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  Fancy doorway, fancy walkApr 29, 2017 4:38 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:The A* Patreon campaign is a great way to support the comic, for as little as $1 a month! It makes a huge difference and I really appreciate everyone who's helping me out over there. : ) Here's a sketch I sent to a reader for their support:
 
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Thanks again! ": D
 
 
 
 
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  I am terrible at bloggingApr 27, 2017 10:34 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:Page done, whew! = p
 
Also I changed the Patreon blurb in a box (^ above the news on the front page) from orange to a sort of light mauve, which is more in the A* color scheme. : P
 
And then I removed the box from around the blurb. : p
 
 
 
 
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  A date with shipping tapeApr 26, 2017 8:40 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:I've got a bunch of A* original art to pack up for shipping off to several continents tomorrow, so no archive art sale today! Thanks everyone for buying my stuff. : )
 
 
 
 
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  Another internet time-waster \o/Apr 26, 2017 12:25 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:Well I got this page done, by hook and then a good deal of crook. Fortunately we're about to bust out into another action sequence so I won't have to do another close-up for a bit probably, whew!
 
Here's some fun I discovered while double-checking the description I put in the auction for the original art behind today's page: if you image google "access tunnel" you get a whole bunch of cool-looking, sci-fi style images that are actually mostly real places (not counting sets of various Starships Enterprise, I mean :"p).
 
 
 
 
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  Last week for current super-low A* art price!Apr 25, 2017 12:33 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:If you're one of those awesome folks who's in the habit of buying my original A* page & other art from my eBay listings (the watercolor paintings behind the most recent week's worth of pages are always for sale there, for instance), please note that starting *next week*, the default initial bid price for my new art listings will be $14.99. That means that the auctions going up *this week* are your last chance to get my stuff at the current initial bidding price of $12.99, so keep that in mind if you'd like to save those couple of bucks!
 
Had to raise the price because, looking back over the little columns of incomes and expenses I tabulated recently for doing my taxes, I realized that last year, even though I sold lots of A* artwork to wonderful people : D through eBay, I only just barely broke even on it once art and shipping supply costs were factored in—which is nice and all, but it doesn't help pay the rent : o. So if I want to keep a roof over my head it looks like I need to set a higher starting price. Of course, $14.99 is still superhighway robbery as far as a watercolor illustration goes : D but it may reassure you to know that my eventual target goal is an astronomical $24.99 starting bid price—I just don't want to scare everyone off by jumping to that right away, so we'll do it in a series of incremental steps over the course of this year, um, just to be sure to annoy everyone. : o Anyway for now it will be $14.99 which hopefully isn't too catastrophic a figure for my generous A* art collectors to bear! And a hearty thanks to everyone who *has* bid on my artwork—or even purchased it directly through smbhax.com, where you can buy pretty much all of my art that *isn't* for sale on eBay—it *is* a big help in keeping up with expenses, and I couldn't still be making this comic without you! And I will keep working hard each day to get better at drawing and painting so that you will still maybe be tempted to buy one of my pieces now and then, even if the initial bid price does have to go up a little bit. : o
 
 
 
 
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  Probably been watching too many cop showsApr 22, 2017 6:18 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:Sketch for a reader who's supporting the comic through my Patreon campaign : ) :
 
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Thanks to everyone who's helping me keep A* going through Patreon, I really appreciate it! : D
 
 
 
 
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  Loads of landslides and water on CeresApr 20, 2017 8:06 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:NASA just posted a new article, about landslides on the dwarf planet Ceres: not only has the Dawn spacecraft photographed evidence of far more landslides than scientists would have anticipated—"20 to 30 percent of craters greater than 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide have some type of landslide associated with them"—but those landslides, since they're thought to be a mix of water ice and rocks, or even in one type associated with large craters, a muddy slushy mix of water (melted by the impact that created the crater) and rocks, also suggest that Ceres has far more water content near its surface—and especially near the poles—than expected: "the ice in the upper few tens of meters of Ceres may range from 10 percent to 50 percent by volume."
 
