asking for some smartphone advice, android experts

A break from the usual to ask anyone out there who knows a bit about Android smartphones for some advice.  I have a Nexus 5, which I love, and now I bet you know what I am going to ask.

I just went to pull said Nexus 5 off the charger, and I saw an unfamiliar icon where I normally find my notifications.  I pulled it down and …yes, that’s right: the long anticipated/dreaded Lollipop* upgrade awaits me.  I can have the new OS whenever I want it. I’ve been reading about it on the tech sites and I know that in addition to making boring but useful improvements in background functions, it is going to change a lot about the way my phone looks and feels and what I can do with it.  I’m especially excited about all the camera upgrades that are included– I’m going to be able to learn to process RAW files in my phone and it is going to be awesome.  Or so I hope.

I’ve known for a week or so that the rollout was actually starting, and having a Nexus phone that runs pure Android I was going to be near the front of the line for it.  But now that it’s actually here, I am feeling more than a little trepidation.  In my mental landscape it was something that was just going to happen–I’d wake up one morning, or hear a weird sound in the middle of the afternoon and my phone would suddenly be … different.  I didn’t realize I was going to have to pull the trigger myself.

So what do you think?  Have you upgraded to Lollipop?  How long did it take to download?  How much did you have to do to get the phone up and running again?  Are you happy or sad that you did it?  How much does it actually change about how you accomplish your day to day tasks?  Bonus points for anyone who knows how long you have to make up your mind before the Google pushes the upgrade on you whether you want it or not, as I’m sure it will do eventually.  Being the Google.

I’m waiting ’till my husband gets home from work, that’s for darn sure.  I am not doing this by myself.  In fact, he has a Nexus 5 himself.  He’s the IT guy.  He can go first.

(*For all you iPhone folks,  the Google names the various versions of the Android phone OS after sweet treats and desserts.  The present version is KitKat, the new one, version 5.0, is Lollipop.  Don’t ask me.)

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tumblr sunday: our neighbor to the north

Bonjour, Canada!/ Hi, Canada!   It would take a stronger blogger than I am to resist this oddly wonderful combination map and word search puzzle from Marvel Fun and Games #12 (1980).  Good luck to those who want to print it out and give it a try.tumblr_ncpxd1Su9k1shdts2o1_500

I did make a good faith attempt to find a Canadian history connection to hang this on, and in that attempt I found a  great internet resource: Today in Canadian History.  It was hard to choose from the many exciting events associated with November 16th, but on this day in 1970, Anne Murray received a gold record for her hit single “Snowbird”, becoming the first Canadian recording artist to earn that honor.  And the superheroine  Snowbird was one of the  original members of Alpha Flight! (That’s her in the pale blue and white.)Alpha_Flight_cast_picture_(John_Byrne_era) (Alpha Flight promotional art by John Byrne.)

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more of those extraordinary haitian sculptures

voudou3-red-blogI can’t get these guys out of my head.  Visits to the Field Museum are usually fairly rare life events., once every two or three years at best, if I’m lucky, but I’m already plotting to get back before the middle of April so I can not only actually read the informational material with the attention it deserves but take more, and more thorough, photographs of these figures . Who do I know who is going to the Field?  Who has an extra seat in the minivan?  I would sit in the back all the way to Chicago to see this exhibit again.

Until that day comes, if it ever does, here are a few more glimpses of the remarkable beings from “Voudou: Sacred Powers of Haiti”. Please click on the small version to see the full sized image for maximum impact.  (The header of this post is another version of the photograph in the first post header: this one is a half stop overexposed, which punches up the red in an oddly powerful way.  It’s a bad shot by technical standards, but it packs a wallop.)

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on the price of butter

The price of butter is relevant to many (if not most) cartoonists.  (Unless you don’t eat dairy, and even then, you may be shopping for those who do.)  It’s a fact of life that the “artistic” spouse/roommate/family member, particularly if he or she is not working full time, often shoulders a large share of the domestic responsibilities around the place.  This isn’t a bad thing– somebody has to do it, after all, and you can ink while the turkey’s roasting or the bread is rising.  If you take this responsibility seriously, you will find yourself developing a disturbingly housewifely concern with the High Cost of Staple Commodities.  What they charge for butter these days is appalling.

So, with the holidays coming and many batches of Land-O-Lakes butter cookies needing to be baked, it’s time to start looking for bargains.  For many years, you tried to buy butter for less than two dollars US a pound, and more recently $2.50 was the jump-on-it point.  But with the current milk shortages, the usual price has risen to $4.19, and I was thinking that I would have to buy at $3, or even $3.25 this fall.  This doesn’t sound like a lot, but I use a metric ****load of butter in November, December, and early January and it adds up.  I buy it cheap at the pre Thanksgiving sales and freeze it ’till I need it.  If I’m still using it in June, that’s fine too.butter-4pounds-blog

And here’s today’s minor domestic triumph: four pounds of top grade butter for $2.68/pound.  Limit two, but a pal of mine was with me and kindly bought a couple of them. (She’d already stocked up.)  I feel awful for being pleased with myself over this, but hey, you take your thrills where you can get them.

Let’s just hope that this week’s Target flyer is a misprint.  Because anybody in town who’s paying $7 a pound for butter this week is out of his or her cotton-picking mind. (Meg points out that I missed that the $7 deal is a twofer– which is much more logical. Thanks for finding and reading the fine print!)

