Category Archives: Day in the Life

A corner set aside for day-to-day type (hopefully) interesting randomnesses.


There’s been a lot of commotion about the Rochester Photonics Center lately — from everyone who would never directly benefit from a Rochester Photonics Center.  The center is a federal government initiative in which the means of production of photonics innovations would be owned and organized by the state.

This guy would have been amused. (Public Domain: John Mayall )
This guy would have been amused. (Public Domain: John Mayall )

In case you’d like to hear an opinion from a photonics professional for a change, read on!

First, a little about my credentials and background.  I’m originally from Rochester, NY, I hold an applied physics degree with a concentration in applied optics, and I’ve worked in multiple industries centered around optics and photonics.  Back in the day, I thought it would be smart to focus on optics in my studies so that I could return to Rochester and land an awesome job.  (Also, optics is really cool.)  I say “return” because I did not study at UR or RIT – their programs were not thorough enough for what I wanted to pursue.  Instead, I packed my bags for the very frightening, crime and crack whore filled city of Flint, Michigan, which was home to Kettering University (formerly General Motors Institute) and the most rigorous applied physics program in the nation.

Upon graduation, I was days away from a likely hire at Xerox in Rochester when a hiring freeze crashed my employment hopes.  It took several nerve-racking months of searching, starving and paying student loans before I miraculously landed a dream job at Leuze electronic, Inc.  My time there would be split between Fairport, NY and Germany and it was a truly amazing opportunity in many ways.  After only a year and a half, I was hit by the Great Recession’s second wave and was laid-off.  Then came 2.5 more torturous years of searching, starving and paying student loans.  Since that time, I’ve hopped around to different temporary situations, but never worked again in Rochester.  I’m currently on a sabbatical, in which I’ve been travelling the world, but soon will be back to searching and starving — I never stopped paying those student loans.

This brings us to now, when every time I turn around, Rochesterians are asking me how excited I am about the Rochester Photonics Center.  They tell me for sure I should be able to find a job in the city I’m from now.  My friend’s father asked for my thoughts on the center, but before I had a chance to answer, he said, “a part of me, though, thinks this is just another Fast Ferry”.

BINGO, sir.

The Fast Ferry, to those who are not familiar, was a multi-million dollar sink hole back when politicians thought they should use public funds to become pioneers of industry.  The ferry ran for a short time between Toronto and Rochester and was hoped to bring tourism dollars to Rochester.  I remember learning about the ferry proposal in Mr. Pete’s Participation in Government (P.I.G.) class at Greece Olympia.  Most of us pupils were not old enough to vote during the previous election, but hearing about the heedless use of taxpayer dollars made us wish we had been.  Out of the mouths of babes, came: “Why the hell would Canadians want to come to Rochester?”  Indeed.  They didn’t.  And the Fast Ferry racked up even more expenses than was anticipated and had to be sold.

Rochester’s Fail Ferry in Action – A Literal Boatload of Wasted Taxpayer $$. (Photo Credit: Ryan Tucker, CC License
Rochester’s Fail Ferry in Action – A Literal Boatload of Wasted Taxpayer $$. (Photo Credit: Ryan Tucker, CC License

So today, instead of a ferry, we have a much more expensive $600 million photonics center in the works.  It’s thought it will “create jobs” and “spur US competitiveness”.  Let’s get something straight, here.  Governments do not champion job creation and industry competitiveness, unless the government we’re talking about is Russia.  Governments are blamed and praised too often for the directrise and fall of economic states.  Governments should be thought of more like farmers than God.  Farmers do not create.  Farmers do not squat in the earth and say, “ok now, let’s make a grape”, and pop out seeds from their earthly bodies.  Of course, farmers cultivate conditions that allow crops to grow well – soil, shade, temperature, irrigation, etc.  This is what good governments should do, as well, except those conditions are more like: lead-free water supplies, smooth roads, a trustworthy legal system, low crime rates, good schools, reasonable tax rates.

I hear some of you saying, well, why not?  Governments can harness the collective buying power of many, many citizens.  Why shouldn’t governments do more to directly grow industries?

Because they are complete shit at it.  See Fast Ferry.