 
 
 
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  Just 1 will have Selenis' original heel!Apr 19, 2017 10:05 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:Wednesday is A* original art archive auction time, where I pull out a nifty page of original A* art from my files and put it on eBay at a special low price. And we're continuing the theme of selling the oldest A* pages I have left—today's *is* the oldest, and again it is from the first episode for which I made the art traditionally, episode 13, it is all in ink and ink wash, and I made it on 17" x 11" paper, even though I only used about a 16" x 6.75" visible area for the comic, because I didn't know better. I'm only going to put ONE MORE of these big episode 13 original pages up for auction after this one! (And there are only three left, total, now.) This one is up for auction for one week, right here.
 
The lucky winner will get way more image than the rest of us get in the comic itself. The page is episode 13, page 145—a significant page as Selenis moves in for a final rendezvous with a certain someone—and you can see in this little comparison of my fresh scan of the page compared with, below it, the version that actually appears in the comic, that I had to cut out a lot of the image just to fit it into the comic page—Selenis' heel had to be left out, for instance, and I could barely even get the conspicuously vacant and slightly askew knife rack on top of the counter (you noticed that as you read that episode, right? : D) into the picture:
 
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Because of the cropping agonies I went through on a daily basis with these oversized pages, starting with the next episode I made them much closer to the visible comic size, and THESE days I make them almost exactly the comic-visible size, with just the barest of oversize area at the edges to avoid paper corners creeping into the scans. Anyhoo there's some historical A* trivia for you (episode 13 came out way back in 2011!), and if you dig that sort of thing maybe think about bidding on this oldest of A* remaining pages before it is gone for good! : )
 
 
 
 
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  Potential microorganism food in EnceladusApr 18, 2017 10:15 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:There was a lot of news last week about potential habitable (or previously habitable) water worlds in our solar system; I *think* this was spurred by NASA finally concluding that the Cassini probe did detect molecular hydrogen in a plume of ice it flew through from Saturn's moon Enceladus in late 2015—that's what the BBC's article is about, anyway.
 
On Earth, hydrogen molecules can get into seawater like so: "At the mid-ocean ridges on our planet, seawater is drawn through, and reacts with, hot upwelling rocks that are rich in iron and magnesium. As the minerals in these rocks incorporate H2O molecules into their crystal structure, they release hydrogen..." So, detecting hydrogen in the geysers thought to be spewing upward from Enceladus' subsurface oceans *could* mean that those oceans have hot underwater vent areas that could support life; at any rate, the food source those vent areas have is definitely present in Enceladus: on Earth, microorganisms classed as "methanogens" use released hydrogen as food—they "make methane as they react the hydrogen with carbon dioxide."
 
The article mentions that to detect the presence of actual tiny life forms, or their unmistakable traces, in the ice plumes shooting out of Enceladus, you would need a different kind of spectrometer than Cassini is equipped with, and that "a proposal is being put together to fly them in 2026."
 
It ends with an informative biochemistry quote from Cassini scientist Dr. Hunter Waite: "For life, you need liquid water, organics, and the CHNOPS elements (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sulphur). OK, we haven't yet measured phosphorus and sulphur at Enceladus. But you also need some kind of metabolic energy source, and the new Cassini results are an important contribution in that regard."
 
