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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

New Artblog and Another Deferment of an Announcement

Basically, I've been insanely busy this month, so I'm still not ready to post about my little announcement. So that will have to wait.

Also, Alien Insurance Animation has become a new repository for my (and eventually others') art in the nature of conceptual sketches, character design, and storyboards.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Supreme Court Decides It Has Better Things to Do

Specifically, people born in the US are, in fact, citizens of the US.

Yeah. Imagine that.

Why this wasn't obvious eludes me. Is there really an attractive argument that suggests otherwise?

I realize that there is a small lot of people who think that Obama is not a US citizen, on the grounds that it would be somehow convenient politically, but I don't think they think anything through. If Obama's not a citizen, then I'm not. And if you were born here in the US, neither are you.

Stupid, stupid people. You go away now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cintiq: Tablet of Action!

Connected to a 5-year old G4 Powerbook:

Friday, November 14, 2008

I have been busy...

...But I intend to have a small announcement sometime soon.

Update: It is slightly related to the fact that I've just ordered one of these:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Paleoblogs Represent!

Specifically, it's time to vote for Brian Switek, whom I am wholeheartedly endorsing as winner of the 2008 Blogging Scholarship.

Honestly, how can anyone not vote for someone who names his blog Laelaps?

Vote here.

(I do realise this is a bit of a popularity contest, but I can't really do anything about that. Since this is how this particular scholarship is awarded, this is how it's got to be promoted.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

As of Now, My Dad Has Been In Surgery for Four Hours...

...With another 2-4 to go. A bypass has been mentioned as a possibility, in addition to the valve replacement. If that turns out to be the case, there will be an extra two hours in surgery for that.

[UPDATE: He's out and doing fine now. It's all recovery from here.]


I did vote today. I voted against Stevens and the corruption which seems to have embraced our representatives. Perhaps their replacements, if elected, will heed these words: you work for us, and nobody else. You forget that at your peril. I do have a question for anyone who voted for Stevens, in spite of his guilt: do you really think that he was going to last forever anyway? It takes someone awfully committed to a culture of decadence to willingly vote for a convict in the vain hope of preserving the pork Alaska has typically gotten. Perhaps its time Alaska learned to do without him. As in sooner, rather than later.

McCain-Palin: I voted against the both of you, because neither of you are suitable to run one of the greatest nations on earth. Both of your anti-science attitudes were a large part of my decision, and Palin's appalling ignorance and stupidity has made the rest of us Alaskans look bad to the rest of the nation. I've read too many conservative commentators that appear to have swallowed the hook that Palin would be useful to McCain, and found only an incredible capacity for self-delusion. And to the both of you: your comments regarding the opposition towards the end were out of line. McCain, I respected you once. You lost it. (Palin I never really liked or voted for, so she can't really lose what she never had.)

Some lessons here for everbody:

Conservatives in general: if you don't start returning to your roots (and get off the creationism kick already; it just looks sad using a bunch of rubes just for personal political gain), you will become increasingly irrelevant.

Liberals: please, stop whining already. (And stop opposing nuclear power and handguns. If you're serious about handguns, prove it and pass a constitutional amendment dealing with it; otherwise, stop wasting your time, let it go, and pick your battles.)

And Libertarians: you're already irrelevant. Keep up the good work.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Post 100: Allhallow's Eve, the best holiday ever...

Even if I'm absolutely unprepared for it. Again. Still. Did you know I used to write horrible rhyming poetry on Hallowe'en themes?

Yeah. And I'm not sharing a scrap of it, even if I could find it.

Instead, look at these from Golden Age Comic Book Stories: Weird Tales covers! And film posters including posters for some of my favorite films of all time, ever*!

(*Those would be the Val Lewton films.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I hope this is the last time I have to use the words "Sarah Palin" in a sentence...

PZ Myers is making Sarah Palin look bad.

Actually, it's Sarah Palin that's making Sarah Palin look bad, PZ is simply pointing out why she has made herself look bad, and how she has chosen to make herself look to people who actually do the research she paradoxically despises and insists we need more of.

I very much doubt, from her comments, that she knows what she's talking about. People who are unfamiliar with both how research and how science works often are. Ideally, this should recuse them from talking. It's a pity Palin didn't do that.

Now, I wouldn't expect a politician to necessarily know how science and research works. I do expect them to surround themselves with people who, ostensibly, do, or at least know enough to not make nakedly obvious gaffes like this.

But if this is how her campaign is being conducted, I have every reason to expect this will probably carry over into a presidency.

I might have expected better from McCain, but he picked her as his running mate. I worry four more years of darkness will be SOP.

I generally stay out of politics on this blaugh. But this is just pathetic.

(Update: comments here as well.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lauren's Unicorn

Private commission, sketch done yesterday evening:

She seemed to like it so I'm taking it to the next level: enlarging it and inking it. The final version will have some color in it.

(I tried to combine pictures I've seen of cheetah turning nearly on a dime, something not-quite-approaching horses, and a full gallop. Not certain it works 100%, though... Oh, and I made the "horn" part of a samurai sword, complete with a tsuba on the beast's forehead. I just had to do something different with it.)

