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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

England, Day 1

Local time: 11:00 am, London, Thursday, 17 September 2009.

Day 1.

(1:40 am 17 Sept. 2009 after waking at 6:00 am on the 15th, working a full day, and then getting picked up by the folks, we have arrived at our hostel in London, a short walk from Paddington Station. I am somewhat tired here. I've been up since the 15th, ADT, with no sleep on any of the planes.

The trip was highly tolerable once we got about the Boeing 777 at Houston. The 757 in Economy class is an exercise in sardining and spamming together passengers until nobody can move or breathe. Economy on a 777 was eminently survivable. I speculate upgrading to first class on the 757 trips is desirable if it proves cost-feasible. We'll see. Raven found upgrading to first class on the 777 was a $4,000 proposition.

Our first item of business on arrival was to buy train tickets (£16.50 each for the express as opposed to first class) and tide to Paddington Station, a lovely if baroque structure of wrought iron and lots of space.

So the pub is called the Green Man (the hostel is called Best Place, located directly upstairs above it), and I believe Raven did us both proud in finding this place. We arrived at 10:10 am, but since check in isn't until 2 pm, we have yet to see our room (#3, two twin beds in a single bunk bed configuration, and no private bathroom as I assume is typical with these things.) The site includes laundry and magnetic keycards were issued for room access for £1 deposit each.

We checked out bags in the cellar below the pub and went on a walk, exploring our surroundings until check in time.

We found close access to grocery stores, an Indian restaurant (which we attended a few days later), and some other pubs we snagged photos of because of the appealing architecture (though there was greater still yet to come in the days ahead).

Raven slept at not much after 2:30 pm, and I spent time needlessly worrying about obtaining more cash for the trip via ATM (I'd brought rather little), Carrying my broken laptop up and down the way between McDonald's (free wifi access there) and the hostel trying to find a means of working through the money issue, I did manage to snag an appropriate cord for the laptop here, the device I brought having had no applicability to English electrical outlets. Frustrated, I returned and crashed.

Nothing much else is notable, save in spite of over 24 hours of travel, not once did I actually get motion sick. This is an achievement.

I set the alarm for 6:00 am, and we kept to that every morning while we were in England.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Whale: 1, Squid: 0

Proper nommed:

It's these squid-eating whales, captain!

(Tentacle-tip to Neil Kelly of Microecos)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Middle-Way Cafe, Solo Art Piece Bit Thing

I have a solo piece in a multi-artist show at Middleway Cafe in Anchorage. I'll be there at the opening tomorrow from 6-8pm. Runs through November.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

SVP, England, side 2.

I'm back. Details to follow after the notes are tidied and in place (and my jetlag is slightly less). The short of it is this: England was amazing, and SVP was awesome.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

SVP, England...

I cross the Atlantic for the first time in about 10 hours.

See you all on the flipside.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Stolen Bicycle

Like the picture says: my bicycle was stolen either Wednesday evening or Thursday. I'll be putting up these flyers in the vain hope that someone may have seen it. (Since I'm going out of town next week, I'll be leaving behind the cell--there's simply no point in keeping it with me when I won't even be able to use it in England.)

Why I Am Going to England

Because it is, in a word, essential to my development as an artist to see things and to travel to places filled with art and history in their own right.

That's why.

Other artists can stay at home all day and do great work. But I'm not they. I need to improve. SVP and this trip to England is just another part of this (admittedly long-going) process. If you're artist or not and/or a paleogeek, I hope to see you in England.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

$575 for a copy. This is not a typo.

Over at SVPoW, there's a revolution a-brewin'. It's about pricing appropriately for your target market, and asking absurd sums for what is at most a 288-page volume, no matter how compelling the material, is not the way to do it.

Stupidity in management is alive and well everywhere (see: newspaper publishers), but this is the most amazing example I've heard of in a while.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

No Goals in Evolution

Jim Manzi likes to type a lot (and now so do I), so when he wrote this, he makes some curious statements and mistakes.

"No matter how far science advances, an explanation of ultimate origins seems always to remain a non-scientific question."

