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  My comical education continuesJan 31, 2013 3:47 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:More of those educational comics from my college days:
 
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^ That one has to do with the location of the U of C campus, being in the south side of Chicago. Although the University's own 100-strong police force patrols the Hyde Park area in which the campus is situated, crime is--or was, when I was there in the mid-90's--still fairly common--it was always fun to look at the weekly Police Blotter article in the school paper and catch up on all the car thefts and so forth that had been taking place all around us; it was the kind of neighborhood where, if you didn't have a steel bar clamped onto the steering wheel of your parked car, you couldn't count on it--the car, I mean--being there when you got back the next morning; the kind of neighborhood where the person taking your fried chicken order was behind at least an inch of bulletproof glass. And if you happened to leave the confines of the Park and wander around to see the sights and catch some soul food, a city police officer who found you, say if you got momentarily turned around, might point you back to campus and suggest in no uncertain terms that you should go back where you belonged before you ran into trouble.
 
^^ Regarding the comic above that, one or two of my friends started their college career as aspiring physics majors, only to be disabused of the notion by a series of crushingly difficult courses. One, I think, did eventually get his undergraduate physics degree from the U of C...three years after most of us had graduated with our less strenuous degrees. So if you happen to come across a Maroon (such was our mascot) with a physics degree, rest assured that you are almost certainly in the presence of a formidable individual.
 
My parents just dug up a whole lot more of these single-panel comics, plus an even sillier little comic strip series I started a year or two earlier as a freshman--so I guess I've got even more scanning of old prints to inflict upon you than I'd thought! I hadn't remembered being so prolific back then. :p
 
 
 
 
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  My edutainment cartoons of yesteryearJan 30, 2013 4:03 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:All righty, so here's some of the quality work I was doing as an undergraduate in college back in the mid-90s. These quick cartoons were just for fun--it must have been my sophomore or junior year, and I would post them on the outside of my dorm room door, ostensibly for the edification of the freshmen >_>:
 
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These are scans off of old typing paper, of graphics made at screen resolution (and my resolution back then on my spiffy Amiga 4000 maxed out at 800x600) and printed with my cheapo little Canon Bubblejet printer of back in the day, so these scans--yes I will torture you with more of them soon!--will be a bit muddy at best. They were drawn--not too carefully, in the case of these cartoons--in an Amiga image editing program called ImageFX, with a Calcomp DrawingSlate II tablet.
 
 
 
 
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  Indie art cred? My Disney rejection letterJan 29, 2013 2:06 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:My parents are trying to clean out old junk, and wanted me to come over and look through three boxes of old stuff I hadn't realized they'd kept all these years. I'm happy to see most of it go, but there were a few interesting bits in there, like this:
 
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1996 was the year I graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA in Art & Design. I'd had some vague idea of going into "graphic design," but once I actually looked into what that was--you know, making logos and ads out of vectors and stuff--I realized I had no desire whatsoever to make that my life's work. I do not remember having applied to Disney--or their video game etc "Disney Interactive" branch, at any rate--during that time, but apparently I did; I certainly had had no lifelong desire to work for the Walt Disney Company, so perhaps I just applied as a (weak) means of convincing my parents I was job hunting; or maybe I thought it was just a thing every aspiring artist does; or, at any rate, there was a slim chance that some mistake might be made and I might be accidentally hired, so it was worth a shot.
 
I have to say, it's an awfully nice rejection letter, and far better than the small portfolio I'd sent them probably deserved...although you'll be able to judge that for yourself as I intend to scan some my less horrible digital artwork of the time, which I also found--in print form--in various old boxes today. I like to think that Disney had a whole division dedicated to writing the world's nicest rejection letters, although that is probably not the case. But the Disney watermark on the middle right and the small print at the bottom do show that this, at least, is a genuine "Part of the Magic of The Walt Disney Company."
 
My dad pointed out today--a little late, perhaps--that in my application letter I should have mentioned that my grandmother had worked for the company: she'd worked briefly, he tells me, as a Disney secretary in Burbank back in the day. Clearly, I should have been grandchilded in.
 
