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A* Episode 33 
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Ep. 33 is imminent!


Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:34 pm
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Here we go with episode 33! And you can now pick up episode 32 in .pdf e-book format if you'd like to download it and take it with you or whatever; I'll be e-mailing free download links for it to supporters of the A* Patreon campaign at the $3/month and above levels at the beginning of next month; if that isn't your scene, you can just buy it on the episodes & e-books page.

And if you want, say, all exactly 3200 pages of A* covering the entirety of the first 32 episodes (how did I manage that numerical coincidence? : ooo), well also on that same episodes & e-books page you can buy the "Super Express Pack," a huge .zip file containing all completed episode e-books, for just $20--it's always been $20, and just gets to be a bigger, more bandwidth-busting deal with each new e-book I cram into it as we go along.


Mon Feb 12, 2018 11:02 pm
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Speaking of clones, yesterday the BBC published an article declaring that "a mutant species of all-female crayfish taking over the world is not the latest science fiction film but a real-life environmental thriller": the first ten-legged marbled crayfish, born in a German pet shop in the 1990s from Floridian slough crayfish parents, had an additional set of chromosomes, allowing her to reproduce all by herself--and so could her children, and their children... This made their pet population growth unstoppable, and soon extra, unwanted marbled crayfish were being dumped into the wild, where they have spread to threaten native species across Europe.

Now, after reading that, I thought, okay, before I welcome our marbled crayfish overladies, maybe there's no need to panic--after all, with a genetic diversity of pretty much zero, they're bound to hit some sort of road-block they can't overcome in their quest to take over the world, and eventually natural selection will find against them. Right?

Well, the BBC kind of shut down that hope today in an article about the Amazon molly fish, another (nearly) all-female species: the molly mates with a male from one of four other fish species, but "genetic material from the male is not incorporated into the already diploid egg cells the mother is carrying (except in extraordinary circumstances), resulting in clones of the mother being produced en masse." This again results in near zero genetic diversity, and a popular theory in evolutionary biology, "Muller's ratchet," had postulated that a gradual accumulation of disadvantageous mutations would lead to the demise of such a species within 20,000 generations.

Thing is, genome sequencing shows that the molly has been doing its gynogenetic thing for 100,000 years--about 500,000 generations--and it is still going strong. Now, counter-theory is saying that even a case of such low genetic diversity, evolution would still tend to wipe out the negative mutations.

