CMXtraneous: This and That

Right on the edge of useful

The Little Christmas Tree

Posted Friday, December 23, 2005 9:45:36 AM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

So this Christmas, I seem to find myself in a very nostalgic mood. Last night, while getting some last minute gifts - okay... after desperatly searching for that ONE %$#&^% gift I still haven't been able to find - I came across a Christmas CD called "Oldies but goodies". One of the songs happened to be an old childhood favorite of mine that I very rarely ever hear on the radio any more. It was "Snoopy's Christmas" by The Royal Guardsmen.

My brother and I used to listen to that song on the radio all the time on Christmas Eve as we were trying to keep ourselves desperately awake in order to see Santa. And even though I didn't care for the rest of the songs on the album, this one was worth getting so I plunked down my $5.00 and happily strolled out the store.
Along the way home though, listening to Snoopy fight the Red Baron during Christmas time got me to recall another long time tradition my family used to do on Christmas eve.

There was an old Christmas album my mother loved. There were a ton of songs on it but there was one selection that always seemed to hold a special place in my heart. It was a touching little story about a small Christmas tree that realized he was dying but a visit by Santa on Christmas Eve makes him realize what his purpose is.
It took me a while to find it since I didn't know what the title of the story was or who even narrated it. But thanks to lots of creative Google and Yahoo searches, I am happy to say I found it.

The story was an old radio play by Red Skelton. And, if you're interested, you can listen to the WAV format by clicking here. You should bare in mind though, that this is a very old recording so some things are dreadfully out of date.

But it's still a very touching story and takes you back to a gentler and perhaps a more simpler time too.

Now to get back home and start watching the 24 hour marathon of "A Christmas Story"!!!

Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, CMX Suite, Community MX, Midnite Madness, Music, On the Personal Side, This and That

THINGS ACTION ADVENTURE MOVIES HAVE TAUGHT ME:

Posted Wednesday, November 30, 2005 11:23:42 PM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

Hello everybody. Today, I thought I'd write another movie-related blog since I've seen so many over the years. But I thought I'd do something a little bit different. I thought I would list all of the wonderful knowledge I have accumulated over the years thanks to Hollywood. Consider this a "Guideline to life according to Hollywood (and Chris Flick)".

THINGS ACTION ADVENTURE MOVIES HAVE TAUGHT ME:

1) If you're going to be a bad guy, you must have a British accent.
Preferably, to be REALLY bad, you should also be German but have a British accent.

2) When approaching your car, you should always drop your keys to the ground.
I mean, seriously, how else are you going to notice the blinking red light of the bomb that's been planted underneath your car?

3) Bad guy uniforms always come in a "one-size-fits-all"...
After all, that's why it's so easy to penetrate the evil bad guy's lair.

4) Pistols or hand guns are better weapons then automatic rifles.
Everyone knows when bad guys shoot automatic weapons, they don't hit diddly-doo-doo, but our hero always hits his target with his trusty hand gun.

5) Always make sure you have a full arsenal of bullets.
Bwwwwhahahahahahahahahahahaha! Seriously??? Bullets? I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that out loud. Everyone knows there's no such thing as handguns needing reloading in an action/adventure film.

6) Run - don't walk carefully - through a booby trapped Aztec temple.
If you run, none of the booby traps will affect you - especially after you have replaced a statue with a bag full of sand. But if you carefully try to crawl through the booby traps, that's when you get hit by the poisoned darts.

7) Macs rule!
In the Hollywood-world, Macs are the dominant computer/operating system - especially when it comes time to infect an unstoppable alien race by infecting their mother ship with a virus. But... if Macs don't get viruses, how can they transmit one... never mind., You heard NOTHING!!! NOTHING, I say!

8) Worst bad guy mode of transport? A helicopter.
If you're in the city, your helicopter will always touch electrical wires. If you're in the desert, your pilot will always crash into the side of a mountain. As a bad guy, you should avoid helicopters at all cost.

9) Need a car? Just flash a badge.
Everyone knows you're suppose to stop and surrender your car to anyone who flashes a badge in front of you.

10) Heck, it's only my pension. What do I need that for?
If you're a cop about to retire, you will always be talked into risking your career, your retirement, your reputation, your children's college tuition by breaking every rule and regulation you ever believed in because that's the only way to "get the bad guys".

:-)

-Chris

Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, CMX Suite, Midnite Madness, On the Personal Side, This and That

Another New Toy

Posted Friday, November 25, 2005 9:10:22 AM by Jim Babbage

Jim Babbage

Well not exactly *new*, but I just finally had the opportunity to set up the inkjet printer I bought from Costco two months ago. It's an Epson Stylus CX7800. One of those "all-in-one" type printers. That in itself isn't anything special, but one of its features is very cool.

It has a film scanner built into it.

This is one of those things I have been wanting, yet humming and hawwing about for years. Film scanners used to be incredibly expensive. Some still are. Having shot film for so long, a film scanner has been on the wish list for quite some time. This particular model will scan up to 4 slides at a time or one strip of 5 negatives. It seems to have a maximum scanning resolution of 1200 dpi for film and slides, which is fine for my purposes.

You may be wondering why I waited so long. Well admittedly, cost was part of it. I had no burning desire to spend $2,000 on a film scanner when I could get images scanned from an outside source at reasonable prices. I also have limited space on my desk. It already supports two monitors, a fax/phone, general office supplies etc. SO I didn't really have the room for a scanner AND a printer. The Epson fit the bill in terms of footprint.

When I saw this Epson in Costco, it was listed at $199.00 (cdn). This in itself was a good price, but when I saw it scanned film, it became a VERY good price. Then I discovered that there was an immediate $60 rebate at the cash desk for it (now $139.00), AND if I bought a second set of ink cartridges, they'd knock another $15 off the printer cost.

I was sold, and it was bought.

I can scan reflective art, 35mm negs and slides, print (obviously) and it also features four media slots and a USB input for my digital cameras. The printer is designed to work without a computer connection for printing photos (even has a little LCD preview screen) and for copying.

