows, because anyone who cosplays will tell you: that's a labor of love you reserve for the very best. So if I see a sudden tidal wave of characters from something I don't know, then heck yeah, I'm gonna check it out.

Plus then I get to call it "research."

[Me, in my 6th hour of watching anime: "I'M WORKING, JOHN."]

Cosplay is how I first discovered (and fell in love with) Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, My Hero Academia, and getting to the point of this post, Critical Role. [insert Mercer's eyebrow lift here]



I first started watching Campaign 2 of Critical Role last August, I think?, and I've JUST NOW caught up. This is a fandom that demands massive amounts of your time, but pays off in so much heart, laughter, and even occasional tears.

Hang on, I should probably back up and tell you what it is.

Critical Role is a web show/podcast where "a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors sit around and play Dungeons & Dragons." It's led and DM'd by Matt Mercer, who my fellow Overwatch players know as the voice of McCree.


The 4-hour (sometimes longer!) show is live streamed on Twitch and YouTube every Thursday night, and Campaign 2 is currently up to Episode 48. That's over 192 hours of content - and their last campaign had 115 episodes. Yeah. Wowza.

Now, if that description sounds less than compelling, believe me, I understand. I actually started listening to the show as a way to help me fall asleep at night, ha. After a few weeks something terrible happened, though: it got so interesting I couldn't fall asleep. Then I realized I needed to WATCH these people, not just listen to them, because they often make jokes and react to things the others are doing, rather than saying. And since they're all pro voice actors who drop in and out of their character voices, there were times I couldn't tell who the heck was talking.


Once I was actually watching the show, I realized I had to watch all the announcements, too, because they were so funny. Then I had to start reading the comments (breaking the first rule of the internet, I know) for all the fan theories and in-jokes. Then I had to watch all the fan art at the end, because it was gorgeous and often illustrated parts of the previous show.

So yeah, a few months in, and I was a fully fledged Critter. (We even get a cool fan name!)


Now I'm converting the cats.

Again, this is a fandom that asks a lot, and the pay-off (at least for me) can be a slow burn. Even now I find the show drags sometimes, but then it will sneak up and sucker punch me with an amazing twist, or a sweet back story, or a heist-gone-wrong. Plus you can't spend this much time with 7* people without feeling like you know them, and sitting in their virtual circle (...triangle?) feels like hanging out with friends. (*Technically there are 8 in the cast, but Ashley isn't there much.)


For most of Campaign 2 the show had this hilariously groovy 70s themed intro. There's a new animated intro now, but it has major story spoilers, so stay away if you're not caught up!


There are two married couples in the cast: Matt & Marisha (Marisha is on the right in that pic) and Laura & Travis (middle). A lot of fans like to joke that Sam & Liam are married, too, because their bro-mance is real and adorable and often the most hysterical part of the show:



Liam's and Sam's characters are actually a couple in the show, but not in a romantic way. Sam plays a tiny goblin girl, and Liam is a... well... hobo wizard. I won't spoil anything, but their dynamic remains the best, purest, most heart-warming story arc in CR, and I can't wait to see where it goes.


I won't go into the other characters because there's just too much, and I'd probably accidentally spoil something. There's a little of everything, though: from the mysterious, angst-driven type to the immature joker to the warrior to the snarky hedonist. They also have guest stars sometimes - other voice actors - who honestly keep getting better and better. Oh! And as the DM, Matt plays every other character the team talks to, which has yielded pure GOLD on a number of occasions. (His flirty Dwarven barkeep was a personal favorite.) The best has to be Pumat Sol, a firbolg shopkeeper with three clones, a magical supply shop, and a voice like a tipsy Canadian angel. I'm telling you, PURE. GOLD.

Right, I think I've raved and rambled long enough. SO.... any fellow Critters out there? Have you cosplayed any of your favorite characters? Crafted anything? Started playing D&D? Spill! Tell me in the comments, or share your pics on FB or IG so I can see!

And if you're not a Critter (yet?), I hope you'll give the show a chance! I recommend starting with Campaign 2 like I did; it's a fresh start with everyone playing all new characters, so it doesn't matter if you've seen Campaign 1. You can watch the first episode right here on YouTube. Just a cautionary note for parents and/or anyone listening at work: there are F bombs GALORE, which took me a while to get used to. There are also plenty of crude jokes and characters drawing wangs on everything, so proceed and parent accordingly. :D


*****


Psst. Hey. Need anything on Amazon? Then how about using our links to shop? It doesn't cost you anything, and helps pay a few bills around here. Thanks, peeps!  USA, UK, Canada.
30 Dec 23:46

5 Reasons You Should See "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" Before The New Year

by Jen
Sithel

I'm sooooooo happy everyone likes this movie! Can't wait to watch it again with Adam (though likely via Netflix)

Let's get this out of the way first thing: I'm not really a Spider-Man fan.