 
 
 
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  Cassini: closest-ever view of AtlasApr 17, 2017 9:08 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:Last month I posted about some close-up new photos the Cassini probe had taken of Saturn's tiny moon Pan, and now we've got even closer-up (within 7,000 miles, whereas it only got within 15,000 of Pan) photos of another small Saturnian moon, Atlas (some confusion as to its size, though: Wikipedia says Pan is 35 km across; it says Atlas is 40 km across, but NASA's article with the photos says Atlas is just "19 miles, or 30 kilometers across"). Like Pan, Atlas has a relatively huge equatorial ridge, probably consisting of material falling onto it from Saturn's rings; Atlas' ridge is smoother than Pan's, though, leaving it more blobby than saucer-like:
 
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photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
 
Them crazy moons! : o
 
 
 
 
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  Hey what's that over your shoulder?Apr 15, 2017 6:07 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:Here's a sketch I sent to a reader for supporting the comic through my Patreon campaign : ) :
 
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Thank you very much! : D
 
 
 
 
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  Handy for all those icy planetoids, you knowApr 13, 2017 8:58 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:Readers keeps this little comic going in a big way through the A* Patreon campaign, and one reader contributing as little as $1 a month makes a big difference to me! : D Contributors can get themselves some cool A* stuff, too, like this ink sketch I mailed to one of 'em for their super support:
 
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Thank you oh so much! = )
 
 
 
 
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  A* original original art goes up for auction!Apr 12, 2017 9:45 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:Wednesday original A* art archive auction time! : D Today's item is one of just *four* remaining original page illustrations (and one of them I'm not putting on sale : P) from A* episode 13, the episode in which I switched to making pages traditionally rather than digitally—and it's exactly the moment where Selenis (spoilers!) takes out her target: page 152. It's on a big 17" x 11" sheet of Bristol paper (bigger than the 16" x 6.75" borderless mode I work at in watercolor now—although if you look closely you can see the 16" x 6.75" border penciled in), it's all in ink (with white ink stars!), and is up for auction for a week starting at a special low price, right here. The auction listing has high res images, but here are some low res ones to get you started:
 
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So yep, one of just *three* big ink pieces from A*'s original original art episode that I'm gonna put up for auction; don't miss out if you want one of these pieces of A* history! : D
 
 
 
 
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  Well, she does kinda rob from the rich...Apr 11, 2017 8:56 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:Here's a sketch I sent to a reader for supporting the comic through my Patreon campaign : ) :
 
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Thanks everyone who's pitching in, it's a huge help! ^_^
 
 
 
 
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  Baby stars and memories collidingApr 10, 2017 9:17 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:A couple recent, interesting science articles from the BBC!
 
Violent end as young stars dramatically collide - Two baby stars in the constellation Orion collided 500 years ago, and their spectacular fireworks are reaching Earth telescopes
 
Rules of memory 'beautifully' rewritten - In 1953, 27-year-old Henry Molaison's (wikipedia.com) hippocampi were largely destroyed during experimental brain surgery intended to cure the severe epileptic seizures he had suffered since a childhood accident. Afterward, it was found that he could no longer form new memories: you could bring him a second dinner (nytimes.com) after the first, and he would eat it, because he no longer remembered having eaten the first; and each day that he met Suzanne Corkin, the scientist who studied him for 46 years (Molaison died in 2009), was, for Henry, the first day that he had met her. When asked in 1986 what the last president he remembered was, after some pondering he answered "Ike"—who was inaugurated in '53. His understanding of the passage of time was hazy: in his later years, when shown his elderly face in a mirror, he would become confused, and finally realize "I'm not a boy."
 
Before Corkin's research into Henry's impairment, it was through that memory simply happened equally throughout the brain, but her studies of Henry showed that memory formation actually depended upon functioning hippocampi: small organs inside the brain. It also showed that long-term memories resided elsewhere; Molaison actually could remember new information, through a memory trick: "For post-1953 information he was able to modify old memories with new information. For instance, he could add a memory about Jonas Salk by modifying his memory of polio."
 