One other thing I found very cool - although I've yet to use it; the printer can make an index print of all the images on your media card. You then review the index card, shade in a circle under the images you like, scan the index card and it will print out all the images that have the shaded circle! Kinda like having your own mini photo lab!

So far, I have printed a few images from my new(ish) Fuji S9000 digi-cam, and I've been quite impressed with the quality of the prints, even though I have done minimal (or no) post processing.

I also experimented with the film scanner yesterday. It has a couple quirks (do NOT rotate the images within the scanner software - bad things happen), but overall, the quality is pretty good. 

So essentially, I'm all set to make greeting cards, or frame-able 8x10 prints for Christmas presents. Look out, holidays - here I come!

Category tags: This and That

Google Releases Update for Picasa

Posted Wednesday, October 12, 2005 3:10:57 PM by Jim Babbage

Jim Babbage

For those of you using Picasa, here's official notice that Google has released an upgrade. Make sure to drop by and download it.

There's a whack of new features in this free imaging utility:

  • Multiple languages Support 
  • BlogThis! button allows you to post one photo at a time directly to the Blogger.com web editor
  • Print CD covers 
  • Improved RAW file handling - support for more makes and RAW file types: Canon (.CRW, .CR2), Nikon (.NEF), Olympus (.ORF), Pentax (.PEF), Kodak (.DCR), Sony (.SRF), Minolta (.MRW), and Fuji (.RAF).
    I'm hoping that it wil read the RAW files from my new Fuji S9000 camera. Of course, reading RAW files and being able to properly edit them are two very different things.
  • Import from additional cameras

I find Picasa really helpful for sorting and viewing images as well as quickly creating quick web photo galleries. It has a decent range of built-in tools for fixing up images, including some nifty special effects. All in all, not bad for a freebie.

Picasa helps you find, edit and share all the pictures on your PC. Every time you open the app, it automatically locates all your pictures on your hard drive and sorts them into albums organised by date with folder names you will recognize. You can drag and drop to arrange your albums and make labels to create new groups. Picasa makes sure your pictures are always organised. 

It's a pretty cool image management tool and has one thing that FW has always been sorely lacking - an image browser. You can see thumbnails of your image files on screen, and either sort or edit them right within Picasa, or locate the file on the disc and open it within your favorite app - like Fireworks.

Unfortunately for the Macheads in the crowd, Picasa is only available for Windows users.

Category tags: Graphics, Photography, This and That

I've never met Nic Carcieri before but...

Posted Monday, October 10, 2005 3:14:53 PM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

He and I have at least two things in common:
1) We both are artists and
2) We both have a young son who has been diagnosed with autism.

Those two things, in and of themselves, probably doesn't seem all that remarkable. Given the statistics I now know about autism, there are probably far too many artists in the world today who have sons or daughters that have been diagnosed with autism. So you may be sitting at your computer right now asking yourself this question: If that's the case, what makes Nic Carcieri so unique that Chris would feel the need to write a blog about him?

Obviously, the fact that we both have very young sons who have austism connects us in a very unique way but that's not why I'm writing about Nic. As my title of this blog says, I've never met Nic before. I've never talked to him before. In fact, just a few short weeks ago, I didn't even know who Nic was - just as I'm sure he didn't know who I was either.

But, being the artist that I am, I happened to be crushing through one of my favorite comic book-related web sites, Digital Webbing when I came across a pencil sketch of this piece of artwork:

Bots cover

Nic posted an open call for any interested artists to submit artwork for a charity book he was creating in order to raise proceeds for the Autism Society of America. Sounds simple enough, right? It was just a small little post on a very popular comic book web site. But this little post demonstrates exactly how powerful, how useful and how incredibly beneficial the web can be - especially when that message is also combined with a personal blog.

Nic was extremely wise to create a blog detailing this very unique project in a blog because now, this project has started to pick up incredible amounts of steam. It's one thing for relatively unknown artists who are looking for any kind of showcase for their talents (and yes, that includes me too) to donate their time and energy, but it's another thing entirely when big names like Tim Sale who hear about this and decide it's such a worthy cause that THEY want to be a part of it too.

Now, for me, the difficult part comes. I already have a rough idea of what I'd like to draw. Being a child of the 70's, I grew up watching Ultraman and another show that was a favorite of my brother's... "Johnny Sokko and his flying robot". So I am thinking about doing a take-off on something like that - along with an illustration of my son in his super hero persona (Doctor Destructo). I'm thinking Doctor Destructo and his crime fighting flying robot... something along those lines. The trouble is, I'm not normally accustomed to drawing "technical things". My comfort level is in drawing human faces - that probably comes from drawing caricatures for so much of my life. Added to that, how do you draw a humorous looking robot and not have people think of the recent computer-animated movie, "Bots"?

And, even though illustrating a mechanical robot of some sort will be a challenge for me, it's nothing compared to the challenges of dealing with autism. Noticed that I haven't used the words "disease" or "suffer" yet? Well, that's because I don't believe autism is a "disease" or that my son Tyler - or any other person who has autism - "suffers" from it. Sometimes the people who care for an individual who has autism - a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister, an aunt or uncle perhaps - sometimes we go through hardships but it's not really that we "suffer" because of Tyler as much as we make very conscious sacrificial choices.

Autism though, can be very hard to deal with sometimes. The mood swings. The stubbornness. The refusal or inability to communicate to and with the outside world... that can be incredibly hard to deal with. Especially since we know so little about autism... where it comes from... why some family members have it and others don't. That's why research - and education - are so very, very important.

And that's exactly why Nic's project is so special too.

Chris

Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, CMX Suite, Community MX, Designing for the Web, Mac, On the Personal Side, This and That, Using the Web

New Life in New Orleans

Posted Saturday, September 10, 2005 1:04:33 AM by Big John

Big John

The news has been so bad, and only seems to get worse. But even amidst the carnage of Man and Nature, life finds a way to keep going, somehow.

