Alaska Robotics

Archive for the ‘Nerd’ Category

Back to Work

Tuesday, January 20th 2009 by Pat

I’ve been time warped again. The holidays ate up a week and a half, a week was downed by the Conference of Young Alaskans, and then I caught my ass-kicking cold and sniffled away one more week. Now here I am in the future. Rudderless.

To get myself back on track I’ve decided I need to rebuild my schedule and this time around I’m using fictional college courses as a template. Here’s my 18 credit course load.. I think I’ll try it out through February and see if it works for me.

sched

Olin Robot 101
3 credits
Students will work to craft a series of animated robo-shorts.

AK Robotics 201: Short Films
3 credits
Students will create short films – animated, sketch comedy, and documentary.

AK Robotics 202: Comics
3 credits
Students will create a weekly comic,

Screenwriting 101: Write a Damn Script
3 credits
Students will work on developing feature and short form screenplays.

Lost Ocean 101: Script and Characters
3 credits
Students will create character sketches and learn to develop a story outline into a solid foundation for a graphic novel.

Small Business 201: Business Management & Website Maintenance
3 Credits
Students will complete small business paperwork and develop improved systems for business management. Students will identify problems and make improvements to the LRCD online store and Alaska Robotics website.

Facebook Graffiti

Tuesday, November 4th 2008 by Pat

My friend Melissa introduced me to the facebook graffiti application a while back and I finally I tried it out for the first time today. It isn’t as flexible as Photoshop for digital painting but I love being able to play back the drawings and see the process unfold. I think this will be a fun place to sketch.

Email Catharsis

Thursday, October 9th 2008 by Pat

Three of my five hard drives have been doing the Danse Macabre so I decided to roll with it and start over from scratch. One of my replacement drives is a speedy little number that Lou donated and I’m using it for an Ubuntu install. I probably wouldn’t have even bothered reinstalling Windows XP but my Adobe Suite won’t run in Ubuntu and I thought it would be geekier to have a dual boot system sharing browser and email preferences.

This time around I’ve decided against installing any more Microsoftware than absolutely necessary, I’ve replaced MS Office with OpenOffice and MS Outlook with Mozilla Thunderbird. I’ve also used the transition to Thunderbird as a sort of email catharsis.

I’ve got the old crap backed up but I’m pretty much leaving it behind for the archeologists to deal with. I’m not declaring full out email bankruptcy, I just want to develop a better system for myself. I’m basing it loosely on the 43 Folders, Inbox Zero series which, by the way, seemed awfully lengthy for a site dedicated to productivity.

The New World

  • Disrespect – I realized that not every email should be treated as a precious gem. Emails is bitches.
  • Unsubscribe – I killed the persistent notices and newsletters that never get read or even skimmed.
  • Agro Spam – I install aggressive spam filters and updated the address book so it could serve as a better whitelist.
  • Reduce the Noise – Using message filters I routed any common notices (facebook, amazon, wordpress, etc.) to a “Noise” folder that I’ll check waaay less frequently than my inbox. I think I might also send anything with multiple recipients to that folder but we’ll see how it goes.
  • Delete – I have an “Archives 2008” folder that I can shelf at the end of the year but I’m trying to keep it light by deleting almost everything. I really have no excuse to save so much worthless junk and if I don’t get rid of it now I’ll be fated to live the life of this dude.

Wordle Clouds

Saturday, October 4th 2008 by Pat

I’ve been playing with the wordle application and wanted to share my excitement, this thing is slick!

The word cloud here was generated using all the text from our posts to this site, the more often a word is used, the bigger it’s printed. Some of the boring, common words get weeded out and then the application allows you to mess around with colors and layout.

The best part is that you can get your wordles in scalable formats which paves the way for large scale printing. I had much more text to draw from in the old Orphan Army database so I dumped that into a bigger field. I didn’t do any filtering on this aside from the defaults… I really like just need to learn some new words.