 
 
 
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  Spacewalks and Zip GunsJan 26, 2013 4:30 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:At first I had a nice dramatic white dust cloud penciled in across parts of the background behind the Major here, to sort of break things up and add some contrast. But then I got to thinking about it and remembered that in the near vacuum you'd have at the surface of this planetoid, there'd be nothing for the dust the lander kicked up to swirl against, so instead of forming a nice picturesque cloud, it would just rise up and fall back to the surface in a more or less perfect (-ly boring :p) parabolic arc. You can see that in action for real on the Moon in for instance this video of two of the Apollo 16 astronauts kicking up a heck of a lot of Moon dust as they hot rod it around in their rover back in '72--no exciting hovering dust clouds result ;_;.
 
While I was finding that I also noticed the same uploader has another nifty high-definition-remastered-from-the-original-16-mm clip of the very first American spacewalk (the Soviets beat us to it earlier in the year): astronaut Ed White maneuvering around with a hand-held "zip gun" propulsion unit during the 1965 Gemini 4 mission, filmed by his co-astronaut (uh there's probably a better word for that :p) James McDivitt. The brief footage is here. White cruised around out there for about 20 minutes before they made him go back inside.
 
It's interesting to read in that Gemini 4 Wikipedia article I just linked there about the various technical problems encountered in that endeavor, such as the latch on the capsule's hatch failing to close both times they had to open it--a problem with a spring that they were able to work around--and communication channel problems that kept them out of contact with mission ground controller (called the "CAPCOM" for "capsule communicator") Gus Grissom (already the first astronaut to be in space twice--Mercury-Redstone 4 and Gemini 3--Grissom was no stranger to technical problems during missions, and, along with White and another astronaut, pilot Roger Chaffee, would tragically perish in the Apollo 1 capsule fire in 1967) for about 40 seconds, because McDivitt, in the capsule, could only talk to either White or Grissom at once, not both, and White could only hear McDivitt.
 
Also, a thruster failure during the landing approach made the landing rougher than anticipated--although neither astronaut was injured--and before that, the on-board computer, made by IBM, had "failed on the 48th revolution. This was unfortunate for IBM which had just put an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal saying that its computers were so reliable that even NASA used them."
 
Here's White on his spacewalk, zip gun in hand:
 
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image by NASA / James McDivitt (source)
 
 
 
 
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  More mining coming to near-Earth asteroidsJan 25, 2013 4:25 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Aside from that asteroid mining company formed oh last year or something by corporate bigwigs from places like Google or whatever, according to this article, there's now a *second* asteroid mining company, Deep Space Industries, Inc. No asteroids have actually been mined yet, of course, and most likely won't be for quite some time, but maybe that waiting time will be a little shorter now that there's--in theory--competition for snagging the richest and most convenient near-Earth asteroids to plunder.
 
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Another sketch!
 
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These are all going in the episode 18 gallery, by the way; episode galleries can be reached from the "episodes & e-books" page linked in the site's top menu.
 
 
 
 
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  The very latest in forehead pendantsJan 24, 2013 4:37 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Here's the sketch I did yesterday; it's a different take on the same character I did a different sketch of a few days ago:
 
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  A brief article on time mismanagementJan 23, 2013 3:29 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Boy! Not doing as well with time as I did last week, it's already late and I could barely keep my eyes open trying to finish this page, which heck I dunno maybe that helps, after all I do plenty of one-eyed squinting at things I'm trying to draw in the most wakeful of times. :P I have a new sketch and some news links and stuff but they'll have to wait... These sneaky sketches seem to be taking more and more time--I actually *did* burn dinner tonight! d:
 
 
 
 
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  Gray holes and other assorted nerderyJan 22, 2013 2:34 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Well nobody knows what the inside of a black hole really looks like (or how seeing it in terms we understand would be possible but uh nevermind) but today while scouting out apartments I stumbled into a gray hole in central Seattle in Google Maps' Street View--kinda looks like being inside a sealed asphalt sphere! :o
 
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So Star Trek's Captain Kirk, played by William Shatner, and Batman's uh Batman, played by Adam West, are two beloved, somewhat camp cultural icons, but did you know that before their respective famous series even started, back in 1964, they both starred in a pilot for a never-filmed TV series about gladiators? Well okay actually it was about Alexander the Great (Shatner) and his buddy Cleander (West), and I guess how they conquered a lot of folks or something. It wasn't picked up as a series (West would later call it "one of the worst scripts I have ever read and it was one of the worst things I’ve ever done"--and that's saying a lot, coming from him!) but the pilot aired as a TV movie in 1968, in an attempt to capitalize on their then-contemporary more successful TV endeavors.
 