This little guy got tired of waiting for help and took things into its own paws.

The escape of one tiny kitty from the flood won't change the problems facing others, but it does show that nothing is ever a "total" disaster. As the old saying goes, "This too shall pass."

What amazes me is how such a small cat made such big waves! New life wants to live, and won't be denied. Like that cat, the ravaged land and its survivors will endure, and somehow pull thru. That's just how life is.

Category tags: Community MX, Midnite Madness, On the Personal Side, This and That

Mars Attracts!

Posted Saturday, August 20, 2005 1:05:53 AM by Big John

Big John

As a confirmed Spacebug, I'm always aware of the gadgets we humans send careening or crawling around the neighborhood. Cassini is performing its massively pre-choreographed 4 year loop-dance around Saturn with dizzying precision, playing tag with the various moons and rings. Other probes are snapping the Sun, capturing the Cosmos, and roughing up innocent comets. This is the real Golden Age of space exploration, folks.

But one achievement surpasses all others of recent memory. At this very moment down on the dusty surface of the Red Planet, two ridiculous six-wheeled contraptions are driving around, imaging, sampling, and spectrumizing for us, and they have been doing this in a cold harsh alien enviroment for almost a full martian year. That's about two Earth years, kids.

"So what?" I hear you say? Well, prior to this mission, Mars was known as the "mission graveyard," swallowing up two thirds of the machines we sent its way. But we got both rovers down on the surface in perfect condition, despite scary last minute changes to adjust for dust storm activity. Then once down, a software glitch nearly killed off Spirit in the first month of service. Only an emergency "backdoor" recovery command secretly installed by a paranoid JPL geek saved the day.

Our high tech dune buggies were only meant to last 90 days with any confidence, altho it was hoped that they would stand up longer. Also remember they have had NO maintainance in all this time, unless helpful Martians are sneaking around at night with socket sets and lube guns. Besides that, these are solar powered toys, and dust buildup was supposed to eventually smother their power flows forever. Amazingly that hasn't happened, thanks to playful and very handy dust devils that apparently come along and perform "cleaning events," thank you very much!

Each rover is sporting a bum wheel now, but they persevere, dragging, pushing, and damn well FORCING progress to happen. Opportunity plowed into a big soft dune and got stuck for weeks, but dang if it didn't bust loose once more. Spirit had nothing but boring basalt to look at, so it "headed for the hills" almost two bloody miles distant across a rubble strewn plain, climbed them hills (with 5 working wheels and an anchor-wheel, in winter yet), and is now poised only 70 meters from the highest summit! Veni vidi vici.

These go-carts were never meant to be billygoats. They aren't really dune buggies. Their "brains" are available only thru a very slow and intermittent dialup from Earth. And yet they soldier on. They have survived crisis after crisis, many not well known to the public. Spirit has lasted so long that its rock abrasion tool is wearing out! Nobody ever suspected that would become a problem, and now they have to do wheel scuffs as a substitute. Hey, whatever it takes, man.

Finally, they have totally nailed their primary mission, to see if Mars really was once a wet world. It was, and we now know this thanks to those two beautiful expressions of the Geek Spirit. Millions of Geek-hours and about a billion bucks went into the mission, and it has paid off big, BIG TIME.

When I was young I dreamed of such things, but it seemed absurd to suppose it could ever actually happen, especially after we found out how expensive and difficult space travel really is. Many other geeks dreamed the same dreams, and somehow made it a reality. Now only one big question remains to be settled there.

Was Mars once a living world, and if so, does it still live?

This geek expects to learn the answer one day.

Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, Community MX, Midnite Madness, On the Personal Side, This and That

Saving Schwag

Posted Sunday, August 07, 2005 6:52:25 AM by Sheri German

Sheri German

Ha. Ha. I couldn't resist using that "saving" word in my title. But isn't that what we all do? Save our MM schwag? Especially since it will soon be a collector's item?

Having joined the Macromedia Education Leader program just this year, I don't have a long list of schwag, though I do have a huge stack of Macromedia educational materials: lots of thick binders with exercises and lessons.

Then there are my polo shirts - four royal blue short sleeved shirts just perfect for wearing on days I teach Dreamweaver over at the Government Printing Office, my college, or the Washington Apple Pi.

I have a nice little pin, too.

That's it for now, but I hope to collect more stuff over the next year while there's still a chance.

Now for my victims:

  • Zoe Gillenwater
  • John Gallant
  • Holly Bergevin
  • Tom Pletcher
  • Danny Patterson

Sorry. Nothing can save you now.

Category tags: This and That

Shwag, Tchotchkes, Cool MM Stuff - Shweet

Posted Saturday, July 30, 2005 11:02:04 AM by Stephanie

Stephanie

Another baton -- good thing it's the weekend and my one day off.

I have to say though, reading Kim's list and a couple of his comments, there's some cool stuff floating around out there. And I don't have it. I don't have hats or lap blankets and I've never seen a kite. Wow! Maybe there's still time before the proposed merger. ;~) I have to agree with JD though, I'm liable to go obsessive-compulsive on this since it's so hard to remember, but here goes anyway...

Total Macromedia Shwag in your possession:

7 t-shirts (I love my "goto and play" and </hassle> shirts)
1 long sleeved dress shirt
1 Dreamweaver backpack
1 Macromedia backpack
1 MM zippered shoulder bag
2 CD car visors
1 CD case
1 Flash drive (64MB)
3 Notebooks (one of my favorite items)
3 Pens
1 heavy folder/notebook pen holder
MM branded Power bars
MM branded Energy water
MM branded coffee candy
1 Macromedia Hot Sauce
1 large plastic water container
1 tall thermal coffee mug
1 glow/flash MAX mardi gras beads
1 brightly-colored button for each product (nabbed at MAX -- they SO remind me of the 80's)
(And yes, I keep popping in and adding... told you I'd get all obsessive compulsive about it. ;~))

Oldest Macromedia shwag in your possession:

Not sure. Might be my </hassle> t-shirt (a fun one).