Google Maps Discussion

Saturday, October 4th 2008 by Pat

I’m getting ready for the Forum of Young Alaskans tomorrow.. err.. later this morning. Like usual, I’m up late crunching on some last minute detail work. It’s going pretty well, not at all like that time we started screened the first half of the film festival while Aaron was still working on recording the second half.

Most of my time on this project has been sunk into various website development holes, specifically, a big map of Alaska that tracks ongoing discussion. It’s based on the twittervision concept and pulls data from a bbPress discussion area.

I’m really proud of it, I actually don’t know how I made it. I went into a frothing twitch for three days and it was just there when I woke up.  You don’t have to click anything, just let the map wander around a bit. Check it out.

Forum of Young Alaskans

Wednesday, October 1st 2008 by Pat


The Forum of Young Alaskans takes place Saturday, October 4th.  The event is a statewide discussion for Alaskan youth ages 16-25 and will take place at UAS in the Glacier View room from 1-5pm.  The local forum will be connecting with other communities around the state through UATV and YoungAlaskans.org.

The format will involve all the localized groups working along the same agenda and timeline. We’ll have a shared introduction to the event and process through a video feed. Then we’ll do some individual reflections and small group discussions which will feed into the online discussion area. Throughout the event we’ll be broadcasting video from different locations and, in the end, all the participating communities will report back and we’ll have a chance to hear what people talked about and worked on in their areas.

The small group work and discussions will be recorded in the online discussion area and then the data will be sifted through and presented on a website using tag clouds, Google Maps and whatever else we can create to aid in visualizing this statewide discussion.

My involvement has been primarily as a steering committee member but I’ve also been doing a lot of website work for the project. The past couple of days I’ve been working with the Google Maps API to develop the discussion dashboard and I’m basing some of the functionality on Twittervision.

Incidentally, this is the first post I’ve made from my new Ubuntu install.  Three of my five internal hard drives were beginning to deteriorate and I decided it would be a good opportunity to do some house cleaning and experiment with a new OS.  I’m still locked into Windows XP because of the Adobe Suite but I’m going to try to wean myself away and learn more about Linux since I have no desire to continue traversing Microsoft’s perilous upgrade tree.

Devourer of Planets

Monday, September 29th 2008 by Pat

I gave up on the hobo story arc and drew Galactus, Devourer of Planets. I think Cayleigh asked me if he would eat Pluto. I guess maybe so, but it would take some coaxing… “How do you know you don’t like Pluto if you’ve never tried it?”

I’m not entirely sure why I abandoned the hobo comic but I think it was just too heavy. To be clear, the hobos I see day-to-day aren’t mischievous, train-hoping drifters. They’re scabbier and much less romantic. They smell like Colt 45 strained through weak livers and crusty blue jeans. I think most of them are beyond help or don’t want it. It’s depressing. I’d prefer to think about kittens… and I don’t even like kittens.

True Fan Boost 2008

Tuesday, September 9th 2008 by Pat

This post was prompted by Arlo Midgett’s idea of a True Fan Boost. It’s like a “buy local” movement except, instead of buying local, I’m buying things that elevate and encourage the artistic expression I love.

Kim Barlow

If you’ve ever ridden one of those old, slow Alaska State Ferries then you probably know about the magic of the solarium. That’s where I first met Kim Barlow and where she kicked my ass at scrabble, it was a barrage of seven letter words that I’ve never heard before or since. When the game was over her gang of rough and tumble Canadian women broke out the banjos, guitars and squeeze boxes for a practice session. The music poured off the back deck and drifted away in the wake.

Kim’s music is genuine and it mixes well with a few ounces of whiskey. I supported her by buying a copy of “Champ,” her latest album.

Kazu Kibuishi

Kazu is the editor/ringleader of the Flight anthology gang, he draws a web comic called Copper, and his latest project, Amulet, is a series of graphic novels for young adults. He visited Juneau this past spring with his wife Amy to teach a workshop and it was a great opportunity to get to know them. We wandered around in the woods, explored mining ruins and we even built snowman out by the glacier.