I don't dislike him, either. Overall I'm pretty "eh" about the friendly neighborhood dancing kid in the onesie.

Cut to last week, when two of my closest friends spent a solid 30 MINUTES raving to me about this new movie I'd never heard of, Into The Spider-Verse. I was... intrigued. So yesterday John & I went to see it with some other friends and their kids.

To demonstrate John's level of excitement for this film, allow me to present his FB update, written IN the theater just before the movie started:


Yeeeeeahh.

Exactly two hours and 15 minutes later, John added this amendment:


Now, somehow neither of us saw a single trailer or image from the movie beforehand, so John and I went in with zero expectations - and I think that made it even better? So if you're as clueless as we were, and want to be completely surprised by an amazing movie, then close this tab and go see Into the Spider-Verse right now, before the rest of the 'net catches up and spoils it all for you. I can already see the groundswell starting, so I predict this is going to be the movie everyone's talking about for the new year. I mean, just look at the Rotten Tomatoes rating!

Daaaaaang.

If you're Ok with knowing a few things, though, and/or have already seen the trailer, then let me break down 5 of the things I loved most about Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse.

1. Characters You Instantly Fall In Love With

Miles Morales is the Peter Parker I've always wanted - I just never knew it. I loved Miles from the second he appears on screen, crooning away with his headphones on. He's not the wimpy shy guy you might expect; he's confident and charming and just the right amount of awkward. You really feel for him as he navigates a new school, and the embarrassment of having a loving-but-strict cop father. (I won't spoil it, but THAT scene with his dad was John's favorite, ha.)


Beyond Miles, though, it's fun and refreshing to see an out-of-shape, older Peter Parker, strong parents (plural!), and a whole cast of side characters that grab you from the beginning. The subplot with Miles' uncle was especially good, and left me wanting more.

 2. An Animation Style That Will Make Your Spidey Senses Tingle

I'll admit, I was worried at first. The opening credits blast you with a frenetic flickering that promises full sensory overload - or at least a headache. That calms down once the story starts, though, and ends up being a blend of Pixar-level 3D, Borderlands-style cell-shading, and classic comic book dot colors, word bubbles like "POW!," and typed-out thoughts. If that sounds insane, IT IS, but in the best possible way. I haven't seen something this different since Toy Story, and it's exciting!

One thing I didn't like: there's such a heavy use of blur and double-vision overlays that you sometimes feel like you're watching a 3D movie without the 3D glasses on:



It's not like that all the time, though, and I only found it super distracting a few times.




 3. Just The Right Balance Of Dark & Light 

I laughed so much in this movie, but the laughs are balanced by heartache, family conflict, and multiple deaths. You find out early on that heroes are fallible, and those moments of sadness really help ground a story that might otherwise get too silly.


4. ... But It Doesn't Take Itself TOO Seriously

Spider-Verse never breaks the 4th wall, but it totally reaches Deadpool levels of hilarity - just on a PG level. I mean, it's hard NOT to be funny when you end up with this Spider team by the end:

 (John Mulaney voices "Peter Porker" and Nic Cage is "Spider-Man Noir." 'NUFF SAID.)


5. Not Only Does It HAVE A Message, It's One That Will Make You Want To Stand Up And Cheer

Anyone can be a superhero, and Spider-Verse won't let you forget that. I left the theater with a full heart and zero eyeliner, 'cuz I cried it all off by the end. I'm a sucker for big triumphant hero moments, and man, this movie delivers.



 Oh! That reminds me!

Bonus #6: THE SOUNDTRACK.

The music in Spider-Verse is fantastic: nothing I'd ever listen to on my own, and yet I found myself bopping along in my seat more than once. I'm actually off to look up the soundtrack now, because I've gotta hear this again!


I should mention we saw this with 3 kids ages 5-9, a girl and two boys, and they all loved it. There are two jump-scares that spooked the younger two, but that's it. Everything else seems safe!