And I hear some others saying, but Rochester is, “the optics capital of the world”.  I’m sorry, but, no it’s not.  I don’t say that merely because I haven’t worked here in 8 years and didn’t get my degree here.  I say that because I have a very keen grasp of photonics industries in the US as an active job seeker.  At one point, YES, Rochester was not just arguably the optics capital of the world, but also the nation’s birthplace of optical science.  At that time, Rochester was home to thriving versions of Kodak and Bausch and Lomb.  This is not coincidental, by the way, but causal.

So where is the optics capital of the world?  Well, if we’re talking groundbreaking photonics innovations directly headed by companies expecting to make a direct profit, that’s: Oculus, HoloLens, GoPro, Project Aura, secret projects at Amazon labs, industry-leading semiconductor processing, smart contact lenses, industrial laser development, 2D and 3D display technologies, and self-driving cars, then that’s the West Coast from Southern California to Seattle.  There’s also all optics things automotive centered in the Mid-West.  New England, far outside Rochester, houses established medical optics tech and fiber optic companies.

What Rochester has, in contrast, is the yet #1 optics program of study in the US – at University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics, and a handful of excellent optical component manufacturing facilities.  Sadly, though, these things are remnants of when Rochester held the optics crown, not proof she is still reigning queen.

Let’s go back to the roots of optics in Rochester to understand this situation from the opposite end – how do regions successfully become pillars of industry?  Which thing is chicken and which thing is egg?

By the mid-1800’s, Rochester was already a bustling and growing city.  Three impressive waterways helped to get it there which acted as both power/flour-milling source and vital transportation ways – Lake Ontario, the Genesee River, and of course, the Erie Canal.  After the Flour City days, there was an ever-increasing population, fertile farms to feed that population, and still the excellent transportation pathways to import raw materials and export finished goods.  This was a ground fertile for industrialization and a few wildly successful entrepreneurs knew it: George Eastman, John Jacob and Henry Lomb, a.k.a. the founders of Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch and Lomb.  Photographic cameras and mass-produced optics were some of the most high-tech wizardry you could get before the turn of the century.

A Kodak Brownie - Ultra Mega High Tech. (Photo credit: By User Ericd on en.wikipedia - I (Ericd) took this picture myself with a digital camera Olympus C-960. The picture was digitally edited (framing, color balance)., CC BY-SA 3.0,
A Kodak Brownie – Ultra Mega High Tech. (Photo credit: By User Ericd on en.wikipedia

Then what?  Well, then those companies got together and gave the University of Rochester a ginormous grant so it would create the first optics study program in the United States.  This was hardly a purely philanthropic gesture, by the way.   Kodak and B&L needed optical science and scientists to continue to grow and stay competitive.  The UofR was capable of providing those things in their backyard.  This was in reality, a private economic transaction; it was supply and demand.

Notice, the story doesn’t go, “then the politicians of the city of Rochester got together and decided to force economic and educational prosperity upon circumstance”.

After Kodak and B&L came Xerox, and all the optics component suppliers that sprung up to drink from those larger entrepreneurial successes.  Then Kodak withered, as did B&L.  Lay-offs, lay-offs, bankruptcies, lay-offs.  The Institute of Optics still remains, as do many fine component manufacturers.  However, tier 1 optics suppliers are now springing up on the West Coast to feed off the aforementioned new, true photonic innovations center of the world.  When I worked in the mid-West, I would sometimes attempt to have a Rochesterian optical manufacturer produce or finish a component I designed, but every time, although the quality may have been better, they were unable to compete with cost, timing and even customer service.  The optics suppliers that are forming in this new wave of photonics innovation, are built very differently for different customers.  They offer quick turn-around, even higher tech in-house engineering capabilities, and altogether different products – instead of basic lenses, mirrors and coatings, they specialize in display, projection, light guide and smart sensor technologies.

That explains why I think trying to force Rochester into national  photonics leader status won’t work, but it doesn’t explain why I think it’s a terrible idea.  The terrible part comes foremost from the bushels of wasted taxpayer dollars being flushed away.  $600 million is the price tag thrown around in the news, with a large chunk coming from federal tax dollars and at least $200 million coming directly from New York State tax payers.