Last Macromedia shwag you received:

It was a group of things. A Macromedia backpack filled with the coffee mug, water container, flash drive, CD holder and travel-sized notebook/pen set.

Most Unusual Shwag:

Not sure I have anything too unusual. I suppose the Energy water, Power bars and coffee candy was rather unusual. Of course, they're no longer "in my possession" since I consumed them immediately.

Shwag you wear/use most often:

I love my Dreamweaver backpack and when I leave the house/office, I carry it. But in the office, it would have to be my Flash drive (so easy to transfer files between computers) and notebooks.

5 Favorite Macromedia shwag items:

Undoubtedly, the winner is my Dreamweaver backpack. It's rather like a messenger bag and has lots of compartments. It's more stout than my regular MM branded one (so I let my husband borrow that one after his got stolen at a conference).

The next would be my new Flash drive. I had never broken down and bought one -- it's quite handy.

Then, though one of the less expensive items, I love my Macromedia MX notebook. Not just for the cool cover. :~) The paper inside is so stout and smooth. I hate that it's almost empty (more notebooks MM?)

I also find my CD car visor to be a handy dandy item. As long as I can keep a couple of my CD's in there and it doesn't get filled with my teenagers music.

Of course, I can't leave out my thermal coffee mug -- I almost ALWAYS need coffee when I leave the house. (And Jim, I have to say I use it as often as my CMX partner one -- only because the MM one holds more.) And the water container makes a perfect addition to my beach bag which got quite a workout the past couple weeks with my friend Ginger here. Of course we didn't always fill it with water. ;~)

What I wish I had? Shirts that were baby doll Tee's or tank tops. A Macromedia-branded iPod -- now that would rock!

5 people I'm passing the baton to:

It would be good to take this outside the realm of the CMX partners I think. Hmmm... Who's got cool shwag (besides Macromedia employees) -- How about:

Robert Hoekman

Adam Bell

Chris Georgenes

Linda Rathgeber

Jesse Rodgers

C'mon people -- show us whatcha got!

Category tags: Dreamweaver, Macromedia News, This and That

Macromedia Schwag Baton has been passed

Posted Friday, July 29, 2005 2:36:44 PM by Jim Babbage

Jim Babbage

I'm a fairly new character as far as MM is concerned, so my collection of cool things is pretty limited:

Total Macromedia shwag in your possession:

 1 T-shirt

 1  128MB USB key

 1 semi-thermal coffee mug

Oldest Macromedia shwag in your possession:

It's all the same age - just got it this summer

Last Macromedia shwag you received:

As above

Most Unusual Shwag:

While not unusual, I think the USB key is nifty and useful

Shwag you wear/use most often:

USB key (I use my CMX Partner mug much more often then the Macromedia one. Sorry MM)

5 Favorite Macromedia schwag items:

My favorite would be the laptop case or backpack that I DON'T have. I drool over those at conferences. 

I prefer my Tilley hat over a baseball cap; the thing is indestructable and acts as a better sunshade. 

Category tags: This and That

Jim Aparo and James Doohan pass away

Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2005 4:29:40 PM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

Since "Batman Begins" has been doing so well at the box office of late, it seems sad to mention the recent passing of one of Batman's more popular artist as Jim Aparo - a popular artist during the comic book highs of the 1980's - has recently put down his pencil for the final time.

Although Jim continued to work in comics all the way up until a few short years ago, he probably became best known for his work on "Batman and the Outsiders" - a book which teamed Batman up with five little used DC comic heroes at the time. Although the book never reached the popularity scales as John Byrne and Chris Claremont's X-men or George Perez and Marv Wolfman's Teen Titans did during that same period, it did reach a high point where Batman and the Outsiders took on the Teen Titans in a two issue series. It was during that two issue story that Robin (Dick Grayson) began to break away from the identity of being Batman's kid sidekick and helped propel Robin into more of an individual character like the one created on film by Chris O'Donnell.

Here is a duplication of the promotional piece for the Batman and the Outsider's comic book and a sample of Jim Aparo's style:

http://www.tonyznet.com/nostalgia/nzine3/20-21.jpg

This is what DC Comics had to say in its release:

OUTHINGTON, Conn. - James N. Aparo, an illustrator for DC Comics
for more than 30 years who drew Batman, the Green Arrow and other
action heroes, has died.

Aparo died Tuesday at home after a short illness, said his daughter,
Donna Aparo. He was 72.

Aparo, who grew up in New Britain, brought characters to life in his
home studio in Southington, corresponding with DC Comics through the
mail. He retired about four years ago, his daughter said.

Besides Batman and the Green Arrow, Aparo also did illustrations for
Aquaman, the Brave and the Bold, Phantom Stranger and Spectre.
His big break came in the late 1960s when he was working for
Charlton Press and his editor got a job at DC. The editor, Dick
Giordano, brought Aparo with him to the comic book maker.
In a 2000 interview with Jim Amash for Comic Book Artist, Aparo said
he went to Hartford Art School for a semester, but was mostly self-
taught.

"I just drew as a kid and went with it," he said. "I studied and
copied comic strips and comic books. I grew up with Superman,
Batman, and Captain Marvel. I really liked Captain Marvel Jr. by Mac
Raboy. That was beautiful stuff. I liked Alex Raymond, Milton
Caniff ... all of those guys."

Aparo is survived by his wife, Julieann, and three children.

On another sad note...

It looks as though James Doohan's fight against Alzheimer's disease has ended as well. Scotty, at the age of 85, has finally beamed up for the last time as well.

http://www.imdb.com/news/flash/

For Star Trek fans every where, I am sure this must be a sad, sad day. Just as it must have been when DeForest Kelley passed away.