I'll end with the trailer, just in case you're still not convinced. I think it gives away too much (I just watched it now for the first time), but at least MY favorite parts aren't in there, so you'll still have plenty of surprises in the theater:



I hope you guys are having a relaxing weekend! John and I are looking forward to doing absolutely nothing for New Year's, a much-cherished tradition over here. :D Instead I'll be making lists of projects I'd like to try in 2019 and counting my blessings - starting with the one where I watch movies in the theater now, no earplugs, no meds, no anxiety, no biggie. I've had a rough week of physical pain over here - nothing new, just some gut setbacks that won't let me sleep - so remembering where I *used* to be helps. That, and editing photos on my phone at 4AM, as I'm sure you IG followers have noticed. :D

Talk to you guys next year!

08 Dec 19:14

Have A Merry Dead Bird Christmas

by Donovan Beeson
Sithel

oh man, so tempted to do this now...

DeadbirdxmasWait, what? No really. Oh, those wacky Victorians. Bless 'em for their love of ephemera and the joy they had in sending cards, but some of their practices are quite perplexing. I enjoyed this article at Hyperallergic on why dead birds on Christmas cards were a thing at one time. Basically, it all boils down to those damn dirty pagans. The article is a good read. Have you started sending out holiday cards yet? What do you think people 200 years from now will find very strange about our greeting cards? Donovan

27 Nov 05:08

Heist

Sithel

So flippin' true... happened today in fact

But he has a hat AND a toolbox! Where could someone planning a heist get THOSE?
15 Nov 08:46

Prison Pen Paling

by Donovan Beeson
Sithel

An interesting problem... on one hand, it has crossed my mind to write to an inmate (I've written to random people across the US before) but there's also the creepy factor...

Black and pinkHere at L.W.A.H.Q. we don't do pen pal matches for currently incarcerated individuals. Kathy and I simply aren't able to do the legal and emotional work required for that service. We've had to add a disclaimer on the pen pal swap and membership pages because transparency and member privacy are paramount in importance to us. Unfortunately, we are not infallible and rely on the honesty of individuals when they sign up for the program. All physical mail from a currently incarcerated person is clearly marked; so we do screen out any requests that we can identify. We thank all of you for your patience and understanding in this matter. This hasn't been an easy decision. Letters are a quite literal life-line for people in prison. Personally, I have had two family members spend time in prison. I'm not special in this regard. After all, America is a prison industrial complex on the largest scale. It's one of the many, many problems we face.

There are numerous organizations out there that are devoted to serving the needs of prisoner correspondents. Two organizations that I think are doing fantastic with pen pals for prisoners are Black & Pink and Solitary Watch. If you have had a prison pal relationship and wish to share your experience or other information in the comments, we welcome you to do so. Thank you for listening.  Donovan

 

08 Nov 05:37

thegaylinguist: “what is a linguist?” linguists: a person who studies language at a meta level; a...

Sithel

:D

thegaylinguist:

“what is a linguist?”

linguists: a person who studies language at a meta level; a language scientist

average non-linguist: a walking dictionary, encyclopedia, spelling/grammar-checker, & translator

amazon, google, microsoft: a data scientist specializing in ontology

02 Nov 02:36

Halloween at the Postman's Knock

by Donovan Beeson
Sithel

That spider!!

Postmans knock halloweenLindsey of The Postman's Knock has a fantastic round-up of her Halloween projects from the previous years. There are nine paper and calligraphy ideas for your eerie enjoyment. It's got printables and how-tos. All treats here, folks, no tricks.  Donovan

P.S. And congratulations to her and her family on their recent special delivery

13 Sep 00:35

New & Improved DIY Cat Onesie: Skip The Cone & Make This Out Of An Old T-Shirt, Instead!

by Jen
Sithel

Tormenting (I mean helping) cats. Awesome. Clearly I need to make one of these for Duck :)

John keeps telling me I need to update you guys on the cats, which seems strange since the cats are pretty much ALL I post about over on my Instagram Stories, ha. I know most of you aren't over there, though, and yesterday we invented something sanity-saving that I think you cat Moms and Dads might appreciate:


These strappy one-piece numbers that really bring out their eyes. :D

Ok, really it's a recovery onesie, since both girls were spayed on Monday. We never intended to make these, though, because I thought I was prepared with these inflatable collars:

EEEEEEEH!

Both girls wriggled out of them in under 5 minutes. Turns out their safety collars inside the rings just popped open when they kicked at it. So we tried collars without the safety clasps... and Eva nearly strangled herself struggling with it. Terrifying. So, no.

We briefly tried our old DIY cat onesie, but it was way too big. Cute, but big:

 
Eva was still able to reach her stitches through the lower end.