UPDATE: Here's a revised version, based on some much-needed feedback:

Who Is Responsible for this Garbage?

Windows Vista, I mean. The byzantine interface (designed by spider monkeys on Red Bull) makes the political and bureaucratic infrastructure of the Ottoman Empire appear transparent, it helps by being helpy, instead of helpful.

I've just now gotten it to recognize or be recognized by the systems on the rest of the network. This took an hour and a half.

The experience leaves me with the conviction that Microsoft should go back to making program loaders (i.e. DOS). It was the only thing they were ever any good at. The rest of their products are worthless.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

SVP Squared

It was lunch! (I'm in there somewhere. Unfortunately, not one of the handsome ones.)

There's only one person I didn't get to meet in this picture. That guy. Right there. I'm pointing at him. I almost didn't meet Thomas Holtz, but was lucky at the literal last minute (I was on my way out the door to the airport).

Well, it seems that talking about what we've seen at SVP is probably a bad idea--or at least, that's the position I'm taking on everything I saw there, in posters and the technical presentations. If I have questions, I'll be making them wait. I can live with that.

But there are other things to talk about, surely? Yes. Behold:

I do wonder if it might have been better if non-English speakers were able to deliver talks in their native languages, maybe with some sort of live translator present like they used to have in old movies at the UN. Some of the talks were difficult to understand, and I can't imagine it was any easier for Chinese or Japanese speakers to deliver a presentation in a second or third language.

Does that make sense?

Is there a mathematics primer for the stuff that gets used in paleo? Some of us would appreciate it if we knew some of what the heck was going on. Think "See Jane Run. Run Jane Run. See Jane Solve a Bunch of Calculus Problems That Suspiciously Resembles Greek without Grammar..." level. I'm serious, I've lost virtually all the math literacy I used to have, and that wasn't much. (Something about not having had to use it much.)

I picked up a copy of the 2nd edition of The Dinosauria for what I thought was cheap ($45, hardcover) until Nick Gardner pointed out an irritating reality (or maybe not--I can't find it anywhere online for $15 or so bucks). But now that I have it, I'm still compelled to keep the first edition. Is there a good reason to not do so?

I went to the dealer room a lot. There were a number of books I really wanted, but simply couldn't afford (like the great cats painting book--whoever wound up with that $130, gorgeous tome has my undying envy). But I also got a book filled with Zdenek Burian paintings of marine reptiles, a children's book on the sculptures of Waterhouse Hawkins, two Richard Ellis books on sharks (The Great White-hardcover, and just Sharks, filled with lots of his paintings in color).

I also purchased a nearly or exactly 1/18th-scale resin statue of Triceratops by Michael Trcic, and his Parasaurolophus in 1/35th. Those last will be mailed up to me, along with my leftover laundry and swag that wouldn't fit into my carryons (I checked no luggage this trip--it saved an indecent amount of time to not do so).

With one exception, I didn't go to any of the after-hours events. Just tired, I guess. I wish I could have stayed all day Saturday, though. Wednesday was awesome at the museum.

I learned it takes Michael Skrepnick about 60 days to complete a painting (dependent upon complexity). That still amazes me, especially after what I went through to get the Archosauria show finished. There simply is no parity in the level of detail I accomplished and what he can accomplish.

This suggests I need more practice. The man also claims he can get the same effects out of acrylics that he can get out of oils--looking at his work, I believe him.

I did feel some small vindication talking to William Stout; he uses oils. Acrylics and I--well, I'm just not competent with acrylics.

Still, it was really awesome talking with him. I almost felt I could be the Virgil Finlay of paleo-reconstruction afterwards (providing I worked a littlelot harder). (Or maybe the Hannes Bok of paleo-reconstruction.)

Speaking of awesome, I wonder if it makes sense to suggest an artist-meet-type event at SVP. Beyond just merely meeting some of the amazing artists running around at SVP, I'd love to hear what more experienced/less-tentative artists (including those much younger than myself) might have to say to the rest of us. Maybe just a lunch?

(David Krentz does have that Gnomon Workshops video. Hm. Soon as I have money, I'll get me that.)

SVP was good to me. Before going, I was burning out, a little, in part due to the show and all the haste necessary to scrape it together, but also in part due to the fact that I haven't been doing so well as the days get darker. I've always been sort of a solitary individual, largely of my own choosing, but sometimes not. The resultant isolation can be a downer as well as a major stressor. Last year (about September) I went through a particularly bad bout of depression which lasted for about six months. In that case, a spectacularly hateful job (a badly managed valley newspaper) combined with ... ah, well, let's just say other emotional issues made coping difficult, to say the least.

I think SVP gave me enough fuel to make it through the winter.

I'm glad I went. I'm hoping I can go again. I'd put off a visit to Japan to do it.

[UPDATE!] Oooh, and Jim Kondrat of Paleo-Tech Concepts allowed me to play with a $20,000 piece of laser-scanning hardware.

I'd like one of them for my living room (pretty badly, it turns out). If I can get the resultant geometry into Maya (4.0, Unlimited, Irix), it would be pretty darn sweet.

So. Will draw anything for $20,000.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Back from the Land of Cleve!

And it was the greatest vacation ever!