I was never a huge "dress-myself-up-in-Federation-outfit-and-go-to-Trek-convention" type fan, but I do enjoy the Star Trek universe very much and used to enjoy watching the "classic" Trek episodes every night at midnight in my dorm room in college. And later, along with my wife, we became big Next Generation fans (but I think that had more to do with my wife's affection for bald headed men more so then her fascination with the show). :-)

You think these characters are going to live forever and then suddenly, the human being who portrayed them dies and you are left remembering that they were just characters on film that were portrayed by mortal actors. Of course, Scotty and Bones WILL always live forever on screen... Deforest Kelley and James Doohan may have passed on but they have given us Bones and Scotty to enjoy until the film they live on disintegrates into dust.

Still though, for my money, Scotty will always be defined by three different episodes:

  1. His part in the original "The Trouble with Tribbles" episode
  2. His part in saving the human race in "The Voyage Home" - I mean seriously... can any Mac enthusiast NOT crack up in laughter as Scotty sits down at an old classic Mac and says "Computer...on..."???!!! :-)
  3. And his later appearance in the Next generation episode where he was able to set up a continual transporter beam in order to keep himself alive (although you would think you wouldn't gain any weight or age in a transporter beam loop but that's neither here nor there, right?).

It looks as though it's a sad day indeed.

-Chris

Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, CMX Suite, Community MX, Mac, Midnite Madness, On the Personal Side, This and That

Throw it at the wall . . .

Posted Sunday, July 10, 2005 10:22:16 PM by Jim Babbage

Jim Babbage

If you're looking for a change of scene on your desktop, I might have just the thing. Every once in a while I put together some new wallpaper images for my desktop, and I share them with those who visit my web site. So if you're in the mood for a sunset, or want to stare off into the "big sky" of Muskoka, or see the ancient spindly pines of an Alaskan lake, feel free to drop by my site and download a new view.

I've just updated the page with a few new ones, many shot with my pride and joy: a Nikon D70. 

Look for a tutorial coming soon on the process I go through to create these promo wallpapers, using Fireworks - mostly. :-) 

Category tags: Fireworks, On the Personal Side, This and That

Applied High Energy Astronomy

Posted Monday, July 04, 2005 12:44:00 AM by Big John

Big John

As I write, Nasa is moments away from giving Temple 1 a really good poke in the eye. It is being delivered in the form of 2/5ths of a ton of copper arriving at 10 kilometers per second.

Nasa site

Normally Astronomy is a staid, sopoforic endeavour, but this one time they will get a chance to actually make something happen "out there". Tonite every amateur and professional Astronomer will be united in the primal desire to WHACK THAT PUPPY! Yeah.

Talk about a defining moment. Only problem is, once these geeks get a taste of direct action there will be no holding them back! Before we know it, there will be pockmarks on every solid object within reach. We have to head this off while our beautiful solar system remains intact!

I urge all to join with me in the "Hands Off Our Celestial Bodies!" campaign. We must bring home to those soon-to-be-wild-eyed telescope jockeys the understanding that the cosmos is NOT their personal shooting gallery! Geeze, why don't they just go play paintball or something?

Category tags: Midnite Madness, On the Personal Side, This and That

So... you say you wanna be THE BATMAN, eh?

Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2005 5:11:12 PM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

Well, Forbes put a little slide show together to show if you got the cash, baby, ANYBODY can be a self-made super-hero. Of course, many of us aren't born into a life of luxury like Bruce Wayne was, so those of us who are missing a few screws loose upstairs but still want to fight SUPER VILLAINS... well, they are just going to have to do it on the cheap. Forbes not only tells you HOW it can be done, they also tell you HOW MUCH it's gonna cost you.

So folks, it's time to pull out your handy-dandy check book and write out that $3,365,449 check to the super-hero's union guild. What? You say you don't have $3,365,449 laying around? That's okay. I hear that Tom Green fellow has a few bucks to spare. I'm sure he wouldn't mind giving you a loan. Of course, he might make you paint a symbol of a bag of milk on your chest but those are the consequences you have to live with when you borrow so much money from a Canadian. ;-)

But speaking of rich, fictional characters...

Forbes also made an interesting list of the top 15 richest fictional characters. You should check out their slide show to see where (or if) your favorite fictional character ranks on their list.Here are just a few names that appear on this list (so you know when Forbes says "fictional", they mean "fictional"):

Gordon Gekko
Daddy Warbucks
That Bruce Wayne fellow
Scrooge McDuck
Richie Rich
and Thurston Howell III

These are just some of the names that pop up. And each character has a humorous and entertaining bio written about them to explain exactly why they are one of the richest 15.

Of course, with only 15 names on the list, it's easy to say "Hey! What about my favorite fictional character?". For instance, after reading that list, I can't help but to wonder where on that list one of my favorite characters might rank. I mean, after all, he is a world renowned professional race car driver who has never lost a race and drives one of the most technologically advanced cars in the world.

I am, of course, referring to none other then Speed Racer. You would think - using NASCAR or even the Indy 500 as an example, Speed would be making millions and millions of dollars in endorsements alone... and if Tiger Woods can be considered one of the highest paid professional athletes of all time, imagine what Speed would be making - especially considering the fact that he has NEVER LOST A SINGLE RACE! You would have to imagine his winnings would easily eclipse what Tiger currently makes and his endorsements would easily outmatch what Michael Jordan made during his career.

For that matter, why isn't Pop Racer on this list? He's just the inventor of the world's greatest race car - The Mach 5. I'm sure lots of governments or companies would be knocking down the Racer's family door at a chance to buy, purchase or hire Pop Racer as a consultant for their company. Surely he could use that kind of leverage to end up being a CEO of some high tech company somewhere.

So... did YOUR favorite fictional character make Forbes list? If not, who is he or she and where do you think they might rank on this list?

Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, CMX Suite, Community MX, Midnite Madness, On the Personal Side, This and That

Flash Puzzles for the Masses

Posted Tuesday, June 21, 2005 2:38:35 AM by Big John

Big John

You've all seen them, the "puzzle" games. Myst was the trailbreaker, leading to a mess of other titles. Some of them are very good and some stink on ice. They all shared one factor tho, namely that they were applications, and therefore a bit complex to create.