These dollar figures are high, but the economic development initiatives totaling 4 BILLION DOLLARS  for New York State as a whole are even worse.  To most working class lackeys, these numbers all just sound really big.  So, as an aside putting this into context, I want to tell you about the suspenseful Nokia Here deal which I followed very closely last year.  Nokia was selling off its division which created really excellent maps primarily for automobile navigation systems.  This is the data a pre-installed navigation system in your car would run off – the car version of Google Maps.  It may not seem like a big deal to the consumer, but this software is pivotal for the evolution of the automotive industry.  Think the development of self-driving cars and increased integration of all things Internets (the “IoT”).  Nokia was selling this software as a product to car manufacturers but wanted to get rid of the company.  Uber was very interested, but if Uber bought it, there’s no way they would allow car manufacturers to continue leasing the software.  This made the Big 3 of German auto manufacturers – Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen – freak out and band together to try to buy it. The course and rate of progress of the entire automotive industry hung in the balance.  If Uber bought the software and if Google and Apple and Tesla became very successful with their innovations, traditional manufacturers might be completely obsoleted in the future.  The fates of those German car companies were on the line.  Together, across those 3 hugely successful, high-valued companies, the Germans came up with2 billion dollars to save their future.  Then it looked like Uber would offer $3 billion.  Then the German companies laughed and said they’d rather let their children starve than pay more than $3 billion for the imperative technology.  Then Uber backed out and the Germans coughed up $3 billion.  Note, that’s an average $1 billion per hugely successful manufacturer.  AND THEN YOU HAVE NEW YORK STATE, which sneezes and out falls 4 BILLION DOLLARS.  BMW was like, “oh we’ve had a good run, if it takes more than $1 billion let’s let it burn to the ground, cuz it’s not worth it”, and NYS tosses FOUR billion haphazardly at “economic stuff and things”.  For more information on this bigger problem, see WHEC’s mini-investigation here:

So back to the Rochester Photonics Center – it’s a lot of money.  Ok, got it.  What else?  Well, it also is on the periphery of federal and state probes regarding potential financial impropriety in all these economic initiatives.  Awesome!  I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen when George Eastman threw money directly at UR to buy some optical engineers.  Then there’s the public pissing contest about where the center should be located.  Again, I’m pretty sure Bausch and Lomb didn’t arm wrestle with UR over locations when the Institute of Optics was being built because they were busy building telescopes.

The worst part of all has got to be the fact that most of the key players in this initiative do not have a direct benefit to gain unless something improper is happening.  I’m not suggesting there necessarily is anything improper going on with all the parties, only that it makes no economic sense and thus is proof of wasted funds.  What does Paychex need with advanced manufacturing methods for OLEDs?  How many more gallons of milk per year will Wegmans sell if Rochester creates a spiffy semiconductor clean room?

I mean, just take a look at the guys at the AIM Photonics Hub inaugural meeting on the website:   Do they look like highly capable, technology and science visionaries to you?  But, really now, really.

Tom Battley, the executive director of New York Photonics, was quoted by the D&C as saying, “this is as important to Rochester as when George Eastman donated $30 million to the University of Rochester“.  Mr. Battley, I wish that were true, but I really don’t think this is like that time at all.

What It’s Like to Drive in Ireland

Are they like England and drive on the left side of the road?  Yes.

Is it true it’s hard to get automatic transmission rental cars?  Yes.

Are there roundabout things?  Yes.

Those are the basic points most Americans are curious about when imaging driving a car in Ireland.  Yet it doesn’t even come close to giving an idea of what it’s like.  Here’s a video where I take you along on a whiskey-seeking adventure with me to give you a better feel.

For the full effect, though, you’re really going to need to come visit me.  Maybe if you refinance your student loans you can save over $1,000/year cash money like I did and be able to do so!  SOFI has excellent terms and rates, and DRB has even more excellenter options.

 CLICK HERE to Be Referred for Student Loan Refinancing Through DRB (and earn me $200 if you refinance).

-or-  CLICK HERE to Be Referred By Me to SOFI (and earn me $300 if you refinance).

I’ll be aiming to add new videos to YouTube every Tuesday, so please CLICK HERE to subscribe to my channel if you find these amusing!

Lovers on River Avonmore: Watercolor Painting Available

Prints are now available for purchase of a slightly fantastical watercolor painting of the River Avonmore.

After trekking through the woods in completely inappropriate footwear, I stumbled upon the banks of the Avonmore.  The word “Avonmore” stems from Irish words meaning, “big river”, and it’s no wonder why those who view images of the river frequently refer to it as a lake by mistake.

