The folks at gmbinder.com are kinda brilliant. They've built a website that makes it easy for any old schmo like me build a PDF with all the formatting of a Wizards of the Coast Official 5e Dungeons & Dragons manual.

You enter simple markdown into one window, the website interperets the markdown, and uses CSS to spit the content back out in a second window with all the formatting done for you. No need to learn about different fonts or spacing or... whatever.

I've seen a couple different incarnations of this kind of thing, but GMBinder seems to be the best of them - at least that I've been able to find. And it's 100% free - at least currently.

So when I first came across one of their competitors, the idea occured to me: "This would be a great way to promote dragonbones.net and my illustration services. I'll make a short "D&D Book" that is filled with my art and talks about how to hire me to create the art for your D&D book!" It's kinda meta, and I think folks would like that. I've never heard of it being done before, and the name of the game when selling anything is 'stand out from the crowd'. So if I do this right, I can stand out from the crowd while demonstrating just how perfectly I fit in with the crowd.

Oh shut it, Westley - it makes sense to me, and that's what matters.

Anyway - if any of you would like to have a look, you can find it here.

The cover is just a rough sketch, but all the art in it is my work, and I'm already working on a revision which will expand the book, provide more samples, etc. But with that said, I would love any and all criticisms / feedback / reviews / etc. Please - beat it up. :)

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9h
 
 

My 13 year old cat, Spot, has been living with a bone marrow cancer diagnosis for 9 months now. Her buddy, Scout, passed in November. Since then I've been her only source of love and affection. 

I should have known something was up when she stopped coming by for love and affection at bedtime. She stopped eating, and with a long holiday weekend coming up I knew it was probably time, before she had to suffer through three days to see the vet. So, I went looking for where she had denned up.

When I found her the look she gave me removed all doubt that it was time. Fortunately, my vet had me bring Spot to her house. My vet gave Spot a quick exam and agreed that it was time.

And just like her buddy, Scout, Spot left as soon as the euthenasia drugs hit her system.

Losing two pets in two months is hard. I like fixing things. But with Spot, and Scout before her, there was no fixing this. And the only choice I had left was to give them mercy.

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Oh jeez. You poor thing. My condolences. *hugs* You are such a kind and caring pet owner.
Many hugs and much sympathy.
I'm _really_ sorry man. Losing any pet is super tough. Two so rapidly must be miserable.
I am so sorry. Take care.
I'm so sorry for your loss. Glad you were able to help this kitty have less suffering.
 

Excitement today.

The wind blew the door open after Roger left for work this morning. Frost heave pushes the frame out of alignment, and I've had it fixed several times, but really I need a new door. If you don't get it just right on a really cold day, it won't latch. And he usually checks it but he's still new at it. In fact, it still catches me off-guard sometimes. (I've already woken up to snow in my living room. You haven't lived.)

         (Said culprit.)

Well, all three cats were outside when I got up, including his two who've never been outside AND who won't let me near them to pick them up. Thankfully they ran straight back into the house instead of out and away from me.

I still ended up traipsing all over the neighborhood in my pajamas though (no picture provided), shaking a treat bag and carrying a favorite toy, looking for my cat who is too deaf to answer to his own name... only to have him happily greet me at the door when I got back, the little fucker*.

My feet are full of blisters and my nose is running.


*Who I was incredibly happy to see the instant I saw his face.


music: Michael Martin Murphey - "Wildfire"

mood: blustery cold and relieved

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AAAAARRRRGGGHHHH that’s frustrating. Glad the cats know where warmth & food are.
Holy shit, you know it, sister. I was sweating.
Keep us up to date on #DOORWATCH2020.
I'm afraid it appears to be an ongoing problem. *sigh* There already enough household repairs to be made, now #doormageddon.
New door. New door now.
It happened again today!

When you're right, you're right.
I can't even imagine trying to deal with the chaos of all the cats scampering about. You're such a pro!
Hahahaha! And a little crazy. You know, as required. ;)
 

After a bad week, I heard the news on Friday that Neil Peart had passed away. 