This had the effect of restricting the pool of talent that could be applied to the art. Well, those days are over. Thanks to the spread of Flash, huge numbers of folks may now turn their hand to the interactive puzzle format. Things are starting to happen in a big way.

Maybe you have seen "The Crimson Room" and other similar escape room puzzles. Those are great, but some truly insane artist/fiends have recently begun to produce exceptional work that goes way beyond mere "rooms".

Take for instance Hapland and Hapland 2, created by a nameless Brit maniac. This twisted individual seems to understand what puzzle people really like, and has created two games with only that stuff. These are really hard! Oy.

In a more artistic vein (but not an easier one) is The Archipelago, an amazing example of how rich Flash can get. Jonathan May is the author, and he's also got "The Dark Room" in there, but it's nothing like the other room puzzles. There's a "Return to the Archipelago" too, which has unique and superb visuals along with infuriating puzzles to solve. Very nice sound effects and music too!

I am definitely looking forward to an explosion in this genre, or should I say "dreading?" Hrmmmmmm...

Category tags: Designing for the Web, Education, Flash, Midnite Madness, Music, On the Personal Side, This and That

Oh puh-leeez! TODCON '05 was sooooo last month!

Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2005 8:39:35 AM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

Sorry, but for some of us (okay, me!), TODCON '05 is still alive and well. You don't believe me? You should see my sketchbook! :-)

No, really! I'm serious.

Actually, all of the TODCON '05 CMX Suite strips you've seen so far were done on the plane during my flight home. I guess that's one advantage to being a "traditional" artist in the sense that as long as I have my sketchbook, pencils and eraser, I'm never at a lost as how to spend my time on long trips like Molly was recently asking advice for before she took her trip to Japan.

The problem for me though isn't always how to spend my time but rather will inspiration magically flow onto the white pages starring blankly back at me? Sometimes, that's the most maddening - and intimidating - part. Just starring at a blank page - or maybe a blank Fireworks canvass - and HOPING an idea will instantly spring out of your head and explode out of our finger tips or mouse. Sometimes it comes and sometimes the blank page (or electronic canvass) just laughs at you unmercifully.

Fortunately, that was NOT the case with my plane trip back home.

TODCON filled me up with so much inspiration, I found my sketchbook filling up page after page after page. So much so, I almost - almost - didn't want the plane to land. First I had Scott's cartoon, then Laurie's Zumanity, then Paul's. I even started on next week's strip - sorry Tom (LOL!). And then, of course, there was poor Ray.

For those that attended TODCON this year, you know how miserable Ray looked and felt. I know I did because I have had my share of sinus infections in the past and they are miserable, miserable things to deal with. They wipe you out just enough so you're left feeling awfully miserable but with just enough energy you think you can muster through something as important as... say, oh, running a whole darn web developing conference in the middle of the City of Sin. :-)

So now a few weeks later, I feel a little bit better (or would that be "safer"?) giving Ray something to look back on and laugh about. Ray, I know you may not have enjoyed Las Vegas as much as you might have in previous years, but I know all of us who attended TODCON this year (regardless if we were CMX Partners or not) really appreciate you being such a trooper that you were.

-Chris

Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, CMX Suite, Community MX, Midnite Madness, On the Personal Side, This and That

"Ol' Skool"? More like "Crazy Skool"...

Posted Tuesday, May 17, 2005 6:55:39 AM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

High school was finally nearing its long, drawn out preclusion to the summer days. All through the hallways, kids were already preparing for their beach trips or their summer vacation plans with their families as they walked the hallways decked out in their Ocean Pacific attire.

Everyone could taste the sweet smell of summer - even the school administrators admitted this by relaxing the rules and letting the kids play music on their "boomboxes" around their lockers - from Journey's "Don't stop believing" to Michael Sembello's "Maniac". Oh yes. Summer was in the air. You could hear it. You could taste it. You could feel it.

But before any of that happened - before summer could OFFICIALLY begin that year - some more important things had to be answered first. Answers that couldn't be found in any text book or a final exam sheet. Answers that no school administrator, teacher or counselor could help you with. Answers that plagued you for three and a half years... Made you crazy with anticipation.

And so it was May 1983 and I found myself agreeing to something I never thought would be possible - I was about to throw caution to the wind. I was about to become a "bad boy" - a "rule breaker". I was about to laugh in the face of the dreaded "after school detention".

My "gang" - that four-man ruthless, fearless gang of Commodore 64 game playing, comic book reading, animation fan geeks - were about to do something really crazy, really outrageous. The plan was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. How could it possibly fail? And yet, it was so simple... So, so simple, you had to laugh at how easy it was all going to be. Skip the last class of the day, get into our gang leader's car before anyone noticed we were gone, head to the local mall and be one of the first in line to see the...MOST ANTICIPATED MOVIE OF ALL TIME...

Return of the Jedi.

And so we skipped our last class of the day - PE - and headed to the mall. Oh yes, our plan was brilliant. Skip the last day of class so we could be one of the first in line to see what would become of the dreaded Empire or the Rebels... What of Han? Surely he couldn't die, could he? Would Chewie and Lando be able to save him? Would Luke ever finish his Jedi training with Yoda as he promised? But more importantly... The question EVERYONE had been asking, speculating, even arguing about... Was Vader REALLY Luke's father???

Those were the questions we asked ourselves all the way to the mall - even as we laughed at the poor, poor pitiful fools who weren't as brilliant as us. Those pitiful fools who weren't brave enough to risk detention... Who were going to have to wait FOREVER to be able buy a ticket to see "Jedi".

We were still laughing even as we ealked up to the ticket booth, only to see in our horror and disgust: The 1 o'clock show - sold out. The 2 o'clock show - sold out. The 3 o'clock show... Also sold out. But the 4 o'clock show... Yeah, baby, THAT was our salvation! And so we slowly walked to the end of the line... Out of the inside of the cool, air-conditioned mall...around the corner of the Crown Bookstore where posters of the recently released hardback "Return of the Jedi" silently laughed at mocked us through the cheery glass windows.