I'm back from my first SVP, and I have to say, without equivocation, that I would so totally do that again.

Who did I meet? I met many many people, including Julia and Amanda and Matt Celeskey (who, impossibly, managed to recognise me--or is just very good at spotting names on nametags) and Andrew Farke and Niel Kelly and Patty Ralrick and Matt Wedel and Nick Gardner and Alton Dooley and Tom Holtz (whom I only just barely managed to meet on my way out--and I had to interrupt mid-conversation in order to do so, the only time I did so during the entire course of the meeting) and Jerry Harris (who dresses in a very dapper manner--I also liked his invisible wall).

Um, I'll get my own image of the lunch up at some point, but until I get those files e-mailed to me, here's a look.

Artists I met included:

William oh-my-god-I'm-having-an-actual-conversation-with-freakin'-William Stout. Whom I had no idea was even here, in spite of the foreknowledge of the fact that he designed the SVP logo. (Yes, bought a shirt. And a pin. And I will buy his new book when it comes out in January.)

[UPDATE: Ack! Forgot to include...]Michael Skrepnick, one of the nicest guys in the world. I guarantee, if you hang around me at all, then at one time or another, you have seen numerous paintings of his.

David Krentz, who I finally managed to meet on the way out of a particularly crowded room (that is, I was escaping the room--crowds and heat plus deep personal supidity on my part for wearing a wool coat meant I had to leave the Poster Session a little earlier than I would have liked).

Art-poster Judy Peterson doesn't have a website, but she probably ought to own one. I wish I could have talked to her at greater length (well, I guess that really applies to everybody).

Painter Takashi Oda, had a great poster--elegant, fabulous, and very informative in terms of process.

With him was an outstanding sculptor I can neither recall the website for nor remember the name of. When my swag gets mailed to me, I'll update this page, I promise!

I also met science illustrator Utako Kikutani, who combined pencil with Photoshop (or digital at any rate) to much more effective manner than my gavial for the show. Her work is outstanding.

The aforementioned Matt Celeskey (who will be hereafter referred to as ... The Aforementioned Matt Celeskey) also had a poster up--you can actually see a photo of it here.

In all honesty, I'm glad I didn't participate in the artist exhibition. Better to drink in (per the advice given to me by Mr. Stout) my first SVP meeting. Also, it would have broken me to finish up the art show and get in a poster in time for SVP. (Besides, now that I see firsthand how it's done, I know now what to do!)

Dennis Roth sent me a paper he'd written about sharks.

Nick Gardner also allowed me to leaf through his sketchbook. In spite of his blog title, he did have a few finely rendered (and accurate) theropods. I don't think the man hates theropods, so much as he is a teensy bit sick of them--a position I readily identify with.

Spotted, but didn't talk to: Kevin Padian, Peter Dodson, Christopher Brochu, Gregory S. Paul, Michael Ryan, David Marjanovic and a few others I didn't really have the stones to either interrupt or just go up and introduce myself.

Things I've learned: how to finally pronounce acetabulum (assehTABooloom). I've been doing it wrong. William Stout is the nicest man on earth. Nick Gardner made the most compelling reason to use Flickr I've ever heard, and will work to implement it soon. Having business cards made was a good thing (Matt Celeskey's was the absolute best I collected; it made me ashamed of mine--to be honest, most of the artists at the show who gave me cards shamed mine).

Not spotted (but was hoping to meet): paleoartist Dan Varner, Ray Troll (does he go to SVP meets?), Mike Keesey, Carl Buell, John Sibbick... others.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Goin' to the Land of Cleve...

I'm off for SVP and to visit friends I haven't seen in a millyon years. In spite of my intentionally awful spelling here, I intend to have a good time, or as good a time as is possible traveling to Texas before getting to Ohio on three planes can be.

See you next week! (Or earlier, if anyone reading this happens to be going to SVP!)

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Archosauria: _Euparkeria_!

Parker’s Good Animal: Euparkeria capensis

It may seem strange to admit an animal into an art show called The Archosauria that isn’t an archosaur, but under the definition chosen for the show (the Archosauria being comprised of the most recent common ancestor of birds and crocodiles and all of their descendants), Euparkeria is not actually a member of this group.

It is, however, very closely related to archosaurs -- belonging to a sister group to the Archosauria. Because it is so basal, Euparkeria can be regarded as a transitional form linking archosaurs to broader, more inclusive diapsid groups. In that sense, Euparkeria is so close to the genesis of a nearly quarter billion year long dynasty of reptiles that encompasses crocodiles and birds and everything else that evolved between them that it would seem foolish not to include it.

Those beginnings were certainly humble enough: Euparkeria is a small, lightly armored animal, no bigger than a housecat, which lived in Gondwanaland in the Early Triassic (about 248-245 million years ago, in what would become southern Africa). Euparkeria may have eaten insects or dined on smaller vertebrates while evading larger predators.

Media & Commentary:

Many, many pencil sketches went into this, and I think it's safe to say almost none of them are ever coming back out. Many ideas were thought of and then discarded, due to time constraints/difficulty. As such, I'm still sort of wistful whenever I think of it. Still, in spite of the disappointments, this is the strongest piece I produced for our little show.