My mom and I moved to the Chicago suburbs in 1978, thorougly uprooting me from my Mayberry like life in rural New England. My hometown was an example of late 70's post-industrial collapse. No jobs, no surviving industry, and being located in a valley, no radio signals. We'd get one rock station, that specialized in 60's hippie and acid rock and distantly, on a good night, a pop station out of Westerly, Rhode Island.

And then I got dropped into Chicagoland, and the rock scene there was heavily influenced by Canadian imports. Moxy, Pat Travers, April Wine, Triumph and this little band called Rush.

While my school peers listened to more mainstream bands, the nerds at my school all listened to Rush, among other bands. WLUP would occasionally throw one of their songs on the air, and it was always a good time. While Rush wasn't mainstream, it was at least well known enough in Chicago that you weren't completely ostracized for listening to them.

All of that changed in 1982, when we moved back to New England and the valley of shadow of radio signals. Coincidentally almost in time with Rush's release of their album, Signals. Then, my age peers didn't want anything to do with Rush or Geddy Lee's shrieky vocals. The content of Peart's lyrics was of little interest to them. Rush became my solitary pleasure. The music I listened to alone, frequently when I had time to read the liner notes and contemplate the message that Peart, Lee and Lifeson were sending.

Peart, in his younger years was an admirer or Ayn Rand, and although by his own admission he parted ways with her philosphy, he remained a staunch libertarian. And that belief shone through in his lyrics, and in a way, infected me. Meanwhile, the 80's and 90's rolled on. The albums kept coming, life was good.

Until it wasn't. Peart was rocked by two tragedies, the death of his only daughter and his wife. Rush ended their tour early and went on hiatus. I didn't know it at the time, but Peart took to riding his motorcycle around North and Central America, twice, trying to decide whether he wanted to live or die. As usual, great pain can be channeled into art. And he wrote about his journey in a book, Ghost Rider.

Hiatus usually means a band is done. But around the beginning of 2001 I started hearing rumors of a new Rush album. And sure enough it came to be. My favorite band was back and hopefully would be forever. 

But if you live long enough, you get to see your heroes die.

Peart officially retired in 2015. It was explained that he retired because he could no longer perform at the level he expected of himself due to tendonitis. Of course, it's easy to now surmise that his retirement was related to his diagnosis of brain cancer. 

So, here's Rush being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an honor that was long denied them. It's a nice snapshot of a happier time and acknowledgement that this little quirky trio from Toronto is, was and always will be cool.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTAqCEPMHEg


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Thanks for this Ray, I listened to Rush as a kid and didn't know the whole story.
I've known you 15 years and there is still so much I don't know about you. I had no idea you were a huge Rush fan. Sweeeeet!

Thank you for writing and sharing this snapshot.

Losing Neil, man... this one hurts.
Ouch. I thought he left the band to write steampunk fiction (which he did do in the past few years). He was an amazing musician and inventor - his drum rigs were unreal.
 

These are all very small and mostly just process and materials tests. 

Spadina streetcar. 

Untitled blue black. 

Iron teapot. 

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12/29 '19 9 Comments
Cool.
Is the second print your super-spiffy partner? I love the pose!

At a very quick first glance I thought the bottom one was a turtle.

When you say "very small," how small we talkin'? Because that's a good amount of detail you've got there. These are so cool!
That be me. I enjoy life modelling but it doesn't pay the mortgage.
Dawn Keenan 12/30 '19
Ha! I thought the teapot was a turtle at first, too!
Anne Mollo 12/30 '19
2x4, 2x2 and 3x3 ish.
Sean M Puckett 12/30 '19
Holy moley! That is a lotttttta detail in such a small space. Wow wow wow!
Holy moley! That is a lotttttta detail in such a small space. Wow wow wow!
Dig them all.
Thomas Boutell 12/30 '19
Thanks!
Sean M Puckett 12/30 '19
 
 

In alphabetical order, 2019 releases:

