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  Holiday break is here! Seeya in 2019!Dec 22, 2018 12:02 AM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:That's it for the year! Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year—or whatever you're up to, have a good one—if you're into that. ^_^
Assuming my scanner is still running merrily along when I return, I'll be back to work on a new A* page on January 2nd. Seeya in 2019 (we'll have the most dramatic plot developments to date, I think—oh and A*'s 10th anniversary! : o)!
(Scanner humming right along now. I think I might have moved its power brick a little further away when cleaning or something down there recently, and that may have been what led to all the mischief.)
  A scanner miracle!Dec 20, 2018 11:39 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Spent a few hours fighting with the scanner tonight, as it started jamming mid-scan again (or reporting a data error, specifically); all seemed lost, I spent a while more researching available large-format (A3) scanners, made one last despairing attempt to get a full-resolution scan (had managed a 100 dpi scan earlier; I usually scan at 600 dpi), made another...and somehow it worked.
Less sure now that temperature has anything to do with it as the room temp was pretty stable for that whole period, more or less. Maybe humidity (it has been super wet and rainy here lately—blasting the heater for a while as I was could have dropped the humidity a good deal over the course of the evening)...but maybe more likely the power supply; the one it came with died long ago with no official replacement available, then an old RadioShack one I finagled into working with it stopped working (the plug was always finicky), so I've been using a newer third-party one for some time now—but I have the scanner up high, and the power cord with its attached "brick" power supply was sort of pulling down on the power jack in the scanner a little, I think, and possibly that was leading to power fluctuations; I've lifted the brick up, and now the scanner is working flawlessly, so... Well, we'll see how long it lasts. : o
(Another thing supporting the theory of it being some sort of power issue is that I've had to go and unplug and replug the data and power cords in a particular order each day for the past few days before the scanner would be recognized by my laptop, and as far as I know that would probably be due to there having been a power interruption in the mean time. Of course, all of this may point to the scanner's power jack having been so weakened by drag from the power cord over the past months that it is simply no longer reliable. : /)
One plus is that in the course of my despairing research, I finally found that Mustek is back selling their relatively low-priced large-format flatbed scanners in the USA again! Yay! So I could get a shiny new one and not completely break the bank, if necessary. First I would try cracking this one open and lubricating the scanner head track...but we'll hope it doesn't come to that. : o But if it works okay tomorrow, I'll give it another test as soon as I get back post-X-Mas, and if it runs into trouble I'll take some of that break time to try lubing it up, and then ordering a new one if that doesn't work. So potentially I could be without a working scanner for the first few days of the new year and might have to extend my holiday break beyond the 2nd—but that's the worst-case scenario. : P
  A* holiday schedule (aka vacation! : D)Dec 20, 2018 9:52 AM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:I should let you guys know my holiday schedule! I'm heading back to the ol' homestead this weekend, then back here after X-mas, where I'll be taking a little R&R and catching up on a few little projects of mine (oh and sketches for A* Patreon supporters!). So there won't be any new A* starting next week, through New Year's.
And then back to the drawing board on the 2nd, for another year of A*! = D
  Come on in, the scanner's fineDec 19, 2018 2:02 AM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:It's been a bit warmer here of late and I got lazy and neglected to turn on the heat in the early evening, and as a result could not coax my scanner into limbering up enough to scan a full page until the temperature in the room was raised about two degrees.
Sheesh, scanner! Can't you just put on a sweater?
Anyway, messing with that (I tried an awful lot of chafing its hands first, so to speak) took a while, and it's now so late that I'd better hit the zzzs immediately and save my usual rounds of social media and mirror site updating until tomorrow morning.
  I'll do the next best thing--blot it out!Dec 18, 2018 1:13 AM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Today I kind of got sucked into scrolling through all my tumblr posts and "appealing" the ones that were incorrectly flagged as having "adult content" by tumblr's new anti-pornography spider thingy. There were 29 that I found, but I had thousands of posts to scroll through, so I probably missed some. And there were plenty of posts originally by others that I'd reblogged that were flagged, but you can't appeal posts that aren't yours, so all I could do for those was to message the original poster, and hope they appeal the incorrect flagging, so the post will once again be visible to other people.
Seems to me that tumblr really should have set up notifications for flagged posts, so you know when they've decided to censor something you put up—rather than having to scroll back through all your old posts, looking for the orange warning message that might appear at the top of any post.