Oils on canvas. Sorry some of the paint is still a bit shiny (possibly I could have photographed it a bit better as well). At one point I think I was working on three pieces (oils) at once, and things are still somewhat not-dry on any of them.

See also:
Raven's Triceratops, Tupandactylus, and Raven!
The Pterosauria!
The Dinosauria!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Archosauria: _Stomatosuchus_!

Stomatosuchus inermis: Unarmed Filter-Feeding Crocodile

What a pity Ernst Stromer’s poorly-known Eusuchian’s remains did not survive WWII, as it is one of the only known filter-feeding crocs. What material was known was a long skull, with a blunted snout (in a similar manner to alligator snouts), filled with hundreds of tiny teeth in the upper jaw and no teeth in the mandible. Assuming what is known about ratios between head length and body length for crocs is true for Stomatosuchus inermis, then Stomatosuchus grew to 12 meters (over 40 feet) in length.

The lower jaw suggests Stomatosuchus may have had a large throat pouch (perhaps like a pelican), useful for capturing, then filtering its prey from the water.

Stomatosuchus filters like an Egyptian: known from upper Cretaceous deposits in Egypt, this material was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid in 1944.

Media & Commentary:

What a pain oils on canvas board turned out to be. The background consisted of layers and layers of pigment washed with linseed oil, and this caused the whole of it to curl aggressively. The deflection caused by the oils made working on it not only annoying, but it was exacerbated by the fact that I was trying to accelerate drying time by placing it into the oven for short periods of time.

This was a mistake. I had to take it to a framing shop to flatten it, and then frame it to prevent it from curling even more.

Two and a half weeks were spent in total on this. And this was one of the last essays written, so I was a mite punchy at that point.

See also:
Raven's Triceratops, Tupandactylus, and Raven!
The Pterosauria!
The Dinosauria!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Archosauria: _Simosuchus_!

Zach Miller's essay, commentary, and reconstruction on Simosuchus is now up. Check it out!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New Show Up

Delivered yesterday. Runs through October. Bring the kids, however old.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

This is a Good Land, and we will rule over all this land...

And now, a word from one of our sponsors, some cake I had last week to celebrate a day (today) this week:

"I think we should call it your grave!"

"Ah, curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"

"Hahaha! Mine is an EVIL laugh!"

"Oh dear god in heaven!"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Announcementy: SVP 68th Annual Meeting, I Will Be There

I'm in.

Time to tighten the belt again. Next: airfares after the fifth of September.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Team Phoenicia Swag

The Team Phoenicia folks are now offering keen swag to help support their efforts.

Monday, August 25, 2008

_Brachiosaurus_ the Passable

Good enough! Let's Go!

What Will Be Done

My decision as it now stands: I'm stayin' the course. I still feel I need to commit to more rigorous improvements in my art, and I need to do it soon.

Since there have been a few recommendations along the technical I've received from strangers, I want to make something clear: the SGI is my last computer. I intend to use it until I no longer can upgrade/repair it, something to be treated as a perfect brush.

Part of the reason is that this is what I know. The larger part is that I simply don't want to be stuck using and maintaining mediocrity for the the rest of my professional life. Learning a new OS is, from my perspective, a waste of time. The old hardware and software still works, and works as if it were new, and I have never had an occasion to throw away a perfectly usable brush.

(Then again, no brush has ever frustrated me like a computer manages...)

So. I'm back.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

This Blog is Broken [update: or not]

As you can see, none of my images are loading at all anymore. This may be the death knell for this journal until I can find something which will frakking work.

The days of straight html (and none of this database-driven shite) really were better for my needs.

Computers really suck lately.

[Update: the minor stuff seems to be working again, but the main site I host all my images on is still down, down, down.]

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ad astra per luna.

I'm tardy in getting this up, but this is relevant to some work I did recently (movies currently available through Team Phoenicia's site), and is important.

Currently, there is a donation drive up for the project.

Team Phoenicia's blog has been added to the blogroll: Go Go Rocketship _Team Phoenicia_ Go!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Gone Missing from the Edge

Sunday (3 August 2008), a friend died. He was battling cancer, and had been diagnosed very recently. Now, it looks like the battle's over before it had a chance to begin.

Jeff had the capacity to explain things so well that even I could understand him.

In spite of the foreknowledge of his health, this is very sudden, and I won't pretend to be anything but frustrated and a little exhausted by this news (even coming as it does on the heels of a frustrating and exhausting weekend). You can get an inkling of how cool Jeff was by reading his Wikipedia entry.

Every time I had a conversation with Jeff, I learned something awesome, something important, or something cool, usually in combination.

He will be missed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Some Sort of Scribbly _Pachyrhinosaurus_

I'ven't posted my art lately. I haven't been doing much. But here's a little:

Very busy now. I'll try to put more up later, after I get some stuff done (most primarily, invoicing some work I've done that will actually enable me to go to SVP this year).

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Failed Reunification of Gondwanaland

Yesterday I assembled the two nodes on my Origin 200, and discovered something annoying. One of them was very dead. Since the logic appears to be getting power (even if it doesn't completely power up), and the cable is probably not suspect (each node independently confirms that one node runs perfectly fine), I'm ruling out everything but the logic carrier, which appears to be hosed.