Finally, around the three hour waiting mark, we finally stopped laughing at our so called "brilliant plan". Oh yes... We were brilliant alright. We didn't bring any reading material... Didn't even bring anything to shade ourselves from a sun that seemed to be trying to get in shape for the long, long summer ahead.

But still, after 4 and a half hours and two of us taking 20 minute "mall walking shifts", we had our tickets. We had our popcorn. And we had the thrill of hearing that heart-pounding, hair raising theme of Vader's open up the movie... Ba-ba-baba...ba..ba..ba..baba..ba...

And we were thrilled beyond belief.

That's what it was like in 1983 anticipating the opening of "Jedi". There were no multiplexes back then. The mall we went to had maybe 6 or seven screen. Three of those were reserved for Jedi and yet all the shows - all day long - were sold out hour in advance. Even a week later, I still had to wait in a 2 hour line when my brother wanted to go see Jedi.

Then last week, going to see "Sin City" with my wife, I saw that our local multiplex was advertising the fact that you could purchase your "Episode III" tickets on-line, TWO WEEKS IN ADVANCE!!! And I suddenly found myself a little sadden by the fact that as great as technology is today - as convenient as we seem to make our lives - I wonder how much "little things" we miss?

Gone are the days of sitting on the sidewalk in front of a movie theatre with a bunch of your best friends waiting multiple hours just to be able to purchase a ticket for a movie you've been waiting several years to see.

Now, if you ask me what those friends and I might have talked about during that 4 and a half hour span way back in May, 1983... honestly, I couldn't tell you. But I can tell you I look back at that whole experience - the planning, the driving, the anticipation and yes, even the sitting - was something I look back on with fond memories.

And that's just something you'll never be able to buy online or in advance.

Ever.

-Chris

Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, CMX Suite, Community MX, Midnite Madness, On the Personal Side, This and That

Get your hot CSS Jedi Warriors here!

Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2005 9:03:43 AM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

Alrighty then, folks...

I thought I'd jot down a few random thoughts about this week's CMX Suite strip. I don't know if this will be a "regular" habit of mine, but it is something I have been thinking about doing for a while now. Consider it a bit like "Inside the Actor's Studio" only now, you are entering "inside a cartoonist's head". If ANY of you ever remember the short lived FOX TV show called "Herman's Head", you get the idea.

Anyway... as you can obviously tell, today's strip was a product of being very mesmerized by Molly Holzschlag during TODCon '05 two weeks ago. Here's a little secret I'm going to share with you all... even though I probably SHOULD have known who Molly was prior to TODCon, I didn't. Heck, I didn't even pay attention to who was presenting all the CSS stuff that was at TODCon this year - I was just determined to attend as many CSS sessions as I possibly could to see if this silly artist could FINALLY wrap his head around the bizarre universe known as "table-less designs".

Well... that's not going to happen any time soon, I can tell you that!

But still, I forged ahead and went to the first CSS session at TODCon and was immediately blown away by Molly's personality. And, as many people will tell you - including Molly herself - she has quite an overcharged personality. And as typical with a personality like that, some love it and some can't handle it. Me? For whatever reason, I've always seemed to be more comfortable around people that have a personality like Molly's. And when I find someone interesting - like I did Molly - I start drawing them. Or, at least, I start drawing a representation of them.

As all the CMX partners will tell you, none of my cartoons of them - either in their strip or on their blog pages- actually looks anything like them. That was for a very conscious decision on my part. I've done caricatures in the past - I still do caricatures as gifts or commissions - so I could have easily spent a lot of time creating caricatures of all the CMX Partners but that would have taken a tremendous amount of time to duplicate in a web comic strip form. Instead, I wanted to create more of a "representation" of that person - make them a bit more "animated-like" so to speak. That meant having to sacrifice "likeness" for "simplification".

So, what does all that have to do with Molly?

Well, when you first meet Molly, two things immediately capture your attention - her hair (her wild, crazy hair) and her eyes. So that's where my sketches started. And before long, I suddenly had what looked like a Japanese Animated looking female character - only with long, crazy, curly hair. And, when it comes to drawing women, I absolutely love drawing long, wild and crazy hair. The crazier the hair, the better.

And Molly fell right into that category!

Now, the whole part about the CSS Jedi Warrior came towards the end of the conference in a casual conversation with Stef Sullivan - one of my fellow CMX partners whom I consider to be my personal CSS hero (Shhh! Don't tell her though. Let's just keep that OUR little secret, shall we?). Let me tell you... Being in the presence of those two ladies - with their awesome CSS skills - DEFINITELY made me feel like that poor shlub of a Storm trooper Commander who stopped Obi Wan and Luke in Episode 4 asking about R2 and C3-PO...

Originally, I thought I'd sketch Stef in a Jedi outfit ala Mace Windu and maybe we'd put it on a mouse pad and sell it at CafePress since I so love to draw Stef's cartoon character in all sorts of crazy outfits... but during the flight home to Virginia, I remembered the sketch I also had of Molly - and as ANY true Star Wars fan will tell you, Jedi Knights always travel in two's. In the Star Wars Universe, one's a master while the other is the apprentice. But I wasn't thinking in those terms here. I was thinking more along the lines of Mace and Yoda - both side by side and masters in their own rights - a description that I thought fit Stef and Molly perfectly.

Besides... who could argue with two hot female Jedi Warriors kicking some serious butt and having a bunch of hapless, clueless dudes eating out of the palm of their hands????

:-)

-Chris









PS: I also don't have a CLUE who that last guy is that's in a baseball hat. I really don't. Sometimes, these characters just draw themselves.

:-)

Category tags: CMX Suite, Community MX, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, On the Personal Side, This and That

What I learned at TODCON 'O5 this year...

Posted Monday, May 02, 2005 7:46:57 AM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

What I learned at TODCON this year:

Molly Holzschlag is extremely charismatic and, through no fault of her own, has convinced me I'll never get the hang of "non-table, 100% CSS layout".