It almost makes it seem like they don't care, and assume you won't care.
  Don't be sad, get a doorDec 14, 2018 10:24 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:(Door saga over, it is all fixed up now thanks to my landlady and her handyman! Having a non-drafty living room is so nice. : ) Now I have to figure out new lower settings for my heaters. ^_^)
Thanks once again to the wonderful folks helping me make this comic by supporting it through my Patreon campaign—I couldn't do it without you! Even $1 a month is a big help; and at higher levels, you can get monthly A*rry rewards mailed to you from me! Here's a sketch sent to a reader at the hefty $10 level, for instance:
Thanks everyone for your support! : D And thank you for reading. : ))
  My scanner was cold and I fixed it ]_]Dec 13, 2018 10:14 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Had a bit of a scare this evening as my trusty large-format scanner, which has been with me since I started scanning anything for A*—2011, I guess—couldn't scan! The scanner head was getting stuck after moving just a little way along its track.
Well, it's been extra cold in my apartment here since they put in the new front door last Friday—in its current unfinished state, the new, better-fitting door is draftier than the old door (at least once I would get inside and plug up the biggest gaps along the old door with paper towels and stuff : P)—so after being unable to coax the scanner to scan by trying unplugging things, etc, I disconnected it completely, turned the heater up, and held the scanner up in front of the heater, also turning it around, upside down, and so forth, while shaking it gently. Then I hooked it back up, crossed my fingers, and...
It worked! : D So we have a proper page today. ^_^ In fact, to let you in on a dirty little secret, it worked better than the scanner has worked in oh a few years, at least. See, some time back it started getting a little jerky at each end of the scan, and you can see at the left and right page edges—at the upper left of page 35:42, for instance, on the diagonal purple stroke edges—that that resulted in the sides of the scans coming out pixelated!
That's not great if I were ever to try to print this thing, I guess, but a) print is icky, and b) I thought the pixelization was kind of cute. : D But after my little workout with the scanner tonight, the pixelization is, at least temporarily, resolved.
As someone pointed out to me the last time I had a bit of a scare with the scanner, it probably needs to be re-lubricated. While I was turning it over and around in front of the heater I spotted two accessible screws, so maybe that would let me get it open (I also spotted a cobweb inside the scanner =o) to be able to lay some grease down on the rail upon which the scanner head slides. I've ordered some white lithium grease in case it comes to that, but it's kind of a last resort because I could very well break the thing or at least get dust on the inside of the glass or something, and these oversize, cheap old Mustek scanners aren't available anymore—or at least, Mustek no longer has an American distributor and I couldn't find anywhere that would sell me one last I looked. Anyway I'm sure it's good for another seven years or so now. ]_]
  Finds from a day exploring!Dec 12, 2018 10:25 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Okay so last Friday, while a new front door was being put on my apartment in 18 degree F weather, rendering my A* workspace temporarily uninhabitable, I spent the day hitting all the town hot spots! That's let's see six parks, the big cozy coffee shop / cafe (three times: breakfast, lunch, and hot cocoa!), the student-operated creamery on the university campus (chocolate cookie dough ice cream! : d), the university libraries (signed up for a university library card!), and the public library (got a public library card!).
Loads of fun! On the largely empty uppermost floor of the university's "old" library (power strips and disarrayed blinds—a far cry from their swank "new" library adjoining it, with a central atrium where a student musical recital was going on), I found some good stuff! In their "oversize" section, this not-so-little Little Nemo in Slumberland collection—sized to match the original broadsheets in which it appeared, ie nearly the size of a full modern newspaper page! Imagine a single comic taking up the whole page, every Sunday!
Much bigger than the already pretty big editions I had from Fantagraphics, the two volumes of this giant (and heavy! you'd basically have to lay these on a strong table and sort of crane yourself over them, I guess) effort from Sunday Press Books, for those of you who don't want to lug them out of the university library in a cart, *are* listed on Amazon, for a suitably hefty price. The color seemed to me to be a little faded compared to the Fantagraphics releases, but they definitely give you a much better impression of the sheer size at which newspaper readers early in the last century got to enjoy Winsor McCay's wild flights of comic fancy.