  • Battles, Juice B Crypts— The band's down to two members now.  Bleepier.  Vocal collaborations like Gloss Drop.
  • Andrew Bird, My Finest Work Yet— He's not kidding.  He keeps getting better.
  • Ioanna Gika, Thalassa— She had a guest appearance on Stumptown, where she played an amazing cover of "One Thing Leads to Another", so i looked her up and yeah, sold.
  • The Joy Formidable, Y Falŵn Drom— The band reissued their debut mini-album A Balloon Called Moaning for its 10th anniversary, but also recorded new versions of the songs with Welsh lyrics.
  • Juan Luis Guerra 4.40, Literal— He remains a force, so very good at what he does, and barely looks like he's aged since he came across my cultural radar 30 years ago.
  • Mdou Moctar, Ilana: The Creator— Tuareg Nigerien rock.  Recommendation from a friend, another instant buy.
  • The New Pornographers, In the Morse Code of Brake Lights— Another TNP album without Dan Bejar, which is fine by me.  Doesn't feel as good as its predecessor.
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela, Mettavolution— Fabulous.  They stretch by adding more multi-track work, electric guitar, and vocals.  Their arrangement of Pink Floyd's "Echoes" is epic.
  • Takénobu, Conclusion— Nick Ogawa is joined now on violin by his fiancée Kathryn Koch; here, they re-record some older tracks and add new ones.  They're great together.
  • Tool, Fear Inoculum— It's good but... the tracks lack separation.  The overall feel is too similar.  And their ultra-deluxe CD packaging ($45, if you can find it) feels like a cash grab from their legion of slavering fans (i bought the MP3 album).

There was also Sleater-Kinney's The Center Won't Hold, but it was super disappointing and, alas, prophetic.

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12/24 '19 3 Comments
I didn't buy any specific music this year -- I have Amazon's Unlimited deal. But thanks for your list, it's still quite difficult to find new, good music.
How do you discover new music? Is it mostly recommendations from friends, or any music blogs/critics you like?

I wanna grab the new Andrew Bird but haven't yet. I keep meaning to-- I love him. Very happy to hear it's wonderful!
I used to discover it via Pandora (e.g., Takénobu is a Pandora discovery), but it hasn't been too good at that for the last couple of years. It's possible it might still work if i flush out my up/down thumbs.
rone 12/25 '19
 

Christmas is just a couple of days away and the hustle and bustle of the end of the year dash is almost over. Once Christmas is over we're into the week between, an almost non-week for those of us who have to work.

My schedule has been overbooked due to Microsoft ending support for Windows 7. We shall not mention Vista and 8.X and their failed promises. Most of the computers I am responsible for are updated, the remainder are scheduled and I'm on track to be legally covered on January 14th when 7 hits end of life. But things have been a little hectic. Not frantic, but there's been little time to rest and enjoy the holiday activities. Sorry if I've missed you these last few weeks. The Christmas cards never got sent, sorry. But rest assured you've all been in my thoughts.

So have a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Joyful Kwanzaa, and/or a Happy Festivus. And to all a safe, happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

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12/23 '19 2 Comments
It sounds like you've got things well under control, surely due to your thoughful planning and general kick-assery. If you find you need any last-minute help updating computers, I'm happy to lend a hand, just ask! I upgraded mine from Windows 7 to 10 last week while I was on the road for work and I was shocked at how pleasant it was. Still getting used to the Windows X interface, but I don't hate it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Yule, my friend. I hope things settle down soon, and you can take a breath to enjoy the season for a moment or three.
Jill "xtingu" Knapp 12/24 '19edited
I use classic shell for my more cretaceous end users. My work computer is going last since I need a reliable machine if something goes kablooie. I've had a 10 tablet for a couple of years now. I built a new home computer that is also 10, back in May. Immediately after I stood up the new home computer my old one went belly up. So I've been on 10 for some months. It's interface is kludgey for administration and the program list begs for shortcuts on the desktop. But it is much more usable than 8.X.
Ray Conrad 12/24 '19
 

Spike in sunbeam. 

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12/20 '19 3 Comments
10/10 would offer fingertip to sniff and see if Spike wants head scratches.
Spike is an enormous suck and would trill and burble and purr and squeak and wriggle and thrust his head on your hand and you’d be trapped, trapped, petting him forever.
Sean M Puckett 12/21 '19
I can think of worse ways to go.
Karen Kuhl 12/29 '19