Here's a clip in which Shatner is apparently spanking West with a short sword! How did this not get picked up as a series? :P
 
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I was googling my own comic, as you'll do... and I noticed a review of A* on The Two-Headed Nerd, which appeared there back in October only I just saw it now. They say a lot of nice things, so thanks to both nerd heads! (Another THN writer said nice things about A* in their year-end best of 2012 article in December. :))
 
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Here's a sketchamathing, this is actually the first design drawing for a character we'll meet in an upcoming A* episode! :) It only took me about four tries this time before remembering that I have to pull back to full arm's length in order to get faces to draw right when working this big (I guess because I can't see the whole thing clearly when working closer so my mental map to thing on paper conversion just breaks down?), so yay I'm getting better at that. :P
 
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Usually I don't do design sketches for characters and just kind of work it out as I go in the actual comic pages, but I thought I'd see if I could come up with something a little out of my ordinary for this person, and anyway I'm doing these quick sorta-daily sketches anyhow so why not, you know?
 
 
 
 
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  Is it minimalism or is zzzzzzJan 19, 2013 3:33 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Yay the weekend, maybe I can catch up on sleep for once. Apartment hunting not going particularly well, although I suppose I'm learning a lot about all the places I *don't* want to live/work. :p
 
If you missed it earlier this week, you may be interested to hear that I've switched to a new print service for A* art prints: I can't hand-sign them anymore since they'll ship directly from the printer who is somewhere in cyberspace (actually I think New York or something maybe), BUT they are higher quality, bigger, and even more affordable than the old ones: $10 for an 11"x17" print, and $23 for a massive 20"x30" print--and both sizes are glossy, photo-type prints that look rather sharp. Pretty much every bit of art on this site is available as a print--just look for the "print" or whatever text link somewhere around it.
 
 
 
 
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  If you caught pneumonia and diedJan 18, 2013 1:30 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:~~~~~~
 
This started out as a sketch of a woman with black bobbed hair but I couldn't quite decide what to do with her mouth so then it seemed like a good idea to have a big scarf there and be about how cold it is what with winter:
 
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  Drawing from the shallow endJan 17, 2013 12:25 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:'Nother burning dinner sketch:
 
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  When is a trapezoid a rectangle?Jan 16, 2013 1:58 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:I did another while-dinner-is-burning sketch this evening:
 
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Used the big sumi-e horsehair brush for the gradated effect on the "glass" in today's page; here it is masked off, just after finishing going over it with the brush (notice I'd forgotten the sleeping pod window was supposed to be trapezoidal from the side--had to go back and fix that later :p):
 
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  A* prints bigger for less; dinner is savedJan 15, 2013 1:05 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Hm I probably drew Selenis' noggin' too big again today. Oh well that just happens to be the perfect lead-in to telling you that A* prints are now bigger, and less expensive to boot! Whereas they used to be $15 for a 8"x10" print, switching print services now lets me get them to you for just $10 in a nice big 11"x17" glossy photo print size. :)
 
They won't be hand-signed like before, because I'm not running them over to the neighborhood print shop with my own two feet anymore; instead, I just upload the super-high-res scanned version to the online print service, adoramapix.com --suggested to me by an A* reader!--and they print it up according to my specifications, then ship it directly to you. You get a bigger, higher quality print for less, and I don't have to leave the house! Sweet!
 
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I've sort of wanted to make myself get in some sketching time for a while now, but haven't managed to make myself fit it in; well I had the idea of trying to use the time during which my dinner is cooking on the stove to do a quick sketch; usually I'd use that time to catch up on tumblr (yes you can get A* updates on tumblr you know!), where there's lots of inspiring pictures to look at, but I thought maybe it would be even more constructive to get in extra drawing time instead. Also, the gradually increasing smell of charred food coming from the kitchen is a great motivator to keep pushing myself to work briskly! :o Fortunately I finished up this little thing and dinner was saved:
 
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That can be found at any point in the future over in the episode 18 gallery, where you can also do stuff like buy the original artwork, or even order one of these fancy new prints!
 
And yes those are mighty big boots.
 