Kazu, Snowconeman, Amy, Pat

Kazu’s illustrations and approach have influenced me greatly so I decided I would pick up a print to hang in the office. Hopefully Amy’s new book will find its way to my shelf soon too!

Chris Applehans

I talked to Chris for about two seconds in San Diego, he’s part of the Flight Anthology and there are so many artists involved that it took me a while to figure out which stories were his. He really won me over with his Frank & Frank Comics and big, city destroying Unicorns but I was floored when I found out he was the same artist who created the cover for Flight Volume 2. A meandering journey through his website revealed a remarkable depth or creativity and talent. He’s like Norman Rockwell crossed with Bill Watterson.

I’ll get around to picking out a print I want but for now I’ll be content with one of his Unicorn shirts.

Scott Campbell

I picked up two awesome prints from Scott C.  “Cliff Ogres” is a print about some cliff ogres and “Ultimate Tank 1” is a print that is about the first ultimate tank.

Scott was my roommate down in San Diego and he draws these chunky illustrations I can’t resist.  His comics are weird and he writes in a foreign language that must have branched off American English and looped back around for a second pass through the dark ages.

His Igloo Head and Tree Head comics from the Flight anthology are great too but I mostly like to hear him talk about metal and things that are epic.

Vera Brosgol

Vera Bee has been working as a storyboard artist for Laika and she showed me around the Coraline set earlier this summer. It was a wonderful, winding labyrinth of little articulated people, rat tails, and other mothers. The build rooms felt like they belonged in the North Pole and the gadgeteers were hard at work making incredible little monsters. It looks like it will be an incredible film.

Vera is also a Flight artist and an animator. Her short film “Sno-bo,” was a favorite of the kids in my animation class this summer. I picked up one of her “Braid Hair” prints to encourage more independent work and to contribute to the visit Alaska fund.

Nucleus Gallery

All the goodies I picked up from Kazu, Chris Applehans, Scott Campbell, and Vera Bee were purchased through the Nucleus Gallery. I met Ben and Charles in San Diego and I really admire what they’ve done with their store. They’ve become a beacon for some really amazing talent and inspired a lot of similar galleries to take a chance.

Deering and Down

I’ve been listening to Lahna and the Rev play since Lahna was a pip squeak and her mom, Joan, would come out to all the shows because Lahna wasn’t old enough to play in bars. The pair have put some miles under their shoes since, they’ve been around the states and across the ocean and everywhere between. They put on a solid live show and just love to play.

Lahna and the Rev still drop back into town on occasion to help Joan with the Paradise Cafe and Joan still comes to all the shows. I listened to their first album, “Coupe de Villa,” about a gazillion times and I just realized that I didn’t own a copy of their latest disc so I picked it up and can’t wait to listen to it.

Patrick Smith

I caught Patrick Smith’s animated film “Handshake” at the Bumbershoot One-Reel festival a few years back and thought it was a great comment on relationships and a remarkable feat of weight and dimension in animation. I haven’t seen much more than clips of his other animated work and I thought it was about time to pick up one of his discs.

Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik

Jerry and Mike put together a comic called Penny Arcade. The art is beautiful but my secret joy is to flip through the archives to see how much it’s evolved since the beginning. Mike is a serious student of his craft and I’m sure he will just keep getting better at what he does. It’s inspiring.

Jerry writes. I imagine a smoldering pile of pencil nubs and a thick haze of saw dust must haunt him. To support Penny Arcade I bought their game, “On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode One” and I bought it almost exclusively for the story.

In addition to their work on web comics and games, Penny Arcade launched a charity that has raised millions of dollars in games, books, and cash for children’s hospitals.  They also host a huge gaming expo in Seattle.

William Spear

I’ve been a fan of Bill’s work since I was about twelve. Now I occasionally work on his website and call him my neighbor. He also introduced me to the fine sport of Hockey and put in some time coaching me through my first through roller blade misadventures. I purchased a “Write Hard, Die Free” zipper pull from Bill while we were in Seattle and had Arlo pass it along to Jerry Holkins at the Penny Arcade Expo.

