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Friday, February 22nd, 2008 - 7:33 PM

"I Don't Cherish Adobe Illustrator - Harsh Criticism Deserved"

I was given a tight deadline on a couple graphic design projects at work today. The assignments were handed to me mid-day, and I had to get them done before I left (Monday would probably have been fine too, but I don't mind a challenge). There's no need to get into the details of the specific tasks, but I must say I was not enjoying my selection of computer software today.

It frustrates me when an unworthy product gets undue attention when vastly superior products go virtually unnoticed. This injustice especially annoys me in regards to computer software, graphics apps in particular. For an unknown reason (money, marketing, advertising, viral infection?) Adobe has completely monopolized the graphics industry. It's seemingly expected that all professional design work should be done using a combination of Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. I use Adobe products at work every day, but for my personal projects I prefer using other software (plus I cannot afford Adobe products even if I wanted to use them - wouldn't mind having Photoshop). For far less money there are vastly superior products out there. Photoshop - the grand exception - is a great product, and I use it by choice. Illustrator and InDesign I use simply because that's all I have at my disposal at the office.

Both CorelDraw and Serif DrawPlus have far more to offer than Adobe Illustrator. Perhaps Illustrator is "powerful" and "sophisticated" (over-complicated and clunky), but I can hardly stand using it. Some of the most basic graphics manipulations are needlessly hard to approach using Illustrator.

Not everything in Adobe Illustrator is done wrong. It's a powerful graphics application, worthy of use. Its greatest weaknesses are its steeper learning curve and usability inadequacies. Here is a list of issues that particularly bug me about Adobe Illustrator, even though I know solutions for overcoming them.

Empty, Unfriendly Shell: Illustrator is a bare bones shell that offers far too few time-saving interface commodities. Normally self-explanatory tools are needlessly complicated. Perhaps it is well-coded and creates nice looking results for those willing to invest the extra time (I do generally like the cleanness of certain modules). Nevertheless, if time is truly money, why not save a buck (or thousands) and use another more efficient and friendly tool? Why do competing products get labeled as "for hobbyists", "for beginners", "for those on a tight budget", when the truth is that they are better products regardless of their refreshingly reasonable price tags? If a product can produce the same or better result while saving a hobbyist both time and money, should the professional instead punish himself by using what his industry considers "the standard"? It's possible that Adobe has created for themselves a perceived value simply through their horribly high prices. People assume that to get the best, you have to pay the most. Then, with all these riches, Adobe is able to hire resources to theoretically produce a better product. But money cannot buy passion. A passion for money on the other hand can effectively squash the potential for producing a good product that is connected with the concerns of the end user (my proverb for the month).

Object Selection: Selecting objects (doesn't get any more basic than that) is a nightmarish chore in Illustrator. I am amazed each time I target a particular object with a mouse click, and a completely different object is selected, sometimes so far away it defies reason. Invariably, the wrong object is selected - the one on top, with an effective clicking zone far outside its bounding box - nowhere near where I clicked. It's like those old, horribly programmed games with stupid box-based collision detection: even though you jump far over an enemy to avoid it, you sustain damage because your character's huge invisible box hits the enemy's huge invisible box! Selecting objects that are at all obstructed from view by other objects is impossible with mouse-clicks (pen taps in my case) alone in Illustrator. The common sense object selection found in all other competing software is as follows: if a single pixel of an object is visible in the viewport, the object can be selected by clicking that bit. Serif takes it one step further in DrawPlus by allowing completely hidden objects to be selected by cycling subsequent clicks through all objects that occupy the space where clicked, starting with the topmost object (Hello! Superior usability!).

Node Selection: Selecting individual nodes on a curve in Illustrator is frustrating and sometimes impossible. Not only are the node handles way too small, but most of the time a click on the object selects the curve rather than the individual node as desired. Sometimes the focus jumps to a completely different object, rather than granting preference to the currently selected one when working with nodes (DUMB!).