Does it? I notice science keeps pushing it back, further and further into the realm of the unknowable. This leaves those who would invoke god as an explanation less and less to do. Might it be conceivable they then eventually be left with nothing to do after all? (At least as far as explaining the natural world is concerned.)

"Evolution in nature is more complicated — but the complications don’t mean that the process is goalless, just that determining this goal would be so incomprehensibly hard that in practice it falls into the realm of philosophy rather than science."

Or this is wrong, and evolution in nature is, in fact, goalless.

"The combination of a constantly changing fitness landscape and an extraordinarily large number of possible genomes means that scientists appropriately proceed as if evolution were goalless, but from a philosophical perspective a goal may remain present in principle."

Possibly. But why burden an explanation with unnecessary multiplicity?

"Science can not tell us whether or not evolution through natural selection has some final cause or not; if we believe, for some non-scientific reason, that evolution has a goal, then science can not, as of now, tell what that goal might be."

If you posit the existence of goals--of the existence of something which science can't disprove exists--then why submit that they exist at all, especially if they are completely superfluous?

We can imagine goals because we see primarily the successes of evolution (even extinct organisms are, for their time, outrageously successful), we don't see the failures, and yet there were always far far far more failures than successes. If we saw both in volume and proportion, would designists still suggest evolution had goals after all? Possibly they might, but would it still seem reasonable to do so?

"The theory of evolution, then, has not eliminated the problems of ultimate origins and ultimate purpose with respect to the development of organisms; it has ignored them."

Inasmuch as there is nothing to ignore (Evolution does not, for instance, strictly address abiogenesis. That's still a different department, and it makes no sense to fault evolution for not addressing it), but this, too, is wrong. Goals were often suggested as evidence for the reproductive success for some lineages over others by plenty of early workers and naturalists. It took time to dispense with this imaginary baggage, because it gradually became apparent that success was not a target of natural selection, but a result; one where indifference rules. Goals can still be imagined, but this is only possible by ignoring all of the failures, something science is certainly not doing.

"These problems are defined as non-scientific questions, not because we don’t care about the answers, but because attempting to solve them would impede practical progress."

Practicality doesn't prevent physical cosmologists from working on problems. And can Manzi really say no progress has been made? Practicality also poses no obstacle to mathematics (even before when practical uses for crypto were found last century).

"Accepting evolution, therefore, requires neither the denial of a Creator nor the loss of the idea of ultimate purpose. It resolves neither issue for us one way or the other. The field of philosophical speculation that does not contradict any valid scientific findings is much wider open to Wright than Coyne is willing to accept."

I think it's interesting that Manzi is constrained by his argument within the limits of the physical world and the information it generates, things which we only know about and benefit from by way of science, rather than any other kind of philosophy.

But he's not wrong. I do think his conclusion is correct (even if the reasoning behind it is plain wrong); science cannot address the existence or nonexistence of God; both views are therefore compatible (so long as religious philosophy chooses to not contradict reality).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Face of Unreasoning Rage

Hrm. I've been trying to understand why this man looks like he's about to explode over this issue, why he rages against even the most basic reforms being proposed here.

Has he even read the bill being discussed? Somehow, I doubt it. He looks to be beside reason.

I've been without any health insurance for a long time. I certainly would not seek his advice on starting a new business and attempting to secure health insurance for myself in this market which favors only the insurer. This man has no answers for me, no solutions.

Only rage, unreasoning and irrational rage.

I have to say, I don't find that to be of much use to me in my circumstances. Thank goodness I've my health. That I know of, so far. For now.

Emperor Nautilus Inked

Over light table with Rapidograph pen:

Click to encommodiate.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Pencil, with Pen-Opake on top:

Click to enlargify.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Okay, I'll be at the Art Remains Art Show...

...from about 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm today. And then I will collapse at home afterwards.

Say, did I mention that this show is being advertised on television in the Valley? Well, it is. On MTA's DTV, LMTV Channel 303. From Eagle River to Big Lake.

Hey, I've never advertised on television before. This is a thing!

Also, did I mention there will be free red postcards at the art show tonight? No? While supplies last, you can get a free red postcard at the art show tonight! (I doubt I'll run out. I made 176 of them.)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Art Remains: new art show.