 
 
 
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  André Kuipers' super-big ISS tour!Jan 12, 2013 5:22 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Yesterday I linked a tour of the International Space Station by Sunita Williams, and said it was the most in-depth tour of the ISS I'd seen. It was not, of course, the most in-depth my readers had seen, as became clear when one helpful reader sent me this link to a tour of the ISS by Dutch astronaut André Kuipers, which is, indeed, over twice as long, and shows even more details of the station; not only does he show two bathrooms, for instance, but he even pulls off a wall/floor panel to show the water recycling equipment nearby. At 13:00 he pulls back a wall covering to reveal the hiding place of that golden robotic doom, the "seventh crew member," Robonaut 2! Another nifty feature is a schematic view of the station with a moving dot showing his position as he moves through the modules, so you get a much better idea of the actual layout, which can be hard to figure out when you're just watching someone twisting and turning in all directions through the narrow corridors, like eh whatever that early 3D PC space shooter was where you flew your little ship in all directions around 3D mazelike stages. Dang the name is on the tip of my tongue. :PP
 
(Update: Reader Rompah has a better memory than me and came up with the game's name: Descent!)
 
Today's A* page took the most Photoshop manipulation I've done for these hand-drawn pages, because when I was all done, or thought I was, I realized the dramatic perspective I'd thought I was doing had sort of fallen apart, and she was way out of scale with the Major, like so:
 
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So I had to shrink her down with the magic of Photoshop. I thought about just whiting out the Major's boot, so it would look like he was just sitting on a bench or something some distance behind her pod, but that would have lost the particular message carried by that boot. So, Photoshop it is. When I have to present a different image than is strictly in the original art, I mark the original as not for sale to avoid someone buying something they don't quite want--a photo of the original is always shown on the "buy original" page, but the difference from the comic page could be missed. If you really do want to buy this one though, feel free to send me an email.
 
Here's a rotated view of the pencil stage of Selenis' face:
 
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  Sunita's space station tourJan 11, 2013 1:40 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:A reader pointed me to this recent NASA video in which departing commander Sunita Williams gives an in-depth guided tour of the International Space Station. It's by far the best video guide to the ISS that I've seen. Some of my favorite parts:
  • Space hair! Long hair does fun stuff in zero gravity ("microgravity" for you pedants :p), and Sunita's got a good crop on her head.
  • And she's even wearing a necklace! Necklaces don't know how to lay down in zero-g. This is a wild woman!
  • One minute in, she demonstrates--not that she points it out, she just does it while talking about other stuff--how the low handlebars mounted on nearly every surface inside the station can serve as toeholds just as well as handholds, so you don't just do drifting around and bonking your head on things like a noob. All in all it's just fun to watch her glide and hover expertly around inside the station's narrow, twisting confines. She even does a very convincing "Superman" flight right into the camera at one point. :)
  • She shows and describes in detail the important stuff: bedrooms and bathrooms, including the wide variety of toiletries at hand: "We have gloves just because sometimes it does get messy."
  • We also get to see the very cramped interior of the Soyuz crew capsule she would take back to Earth twelve hours later. It's interesting to see how the inward-opening hatches of the Soyuz partially block access, even when they're fully opened. And earlier, from the station's cupola, you can see not just one but *two* docked modules--the other is a Russian Progress module, to be filled with garbage and released to burn up in the atmosphere. (Actually there's a third docked module visible there too, an ESA ATV, but its silver cylinder looks more or less like just another piece of the space station proper.)
  • "I haven't sat down for six months."
  • We get to see their exercise equipment, including their impressive vacuum-resistance weight machine.
  • The Russian food is in the red containers. :)
 
 
 
 
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  Righty, tightyJan 10, 2013 1:08 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:^ Yay for dried sea sponges! They make fun marks. I should probably use them more often.
 
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Here's this thing I drew over the weekend; it's sort of in the same Freudian-rich vein as the one I did circa episode 15, called Solstice:
 
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I'd meant to use it as an opportunity to loosen up a bit from drawing the regular A* pages, which *have* to look like something fairly specific, generally, but I think I turned the wrong way and tightened rather than loosened this time. Lefty loosey... *Lefty* loosey!
 
 
 
 
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  Brushes at arm's lengthJan 09, 2013 5:57 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:I should give up all notions of actually getting something done in these blog articles, at least until I no longer have to be running around looking for apartments, sheez. Anyway I do feel compelled to say that hopefully today's page will serve as a reminder to future me, to pull back and draw at arm's length if that close-up face isn't coming out quite right--because sometimes I just can't take it all in properly at normal drawing distance, and the various pieces don't quite fit together like they should; when working digitally you can just use that handy Zoom Out function, but when using a real brush you just have to...make your arm longer. Or get a longer brush, I suppose.
 