Object Transparency: There is no essential transparency tool in Illustrator. It seems at first glance an object can only have flat, unvarying transparency. For no reason at all, one has to create a separate transparency object and use it as an opacity mask in order to create varying transparency. This is an absurd complication.

Color & Stroke Selection: Changing the color or stroke attributes of an object is an atrocious affair. Even these, the most basic of operations, are complicated in Illustrator.

Boolean Operations: A great example of Illustrator's cryptic behavior can be seen when trying to join two or more vector objects so that their outlines combine into one unified shape. This type of operation is commonly referred to as a "boolean" operation, a "join", or a "weld". All programs have always had this feature from day one. It's clearly labeled and easy to use. Illustrator has never had this feature. Joining objects is a tedious, multi-step process. The names of the tools involved have little or nothing to do with common sense, so at first glance it seems the functionality doesn't even exist. This is a common theme in Illustrator: though it may be able to do most anything, finding out where and how to do it is no easy task. Once the odd methods are mastered, productivity still suffers because the operations are not well-conceived or require more clicks than the obvious straightforward methods competitors employ.

Tool and Style Presets: Time saving and creativity enhancing presets for object styles, brushes and other tools are so few in number, I wonder why they are included at all.

Effects and Filters: The whole concept of object effects and filters within Illustrator is befuddling. By the time a user finally finds the effect they are looking for in the cryptic menus, it's likely it will be grayed out because the wrong class of object is selected. This is not explained at all in the structure of the menus or by employing common sense. You just have to know after beating your head against it for a while!

Textures: Useful texture fills are nonexistent in Illustrator - the few bitmaps offered are overused and useless at the same time. CorelDraw has included infinite mathematically calculated (procedural) and marvelously varied texture fills since version 3 in 1992. To create a beautiful and ornate texture in Corel, click a button. The same texture would take several hours to accomplish in Illustrator - no wait, it's not even possible to create them in Illustrator! Perhaps they have a contract with major photo houses. They don't want to include anything useful with their software, risking to take away from the success of companies that sell photos and textures. I can't think of a "good" reason to include so little useful media, especially variable media that won't get overused and stale.

Behind the Times and Overpriced: For numerous objective, real-world industry reasons the latest version of Adobe Illustrator pales in comparison to what other companies were doing well over ten years ago! And the other superior products are a fraction of the price of Adobe products!

Inefficient and Complicated User Experience: When I'm using Adobe Illustrator I feel like I'm a cross between a snail and a turtle. To create graphical effects that take seconds or minutes in other programs, I have to rack my brain to find any way at all to do it in Illustrator. Out of all the major (and minor) vector illustration applications I have used, Illustrator has the worst interface and initial user experience (aside possibly from Flash - now an Adobe product as irony would have it).

This list of Adobe Illustrator's shortcomings is nowhere near to being complete. I simply touched on the reasons for annoyance fresh in my mind from today's experience (it's a brand-new annoyance each and every time!). Even though I'm a little perturbed at Corel's gone-sour business practices and strategies (buying out countless promising competitors, absorbing their titles and selling them alongside their equivalent, pre-existing applications - and drastically slowing significant improvement to all of them, combining nothing so you have to buy them all... don't get me started on this topic!), I can't help but notice they create a vastly superior vector illustration tool. Serif too, has long been in the game with their DrawPlus. DrawPlus X2, the latest release to date, offers most of the time saving and sophisticated tools veterans expect to find and some of Serif's own uniquely superior ingenuity while somehow simultaneously retaining ease of use that beginners can appreciate. While I hope for Serif's continued success and have great expectations for ongoing and unparalleled innovation, too much success is a high risk. Too much success will make them a likely candidate for a buyout, or if they refuse the money they may eventually become the next detached giant. Then I'd be back at square one, looking for something fresh and relevant.

So did I finish my tasks today at work? Yes. Did I end up using Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign (I don't have quite as many woes with InDesign, but it's no gem either) to do it? Yes, yes and yes - but barely "in time"! I stayed an hour late and was forced to shirk some of my other less urgent responsibilities. The whole time I was thinking, "If I had Serif DrawPlus or CorelDraw here I could create this effect in one swipe and a couple clicks!" In the end, not only did I spend too much time fiddling with a simple graphical element, but I didn't like how that piece turned out, so I covered half of it!