The long-term memories were thought to be taken from the hippocampus and moved into the cortex. Now, just recently, scientists using light beams to turn on and off individual neurons in mouse brains found that their memories form simultaneously in the hippocampus AND the cortex—it's just that the ones in the cortex are dormant for several days, and require communication with the hippocampus to "mature." (Perhaps this explains further phenomena found in Molaison's recall; he could, for instance, recall Corkin hazily when prompted, but the best he could guess was that she was "like a senator.") They could turn off the neurons in the hippocampus and the mice would forget a new traumatic event, for instance, but then the mice could remember it several days after the event, using the memory stored in the cortex.
 
 
 
 
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  Excuse me there's a moon in your hatApr 08, 2017 4:33 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:Here's a funky sketch I sent to a reader for supporting the comic through the A* Patreon campaign : ) :
 
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Thank you very much! : D
 
 
 
 
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  30 whole A* e-books!Apr 06, 2017 9:40 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:It actually went up over the weekend, but maybe it isn't quite too late to let you know that the episode 30 e-book is now available on the episodes & e-books page. If you happen to support my Patreon campaign at the e-book reward levels, check your inbox from the weekend, your download link for the new e-book should be in there. : )
 
And as always the "Super Express Pack" of all completed episodes' e-books has been updated with the latest, yet still remains $20—not bad for 2,979 pages, maybe? : )
 
 
 
 
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  Sale on Selenis as a silly space pirate!Apr 05, 2017 9:39 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:It's Wednesday original A* art archive auction time! First I should mention that since I got last week's special sale original art auction started a day late, you still have a day to catch it! It's an 11" x 17" ink illustration of Selenis that I made for a poster contest in 2012, and the auction is right here.
 
Okay on to this week's special! It's another of the oh five or so remaining large 11" x 17" ink pieces I have left to sell; this one, inspired by a silly Twitter conversation with reader @elephande way back in 2011, features Selenis in a goofy "space pirate" outfit, complete with eyepatch, buckled-on sword, boots, and skull to pose with : o. I don't know if I've done an illustration quite this silly with her since then! So if you like space pirates and/or Selenis being silly, well check out the piece at auction (for one week!) right here.
 
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It's on a lighter, 70 lb paper (Bienfang Raritan) I was experimenting with back then, which accounts for the little rumples along the side where the ink wash caused it to shrink a bit. Ah, fun times! 8 o
 
 
 
 
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  She smells sea shells by the sea shoreApr 04, 2017 7:25 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:As a full-time webcomic creator, Patreon is my steadiest source of income—thanks to all the readers supporting the comic through my Patreon campaign. : D Here's a sketch I got to send to a reader for their support there:
 
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Thank you very much~~!!
 
 
 
 
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  Losing stuff--or not--in spaceApr 03, 2017 8:13 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:Space news mini round-up! BBC News had a trio of mildly interesting space articles late last week:
 
(auto-playing video) Lost in space: 'Peggy, I don't have a shield' - When you see people working with things on space walks and everything is tethered or tied down, it's because if something gets loose, even for a moment, then something like this—which just occurred during a long space walk repair at the International Space Station—can happen. : o
 
Success for SpaceX 're-usable rocket' - SpaceX successfully re-launched and re-landed a rocket booster they'd launched and flown before; being able to re-use rocket boosters routinely would help quite a bit in bringing the cost of spaceflight down (the Space Shuttle did this with the casings of its white solid fuel boosters).
 
Most of Mars' air was 'lost to space' - An analysis of the ratio of argon isotopes on Mars suggests that Mars once had an atmospheric pressure comparable to Earth's; 80-90% of it was subsequently lost to space: stripped away by the solar wind, which was able to get to it due to Mars' lack of a strong magnetic field. That atmospheric pressure it may have used to have would have enabled liquid water to exist on the Martian surface.
 
 
 
 
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  A knee slapper? : oApr 01, 2017 6:37 PM PDT | url | discuss | + share
 
Added 1 new A* page:Readers are helping me keep bringing you new A* episodes with as little as $1 per month through my Patreon campaign! It's a huge help! Here's a sketch I sent to a reader for their support:
 
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Thank you very much! : D
 
 
 
 
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