Also stuck away in that old upper floor is the university's pretty decent science fiction and fantasy book collections; here's a fun title from classic (1967) sci-fi for you:
According to the book's forward, this was one of two book titles an editor came up with—then I guess they got Philip K. Dick to write a story for the title! I haven't read the story but I guess maybe I should some day.
And I found where they keep their comics (or "graphic novels," if you like : P), that's the really important part—although their computerized directories also seemed to show a bunch stowed in locked "compact storage" in the basement of the new library—a pretty interesting arrangement of long rows of book stacks on tracks, that slide right up against each other and lock in place, so you can't get at their pulpy insides. : o They also had a long row or two of unlocked compact stacks down there, and (after cranking them apart with the large hand wheel conveniently situated on the ends of each stack) those had tons of really old books on them, which is kind of neat, but no comics I could spot. : P
I also of course mapped out the location of the comics and sci-fi collections in the public library too—smaller collections there and perhaps overall more recent and less varied, but still respectable.
So that was productive! The final big discovery was in the town's frozen botanical garden: a coyote. : o I only saw him or her from a distance, and they trotted off up a lightly forested meadow (trailed by a member of the local tiding/charm/flock/gulp/murder/mischief/tittering/conventicle/tribe/congregation—I am not not making those up—of magpies, who view the garden as their turf) before I had any sort of chance to grab a photo, but it confirmed the rumor I'd heard about a coyote in the park over conversation at Thanksgiving dinner with a local family (old friends of my dad's : ); the theory is that the coyote or coyotes are tempted in by a chicken coop on the premises of one of the adjoining houses.
  But the floor is cleanDec 12, 2018 1:13 AM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:I got the rest of the mopping done. : P ; )
Maybe I'll have more to do though 'cause also my landlady got back about finishing off this new front door of mine. Yay! No date or time set yet, I don't *think* it will result in me having to vacate the premises and miss a day of A* work like when they put the door in on Friday, since now there shouldn't be all that much left to do—I hope! : o
  Instead I moppedDec 10, 2018 9:51 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Had a nifty discovery-laden day exploring around town on Friday while a new front door was being put on my apartment, and I mean to tell you all about it and I even have some photos, but I'm not gonna get to that today 'cause midway through the afternoon I stopped everything to mop the living room floor. : P There was a fine layer of dirt in the living room inside the new front door, and even some kind of really granular sawdust (?!) coating the floor mat under my drawing table and I couldn't take it anymore. I'll probably end up mopping the rest of the place tomorrow; the rest seems not as dirty—well except for the mats in the kitchen—but it'll just keep bugging me if I don't finish it all off. : P
The new door seems more or less just like the old one only they wedged in a narrower doorway on one side, so it kind of fits the doorway now instead of being a half-inch too narrow. But the bottom trim is missing (hello, concrete and dark holes into the abyss), the sealant over the new frame section needs touching up, and the weather seal could use some reinforcement at the bottom corners; my landlady's handyman had mentioned to me before that a new door installation would probably require coming back "the next day" for touch-ups (the sealant took all weekend to dry, though : p), but she hasn't got back to me on when this next day might now occur, if ever, so that's exciting. : P
  No New Page TomorrowDec 06, 2018 10:02 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:No new page tomorrow, as I'm due to be having a new front door installed in freezing weather right next to the work space where I make A*. So I'll just be traipsing around to my favorite places in town, applying for library cards, etc. And hopefully the drafty door saga will be all wrapped up satisfactorily by the end of the day and I'll be set for a snug winter of A* work! ^_^
  Out Friday (new front door! : o)Dec 05, 2018 10:02 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:I won't be producing a page on Friday—I'll be vacating my apartment while my landlady's handyman and his crew install a new front door!
Yes, despite his heroic efforts to fill in the gaps around the old door with extra weatherstripping, now that the temperature is mostly below freezing, those cold drafts coming in around the too-small-for-the-door-frame door just won't be denied! So it will be super-nice to have a new, snug-fitting door and a draft-free living room—especially 'cause that's where I do all my A* work.