The annoying fact of the matter is that I am very hesitant to suggest the purchase of non-Adobe software, even though I'd love for these other software companies to get well-deserved money. 1) Many people falsely assume that Adobe products are superior and worth the expenditure. 2) When I already "have" Adobe stuff to use, suggesting other software feels ungrateful, since the money has already been forked out to get "the best". While buying the other products would save money, once you buy something, not buying other "duplicates" is perhaps the primary way to save money. Though it's quite possible that time saved using other products could make up for the extra expenditure. 3) It may be assumed I don't know what I'm talking about by suggesting unfamiliar titles when I already have "the best". 4) Because of the unfortunate lacking popularity of superior products, if I ever leave the company, these better tools would probably go unused when the next guy sees the sickly popular Adobe products at his/her disposal, not giving the others a fighting chance. Not only would that be a shame, but it would make me feel bad for suggesting the purchase just for my sake.

Blah blah blah, I could talk about this stuff forever, and it's really boring for everyone else. THE END!

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Thursday, February 21st, 2008 - 10:06 PM

"Nintendo DS Homebrew EsoCool and EsoNew"

I now have in my possession everything I need to get started with Nintendo DS homebrew. For those who are already thinking, "What in the shuboingas is 'Nintendo DS Homebrew' ", allow me to explain. First and foremost I hope you at least know a Nintendo DS to be the latest portable video game system made by Nintendo, successor to the widely popular Gameboy series (don't ask me why it's not called the Gameboy DS). If you don't know what a Nintendo or video game is then you probably don't know what a computer is either, much less a blog, so I'll assume you are not even reading this, and I'll now refrain from addressing you furthur.

Typically a portable gaming system like the DS is used to play commercially licensed games purchased in the form of small cartridges. "Homebrew" is the term used to describe software developed noncommercially to further extend the functionality of the gaming system where the big companies have failed to capitalize.

If you are not already familiar with the concept of homebrew, you might be wondering how it is possible to get programs to function on a system built to load games only from oddly shaped cartridges. Well I am glad you asked because I was about to explain. As with any new technological breakthrough or invention, there are people out there who like nothing more than to instantly dissect, hack and "improve" upon said technology - and to do it before anyone else does! In the case of the Nintendo DS, some crazy smart engineers figured out how to trick the DS by building adapters that on one end look and function exactly like a DS game cartridge. On the outside of these special adapters is a slot to insert various types of memory cards (Compact Flash, SD, etc.). The homebrew software, data and multimedia files (pictures, music and movies) can then be loaded on the memory card. If configured properly the DS will load applications from the card as if they were regular games.

Perhaps a question pops into your mind: "Why bother?!" Normally I might agree with such a sentiment, dismissing such ventures as a challenge of self-worth for the technically-minded, with no worthwhile results other than bragging rights to show for it. However, in the case of Nintendo DS homebrew I am as hooked as the next nerd.

My interest in Nintendo DS circles around my desire to get my thoughts and goals more organized. My memory capacity has been severely downgraded in recent years. I find myself writing many more notes than I ever had need of before. It's an absolute necessity if I am to have any hope of remembering.

More recently I have shifted my attention to PDAs and have contemplated buying one for a couple years now. In the midst of my fairly thorough inquiry into the various handheld devices it occurred to me that a Nintendo DS ought to be capable of doing everything a PDA can do. In fact the format of the device is ideal for such an application with its stylus, touch screen, WiFi, and dual display. Sure enough I was a quick Google search away from discovering the wonderful world of Nintendo DS homebrew!

In the past several days since receiving all the gear necessary to open up the DS for homebrew use I have downloaded most noteworthy applications circulating the web. Eventually I may gather enough writing energies to post reviews of each DS homebrew app I've tried. For now I need to get to bed. This entire post was typed and transmitted using the Nintendo DS. Typing on a virtual keyboard can be fun, but there's nothing speedy about it! It is cool to be able to do most everything I need to do remotely on the DS. I'm just a few short steps away from being able to do any sort of web maintenance all on this handy little device.

