Podcasting Again

No, not regularly. I was the guest on a podcast today and it was awesome. I miss podcasting a lot, but the timing is never good to make a return to it.

Plus, I wasn’t hosting so I didn’t need to worry about steering the conversation.

Turns out, I had a lot to say and probably just ran my mouth off too much.

I’ll post a link when it goes live, which I believe is scheduled for the end of this week…

Middle X: Black Widow

Enter a world where the X-Men have quietly retired from their years of superheroing. It’s a world where they settled down in the suburbs and lived to ripe old ages.

We look in on them as they hit their 40s. They are, perhaps, soccer moms and dance dads and who knows what else.

Now, Black Widow is more of an Avengers character than an X-Men character. This is a complete cheat. I’m OK with that.

Middle X Black Widow, though she isn't a mutant

Diabetes Still Not Cured; Insulin Ain’t Cheap

I admit, I’m protected against this by a good health care plan, but I know how ridiculous the prices are — especially when I did take more one month and am close to running out before the renewal date.

In the United States, just three pharmaceutical giants hold patents that allow them to manufacture insulin: Eli Lilly, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk. Put together, the “big three” made more than $12 billion in profits in 2014, with insulin accounting for a large portion.   What makes this so worrisome is that the big three have simultaneously hiked their prices. From 2010 to 2015, the price of Lantus (made by Sanofi) went up by 168 percent; the price of Levemir (made by Novo Nordisk) rose by 169 percent; and the price of Humulin R U-500 (made by Eli Lilly) soared by 325 percent.  

I’ve used two of the three of those in my life.

To make insulin affordable, we need more competition. Nothing would do this faster than a “generic” form of insulin. (Technically, because insulin is made using bacteria, it should be referred to as a “biosimilar” instead of a “generic.”) Unfortunately, there isn’t one available in the United States.

Don’t hold your breath, kids.

Star Wars: Back to Basics


A new (unauthorized) release of Star Wars gets back to the original. They recreated the original movie with the mission to not change a single thing. Let the imperfections fly!

I’d love to own a clean copy of the original Star Wars trilogy, like most people my age. But I do have to admit that I wouldn’t mind it so much if they cleaned it a little to get rid of the visible strings and matte boxes and whatnot. Don’t change anything in the movie; just clean up the dirty spots. Keep the final dog fight as it originally was. Greedo shoots first. Yes, even keep the guy in the werewolf halloween mask.

All the Presidents’ Heads

I’m almost in awe of this.

Presidental portraits in stone

There was a park opened in the 2000s that featured Rushmore-like rock sculptures of all the presidents up to that point. They’re each 20 feet tall. The park closed a few years ago, and a farmer nearby took all the sculptures for his backyard.

Click through the link to see some more pictures of the site. It’s eerie and cool and crazy all at the same time.

Middle X: Cyclops

Enter a world where the X-Men have quietly retired from their years of superheroing. It’s a world where they settled down in the suburbs and lived to ripe old ages.

We look in on them as they hit their 40s. They are, perhaps, soccer moms and dance dads and who knows what else.

Cyclops is losing his hair and adding a gut. In other words, he’s just like the rest of us (nearly)-40-somethings….

Middle X Cyclops art

San Diego Comic Con Goes RFID

San Diego Comic Con logo

Word is out now that the San Diego Comic Con will be using RFID chips in their badges this year.

The RFID chip is an interesting thing. They put those in the badges at OSCon last year, which lead to some amount of informal protesting amongst convention goers and speakers. Some even ripped theirs out. That was a tech conference, though, so people were more in tune with what RFID tags are and how they might be used. Personally, I didn’t have any problem with it.

The thing OSCon had with every room you walked into was an RFID scanner across every door. The convention could use it to track how many people were coming and going into each room. For a convention like SDCC with the logisitics it faces, this could prove to be very valuable information in handling crowds and seeing where the most and least popular panels are being held.

That’s all assuming they have the scanners posted at the doors of every panel room. That’s an awful lot of scanners to bring in, but a convention the size of SDCC could (and probably should) pull it off. It would be very valuable information to have.

I bet the fire marshall would love to see a live feed of that data, too…

Troubles in Las Vegas

LINQ executives told Las Vegas police that public indecency is on the rise, “which they fear will impact the reputation and business operations.”


Vegas business owners fear that indecency will impact their operations.  This from the city whose motto is “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”?

Middle X: Jean Grey

Enter a world where the X-Men have quietly retired from their years of superheroing. It’s a world where they settled down in the suburbs and lived to ripe old ages.

We look in on them as they hit their 40s. They are, perhaps, soccer moms and dance dads and who knows what else.

She still thinks she’s a trendy 20 year old…

Jean Grey as a soccer mom

Middle X: Domino Paper Cut Out

I learned a lot about Manga Studio while working on the Domino drawing I posted last night.  I multiplied the “colors” to get a stronger look.  I successfully magic wanded Domino and then rotated the selection to create a mask to draw the shadow with.  And more.