(Raven by Raven Amos. Dinosaur skull and layout by S. Elyard)

The show runs from 7 August through 30 August 2009 at Cafe Europa on 601 West 36th Avenue in Anchorage, Alaska. I'll be there after 5pm on the 7th for First Friday, possibly sketching my cares away.

(There will be prints, postcards, and originals for sale as well. All proceeds go to the "send the artist to SVP in England this year fund" for orphans with parents.)

Photo-coverage is here!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Emperor Nautilus

Yeah, I know. I've been swamped with work and prep-work and getting ready for travel and jobhunting and other stuff. So here's an errant doodle I made in glorious ball-point pen:

Click to make it mclargehuge!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dear Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute of Seattle...

Casey Luskin, you are a liar. And to anyone who is even moderately educated in the science, you are an ignorant and dishonest buffoon.

The video breakdown presented here of Luskin's mouthing of creationist tripe is effective, I must say. I may have to take note of this "new" medium of video for the future...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

At some point, I do plan on posting non-Pachyrhinosaurus artwork, really.

Click to brobdinagificate. ( Just some noodling with textures. Sort of a sketchbook raid, really. Still really busy.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

The more rigid the belief, the more inevitable the snap.


Interesting, compelling, and a side of the story I hadn't seen yet.

Belief may be a right, but God forbid beliefs should ever be tested, disparaged, challenged, or contradicted in a publicly-funded space. Where, I wonder, did the Farnans learn that the most appropriate response to such challenges is litigation, instead of discussion and confrontation? (And what, I wonder, have the creationists who plainted about "activist" judges in 2005 have to say about this decision?)

So then I see this.

So a few brief, open comments to creationists:

The Earth is not 6,000 years old. The Bible does not claim it is. Those who are familiar with the writings of James Ussher understand how the number was derived (relying on numerous sources separate from scripture), and must also recognize the inherent fallibility of such methods. He worked with the best information he had at the time, and had to fill the gaps in scripture from sources external to the Bible. Now we've moved on. More sources of information have come to light since then. So unless you accept the age of the universe being around 14 billion years, you really do believe in nonsense.

Believe whatever you want. But no amount of pretentious posturing, declarations of faith, litigation or lying will ever make such beliefs acceptable or true.

There is also no doubt that people who believe such things are arrogantly ignorant, like Don McLeroy here. Anyone less afflicted with hubris would be ashamed to say such things. Anyone less afflicted with hubris would probably also know better than to embarrass himself in front of God and an entire planet.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Going to England in September...

Because we're going. Haven't done anything but purchase plane tickets at this point, but that's a major start.

Since this is my first trip to that splendid isle, any advice from savvy travelers or natives would be most welcome.

Now that I'm broke, I need to get funds together for the registration proper, place to stay, and something to live on while there.

Anyone need some work done?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Of the Folly of Fools

An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.
--Proverbs 17:11

Recently I was involved in yet another discussion with a creationist (this time online). Unfortunately the entirety of the conversation was deleted. So I can't point it out. I don't think I need to speculate why creationsts excise threads on their own blogs where their opinions have gone awry.

However, before that, I had planned and written a final response to a link he provided to the Institute of Creation Research, which I've adapted and expanded here:

There is a passage in the Bible when light is created (Genesis 1:3). Not the Sun, but light (the Sun is created on the fourth day). The ancient Hebrews apparently regarded the light of the sky as something separate from the light of the sun, hence the apparent redundancy.

But the failing of light in the evening does not define a day--the rotation of the Earth does (and this defines the days in the calendar year, which must be occasionally corrected to accommodate the actual length of a solar year, otherwise planting seasons will fall out of sync). But since such was unknown at the time the original Hebrew was set down, it might make sense back then to regard the light of the sky as the definition of day--but carrying this notion forward as a literal interpretation means all science about the roundness of the Earth and where our light comes from--the basis of the calendar year and its subsequent and necessary modifications--must be rejected.