Scott McCloud

Scott, Ivy, Winter, and Sky came through Juneau last summer on their 50 state tour for Scott’s book, “Making Comics.” Scott is like the Johnny Appleseed of comics and there are hundreds of great comics sprouting up in the wake of his trip. The family was so much fun to hang out with, we played video games, talked movies, and I got educated on the science of art.

Winter reminded me of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard and I think Sky is going to be an excellent director someday.  Ivy was the cheerful glue that seemed to hold everything together.  What a great mom!  To support Scott and his wonderful family I purchased “Zot!: The Complete Black and White Collection: 1987-1991”

Christian Lander

“Hey. I hear there’s a free book. Thanks.” was about all I said in the brief transaction when I picked up my copy of “Stuff White People Like.” I wasn’t even sure what I was getting and I think it was Christian who signed it and handed it to me but I didn’t care because it was free loot. I really wish I’d stopped to talk to him or at least flipped through a few pages while I was there because it’s about the funniest, saddest, truest, thing I’ve read. I brought it back home and gave it to Lou. It was a big hit in our apartment and I think it’s already been stolen.

I want to say thanks for the free copy of the book and support Christian’s work so I picked up another copy and plunked down the change this time. Also, I’ll need a new copy for the apartment in case Lou’s never returns.

The Kleptones

I’m a big fan of mashup music and as far as I’m concerned the Kleptones are some of the best artists in the field. Their album, “A Night at the Hip-Hopera” is a masterpiece that I’ve listened to hundreds of times over. I’m not exaggerating. I have a great propensity toward finding music I like and then listening to it on repeat for months straight until I need to purge my system with something new and different. The Kleptones have come and gone from my playlist dozens of times and they’ve become trusted favorites.

I wanted to buy an album but there’s a little legal problem with that since they use so many copyrighted samples. It’s tough being a pioneer but decades down the road people will look back at what they’re doing and how it’s altered the structure and culture of the music industry. I sent Eric Kleptone some money as a donation.

EFF

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a group that defends civil liberties online. They work to protect our online rights and have helped to preserve a vibrant internet culture of open communication and dialog. I renewed my membership and made a donation because I appreciate their work and want to think broadly about my new labor day.

MIRO

MIRO is an open source video player which I actually don’t use that much but that I would like to use more. They’re working hard to hollow out independent distribution channels on the web and trying to keep the world of internet video from collapsing into one big commercial station. To support MIRO and help advance their work I made a donation.

There are dozens of other people and organizations I wanted to put on this list but I just can’t fit everyone. I hope I remember to do this next year, I think it’s a good idea. Thanks Arlo!

True Fan Boost – A New Labor Day

Tuesday, September 9th 2008 by Pat

My friend Arlo Midgett has been kicking around an interesting idea he calls the “True Fan Boost.”  The basic proposal is that we should use Labor Day as an annual date to consciously elevate those independent artists whose work we support.  The idea is fairly fresh and flexible so I’m going to twist it up a bit and see if I can wring something out.

1000 True Fans

The idea of the True Fan Boost is a piggyback on Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans concept which holds out a bright orange carrot for independent artists.  If you can find 1000 True Fans willing to spend $100 per year on your work you will have made $100,000 at the end of the year. This probably translates into much less once you’ve figured the costs associated with producing whatever you produce- still, a living.

The math is different for everyone but the basic concept is there.  Maybe it’s 50 True Fans for a talented painter or 10,000 True Fans for someone selling handmade pog earrings but there is a certain (smallish seeming) threshold for artists who wish to succeed in a niche market and it’s a very attractive goal to work towards.

As you can imagine, plenty of enthusiastic head wagging ensued once this idea hit the web, both vertically and horizontally.

The 1000 True Fans business model applies to artists out in the long tail.  The ones who live out on that precarious snaking tendril filled with steampunk rock bands and  face contorting micro-celebrities.  I think it makes sense as a theoretical business model but the complicated reality of depending on True Fans is far from a sugarplum vision.