This leaves me with a dual-processor Origin 200, and a fifty-pound doorstop for parts. Not great, but not a total loss, either. And I think it just sort of emphasizes the necessity of obtaining more current iron for an IRIX-based renderfarm. The Origin200 is 1996 vintage, and, on reflection, none of my IRIX machines break the 2001 mark.

Why don't I go to the PC? It's not a jump I'm willing to make. It will involve learning a new OS (Linux), and I feel I sacrifice far too much of my creative time to technical endeavors as it is. Migrating over to the PC therefore makes no sense to me.

Friday, July 4, 2008

On Computer Renderfarms

My recent animation experience has taught me that I need every scrap of CPU time I can get my hands on, and it needs to be MIPS-based (it has to do with the different ways different CPU vendors do floating-point calculations--believe me, there is a reason there are no mixed-cpu render farms, where some CPUs are Intel, some are IBM/Motorola, and some are Sun SPARC--those differences can add up to peculiar flicker in procedural textures ).

So even as I relax this weekend, I am taking my Origin 200 server, Gondwanaland apart from the state of storage it's essentially been in for the past two or three years. At this point, I have no idea whether it will even power on. But I can't say no to 4x180 MHz R10000s. This system is positively ancient, certainly no more recent than 1997.

But it is still useful.

Additional adds: an R4400 Indigo2 (Carcharodon), another Octane and possibly an R5000-based Indy. If my living situation were different, I'm certain the electricity costs alone would not be worthwhile. But it might be interesting to see if systems from 1994 can still be used in this environment.

If I'm successful, I may write about the composition of the network later.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

This Weekend's Results...

I'll talk more about this project soon, but I wanted to post these now.

These movies were the actual deliverables. They are somewhat rough, primarily because of the level of haste required by the deadline (Monday, in fact).

More later.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Busy-ness Ahead!

I was anticipating getting some animation done this week, just not the sort I was just handed (y'know, stuff with an actual, rather aggressive deadline). (Details to follow after the weekend, after I know whether or not I can even talk about it.)

Things will be very busy this weekend. But, I hope, the good kind of busy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Creationism Defined

This question popped up over at Skepchick, and I thought it might be useful to know what my operating definitions were whenever I use these terms.

Here they are:

What is creationism?

Creationism is a related set of ideas concerning the origins of the universe, and humanity's place in it, and humanity's relationship with its creator. Creationism has two very distinct usages stemming from this definition: the political (using the capacity of the state to coerce curricula) and the theological (emphasizing the relationship humanity has with a creator). The theological is the less common in usage, especially in debate with regards to science and the incursions science has made in resolving (literally interpreted) mythical matters on the origins of the universe.

What is intelligent design?

Intelligent design is a creationist pseudoscientific political movement which seeks to displace actual science from western culture (per the Wedge Strategy). It has no other coherent definition.

What is theistic evolution?

A type of creationism that is largely apolitical; recognizing that theology is an inadequate tool for exploring the universe, it instead focuses on theologic aspects of humanity, religion, and the relationship humanity has with its creator. Though there are many variations within this category, the basis remains the same: teleological explanations are only acceptable where they do not conflict with science itself (and some would say, therefore, with creation itself).

It is perhaps not surprising that many scientists who are religious subscribe to this variant. It is also probable that it is, in fact, the most common variant (at least in the US.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Another Nail in the Anti-Semitic Coffin

Perhaps because I apparently don't feel the subject has been hashed to death yet (and I wonder if it ever will be, given the blatant mendacity of creationists), I found this. Once again, Prof. Steve Dutch outmatches my pathetic rhetorical skills, since I was planning a post on precisely this same topic.

Someday, Professor Dutch! (Someday!)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

John Scalzi Classics in SF Film...

John Scalzi has some interesting commentary on what constitutes "classic" and "good" films in sf over here.

And sometimes I can see where he's coming from. But, I think, where he's coming from is nowhere anyone really cares to go. I mean, Gojira may not be top-shelf entertainment like, say, His Girl Friday (1940) (and don't let's forget the debt it owes to the Beast From 20,000 Fathoms or King Kong (1933)), but I think his opinion that the Emmerich Godzilla remake is a better movie is absurd. Gojira, unlike Emmerich's effort, is at least watchable. How can it possibly stink more?

Other points are valid enough: the science is suspect in Gojira (something not improved upon at all in the Emmerich Godzilla remake--that "It's a Theropoda Allosaurus" line alone isn't going to be forgotten by me anytime soon). And it's certainly true that not a whole lot of great sf films get made, even considering how young both art forms are.

For my part, most classics in the genre are more overlooked than looked at--and this does reveal just how utterly subjective what a classic is. I hold films like Thing From Another World (1951), War of the Worlds (1953), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) in much higher regard as Star Wars--and I grew up on Star Wars.

I can accept the fact that classic denotes something that is culturally codified and revered. But I also recognize it's a pretty plastic category, subject to the whims of time, change, social relevance, viewership (number of who rent classic films), and any number of other factors, and is therefore anything classic is going to be anything the viewer regards as, well, classic.