In order to regard the Bible as literal and inerrant, it is now therefore better than all of observed reality, without any regard to how Creation itself is observed--if God made the universe, and the Bible contradicts what God has made, then what we can see of Creation must be discarded in favor of the human-made text. All of geology, astronomy, cosmology, biology--boom. Overturned. Done with. It doesn't matter how useful they are or how correct they are--it is now "wrong." The consequences could be staggering and devastating to civilization, but who cares?--We're putting the human interpretation of the text above reality. The hermeneutic Literal and Inerrant makes a liar of Creation.

But all of this awkwardness goes away once Literal and Inerrant is rejected in favor of parable, story, and metaphor. Make no mistake: the choice of interpretation of these writings is ultimately a purely human decision (and is not rooted in the word of God).

Since theology is about (in part) the relationship humanity has with its creator, I have to ask what sort of theology it is that permits Jesus to use parables, but such things aren't tolerated elsewhere in the same text? If Scripture is inspired by God, if not outright literally represented as the word of God, then could any theology be more awkward than one which actually disallows God from communicating in a method that would be remembered, recorded, and passed on, rather than a literal scientifically-accurate description of how the universe came to be?

Theology shouldn't be troubled by the material, but some religious believers have willfully and rigidly set their philosophies so that it is just that. Why does a minority of Christianity allow itself to be troubled by evolution? Because their chosen philosophy demands that any perceived conflict with the material universe (i.e., Creation) be dealt with by rejecting evidence, rebelling against science, and idolizing the authority that obliges them to do both.

So when any religious group goes up against science, it has absolutely nothing to do with God (and everything to do with rebellion).

Not when so many fail to quote accurately from the science itself, which is nothing short of deceit. (A distortion is deceit. A quote mine transfigures and edits text from the source in order to make it reflect a very different agenda--and it is nothing less than deception.) And how many refuse to stop parroting the "evolution is impossible because it is statistically improbable" argument, when, to anyone who actually knows anything about mathematics or statistics, it is wrong (and trivially easy to refute (see item No. 10))? Could it be that this argument is not aimed at those who are familiar with these subjects, but, in fact, those who are ignorant of them--who have neither education nor knowledge otherwise? (Do Christians who do this sort thing think there's a clause or loophole in the ten commandments that permits this dishonest behavior? What on earth makes them believe they do?)

Not when so many make use of the most poisonous rhetoric to describe evolutionary biology and those who use it in their work (cf. comparison to Nazism etc.).

Not when they fail to uphold their own standards (or what should be their own standards) when it comes to representing science. Arrogance combined with ignorance is so typical of virtually every creationist I've talked with--in person or online--that it has actually become a legitimate stereotype. (Behold the behavior of those who supplant science with their own religious viewpoints. They plaint that science rejects their ideas, but since they rejected science first, why should anyone sympathize with them?)

When every "creation research" organization I've ever seen without fail commits these acts of deception, disrespect, and hubris, what basis is there for their existence? The fact that they advance outright garbage as science is almost completely beside the point. Any organization or individual who behaves in this manner will simply not be seen as trustworthy. And why should they be? If they sacrifice the smaller morals, how can the larger ones have any meaning?

What research program do any of these "research" organizations really offer? What have they published--not self-published, but really, actually published in the scientific literature? If the answer to that is "nothing," (and it is) then these organizations--some of which subsist largely on enough donations that would embarrass in their riches many legitimate scientific labs worldwide--are nothing but parasites.

And for what? So they can keep up the pretense of belief in God merely because they crave an unassailable authority that allows them to do so?

Is that what faith is supposed to be about? Can it truly be faith if it is crucially dependent upon something as hollow as human authority?

Decadent is a word which often goes with decay, and on that note, does any word better fit the moral landscape presented by the political movement of fundamentalist creationism? Most professional creationism is already perfectly synonymous with dishonesty--and scientists and informed laypersons alike both know it.

Fact is, many Christians find their faith isn't challenged by science. Millions of them worldwide simply take science in stride--and it affects their religious beliefs not a bit. If you're a Christian who believes the Earth is young and that evolution is a lie, maybe you should ask yourself what they are doing right, and figure out what you are doing wrong.