At this point, desperation levels rising, John went out and bought the standard plastic cones. Suki did... ok?... in it, but Eva lost her furry little mind, instantly transforming into a 6-pound wrecking ball, flailing against every hard surface and giving me a succession of heart attacks as her little head bounced across the hard floors and walls. We tackled her, took the cone off, swaddled her tightly in the onesie again - plus a blanket for good measure - and sat down to regroup.

This is what a rough day looks like.

That's a long windup to tell you I found this "recovery suit" on Amazon while looking for a better collar:




It's only $9 and ships with Prime, but after squinting at it a moment I said to John, "We can make that out of an old t-shirt right now." John grumbled at first, like he always does, but then he got that thoughtful, calculating look that means MAGIC is about to happen. 

Furry Stegosaurus!
John's first prototype just had leg holes and straps, and it worked pretty darn well. The neck part stretched out quickly with the girls chewing on them, though, causing the whole thing to slide down after an hour or two.

Prototype #2 had a head hole and extra front straps. This was the winner for Suki, and she's still snug and happy in it two days later:
» Read More
08 Sep 19:32

Boathouses and Houseboats

The <x> that is held by <y> is also a <y><x>, so if you go to a food truck, the stuff you buy is truck food. A phone that's in your car is a carphone, and a car equipped with a phone is a phonecar. When you play a mobile racing game, you're in your phonecar using your carphone to drive a different phonecar. I'm still not sure about bananaphones.
05 Sep 23:05

Rolle's Theorem

I mean, if it's that easy to get a theorem named for you ... "a straight line that passes through the center of a coplanar circle always divides the circle into two equal halves." Can I have that one? Wait, can I auction off the naming rights? It can be the Red Bull Theorem or the Quicken Loans Theorem, depending who wants it more.
02 Sep 03:43

In celebration of progress on the “get a new job” front I...

Sithel

And so begins the awkward task of trying to sell some of my creatures. I don't need the money, but I think I do need the minor sense of validation of someone else liking one of my dudes.... hoping to get a listing of about 5-10 creatures up before the year is out...









In celebration of progress on the “get a new job” front I finished the Pink Book Buddy.  It was half of this WIP post.  Vellum pages, questionable headband stitching, and a reasonable proof of concept.  

Listed on Etsy because I’ve got to start moving some of these “books” out of my house… 

31 Aug 23:15

Dr. Sketchy’s September 2018 event!

Good evening Sketchy folks! Still working on some details, but our next event will be WEDNESDAY, September 26th, at DNA LOUNGE! Be sure to join us for an amazing night. Specifics to come soon! #keepsfsketchy

26 Aug 16:59

Do You Like Small Adventures? Do You Like Mail Surprises?

by Donovan Beeson
Sithel

trying to ramp up the letter output again...

Lea kickstarter
Inventor, illustrator, and all-around inquisitive person Lea Redmond with Leafcutter Designs, leader of World's Smallest Post is at it again. We are big fans of her small letters and packages here at L.W.A. I think I do a posting on her perfection once a quarter due to the sheer volume of awesome she manages to put out. One of her newest genius moves is called S.A.S.E. Treats! Small, mailable, shareable fun things that encourage interaction and exploration. Send her a S.A.S.E. (that's a Self-Addressed-Stamped-Envelope) and she'll send you a treat. The froggies were but the beginning. She has new surprises in store! Send your S.A.S.E. to: Leafcutter Designs/329 15th Street/Oakland/CA/94612

And if you, like us, are just delighted by all things Leafcutter offers, check out their new Kickstarter for a package full of small adventures. Lively Matters focuses on getting back in touch with the wonder contained within mundane things. "The marvelous world of materials is always calling out to all of our senses." Here, here!  Donovan

17 Aug 19:30

Chemotherapy update - Wigs!

by floresita
Sithel

Hmmm... maybe you could comment on her blog, Suko?

Here's another post I hope will be helpful if you or someone you know is losing their hair. I knew nothing about wigs and hair loss before this, so here is what I've learned so far!

I did a lot of online research about the hair loss process, so I would know what to expect. It really helped me to have a plan - I did my wig shopping in advance, knowing that when I was on chemo, I wouldn't have the energy or emotional stability to get through it.

