Archive for the ‘Dear Diary’ Category

Data and visulaization

Posted by ON in Dear Diary

I’ve been messing with the D3.js data visualization library for day-job stuff. I realized early on that the potential for making amazing visualizations was pretty much unlimited.

I’m nearly positive that every time you see a cool chart on a TED talk, it’s probably been made in D3.

Anyway, another thing I’ve been thinking about is my old habit of trying to use the internet to keep myself honest. I sort of like (and fear) the idea of keeping a constant track of my writing progress, how I’m eating, exercise, basically everything that I should be doing to keep myself healthy, happy and keeping meaning in my life.

For a while I wondered if I should make a little box at the bottom of every post that tracked these things, maybe sort of like those old nerd code things people used to do in the 90s, but the more I think about it, I’d love to build a chart that tracked these things. Then I (and the entire internet) will know when I’m meeting my goals or not.

D3 is pretty complicated, but I’ve also been playing with Plotly. I may just try this…

Site changes, life changes!

Posted by ON in Dear Diary

Hey all,

I’m painfully aware of how little I’ve blogged lately.

My writing life is stabilized: A bunch of new fiction in the final draft stages, I’ve been submitting (hey, new story coming out in the XIII anthology!), and I’m still chipping away at the latest novel.

But the thing that’s been itching at me from the top of my to-do list is this blog.

Actually, there’s a number of reasons why:

  1. I’m super busy: Between the day-job, the commute, the novel, short stories, music and having a life (not to mention other projects, see below) … whew!
  2. I’ve been wanting to update the design of the site again: After undoing the damage from the unprofessional idiot (please contact me if you’re a writer and looking for a new site, I can warn you off of who you shouldn’t hire), I didn’t have the time to really spiff up the site like I wanted. (Not to mention finishing the mobile version.)
  3. I’ve been thinking a lot about vlogging and how it relates to this blog.

Anyway, I’ve been doing a better job of breaking projects down into digestible chunks and scheduling them, so there should be changes filtering onto here soon(ish.)

One of my blogging goals is to touch the blog every weekday, including having some bookkeeping sections at the bottom (which you can feel free to ignore) which will track my daily writing, food, exercise and mood. I’m thinking it’ll be a good way to keep me honest around stuff that contributes to my long-term health and happiness.

RIP – Jay Lake

Posted by ON in Dear Diary

Jay Lake
When I first met Jay Lake, I thought he was a pain in the ass.

He was angry and driven. For whatever reason, I wrote him off as loud, obnoxious, full of himself. Maybe those were parts of Jay, but I didn’t bother to see what else was there. Maybe I just felt threatened by someone so big.

Jay and I clashed on a number topics in our writing group. We were on the opposite side of a hugely contentious group split about our group’s age cut-off.

The final straw came when he wrote an influential rebuttal to what to me was a cartoonish strawman version of my arguments, ignoring my real points in favor of winning. Regardless, it worked. I dropped the whole thing, mostly because I felt fed up with the group. I dropped out for a few years. After that I told myself that my life would be better without Jay in it. I assumed he felt the same about me.

Around the time I rejoined, I was accepted into the Clarion writing workshop. I was unemployed and almost completely out of money. After a hard look at the costs and my dwindling finances, even after receiving a scholarship it was obvious I couldn’t afford to go. I was heartbroken.

As a final effort to pull together enough money, I sent a donation request to my friends, family and, of course, my writing group. My request had been out less than an hour when I got my first response.

Jay, quietly and without fanfare, paypaled me two hundred dollars. He just gave me the money.

When I thanked him, he said, “I never got to go to Clarion. It’d be a tragedy if you couldn’t go just because of money.”

I realized then that the guy who I’d written off as loud, obnoxious, and full of himself, was an intensely complex and thoughtful person. I’d been strawmanning Jay easily as much as I thought he had been me.

I brought the whole thing up years later, and Jay didn’t remember the fight or giving me money. Jay had moved on. It was probably the strongest and simplest lesson anyone has given me.

Who the hell cares who was right? What good does it do to carry our resentments and good deeds around like prizes? I wish I had thought to thank Jay for the lesson.

From reading his incredibly vulnerable online writings, I knew Jay was almost always fatigued, in nearly constant pain and deeply afraid, but the Jay I saw in person over the last few years was kind, open, thoughtful and curious.

The last time I saw Jay, we were presenting ostensibly different views on science, politics & religion on a panel. Jay has always been very clear on his beliefs and very good at articulating them. I was struck by how the Jay, who years ago might have savaged other people’s beliefs, now made a point of saying that just because he disagreed with someone didn’t mean he didn’t need to be fair in presenting their side. At the end of the panel Jay gave me a hug before moving on to his thousand other important obligations.

Jay was good people. I’m honored to have known him.


Drawing the “female form,” the sexist way!

Posted by ON in Dear Diary

Apparently VectorTuts+ misses the good ole days of crappy sexist 50s art lessons.

This delightful little gem popped up on my RSS feed today.

I admit, I was irritated the second I read the title (Why is it always the “Female Form”? It seems we’re always invited to draw “Men” and “The Female Form,” cause we have to maintain objectification at all times.)

Lame title notwithstanding, I clicked the tutorial because my illustration skills are crap and I thought it’d have even a little information about the physiological differences between men and women. One of the first sentences warns us that:

“The most common mistake made by any student of art who wants to draw a female character is thinking about her as a male in high heels and long hair.”

Get it? Har har har.

Get it? Har har har.    (copyright: VectorTuts+)

He also philosophizes on our desires as artists:

“This is because, in most cases, we are surrounded by strong male characters and, regardless of the drawing style, the muscles arouse enormous interest in the artist. Everyone wants to learn how to draw those muscular arms and all those giant veins!”

Ooh la la, do we!

Ooh la la, do we!    (copyright: VectorTuts+)

I love how our author assumes everyone using it is male.

So, I thought he’d go on to give tips about center of gravity, muscle configuration, you know, anatomy, like you’d get in a figure illustration class.

*sigh* But no:

“…females have less muscle detail visible to our eyes, compared to males! Their curves are sweet and their expressions are smooth…”

The author starts with the same basic circle/cross-hair stuff everyone does, but it doesn’t take us long to get to:

“Female eyes have the characteristic of being very expressive, so we need to devote some effort to do something really appealing for our character:”


Dur!    (copyright: VectorTuts+)

“All done—a female character with a good dose of sex appeal!”

Cause that’s all that matters. I love that the author transitions immediately from drawing a “female form” to “Pin-up style.” Because of course, what other reason would you have to draw the 50% of the world that doesn’t have huge, veiny muscles?

“Pin-up style eyes have two basic emotions: “surprise” and “sexy”.”

OH MAH GAWD!  - NyQuil is a powerful drug.

OH MAH GAWD! – NyQuil is a powerful drug.    (copyright: VectorTuts+)

“Note that I just added a slight smile in the second image in order to enhance the seductive look.”

Anyway, it goes on, and on:

“…features that can be used to reinforce the masculinity of a character should be reversed when it comes to a feminine figure”

“Let’s explore the process of making an “average” female body…”

Because average women enjoy tightlacing!

Because average women enjoy tightlacing!    (copyright: VectorTuts+)

But my favorite section is “Flexibility and Sex Appeal

It’s like the author has never seen a single internet critique of stupid comic-book poses.

Crack! Thumbs up for sexism!

Crack! Thumbs up for sexism!    (copyright: VectorTuts+)

“It’s as if your character is wiggling all the time!”

Way to be classy, VectorTuts.

This totally makes me want to pay your exorbitant monthly fee.