I love looking at colored art without the line art. You can often see just how close to being a pure painted a colorist might get.  It’s fun to see if the drawing is clear without the black lines.

For this one, I did more.  I dropped both the black lines AND the colors of the character, leaving behind only her shape as a negative space.  It looks cool, like I created a pop-up paper doll or something.

Work In Progress of the Domino art from yesterday. She's an empty silhouette here.

Welcome Back, WordPress

WordPress Logo

I’ve been blogging since September 2002.  What started on LiveJournal.com quickly moved over to its own site, using WordPress before it was even called WordPress, I think.  Check my database — this blog’s prefix is “b2_.”

Things slowed up a lot here over recent years.  I got a new job, got married, had a kid, etc. etc.

And WordPress became annoying.  I always assumed it was because the database was so big with the thousands of posts I had up, but couldn’t prove it.  Simple things like posting an update became too slow to bother.  And, of course, Twitter popped up and consumed us all.

I posted here occasionally, but sometimes months would go by.

Lately, I’ve wanted to get back into it.  I hate throwing things into the Twitter and Facebook machines and watching them drift away, owning nothing.  I like having a blog that I can look back on years later and see what I was thinking in the past so easily.  Even if I only did short posts, I wanted to jump back on the bandwagon.

So I checked up on WordPress, updated to the latest and greatest and — it’s a whole new experience. WordPress grew up somewhere in the last couple of years. Maybe four years?  I don’t know, but all my problems are gone.  Everything is so easy now.  I can shop for a new theme or a plug-in from inside WordPress, and install everything that way, too.  No more downloading zip files and then uploading them praying the back end sees them, and then activating.

Many of the things that needed plug-ins were now built in. (Markdown! YouTube!)

The default themes look good, and are easy to edit.

I have at least two usable iPhone apps where I can post to the blogs even when I’m away from my desk.

Also, it’s speedy.  I don’t have to wait forever for a new blog post to save.  (And then it posts links to Twitter and Google Plus for me.)

I’m even using the new WordPress desktop app to post this.  It’s also awesome, and lets me run two blogs at the same time on it.

I’m excited to be blogging again, both here and on the sister site, Various and Sundry CS, where I cover more of the computer science-like stuff.  Even if it’s only short thoughts barely longer than a tweet, the default theme handles things like that beautifully…

Middle X: Domino

Enter a world where the X-Men have quietly retired from their years of superheroing. It’s a world where they settled down in the suburbs and lived to ripe old ages.

We look in on them as they hit their 40s. They are, perhaps, soccer moms and dance dads and who knows what else.

Number 4 is… Domino.  Some people just can’t give up the lifestyle.


middlex 6_domino_web

Images: The Problem With Sizing


Three different Deadpool #1 issues

One of the things I do every week in writing Pipeline is to prepare all the images for it.  It’s a much more complicated process than it needs to be.  I scan it in one program (Image Capture), color correct and crop in another (Acorn), and shrink it in a third (Image Well).  (Seriously, that third program chops the file size down by a bunch.  I’m not sure why or how, but it does, so I always use it.)

I have a 27″ iMac.  My screen is huge.  And the middle layer in there — it’s Acorn — shows the image at 25% or so when it first loads.  I have no idea how big that image will look on the website for someone else on a 13″ screen or a 15″ or 23″ screen.  So I always err on the side of making a bigger image and letting my faithful CBR editor do the final trimming to the standard CBR size.  (Honest: I do try to get it as close as possible to save him a step, but I feel like I fail every week.)

I worry that when I have a retina display screen, the problem will only get worse.  Very much worse.

At the same time, it’s a problem I’ll be happy to have.  Because new computer. (Did I do that right, internet?)

Still, it’s a process I need to automate or simplify somehow.  I’m just writing this to remind myself and shame myself in public.


The Thing With YouTube

I’ve taken to YouTube in recent months. I don’t subscribe to too many things, but I enjoy the series I like. They’re short. They’re entertaining. And, most amazingly, the suggested videos that YouTube links to next to the videos I watch are usually very good suggestions. YouTube becomes a very good time sink that way — worse than Wikipedia ever was for me.

The deeper I go into YouTube, though, the more I realize that it really is just like the rest of the internet: three or four good ideas copycatted to hell and back. It’s filled with rip-offs and clueless talentless people who think they’re god’s gift to the internet because they have 100 subscribers while doing the same exact thing (only poorly) that the guy with 1,000,000 subscribers is doing.

The rest of it is clips of late night talk shows. Nobody watches those on television anymore. Those shows are the tail wagging the dog — they exist to fill up YouTube.

In other words: YouTube is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

At least Postmodern Jukebox (which also kicked off a wave of copycats) is ripping themselves off here by covering earlier covers.

Podcast Annoyances


Might I suggest that we ban the word “totally” from every podcast host’s vocabulary? Or do we need to wait until we eradicate “So…” and “Anyway…” first?