While they're exposing the room to the elements, plus lots of banging and hammering and prying or whatever, I'll just be bumming around town: my current plan is to visit the town coffee shop for breakfast, walk to the town's largest park to see the baby goats, the horses, and the frozen duck ponds, over to the public library to apply for a library card, hike up the main hill to visit three nice parks up there, return to the coffee shop for lunch, over to the student-run, student-churned ice cream shop on the university campus for some fresh chocolate cookie dough ice cream, then over to one of the university libraries to apply for a university library card, and explore the libraries there a bit if they'll let me; walk back along the creek trail to the coffee shop for some hot cocoa, and hopefully that'll have killed off most of the day and my new door will be in place by then. : o
So that's roughly what I'll be doing on Friday instead of working!
  S'lateDec 04, 2018 10:07 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Late again, off to bed for me!
  Rockets, black holes, & asteroidsDec 03, 2018 10:27 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:There was kind of a slew of space news on the BBC today : o :
Soyuz rocket: First crewed launch since failure docks at ISS - Back to business as usual at the International Space Station, after a break to work out the kinks in the Russian astronaut delivery system that had caused an emergency landing following a launch in October.
Gravitational waves: Monster black hole merger detected - The three LIGO-VIRGO giant laser interferometers that can detect minute space warps hitting their miles-long laser beams picked up yet another merger of black holes, a careful parsing of previous data has shown: black holes 50 and 34 times as massive as the Sun smooshed together to form a single big hole 5 billion light years away. This is the biggest merger detected so far. The data reprocessing also picked up three smaller mergers, and confirmed another one that had been a bit iffy before. The giant detectors are offline now, being upgraded: they're due back in spring at twice the detection range, which would in theory increase their detection rate eightfold, since they could "see" that much bigger a volume of space.
One of the three detectors is at the Hanford site here in Washington state, about 100 miles away from where I live now! (It's the most contaminated nuclear site in the US, whee! : P)
Osiris-Rex: Nasa probe arrives at Asteroid Bennu - Weird names. : o 101955 Bennu is a near-Earth, 500 meter asteroid that has something like a "probability of 0.037% in the interval 2175 to 2196" of hitting our planet, which would be bad. In 2060 it will pass within 750,000 km of Earth—about twice the distance to the Moon; but in 2135 it will pass closer than the Moon: the estimate is 300,000 km, but could be as close as 100,000 km, depending on how the 2060 pass affects it—and depending on how the 2135 pass goes, the next time around, it could (though very unlikely) hit us. (Projections in the millions of years range forecast a 48% chance the asteroid will eventually fall into the Sun, and a greater chance of it hitting Venus (26%) than Earth (10%).)
Bennu's name came from a worldwide naming contest among students: "Third-grade student Michael Puzio from North Carolina proposed the name in reference to the Egyptian mythological bird Bennu. To Puzio, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft with its extended TAGSAM arm resembles the Egyptian deity, which is typically depicted as a heron."
OSIRIS-REx is a NASA probe launched in 2016, hoping to return some material from Bennu to Earth by 2023—which would be a first for the US (Japan's Hayabusa probe returned "micrograms" of dust from an asteroid in 2010). Now that it's arrived at the asteroid, it will orbit it for a while before going in for a scoop, making Bennu the smallest body ever orbited by an Earthly satellite.
But the name! In typical NASA fashion, it's an unlikely acronym, for: "Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer." Osiris of course is the Egyptian god of the afterlife; the actual pronunciation of the Egyptian hieroglyphics (which efficiently but somewhat inconveniently do not include vowels) might be something like Asar, Yasar, Aser, Asaru, Ausar, Ausir, Wesir, Usir, Usire or Ausare. You know, NASA could have saved themselves some trouble and just made an acronym out of the transliteration of the hieroglyphics themselves, "wsjr."
(What the original name meant is still an object of considerable debate. German Egyptologist Wolfhart Westendorf, who passed away in February at the age of 93, proposed that "wsjr" came from "wꜣst-jrt," "she who bears the eye"—that etymology inspired the name of A* episode 27's Selenis-moon-invading corporation, Wasat-jret: I changed the Egyptian "waset" to the Arabic "wasat," for "middle way"; "jrt" or "iret" is Egyptian for "eye," so eh Wasat-jret was "the middle eye" or something, and that was why their helmets had a big triple eye logo on them. ^_^)
So anyway "Osiris" kind of fits with the Egyptian name given to the asteroid the probe is visiting. The "REx" part strikes me as much iffier, if it's supposed to be the title "Rex," for King, since that came from Latin, not Egyptian.
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