Actually, I have convinced myself I'll never be able to wrap my head around "non-table, 100% CSS layout", but I'm committed to trying nonetheless.

It's really a shame I only get to see Paul Davis (www.kaoswever.com) once a year - you better be at the next TODCON, mister! :-)

Although Las Vegas doesn't afford the same kind of "after-conference" intimacy that Orlando did last year, the best thing about TODCON (no matter WHERE it is) is going out to dinner with other web designers and just getting to know each and every one of them and just "talk shop" for hours and hours. Listening to other people's struggles (AND successes) can really recharge your battery and fill you up with so much inspiration and energy, it's really hard to put a price tag on that!

After Zumanity, I am saddened by the fact that I miss my high school "Rocky Horror Picture Show" years. You can never go home again, after all. (Siiiiigh!)

Talking with Alex (a fellow illustrator), I'm happy to realize I'm not the
only one who views CSS in two part: the first part being "kindergarten easy" and the second part being: Holly crap! This <bleeping> HARD!!!!" :-)

But Alex and I both made a pledge to do away with the "Holly crap!
This <bleeping> HARD!!!!" as best as we can - and be satisfied with
whatever we're able to accomplish. :-)

I'll never be able to watch the movie "Coyote Ugly" in the same light.

Ever.

Again.

;-)

Tom cries like a little baby going on a roller coaster. :-)

The last time I saw a woman blush as much as Sheri did at Zumanity was when my high school thespian group talked my mom into going to see "Rocky Horror" because we needed an "adult" chaperone in order to get everyone in...

Murray Summer's CSS navigation session just made my life a hell of a lot easier!

Sheri's session made me realize just how much I take Dreamweaver's preferences for granted...

Kim Cavanaugh's Jumpstart session gave me confidence to realize I'm not the ONLY "artist-type" that doesn't "get" table-less designs, but that still doesn't mean I have can't create (with the help of *cough! cough!* CommunityMX - Jumpstarts) table-less web pages...

And with Jim Babbage's Fireworks masking session, it's always fun to watch a fellow artist or designer show you what/how he/she works in the same program you do. There are a LOT of things Jim and I (and even Kim for that matter) that do that are very similar. There are also some minor things we do differently as well - but we do them for different reasons - and that's always fun to experience.

Sleep is highly over-rated. Especially in Vegas.

Although I do PREFER sodas at lunchtime. :-)

After attending Stef's session on Sifr's, I think I now realize what it must have been like for that Storm trooper Commander when Obi-Wan raised his hands and said : "These are not the droids you are looking for...". What it must be like to be a non-Jedi dweeb in the presence of a great Jedi Warrior...

Either that, or I'm the fat guy in the X-wing fighter about ready to be blown up by Vader because all of his navigational systems are out of whack - Knowing no matter what you try, no matter what you do, you're STILL gonna go crashing into the Death Star no matter what! :-)

Web pictures are NEVER a good representation of what a person really looks like. And pictures can NEVER be representative of a person's personality. And, as Paul Davis said it best, you can't hug a picture! :-) Seeing and talking to the person is ALWAYS so much better and gives you a deeper, richer experience.

HEY! Not only are people READING CMX Suite, they actually are - Gulp! - ENJOYING AND LOOKING FORWARD TO IT every Tuesday! That's so good to know because, with the rare exception here and there, I hardly ever get any direct feedback for/from the strip (even though my e-mail is at the bottom of every strip).

It's especially a pleasure to know they are a big hit with the Macromedia guys too (no pressure there, right folks?). :-)

Speaking of the Macromedia guys... they are REALLY human (and funny too). You DON'T have to be intimidated by them.

I'm thinking... Maybe next year, I might even try my hand at doing one of these presentation things (by myself). Just hope someone might actually attend if I do one. :-)

Anyway, those were just my most random thoughts. Should have an enjoyable strip coming up next week. Did it on the plane back to Virginia! :-)

-Chris

Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, CMX Suite, Community MX, On the Personal Side, This and That, Web Business

Post TODCon Blues

Posted Thursday, April 28, 2005 5:45:10 PM by Jim Babbage

Jim Babbage

After writing my TODCon update blog this morning, I had a breakfast with Ray. He's still under the weather, but he is more relaxed now that the con is over. I can't blame him - that's a lot of responsibility both professionally and financially.

I'll admit I am feeling a little down. I am already missing my friends. Some I know I will see again, but there is an empty spot inside me at the moment, like something was  taken out and not replaced.

To take my mind of things, after breakfast I did the tourist thing. Took the trolley down as far as the new Wynn hotel and casino. I didn't go inside, but I got some great exterior shots. I'll post a link when I have stuff ready for viewing.

Speaking of photography, I have a total of about 230 photos. So, getting things ready will take some time. Most of them are from the conference itself, but I took many tourist pics too. The last time I was here for TODCon, I got to see part of the strip but only at night. This time, it's mostly daytime photos.  I'm quite pleased with some of them, but editing is still required.

And - MOST importantly - my quest for a new shirt *GASP!* *Oh, the horror!*  was successful! I found one that summed up Vegas nicely and didn't cost my right arm to buy. Tom Green, beware; I have a new shirt and I'm willing to wear it. :-)

I also checked out the Fashion Show Mall and found yet another deal. I'm a big Peanuts fan (Snoopy and Charlie Brown - there are days when I can SO relate to that boy). A store in the mall was closing out and they had 50% off all their merchandise, so I picked up a cool Boy Scout Charlie Brown figure for only $12 US. He will have a prominent place in my office when I return.

I check out in a couple hours. My flight is at (UGH) midnight, which gets me back into TO around 7:30 am on Friday. I'm glad I don't have to work!

Well that's it for me. I'm signing off until next week, when I will post the link to the photos. And it will most likely be later in the week as I play catch up with some ongoing projects. I hope you've enjoyed the updates and it's made ya wish you had been here. All I can say is save your money, and plan on showing up next year. It will be a blast, of that I have no doubt.

Category tags: This and That