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Tuesday, February 19th, 2008 - 1:44 AM

"The Best Movie Ever Made - The Forbidden Kingdom"

The Forbidden Kingdom is going to be the best movie ever made in the history of film-making. Well for those interested in martial arts films, it will definitely be the highlight of recent memory. I haven't been keeping up to speed with all the gossip since I first heard about the project quite a while ago. I stumbled upon the trailer just now (with eyes welling with delight), and it looks better than I could have possibly imagined. Seeing Jet Li and Jackie Chan in the same frame is a thrill beyond words. The only thing cooler in this respect would be to meet them in person. The Forbidden Kingdom is a film of destiny. I'm just glad the two genius artists finally decided to come together to make a film. They are not exactly spring chickens. I only wish they didn't wait so long. They could have been making dozens of brilliant movies together, like so many famous Chinese actors collaborate. I suppose the delay makes the film seem all that more epic and worth the wait. April 18th can't come soon enough! Too bad Bruce Lee - the first major martial arts legend - isn't around to make an appearance - to complete the set (pardon the pun).

From the preview, it looks like both Jet Li and Jackie Chan reprise their signature martial arts styles (general, not specific) - ones that have both made them famous and that compliment their personality traits and skills. This is likely thanks to Yuen Woo-ping, who knows how to bring out the best in both of them, having worked with them both extensively. Jackie Chan uses his more loose, freestyle drunken boxing (Legend of the Drunken Master and more than a handful of others), while Jet Li uses his precise, composed master style with perfected motion and posture (as seen in Once Upon a Time in China and a host of other titles).

Jet Li in Forbidden Kingdom

Forbidden Kingdom Movie Site

Jackie Chan in Forbidden Kingdom

P.S. For those who have problems with Chinese martial arts films where the characters fly and have mystical abilities... why is that? I respect your view, but I challenge you to think in realms of fantasy, not realistic combat, gravity, and other natural laws. You don't criticize Superman's flight, Gandalf's wizardry, or the characters in X-Men, Spiderman, Chronicles of Narnia, mice and rabbits that walk (on 2 legs) and talk, etc. All these western movies and characters have mystical and magical powers (or gross personification). There is no difference between those and the powers imagined for eastern characters (except eastern is much cooler in my opinion). There is no need to know how or why a master martial artist can fly or skip on water. Just enjoy the imagery, the fantastic dream! It's magical, legendary and epic. It's beautiful, exciting, vibrant and peaceful all in one. Think of these characters like Chinese superheroes. What could be better? The imagery and culture is a million times more rich than most American fantasy. It's like watching a painting in motion. So what, they can fly through the air and control dozens of projectiles with magical accuracy? It's imaginary, make-believe. It's not meant to be "realistic". That is exactly why I enjoy it so much! This genre of film is so far beyond the rest to my taste, that I could hardly care if the rest disappeared. I hope you can enjoy it a little too, even if it's not your type of movie. I know several people who don't like this style of film and have their minds made up already... that's the best argument and defense I can offer to explain my reasons for enjoying it :)

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Monday, February 18th, 2008 - 1:35 AM

"Drawing and Video Games Jim Guys Gathering"

Often on Friday nights, the Jim Guys get together like old times, usually playing video games. Last Friday evening, Dave and I drove over to Jim's house. Jim showed us his latest game purchase for the X-Box 360. Lost Odyssey is an incredibly cinematic and very realistically rendered role playing game (RPG). The storyline opens up immediately, and anyone watching is forcibly drawn in, as there is a lot of unexplained mystery right of the bat. Well made games nowadays have at least as much spectator value as movies - even more, being that your actions affect the plot. The 3D in-game graphics (playable, not pre-rendered) are stunning on the new Seventh Generation Console Systems are amazing - considerably better than fully rendered cinema scenes on previous generation console games! Throughout the gameplay and story that we encountered, there are "dreams" where the main character remembers things from his forgotten past in the form of a flashback. The memories are beautifully presented with animated backgrounds and beautifully flowing text. The plot is very well written, and once the game is started, you're hooked! I regret that I don't have a 360 to start up the game myself. I'm sure I'll miss quite a bit of plot by the next time I see the game. Jim will probably be on the last boss in a few days, knowing his dedication to games :).