Update: which reminds me. I really need to find a copy of this movie on LaserDisc. (It's a classic!)

_Escherichia coli_ evolves new diets.

Whoa (paper--does anyone have access? I'd be interested in reading thisUpdate: I've got myself a copy now, and am ploughing through it--it's pretty dense, but fascinating!)! Looks like the Talk Origins FAQ will need to be updated! Again!

If you're a creationist, or some other variety of anti-intellectualist who denies reason, dribbles on rationality in the name of conspiracy and/or an anthropocentric religous-worldview that does nothing to advance human understanding of the universe, I have to ask: how can you live in the world, and not be filled with amazement at the power of our own understanding?

This research isn't particularly innovative in and of itself, it's just another example of an elegant experiment, one which also reveals how cool our capacity to understand is--and is additional substantial ammunition to use against denialists. I just read about things like this and recover, every single time, my amazement at the spectacular universe we live in, one which, sadly, includes those who dislike the understanding we are capable of.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Book vs. Game

Book wins.

I'll have that before the MYST game.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

CG History

The computer (I wish I knew who it was who originally said) is a stupid pencil with millions of colors. I'm rather late to the game in even appreciating the value of CG to filmmaking (that is, it took Jurassic Park to get my eyes clawed open).

After that, I was all about those awesome tools they used (I acquired one first in 1996; an Indigo R4000.) I still maintain and use a number of SGI machines: Octanes, an Indigo R3000, an Indy (which has an amazingly fast boot time), and an Indigo2. (All SGI IRIX machines are named after animals like Sarcosuchus_imperator, Paradoxides, Helicoprion, Carcharodon; the Macs in my employ must make do with names like Tsuburaya, Miyazaki, and Harryhausen.) Modern SGIs make use of conventional CPUs and are Linux, rather than IRIX-based, so I tend to pay far less attention to such things (and there is nothing more demotivating to the acquisition of new hardware like the feeling you're getting something that can be found in a common PeeCee). I now concentrate on the systems I have (one of the Octanes and my G4 PowerBook) in order to produce. I have a long way to go. But, CG has come a longer way, so I don't feel so bad.

Some good stuff (good == historical):
Pencil Test. Made entirely on (several) Mac II computers. (For some reason, I'm having trouble locating a similar project done entirely on the PeeCee. Anyone know of one?)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The I Hate Moving Post

Necessity is the mother of invention, but it's also the mother of moving. And this move has been a mother.

Yes, you were all set up for just that line.

But things are settling down. I hope to begin animation again next month, among other things...

Friday, May 9, 2008

Portrait of the Underpainting

I actually painted this a few weeks ago, but got all caught up in moving (also in progress).

Euparkeria goes in the middle.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Freelancing Again!

Just a quick note to let the universe know I'm open to commissions again. I can do portraits, in pencil or paint, or drawings of any subject matter you care to name. Reasonable rates, e-mail for details. Or post a comment below!

Some of my art may be viewed here, although I admit that's not representative of the work for hire I've generally done.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

If a cladogram falls in a forest and no one's there to hear it, does it still annoy a creationist?

In my last post, I pointed out that there were some things that are unknowable to science.

But since science is the best way to know anything (that can't be directly experienced), it might be useful for me to talk about why this is the case.

In cladistics, phylogenetic diagrams are displayed with taxa along one side in row, with their connecting branches (clado == branch) with their relationships revealed deeper in the diagram:

(A, B, C, D, and E can all be species or more inclusive groups.)

You'll notice, however, that no cladogram ever shows B evolving directly from A:

This diagram is completely invalid if A is supposed to be a specific organism (as opposed to a group not represented by a single organism). There is no way to show A is the direct ancestor of B or C for fossils.

If B and C appear both slightly derived from A, this really gives no insight as to which of the three is the true ancestor (assuming, of course, the true ancestor is present--it may not even be under consideration. All three may have had an ancestor which is unknown in the fossil record known at the time this cladogram was "generated").

Features are derived and lost all the time in organisms--recursions happen frequently in evolution, and often, even which organism is oldest offers little insight into the matter, since the entire extent of any given population is not something that is preserved in the fossil record (from beginning to end--or good enough to qualify for knowing the temporal occupation of a given species).

More to the point, a cladogram is a hypothesis--a testable statement of organisms' relationships. Producing a cladogram that suggests a true ancestor has no value because it is unfalsifiable. (Maybe it's true, but how can you evaluate if it is or not?)

The problem can be illustrated pretty well (I think) by this analogy:

Say I have two boxes. And I have two different pieces of paper which go into each into a box. So I cart the lot to the darkroom and--blindfolded, yet--put one piece of paper into a box, and the other into the other.

Outside the darkroom, I'm confronted with not knowing which piece of paper went into which box first.

And there really is no way to determine which box got its paper earlier thant the other. The event happened. And it happened without an observer being present. And there is just no way to know which got what earlier than the other. And that is what unknowable means.