So that's what I did in the end after blotting out previous attempts at the face with copious amounts of white ink. Even pulling back didn't cure all problems instantly, though; her redrawn right eye was still a bit out of place after the first arm's-length pass:
 
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  New-ish sci-fi webcomics linking to me :)Jan 08, 2013 3:01 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Two relatively new science fiction webcomics have been foolish kind enough to link to A* lately! :) There's Vorto the Pirate, retro and amusing space adventures of a rascally rascal that I just found out about last week, and then one I found from Vorto, the space survival tale Praesidium (check out them inky space scenes :)), which happens to be done by the artist behind for a romance comic that's said some nice things about A* before, And to be Loved (and I did a bonus character sketch for a book thing they were working on! I wonder if that's out yet).
 
As you can see, this new sci-fi webcomic thing is sweeping the internets. Muwahahahaaa! Kirrrrrrk!
 
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Over the weekend I redrew Seleniss head in the previous page--it was a little oversized. :P I also painted a silly sorta unrelated thing, hopefully I'll manage to get that scanned ummm tomorrow?
 
 
 
 
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  A* art at Julia's of WallingfordJan 05, 2013 6:22 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:For the month of January, A* original art--the ink on paper stuff behind the comic pages you see here on the site--is on display on the walls of Julia's of Wallingford, a fine neighborhood restaurant here in Seattle. While masticating you can be checking out all the actual brush marks and erased pencil line grooves and all that fun stuff visible on the actual paper. :)
 
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Speakin' of pencil lines, here's the pencil stage of today's page:
 
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  Would you like some hummus with that?Jan 04, 2013 4:49 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:A* art is now at a new location in Seattle--we only had to move it a couple blocks, in fact, but you'll now be able to see it without getting a haircut! You might be tempted to order something to eat, though. Supposedly they will be getting it up on the walls in the next 24 hours or so, so I'll restrain myself from posting the address and details in the news...until tomorrow!
 
 
 
 
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  The Giant and VortoJan 03, 2013 2:54 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Thanks to the kindly reader over at the "Giant in the Playground" webcomic forum who some time back nominated A* for inclusion in the huge webcomic link list that the GitP readers are assembling. Yay!
 
One sci-fi webcomic that is not in that list, being pretty new I suppose, is Vorto the Pirate, a space adventure done in classic Buck Rogers / Flash Gordon style, only the hero is a rascally, middle-aged anti-hero of less than heroic physique. Zounds! But it's got lots of action and space princes and barons and silly robots and oh yes it's kind of funny the situations that come up. The main site is...well, a little confusing (that's being worked on, I think), so I'll just send you to the Vorto archive page and you can find your way best from there. I was actually reading it on the Vorto mirror site on SmackJeeves, because that has the strips in their full size, but now I notice that it's being kept a good few months behind the main site. Hm, gotta get caught up now! Oh and on the main site you can at least click the scaled-down pages to see their full size.
 
 
 
 
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  It's a *Major* award!Jan 02, 2013 1:26 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:The year's off to a nifty start for A* thanks to TonyDoug Wright of Champion City Comics, who dropped me a tweet to let me know that in his capacity as an official Love Slave (:o) over at The Two Headed Nerd comic podcast site thing ("comicast," as they call it), he chose A* as his nominee for "Best Ongoing Series" in their "Best of 2012" list--that's including print comics, webcomics, etc, so gosh! Totally undeserved but I'll take it and nobody can take it from me, rawr! :D Thanks TD, that's a great shot in the ol' arm!
 
(The Tony of Doug has written about A* before so he may have had a bit of a pre-existing bias going on in our favor, but I don't think there's any need to tell the other Slaves and Nerds that. :D)
 
 
 
 
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  A Moving New YearJan 01, 2013 1:39 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Happy New Year! *\o/*
 
This year is already one of change for me as it is abruptly apartment hunting season here, which I'm discovering is simultaneously exciting, exhausting, and terrifying. My blog posts will likely consist largely of this rushed, substanceless type until I find a place to move to. I don't think the hunt will cause me to miss A* updates, but I will probably miss several days to I dunno a week or something--okay so I really have no idea--once the move proper actually commences, whenever that will be. I'll let you know as soon as I know!
 
Man, 2013!
 
 
 
 
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