So! Nothing says that the Earth won't be entirely peopled by marbled crayfish in that far-flung future just before it is boiled by the dying, expanding Sun.

~~~~~~~~~~

Speaking of animal tricks that aren't actually as silly as they may appear, in looking up something like "landing in deep snow" on YouTube today as research for this A* page, a Discovery channel YouTube video called Fox Dives Headfirst Into Snow taught me that red foxes make incredibly silly-looking, head-first leaps and dives into snow--and not just for fun, like foolish humans do, but rather to catch delicious little animals burrowing along beneath the snow.

And the observers found that the foxes were much more successful at this acrobatic, hearing-dependent hunting technique when they were jumping north-east; their leading hypothesis on why this would be the case is that the foxes--like some other species--are sensitive to the Earth's magnetic field, and are using it, along with hearing, to confirm that their hidden prey is at a certain fixed range: "the Earth’s magnetic field tilts downward in the northern hemisphere, at an angle of 60-70 degrees below the horizontal. As the fox creeps forward, it listens for the sound of a mouse. It’s searching for that sweet spot where the angle of the sound hitting its ears matches the slope of the Earth’s magnetic field. At that spot, the fox knows that it’s a fixed distance away from its prey, and it knows exactly how far to jump to land upon it."

So that was interesting. But they *do* look silly doing it. ^_^

(That article also discusses several biological mechanisms giving magnetic field sensitivity: embedded magnetite crystals that align with magnetic fields, releasing a protein to trigger a nerve cell when being moved into certain configurations, or light-sensitive chryptochrome molecules in the retina (so far found only in birds) that trigger a reaction resulting in unpaired electrons, which can be induced to switch states in a magnetic field, resulting in a magnetically induced nervous signal.)


Tue Feb 13, 2018 9:39 pm
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Okay well I had a lot of snow flakes to make. = P


Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:03 am
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Let's do a Wednesday special A* archive original art auction...today! I look through the original art I have left from making A* pages, pick one I think came out pretty well, and put it on sale at a steep discount for one week!

*** By the way, after this I only have 3 such select pieces left for the time being! So there will be three more of these special sales, then a break while I build up more cool unsold ;_; page art...which will hopefully take a long time! : P ***

So this week it's the 16" x 6.75" watercolor illustration I made for episode 32, page 70, in which Selenis is dashing down the steps of the Auditorium in Falco's "Falquarium" : P, returning fire at one of his henchwomen! I went for a kind of wild color gradient running the length of Selenis's bodysuit, which I thought might be tricky to pull off, but it actually came out more or less like I'd imagined it in my head! : o So that's on sale starting at a special low price for one week right now on eBay.

The auction listing ^ has big pictures so you can see all the grains and hairs of the heavy watercolor paper I use--but here are some tiny, blog-sized pictures to get you started:

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Thanks for checking it out! You'll find all my A* art sale items over there under my eBay profile--the watercolor illustrations made for the latest week's worth of new A* pages are always on sale there, f'r instance!


Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:06 pm
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Monday is Presidents' Day here in Washington State (the position of the apostrophe and even the whole name itself varies by state!), and I won't be slaving away and making a new A* page on that day : D but here is a sketch I did for a reader supporting the comic through the A* Patreon campaign : ) :

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If you want to use Patreon to send me even just $1 a month well gosh I'd really appreciate it, it helps me buy art supplies and food and pay the rent so I can keep working on A*--when it isn't a federal and state holiday, anyway! ^_^ Thanks everyone who's helping me out!!


Sat Feb 17, 2018 8:38 pm
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I gotta go put some A* art in a box to mail to someone later this week, yay! : )


Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:15 pm
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Well, I'm running late. : P But here's a photo I took of today's page as I got it ready for being spattered with watercolor and white ink "snowflakes":

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The spattering is achieved by flicking an ink-loaded metal pen nib (at the left end of that white-ink-coated pen-shaped thingy above the painting) across a plastic card. Always wear your safety goggles! (Not just for the ink spatter, but also those pen nibs can break and fling a pointy shard of metal across the room.)

The slightly yellow, black-edged look you see over Selenis in the photo is a couple re-used sheets of overhead transparency film, traced over with a smear-proof marker ("Slick Writer" it seems to be called), and cut with an X-Acto knife to fit her profile--oh and the dime in the middle was there to push them flat on the page. : P So they form a mask that will prevent her, in the foreground of the image, from getting any "background" snowflakes spattered on her; and after I did the background snowflakes, I removed the mask overlays and did a few more white ink spatters over the whole page. So Selenis got a few snowflakes over her (including a too-huge one almost completely covering her right--our left--hand, that I had to blot (mostly) off), but not as many as the background areas got, which hopefully lends a tiny bit of depth to the snowfall effect.

Hm it could be improved if I was able to spatter consistently bigger snowflakes in the "foreground," but that would take a separate jar of white ink, less diluted--and that can risk it spattering in a "stringy" way that wouldn't look snow-flakey at all. Ideally I guess I would just get better at painting large snowflakes by hand, as I tried in some of this episode's earlier pages, but that turned out to be a little tricky to pull off in a seamless way--which is to say, I can't paint nearly as coolly and effortlessly as ink spatter looks! Also spatter is just way more fun to do. : P

(The spatter-coated white paper pages around the painting are left over blank or doodled-on pages of various paper types I used for A* before switching to the heavy watercolor paper I use now. I can move them around to form crude, quick masks, but this Selenis was too detailed for that, so I just used them to protect my drawing board and dining table from getting any more starry than they already are. ; )


Thu Feb 22, 2018 1:50 am
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Why no, I definitely did *not* forget to draw her backpack and then have to paint it in on top at the end. )_)

... Maybe I'd better just thrown in a few more explosions...


Fri Feb 23, 2018 12:47 am
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Here's a sketch I got to send to a reader for supporting the comic through the A* Patreon campaign : ))) :

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Thank you very much! People can support the comic through Patreon for as little as $1 a month, and it does make a huge difference! Your support makes A* possible! : D


Sat Feb 24, 2018 10:17 pm
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