While at Jim's house, watching the game, I drew another 3" x 5".

Fussy Knuckles Meets Zester Malwhistec

Fussy Knuckles Meets Zester Malwhistec

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Thursday, February 14th, 2008 - 2:02 AM

"McDowell Down Jiffy Duel"

Final Drawing

McDowell Down Jiffy Duel

With this particular drawing I decided to include the draft version to demonstrate the artistic process involved and formulation of ideas. The time my brain dreams up one of these 3" x 5" drawings is rarely convenient. Because of my very short memory I have to draw a quick sketch if I want to remember the idea later. Sometimes I'll draw a draft with very quick figures, shapes and dialog in order to capture the inspiration. In this case I drew the draft on a 3" x 5", when often I use Post-It notes or whatever paper scrap is available.

Comparing the draft and final drawing demonstrates a very common occurrence in my process. I often totally change a drawing or the story-creating dialog. This time I wanted to make sure to record both versions, as each has elements of value. For example, without the rough draft, we wouldn't know the gymnast's name is Cleo. Originally the gargoyle was free to fly around. I later thought of incorporating him into the rings apparatus, which causes for more confusion as to whether he is a living being or a prop. We also get some insight into a rare dialect, "visitrons snoof", which means "visitors sniff". Since the gargoyle was incorporated into the post, it could no longer be considered a visitor. Perhaps the draft occurred slightly before the final drawing, and the gargoyle was somehow captured or drawn into the post. We can only assume. Clearly "I spring for fishy" is important because it made it into both versions. It might very well be the clue we were looking for.

Rough Draft

McDowell Down Jiffy Duel (draft)

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Monday, February 11th, 2008 - 9:28 PM

"Egg White Fun Yuck"

Egg White Fun Yuck

Egg White Fun Yuck is the last of the drawings started on my recent trip to Brazil. It was completely outlined and half colored when I arrived back in Portland. Weeks later, I finally decided to finish it.

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Monday, February 11th, 2008 - 9:56 AM

"Nintendo DS Lite Cobalt Acquired"

Nintendo DS Lite Cobalt

For a couple years I have been wanting to get a PDA to help me organize my schedule, creative thoughts, goals, and so on. I did an extensive search about the different PDAs on the market and what each has to offer. I looked both at Palm and Windows Mobile models. Strangely enough I found it nearly impossible to find a significant number of these machines in local stores. They don't seem to be selling very well nowadays. Many stores said simply, "We don't sell those anymore."

While looking around at conventional PDA options, I came across a couple unusual possibilities. One of those included making a Nintendo DS into a PDA using homebrew software. Being that the DS is very well suited to be a PDA (stylus, 2 screens, WiFi connection, microphone, etc) and is about half the price of most low-end PDAs turned my attention to buying a DS and the necessary cartridge adapter to load homebrew software.

Just last week, as I was calling around to different retail stores, I realized that the Nintendo DS is also very hard to find. In fact, not a single store in the entire Portland area had one until this weekend. Nintendo released a new cobalt color Nintendo DS Lite, and I guess all shipments were being held until that release. I called Circuit City on Saturday, one day before the official release date, and they had a bunch in stock already. So I got my cobalt DS Lite before most people.

Now I have only to await my PDA gear that I ordered online. While the DS is obviously a very cool gaming machine, believe it or not, I'm way more excited to use it as a PDA. I'm anxious to see how it works out. I'll post an update whenever I finally get the rest of my hardware and have a chance to play with it.