Haircut and Hair Buzz
First, I cut my hair into a cute, short bob - I knew my hair would fall out, but there would be less of it to fall out. 2 weeks after my first treatment, it started falling out in handfuls, so I took the plunge and got it shaved off. I had no idea what to ask for, so, I asked for the shortest setting on the clippers, which is a 1. I didn't want to look like Mr. Clean just yet. :)

   

It is hard to look into the mirror and see a shaved head, but I was a lot less emotional than I thought I would be. I won't be winning any beauty awards, but it looked a lot less terrible than I thought it would. I kind of felt like Ripley in glasses. And my head was a lot less lumpy and awkward than I had imagined. Ugh, but all those spiky little hairs as they fall out and poke me in the head are a real pain!

Wig Shopping
My goal was to have at least 1 moderately priced, good-quality wig, and a bunch of other cheap fun wigs for running to the store, going out, etc.

After a lot of research on Youtube, I settled on a cute side parted bob by Estetica called Jamison:
Jamison by Estetica

Jamison retails around $216, but many online stores have good sales that could put it in the $150 range. After wearing this wig for several days, I do think it is a nice quality wig that looks very realistic. It is very light and pretty comfortable, even for people with large heads like myself. The permatease in the scalp is pretty scratchy, but the bonus is you get more body in your hair if you want it. You can also manipulate the part a bit and the mesh / lace makes the scalp area look very real. Everyone who has seen this wig says it looks like real hair. I had some quality issues with the wig I received and had to exchange it, you can read more about that farther down.

Color Issues
Color is a challenge - because all you have is this one small photo of someone with a hair color not even remotely like yours. Being Hispanic, there is a real lack of models who look like me, so I really have to use my imagination and go out on a limb when ordering.

The first color I ordered, R4-6, looked like my hair color in the tiny thumbnail:
 
But when I received the wig and tried it on it just wasn't right - it was way too brown, and kind of a golden brown, that doesn't really show in the thumbnail. Again, I think this reveals a limitation for Hispanic, and Asian wig shoppers - there aren't a lot of colors with the right tone for us.

On my second try, I ordered R2-4, and that was a better match, but still a lot more brown than it appeared in the thumbnail:

But seriously guys, look at those tiny thumbnails - do they not look the same to you?

My best advice is to go into an actual wig store and try on to find the right shade. But in my experience the saleslady refused to give out style numbers and colors, assuming I would order it online. That was really off putting because I would happily order in person, and pay more if I had a good experience with her.

Ordering Wigs Online- Exchanges, Ugh
Exchange policies - do your research! The Jamison wig arrived with damage I could not see, but since it was shipped directly from the wig manufacturer Estetica, I have no way to prove it was damaged by them and not me. When I sent it back to the store they saw the damage and assumed I was responsible. I have been going back and forth with the store for 3 weeks - they are charging me for 2 wigs, even though I only have one. The customer service people have been very unsympathetic, even though I told them I was a first time wig buyer and a cancer patient on chemo with a limited budget.

So my advice is do your research on the store return policies and ask as many questions as possible upfront. I think I could have saved myself a lot of time and money that way. Based on my experience I would not recommend the store I purchased from, I don't even want to name them, but I'll let you know when I have a better experience.

Inexpensive Wigs
I found a great local wig shop with really affordable prices and the best part was that all the wigs were in the middle of the store and I could just put on a wig cap and try on every single one! I highly recommend visiting a local wig store like this because you really can't tell from a photo if a wig will look good on you or not. It's a great way to find which styles work for you.

My favorite inexpensive wigs so far are Bobbi Boss wigs:

Bobbi Boss Jesse wig - Color 4

Bobbi Boss has full price wigs in the $50-$60 range, but you can usually find them on sale for $25 and less. Their color options are a much better match for me, they do have lighter colors but their strength is dark colors.

I had a great experience ordering from Ebonyline.com. They had a good sale going, and with their $4.99 Flat rate shipping, I ordered my wigs on a Sunday night and had them by Thursday. They also had the lowest prices compared to other stores I saw.

So that's my experience with wigs so far. Do you have any good wig recommendations? Please leave a comment and let me know, or ask me any questions you might have!
14 Aug 15:39

Pie Charts

Sithel

now I want to see one of these animated...

If you can't get your graphing tool to do the shading, just add some clip art of cosmologists discussing the unusual curvature of space in the area.
14 Aug 15:31

Robot arm seeks out Waldo, using machine learning

by Nathan Yau

The camera on the slightly creepy arm takes a picture of the pages in the book, the software uses OpenCV to extract faces, and the faces are passed to Google Auto ML Vision comparing the faces to a Waldo model. The result: There’s Waldo.

Tags: machine learning, robot, vision, Waldo