It is up to you to adopt a theology which, as the very keystone of its existence, doesn't oblige the most egregious illiteracy (historic, scientific, and theologic) and therefore doesn't fly in the face of reality.

I want to close this with a bit of a confession: I don't really like the role of the cruel messenger. I find I am ill-suited for it and would much rather spend time with those who do know what they are talking about, who actually practice science--a process of knowing and understanding which is unequivocally unrivaled in its results. From them, I can and have learned much about science and the universe.

In contrast, what creationists have taught me is that they are often untrustworthy, arrogant, and difficult to deal with. I sometimes resent the time it takes responding to them because honestly, cruelty is not all it's cracked up to be, and my patience for dealing with arrogance and dishonesty is becoming shorter the longer I do it.

But I suppose so long as the cult of rebellion against science exists, I'd best get used to it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pop Art Show Entry at MTS Gallery

The show runs through 17 April through 4 May 2009 in Mountain View. Here's my piece (marvelously colored by Raven Amos; the original is in black and white only):

Click to Enlargificate

I did my best to simulate 1980s halftones found in comics of the period. Basically, I did something I would have loved to read when I was 13.

Original is for sale for $200, but I also made little prints for $0.75, and four dinosaur art postcards for the same price, as an experiment to see if they'd sell. If they did (a little), there may be more. If not, I'll abandon the post card idea for good.

Next: get some of the character designs posted for Alien Insurance...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Perfecting _Pachyrhinosaurus_

A year and a half ago, I painted this.

Normally, I don't revisit or do remixes of anything this big or complicated, but there was always something unfinished and rushed about this piece in my mind, and I actually jumped at the chance to rework it.

Since I always save my file history, this is easy (at least at first). Oh, and if you're an artist working digitally, and you aren't doing this, you should. Saving often is great, but saving a new version every time a new change is made is even greater! For example: my current proportions don't favor a standard US Mail Postcard (which should be no bigger than 4.25" x 6.00"), but with layers, I can scale and arrange everything I want included until they do (with an eighth-inch bleed all the way 'round).

First, the difference between a restoration and a reconstruction (in the sense of William Elgin Swinton):

A reconstruction is an impression, model, or re-enactment of a past event formed from the available evidence (Oxford American Dictionary).

For restoration, the definition specifically mentions extinct animals ("a model or drawing representing the supposed form of the extinct animal, ruined building, etc."; ibid.).

I think it's a mistake to assume that because specializations are not present in a given skeleton, general actions like digging or (say) swimming are therefore ruled out. But it's actually fallacious to say that they are: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Traits that would positively identify many many animals as diggers or swimmers are often absent (since behavior seldom fossilizes)--yet these are both things many animals can do (and some do rather well--without the need for evident specialization).

For the sake of a good artistic restoration, more than mere knowledge of anatomy is required here; the animal in a successful life reconstruction will be doing something or otherwise have some discernable motivation--this lends verisimilitude and detail and life to the restoration.

A restoration does not have to be a scientific hypothesis; it can posit behavior that is perfectly feasible, but might be specifically untestable. For example, maybe Psittacosaurus didn't dig at all, but how can anyone tell if it didn't? In the case of Pachyrhinosaurus, charging down a hill might not be something it did--but if it was not overtly incapable, then why not add a little dynamism to the image?

This is not, incidentally, a constraint of scientific conservativism; it's a constraint of having a limited understanding of animals in general--or not understanding the point of a life restoration, possibly. It might work for reconstructions that are technically valid but otherwise lifeless, but a good work of art will often go beyond what is overtly displayed in the skeleton of a given critter--and often must, if it is to be memorable at all.

Most of my sources come from skeletal material as well as close examination of other artists' restorations (as well as a liberal amount of reading from the technical literature).

But I also originally wanted to pay homage to the reason why I hold Pachyrhinosaurus in such high regard in the first place. This I did okay with originally, but here's where it all started for me: in 1996, I lived in Washington State, and was experiencing a resurge in interest in paleontology after a lengthy hiatus. When I was younger I had a series of Golden Guide books that I carried everywhere with me. (One was Rocks and Minerals).