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Saturday, February 9th, 2008 - 3:26 AM

"Moleskinning"

As in Bible reading or any other daily regiment (exercising, drinking 8 glasses of water, brushing & flossing teeth, etc.), I feel like making a commitment to do something each day automatically defeats such a goal. If I want to do something regularly, I have found the best method is to do the best I can. If I miss some days, it's foolish to try to catch up. It's basically impossible to do several days' worth of regiment in one day's time. So if I miss, I simply continue with "one a day" when I resume, rather than "ten a day" until I'm caught up with the original plan.

That said, I have long wanted to draw something every day. I like the idea of having drawings of great quantity (while retaining variety of concept and appearance). I've never actually tried to draw something every day. It is probably not a perfectly realistic goal, especially since there are other things I should be doing each day and fail to do so. However, I am going to try to draw more often. If it ends up being one drawing or more per day, GREAT! But setting this requirement will doom me to giving up entirely on drawing at all after about a week.

Part of what inspired me to finally up my drawing frequency is this thread which ended up inspiring Andy to suggest daily sketches (moleskining). While the Flickr group ("SUGs") drawing venue is more directed towards using Serif DrawPlus to do the sketches, I'm trying to direct the inspiration into simply drawing more in general - with whatever medium that I am in the mood for.

As I generally like the idea and appearance of a sketch blog, it'll be fun to up my drawing frequency. The following drawing marks the 3rd in such increased diligence. But who's counting, right? As soon as I start counting, I potentially stop drawing! Ironically, this drawing marks the 365th made live on my site (I have many more still needing to be scanned and processed), which is the number of drawings I'd love to finish each year - one per day!

Total Countertop Madness

Total Countertop Madness
more details on EsoGallery

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Saturday, February 9th, 2008 - 1:28 AM

"Glass Peer Sway Me"

face in mirror

"Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like."

James 1:23-24 (NIV)

Every once in a while I think of this verse. Do you? Think about it. Most of the time you go about life not seeing yourself. You see your hands, forearms, chest, eyebrows and the blurry side of your nose. But do you think about what you look like? Sometimes, when I'm in a somewhat melancholy or thoughtful mood, I think of James 1:23-24. I think enough about it to go look at myself in the mirror. I challenge you to do it, even if you are the type who is uncomfortable with it. Look into your own eyes. Look at your facial details. Think about what you've been doing the past week. Think about your best and worst moments. Think about who you used to be, who you are right now, who you might end up being down the road based on the directions you are currently taking, and who you would like to be if your best dreams came true. When you start feeling distant from yourself, perhaps you feel like a different person - maybe it will help to look at yourself in the mirror.

As a more direct application: it's too easy to sin, isn't it? In our culture of individualism and relative wealth, it's "natural" to choose actions that bring comfort to self. We often walk around each day as empty pods. But do you ever sit down and think of who YOU are? I can't say I do much. I certainly sin and falter more than my share. It confuses me to no end that I am bound by this fleshly package, when supposedly - I must believe it - I am a new creation in Christ. Even if I don't feel like it, something (or perhaps everything) is different. How can this be? I don't really have a great answer (certainly not one that abides by any rule of logic). I can say little concerning this with much certainty, but this I can say: It is not by my own ability but through the power of Him who lives in me - that same Spirit of Power that brought Jesus from His earthly tomb, reaping eternal life from death!

So here is what Phil looks like today. Nothing hidden or whitewashed, messy hair et al. I pray my eyes are brighter in a year (if I'm here), and not darker. I only wish I could peer into the blinding eyes of Another, One who is holy and true. Look into me, bless me, transform me - a glance might be more than I could bear - nevertheless, it is my deepest desire. Perhaps aside from a touch from His hand and His robe to wipe my tears.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NIV)

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Friday, February 8th, 2008 - 2:00 AM

"Super Mane"

Super Mane

Inspired by the strangest things.

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Friday, February 8th, 2008 - 1:39 AM

"Mutant City Zyobe"

Mutant City Zyobe

Here's a scribble gone drawing that I started a few days ago. As usual, I hastily finished it - this time by adding the big ear guy. Lots of different writing instruments used here: COPIC Sketch markers, COPIC Multiliner, colored pencil, gel pen, Sharpie marker, ballpoint pen, and pencil (title & signature/date).