Now, is this conundrum of who speciates what really a problem? Not really. Not being able to talk about ancestry at this level of detail isn't a problem, because inductively it is known that parents have children, and children also become parents, and this is true for populations like species as well.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Defense of the Intangible

At times like these, I wish I were a better writer, it might help get those ideas-which-are-clear-to-me-anyway get out there. (Edit: man, especially when my friend Tony reminds me that judging evil requires knowing intent. Which is really less than possible regarding those wacky, unknowable entities. Really, it is like two imaginary archetypes battling it out for imaginary supremacy. And mine isn't better than the other because...?)

Like: you can't use science to examine the unknowable (which god by all accounts is). It seems so obvious, axiomatic even, but I sense a tremendous amount of resistance to it (up to and including not being able to grasp the point, no matter how many different ways I state it).

But if someone does know a way how to directly examine the unknowable, I'd love to know how specific ancestor taxa could be deduced. (But I'm not terribly hopeful on that point.) I'd be vastly more interested in that than learning for sure whether there's a god or not.

Hey. I have priorities.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I can has new address?

Indeed, I do. Does. Did. As of noon.

It's pretty bare for the nonce. I must adjust that. Perhaps I will blog more about my retreat from the center of the Earth.

Perhaps not. Moving is hard.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Draft of a Letter to the ADN

You know, I've read the book Carl Kincaid refers to in his letter (16 April 2008), but I have also read more than the book ("Icons of Evolution" by Jonathan Wells).

Does he really have any idea what scientists would say if they found deformities in the fossil record? He says some really weird things, like evolution must provide millions of transitional forms out of necessity (if we had millions of transitional forms, instead of the many hundreds of thousands, would he insist evolution then had to provide billions of transitional forms?), and that it would be said to be "475 million years old," which leads me to suspect he doesn't have any real grasp of what scientists would actually say. He also accuses scientists of faking data--which is awkward since any faked data, interestingly, is easily sussed out by scientists looking to duplicate results. What fakery have creationists like Jonathan Wells ever revealed? Every time I ask questions like that, all I get are crickets. Oh, I could go on, but Kincaid's letter is just bizarre.

But back to the book, which I recommend reading (along with a thorough rebuttal: ), for no other reason than it makes it obvious why nobody gets their science from creationists.

(Comments welcomed.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

All of a sudden, everything is terribly expensive.

As in: either I get the car fixed, or move closer to work. As in, now. I don't even get paid until Monday.

$1800 for auto repairs. This is not going to happen. The vehicle's not worth that. That's even if I had that kind of money (six+ months of working at a newspaper+other economic factors == zero savings. Do not pass go. Do not collect anything.)

I'm looking into just getting the starter replaced, assuming I can find one for less than $400. I need to get the car from Anchorage to the Valley, so that it may receive a proper redneck burial.

I'm really tired of this. When I die, I hope I get to kick Henry Ford in the balls at least once.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Not my birthday, just a joke, sorry I lied...

...but I thought it would get me treats. For the record, today is not my birthday, merely a day in which my car ceased to work on me and Alaskans forgot how to drive to such an extent that I spent over two hours getting into Anchorage this morning.

Which reminds me--Alaskans really need to get off their sorry collective asses in endorsing a commuter train between Anchorage and the Valley, instead of whining about how high gas prices are.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rocky Shores Ahead

That is to say, this site now has a mascot. In 3D. In HO-scale. In plastic.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Clever Girl" Or should that be _girls_?

Thank goodness these birds don't want to take over the world.

Fortunately, you can still distract them with something shiny.

Quack. Quack. Evil Ducks.

Chiropractor ducks:

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

This Friday, Experience the Magic for the Very First Time Again

The Anchorage Street Irregulars Skepticists are about to remeet/meet again for the first time this Friday.

Location, location, location: Twin Dragon Mongolian Bar-B-Que, for 7:00 PM, Friday, April 11, on the corner of 15th and Gambell (612 E 15th Ave; 276-7535). (Just don't ask me for directions, as I only barely know where I am right this minute, and certainly couldn't give you directions here).

I'll be there, as will some other (ir)regulars, and you shouldn't miss this opportunity to JOIN US.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Corvid's Caw

And our triumvirate of four is now complete. For your convenience, I have added the Caw Box to it's rightful place in the Northern Lights box.

I shall continue to update my bloggy roll, but all nonlocal additions are going to have to wait. (Just a little longer.)

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Big Box of Animator Crack!

Arrived Wednesday, but didn't get a chance to pick it up until Saturday:

Oh! Could this be that box of animator crack I ordered?

Could be! What's inside?

Flawless performances!

Fifteen films (actually 14, with one supplemental disc, for a total of seventeen discs)!

Yes, DVDs can suck it. I really like LaserDisc.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I Deeded Theses

Again, for no really good reason, other than I'm procrastinating. DELAYING the INEVITABLE.

You might say.


I kind of like how the Stegosaurus is sort of floating in space. Like a milk dud!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hitler Was Inspired by Christianity?

There's a lot of talk on blogs about this, but I find it surprising that no one has seen the direct connection one can make from Hitler's attitudes towards the Jews and Martin Luther, the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation.

It is quite explicit, clear-cut, and obvious. Christians who pretend Hitler had no religious influence are little more than pretend Christians.

_Stegosaurus_ Sketch

For no reason, really.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Would You Like to Take a _Survay_?