And when I came across a 1990 edition of Dinosaurs in the same vein of design and style, I snagged it immediately.

I've lived in numerous places, thanks to my Dad being in the Navy. But Alaska and now Washington didn't yield much when it came to dinosaurs. So this page, in particular, made me do Pachyrhinosaurus:

The new remix finally satisfies me in that respect. In spite of this post's title, I don't think necessarily I've perfected the piece; far from it. But deadlines are deadlines, and eventually the artist absolutely must let it go.

Until, at least, the next time, should another second chance presents itself.

But now to it.

Step one was to erase the body and adjust the pose slightly. This was easy since I try to preserve everything in separate groups of layers in Photoshop.

Step two involved reworking the background extensively. Very little was retained, since I knew this would be printed out large-scale, I wanted the most texture and detail I could get away with.

Monkey-puzzle trees were a must this time around, and I redid every single horsetail, layering thousands of them in as efficiently as possible.

I used personal photo-reference for the trees, from photographs taken when I lived in Washington state; with the main painting on the Cintiq display and a preview file open on Harryhausen (my 5-year-old G4 laptop's display), I was able to paint freehand from the reference without having a printout of it. (Since I don't have a printer, this saves time.)

Quick tip for artists not necessarily new to tablets regarding the Cintiq pen-based display: look at the cursor, much as you might with a regular tablet, rather than where the point of your pen is, and painting and other operations will go much more smoothly. Some artists get frustrated by the change, and I think this must be the reason why. Once you adapt to that, you'll never want to go back.

The trees were also built in several layers: trunks, branches, and leaf-clusters (background clusters and highlighting clusters). For highlights, I made extensive use of the "lock transparency" toggle for the background leaf cluster layer. That way, my highlights would never appear anywhere other than where leaves were painted already.

The new trees now frame the left-hand side of the composition more, giving something for the silhouette of the animal to interact with.

Ground vegetation in the fore- and background were built up in a series of layers, with a shadow for the animal multiplied on top of the background layers (also on its own layer).

For the vegetation, transparency in brushes was used a lot as well. Ninety-percent works for most things that were green. Then I just layered in as many brush strokes as it took to convey greenery.

The new sky is a gradient (as a real sky is).

I don't use filters much, but the green wall in the distance needed some texture, so I faded in some faint layers of monochromatic uniform noise and rebrushed much of it.

The body and head of the animal took on a new color scheme. This time, I favored a model presented by an existing animal: the Okapi. I also redesigned the iris somewhat, making it look more natural. On the rough nose I acheived a more natural texturing in highlights to better emphasise the "pachy" in Pachyrhinosaurus.

The original purpose of the remix was to enable a traveling exhibit that would show in museums in Alaska. My hope is it will be met with much success. But I also finished it in time for a virtual exhibit, located here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

General Web-Development Type Question...

This is related to that minor announcement I've yet to be fully prepared for, but I have a question about an effect I'd like to have implemented on the site for it (also yet to be designed at this stage).

I have some 3D geometry I'd like displayed in a window within the home page, looking something like this to start:

I'd like visitors to be able to rotate and spin that sucker. While being rendered in that fashion, against a white background, with no other shading. With no more to it than that, and visible/accessible in virtually every browser on the planet, on virtually every platform on the planet--extant or extinct (within reason, obviously), without duplicating any effort on my part.

(SGI users are familiar with the inventor viewer; that's similar to what I'm going for).

Question is, what's the best way to accomplish this? Anyone have any recommendations/suggestions for me?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I'm going to encourage everyone who means well, reads this, and has a blog to give this one a bump. As it stands as of this writing, someone with an Xbox360 is in front of Amanda's entry, and I think that this--at least this--needs to be rectified.

So please, vote not just once, but an inhuman number of times! Today, tomorrow, every day you have internet access with as many browsers as you can afford to install, and multiple times a day--let's vote for a stuffed brontosaur over some guy with an Xbox.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. But an Xbox isn't. Let's waste it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Let's Get Out the Machine...

And see if we can't get Amanda a scholarship out of it.

C'mon, Honored Meagre Readership! All it costs is one click from as many machines as you can manage as often as you can manage!