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Thursday, February 7th, 2008 - 1:50 AM

"Camp Jonah Scrapbooking Weekend Animation"

If you are reading this, you need to upgrade your Flash Player or enable Javascript.
Here is the animation I made for Camp Jonah's home page to draw attention to a Scrapbooking retreat.

Once again I dawned my keyframing skills using Serif DrawPlus X2. This little ditty is advertising an upcoming Scrapbooking Weekend Getaway hosted at Camp Jonah. The animation is short and simple and should have taken only 15 or 20 minutes to make. Unfortunately DPX2 crashed about 10 times as I was working, and I had to redo little bits of work several times.

Here is another similar animation I did a while back.

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Tuesday, February 5th, 2008 - 10:41 PM

"Dad Gotta Classical Guitar"

Dad's new guitar

Last week or so my dad picked up a cheap guitar. Their long time neighbors are packing up for a new locale and were downsizing their stuff. An old classical nylon string guitar and hard case, among loads of other stuff, made its way into my dad's possession.

Dad has expressed interest in getting a guitar and learning to play, as I did about a year ago (hard to believe - time flies!). After a small mishap of accidentally buying a 3/4 scale guitar, my dad is back on the pursuit. It will be fun to watch him learn. He has the potential to pick it up faster than I did if he has the desire to. I have been taking it very slow this last year and still can only play a handful of chords - and not all that well.

I got to see the "new" guitar on Sunday. At first glance, it doesn't look like much, but I don't like to judge a book by its cover. Sometimes the cheapest guitars sound great to me (what's the opposite of "money talks"?). It's pretty old and was in need of some repair and much dust removal/polishing (still needs that bit). The two of us took the instrument down to the local guitar store, and my dad paid to get new strings installed. It was missing 3 strings, so it needed to be done.

The guy at the store did a weird job tuning the strings. When I got back to my parents' house, it took me a while to figure out how to tune it so I could actually play it. I guess it must have been an alternate tuning because all the chords I know didn't work. In general, the strings were horribly loose, and I had to wind them up a ton before my dad's electronic tuner even registered sound, let alone the correct notes. I also noticed that by the time I tuned 3 strings, the first one was out of tune again. I suppose that is probably just a "virtue" of new string adjustment and stretching. As of yet, I've not had to replace my own strings, so I hadn't experienced that oddity. We also had to fix the head of the guitar, where one of the plates that holds the tuning pegs had stripped its screws and was prying itself free. Thicker screws did the trick. It's not the most elegant solution, but it worked!

I tried out Dad's new guitar and liked it quite a bit. While it is likely no rare find, I think it has a very nice, rich sound. Often when I play, I rest my chin on the body of the guitar and kinda stare at the floor. When I did this with this guitar, I could feel the vibrations run through my core. The bass tones are very powerful - I think "better" sounding than my mediocre steel-string guitar. I've always wanted to feel a classical guitar. I like the nylon strings, and the wider neck/fingerboard is interesting. One of these days I'll have to find myself a cheap nylon string guitar. Then my set will be complete. I already have a dreadnought steel-string, a basic electric and weak amp. Fortunately I have cheap taste, and this hobby is not overly expensive for me.

I wish my dad well in his guitar playing. I'm sure he'll do fine, and I think he will enjoy his new guitar. Because of this tiny bit of musical activity, my interest has peaked again. I put a few guitar books on hold at the library and will hopefully learn something new.

By the way, now that I look at that picture my mom took for me... the shape looks as much dreadnought as it does classical. I'm not sure what it is, to be honest. It definitely had nylon strings on it when my dad got it (and that's what the guy replaced them with), but is it possibly a steel string guitar? How does one know such a thing for sure? The wider neck and head are definitely signature classical, but the body looks dreadnought. Perhaps it is a custom-made weirdness. It doesn't have any brand labels anywhere to be seen. Karl, if you're reading, help me out here... or any of my other guitar slinging friends.

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