The sort of artist who survives at the long tail is the sort who would be happy doing nothing else, who willingly sacrifices security and comfort for the chance to communicate something meaningful, hoping to catch the attention of those few in the world who seek what they also find meaningful.

– Robert Rich (via The Technium)

The Boost

What I like about Arlo’s True Fan Boost is that it comes from the fans.  It’s grassroots.  It isn’t an artist trying to collect “True Fans” like a bunch of Pokémon, it’s the fans making an effort to give something back to the artists they love.  To not only support their labors, but to reward them and to encourage others to delve into a new body of work.

Of course this happens thousands of times a day in the comment fields on Amazon and on blogs and myspace pages and over the water cooler but I feel like this can be something more.  It’s a semi-organized effort to not only discover and encourage those emerging and existing talents, but to get other fans to do the same.

It’s Labor Day, it makes sense to honor the uphill battles and absurd labors of the artists we admire.

Consumerism & Cake

I really don’t like consumerism.  Consuming.  It makes me think of greasy fat people gulping down whole cakes. Store bought cakes with printed pictures instead of decorations and crusty yellow frosting made from horse parts. Consumerism today is about replacement. We remember a slice of apple pie we once had, we remember the imperfect homemade crust and a gooey filling that would never work on a plate, we remember the single scoop of vanilla ice cream slowly turning the whole thing into one delicious puddle. We try to recreate it again and again but sometimes we just replace it with something else, something easy.

I feel like consumerism goes wrong when we replace the genuine love and effort in a process with something stale and predictable.  A product lacking care or interest that simply exists as a stand in for something better.  I want to go the other direction and this is a chance to remember that as a goal.

What’s in a Name? – The “True Fan”

One caveat here is that I don’t know if I want to be a “True Fan,” it sounds kind of… well… fanatical.  I think I just want to be someone who appreciates quixotic creative endeavors, great storytelling, and imaginative human expression.

Boil & Simmer
So I’ve ground it down a bit now and I’m ready to do this thing. Here’s the process I’m using.

  • Identify the artist(s) you enjoy and want to nudge towards center stage – no yellow cake please.
  • Support them financially – buy something or palm them a couple bills.
  • Tell someone about the artist(s) on your website, blog, myspace, facebook, forum, podcast or soapbox of choice.
  • Encourage others to do the same because we’re all fans of something and friendly word of mouth is better than suffering advertisements.

I know Labor Day has passed but this thing is just an idea in the formative stages so go ahead and take it for a whirl anyway. Sharpen it up, make it better, move it forward. It needs criticism and discussion to get anywhere but I do believe there’s a place for conscious fan-based movements like this one.

Haiku Trap

Monday, September 1st 2008 by Pat

I’m still on the road in Seattle so putting together this comic was a different process than usual.  I left my laptop at home and thought I would just put together a pen and ink strip this week.  Unfortunately I didn’t have any pens or ink so I just went heavy on the pencil and used my point-and-shoot digital camera to “scan” the results onto Sarah’s laptop.

I liked the scraggly lines and paper texture the camera captured so I just did some minor touchups and painted in the colors on an underlayer.

I bought a really bad hip hop CD on Friday.  It had decent production value but it was obvious crap despite being so close to success.  I kept trying to figure out why it sucked and the theory I came up with is that is fell into the uncanny valley of music.

The uncanny valley is generally used to describe humanoids that look and act so close to actual humans that they become eerily creepy and repulsive.  I think the uncanny valley exists outside our perception of humanity or perhaps our perception of humanity includes those things that feel human rather than just look human.  It’s a movie that could or should have made a real human connection.  It’s so close to greatness that you spend the rest of the night obsessed about the few out of place details instead of the all the clever successes.  I’ve seen it in books and music and I think most of poetry falls into a vast pit of near greatness.

I’m not sure how an artist can hop over the uncanny valley on the way to greatness or avoid the far greater void of mediocrity further from the top but I’m sure there are little tricks… like practice.