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best of the drawing of the day week 133– a bat man

drawingoftheday-week133-abatmanPlease note that the guy with the cape and the cave and the signal and the mobile is The Batman.  This is a bat man, so no harm no foul on the copyright front.  OK.  In terms of content, this drawing raises more questions than it answers.  If those are bat wings, why does he have feathers on his shoulders and the lower parts of his second arms?  And why are his ears shaped like bat wings? And if small scattered spirals in the sky are the sketchbook world code for snow flurries, then why the heck is the bat man not wearing a shirt, much less a jacket?  I don’t care how hard it is to get one to fit over the wings.

But this is actually today’s drawing of the day (the final corrections are still drying as I write this) so for once I remember enough to be able to tell you some technical secrets.

  • One, you can tell that I was feeling lazy when I started drawing it.  I have to sit up straight to work to my page, so when I’m feeling lazy and slouchy, I often start a drawing of the day with a figure in the lower left quadrant of the page.  The further down and to the left, the lazier I am feeling.  Very lazy today.
  • Two, you can tell I was watching something pretty interesting and fairly long on TV while I was working.  A dense drawing with ink on most of the page, drawn or inked with the scritchy-scratchy pen, is almost always the product of serious television time. (Masterpiece Mystery “Death Comes to Pemberley”, which I had been saving on the DVR until I finished rereading Pride and Prejudice. Quite good, but not fabulous.  Weird casting.)
  • Three, this is a “lucky drawing”, but not lucky enough.  It was drawn right on the page in pen, no blocking out and no underdrawing, and no planning.  But if you look closely you can see white out in several places.  This was not due to changing my mind so much as an excess of ink.  I cleared out spaces that had to be white but ended up smaller and narrower than they should be, and took out some stray lines where the shading trespassed over a white.
  • Four, the tree didn’t start out as a tree.  It’s actually the original second wing, which I thought would look good stretched out high.  It did not look good.  It looked like it had been forced into a weird shape to fit onto the page since I had started the figure in the wrong place.  (Which I did before I decided the guy had wings, so it was hardly my fault.)  I decided it would look better to put the second wing in a relaxed position that I hoped looked pretty “normal” (for a given value of normal as applied to a person with bat wings) even though it meant most if it ended up off the page.  The original linework for the wing is buried in the tree. This is called “drawing your way out of a corner”, and I suppose that wise people who plan every drawing never have to do it.  But it’s actually kind of fun, and doing it keeps you alert.

So there you go, a drawing where the snow falling on the page echoing the flurries in the air as winter falls on Kekionga.

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here we go again

We’ve had six months to forget about this. Quarter to six in the evening.  Pitch dark.  Below freezing.  Breath like smoke, glasses fogging up when you step into the house.  The little mile walk that’s nothing in the summer becomes an expedition.
Just for fun, I thought I’d wear my winter jacket and my grey Irish tweed hat I’ve had since I was in high school.  It wasn’t that much fun.wpid-wp-1415840368204.jpeg



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portrait of a harbor seal

portrait of a harbor seal-blogMost people who like dogs also like seals and sea lions, the fish eating dogs of the sea. (Corgis: We like fish!)  I took this portrait of a harbor seal at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, during a demonstration of “operant conditioning”, which is the fancy biology term the zoo uses for teaching its seals various “behaviors” that make them easier to keep and handle.  In other words, the seal keepers are training the recall and the sit and down stay, and tricks like fetch, roll over, and speak, which allows the vets to check the seals’ mouths.  Hmm. This demonstration looks pretty familiar.  The seals are rewarded with herring, mackerel and trout, and on special occasions with squid and jello.  (Corgis: We like fish! And squid! And jello!)

Not only is this demonstration informative, and amusing if you have dogs at home, but it gets the seals to move around close to where the crowd is standing which makes them easier to photograph. Of course that doesn’t mean easy– photographing seals usually means photographing water and that’s always a challenge.  (Boring stuff of interest only to photo nerds: K-30 with 50-200mm kit zoom. 1/400, f/5.6, ISO 500, focal length 105mm.)

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drawing tools we really wish we had

Yes,  this is just a pair of animated GIFs*. But every artist in the world who sees them immediately wants this drawing tool.  And we think it should exist**.  It seems so logical.  It would be a great tool for coloring comics.  I bet you could get really fast with the color wheel controller with just a little practice.drawingtoolsgifdrawingtoolsgif2*Not true– it’s a pair of excellent animated GIFs that are technical-tour-de-force manifestations of a super clever yet totally sensible concept and they probably took ages and mad skillz to make, so kudos to @ginzablow,  whoever you are.

**If I’m completely wrong about this and the Wheelie Marker does exist and you make it or have it for sale, please let me know so I can buy it.

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tumblr sunday: frolicsome dragon

dancing dragonThis little Chinese dragon from the Tang Dynasty is frolicking like nobody’s business.  But he still looks pretty fierce while he’s doing it.   Dragon frolics are serious business.

(Frolic is an odd word.  Google and my blogging software’s spellcheck both agree: it’s “frolicsome”, but then it’s also “frolicking”.  English.  What a language.  Those of you familiar with my work have heard this before, but why have “handsome” and “frolicsome” survived while “lovesome” and especially “ugsome” have fallen out of use?)

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the hand of buddha

buddhashandwikiIf you watch a lot of cooking shows on the Food Network or elsewhere, you are familiar with the weird looking citrus fruit called the “Buddha’s Hand”.  It is a kind of citron, widely eaten in Asia and also displayed in rooms for its pervasive fresh scent, and presumably for its generally cool appearance.  In the Lincoln Park Conservatory, I found this one growing, its fingers still closed. buddhashand1 The Wikipedia tells us that when these fruit are used in temple offerings the Buddha prefers the ones with closed fingers rather than open ones, since they are in a position of prayer.

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