Open question (which participants in the upcoming art show of doom the Archosauria are exempt from answering):

Who wants she-tirts?

See, it occurs to me that maybe this design have some sort of monetary value, and, since I and one other artist would like to go to SVP, it occurs to me that enough demand might be generated to sell enough shirts to go to an event which is otherwise likely out of my financial reach.

Getting an idea of how many people want shirts will help determine the price. The more people that want them, the lower the price. The lower the price, maybe enough people will want them to help propel us to SVP.

So, if you're interested, leave a shirt size and how many and what color and anything else you can think of!

Monday, March 24, 2008

My final word on _Euparkeria_

Next: a suitable nest, a suitable synapsid, suitable vegetation, and suiting up for painting.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Be There or Be Tessellated

This Thursday, there will be a gathering and hootenany of science fans and actual scientists here in Anchorage. Details!

I intend to be there. There may be sketching. I'm just saying this as a warning: there may even be sketching of dinosaurs (or other. In my case, probably other).

Friday, March 14, 2008

Less Than 13 Jupiter Masses

Last night I attended the Exoplanet talk that was held by the Blue Collar Scientist, Jeff Medkeff, at the Campbell Creek Science Center. This was the last talk being held this winter, so anyone not there missed out, at least until November (next winter).

Our hosts prepared well for this event--there were very few leftover seats. With good reason, the discovery of other planets around stars both distant and near is something that generates a full house.

I do have to report that a 60 mm Macro lens does not make a good general-purpose lens--something I aim to rectify for the future, but for now it means my photos turned out pretty blurry. I'm not often good at photographing in conditions where I have no control over lighting, or, even, to be frank, just to cram as many commas in here as possible, if the subject happens to actually move on its own accord.

Anyway, the talk covered a bit of history, a bit of how these planets are discovered, and covered lots of examples, as well as addressing the issue of whether there is life elsewhere in the universe.

(And is there? Oh, my yes. The odds are firmly against it being otherwise. You might even say... astronomical.)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

_Euparkeria_ Head Study

Why only a head? It's virtually the only portion of this drawing which I can use.

The body isn't wrong, but I am deeply dissatisfied with it. Back to the sketchbook...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Public Sightings!

An excellent chance to see a Blue Collared Scientist in one of his natural habitats (public speaking) will occur this Thursday 13 March 2007. Mark your calendars (or scribble in your PDAs, push buttons on your Blueberries, mark on your iPhones with a grease marker or whatever)! I intend being there, because the topic is of immediate interest to me (distant planets!).

There will be a great and lovely gathering of fans of science, skepticists, and probably a vast mass imbibing of caffeine.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

End of an Era

Gary Gygax is dead at 69. (Vector.)

I grew up reading the man's work from the red Erol Otus cover Basic and Expert sets through AD&D, and Dragon Magazine in the 1980s (back when it was relevant). Although I haven't honestly played in years, I may exhume some old gaming materials from a shelf tonight, and commiserate with a friend.

Friday, February 29, 2008


I think this is pretty close to what we're going with:

It's simple, which I feel it needs to be, but accurate enough without being overly cumbersome.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Charlie Darwin!

Charles Darwin's ideas weren't particularly new, per se, but he hit the highest, best notes of scholarship with his seminal work:

Darwin, C. 1859. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. London: John Murray, 1st edition

Through his scholarship, he helped become one of the unifiers of biology. In spite of the myriad of changes the modern synthesis has undergone since then, he remains relevant reading.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Photographic Texture Studies for an Early Triassic Archosauromorph

Courtesy of Zach, I was able to shoot photos of his geckos (which were largely cooperative).

I'm posting the images here for general reference. The images were shot with the same Nikon D50 I use for animation; 60 mm Macro lens, fully manual.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

New Beginnings...

Yesterday I quit my job, leaving two weeks notice in spite of the fact that I start the new job at 8 am on Tuesday. Due to the night-shift the old job had me working, I felt I could juggle both jobs until the two-weeks' notice expired. I don't know if management agrees with me, but at this point, management's agreement with me on anything is purely moot.

So why did I quit? Was I tired of getting paid anything but what I was worth? (A note to self for the future: verify in advance whenever an advertisement claims a hired applicant will be paid dependent upon experience; in this case, it was a falsehood.) Partly. But the stress was most of the reason.

I've started having extended panic attacks since, oh, about August of last year. This was... making it difficult to function, much less be happy or pursue anything that would make me happy.

And I have better things to do than wander through life and not be happy.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

_Euparkeria_ study: 2

So how is the first member of the upcoming show coming?

Source material for Euparkeria is rather thin on the ground; my primary source of anatomic information comes from Robert L. Carroll's book, Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution (1997). And it does feature some nice views of Euparkeria's skull (p 270).


The views presented are only in plan and elevation views. A section view of the skull is missing, so I derived this from the two existing views:

Note that it is orthographically rendered, and I have no idea if the eyes pointed quite that far forward. But from the three drawings I was able to sketch this pretty quickly:

Hang on, I think this would make a fine logo for the show! It just needs a bit of tweaking. Watch this blog for further updates.

Carroll, R. L. 1997. Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution. 7th printing. WH Freeman and Company, New York. p 270 and 264.