Standing there, I felt as though the branches of the tree to my left flowed wistfully out to the tree on my right.  She looked like a woman’s scarf unraveling in the wind.  The tree to my right also reached and longed to cross over, but he did so rigidly.  He was inhibited by his masculine form.

River Avonmore, the Original Photograph
River Avonmore, the Original Photograph

I decided to give the two lovers a little help in my reenactment of the snapshot of their dance.  The woman received an array of colors and even more sway to her branches.  The man received a deep, ruddy hue and his skeleton became the grasping hand in my imagination.  The rest I left to its ordinary splendor.

Lovers on River Avonmore
“Lovers on River Avonmore” — Finished Piece Available for Sale


If you wish to purchase a print of this piece, they are available through the link to the distributor above.  The majority of the cost goes to the distributor for production and shipment of the prints, with a smaller portion going to yours truly.  They show the most expensive options first, but if you’re looking for least expensive, go to “FINE ART PRINTS” at the bottom, right side of the page.  Click “buy now”, then on the next page that opens, change the “paper type” to anything other than “hahnemuehle rag 308”.  The “luster photo” and “glossy photo” options are the least expensive, but I would recommend at least the “fine art matte” for this piece.

Biodiesel, Science and the Fight Against Hubris

In my last post, I highlighted some of the most interesting points of a recent trip to Kettering University, my alma mater.  One of those had to do with a poster session going on, and in particular, a poster on creating biodiesel.  I found it mind blowing – but mostly because of a shocking side note.  I’m going to share it with you here, because you won’t see it if you just read the poster, named: “Transesterification of Virgin Michigan Soybean Oil to produce Biodiesel using Supercritical Methanol”.

Kettering University Poster Session - Transesterification of Virgin Michigan Soybean Oil to produce Biodiesel using Supercritical Methanol
Kettering University Poster Session – Transesterification of Virgin Michigan Soybean Oil to produce Biodiesel using Supercritical Methanol


In a nutshell, to get biodiesel fuel, you react some methanol with soybean oil and help it along by introducing heat and pressure.  These guys: Jason Davis, Jonathan Wenzel, Endel Maricq, Michael Stogsdill and Ali Zand; messed around with trying to find sweet spots in the variables that would yield the most biodiesel.  They also played with not needing to add extra, nasty chemicals to do this.

What they didn’t expect to see was when they used oil from Michigan soy beans found in their back yard, versus oil from beans grown in other parts of the US (those where biodiesel typically comes from), they got substantially more fuel in the end.  AND THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHY.

These weren’t a different varietal of soybean, as far as I could gather – if that’s even a thing.  These weren’t like Merlot soybeans compared with Boxed Franzia soybeans.  For all known factors, these beans were identical aside from their birthplace.  Yet, there is something on a very real, physical, chemical way that is remarkably different about them, which no one understands.  This suggests strongly that there are variables we don’t even know exist.

So, remember Michigan soybeans.  Remember Michigan soybeans when you scoff at people who worry about pesticides or GMO salmon or GMO corn or really anything that hasn’t been fully understood by us humans.  By the way, things that haven’t been fully understood by us humans include EVERYTHING.

Drugs are formulated, produced and prescribed by professional professionals with side effects we don’t even know about until 20 years later.  Pesticides are similarly used without fully understanding their effects.  Genes are screwed with in food and, “it’s safe, don’t worry bout it,” but it can only be considered safe to the extent of the knowledge we have on the intricate inner workings of biological systems.  Remember, we don’t understand soybeans.  Soybeans.  We don’t understand jack.

That’s really half the foundation of all science: We Fully Understand Nothing.   My high school physics teacher roped me into loving physics from the first day of class when he issued a warning.  He said, “you all need to understand that everything I’m about to teach you could be wrong.  And one of you could be the person who makes the discovery that proves it.”  Perhaps more surprising is the other half of the foundation of science: that there is a common faith among all mankind that there is a rhyme and a reason and formula to all we observe despite that lack of knowledge.  But first, the nothing part.  That’s not to say the knowledge we have garnered is worthless, but that room must be left in your mind always to consider there may be MORE to the story.  There is so much more to the story!  Check the oxymoron of scientific hubris at the door when considering all things, and first remember our lack of full knowledge and full understanding in all things.  It’s only scientific.


How To Fry a Fucking Egg!

As part of my unending quest to delve into scary, murky, untested waters and bring back pearls for ya’ll, I bring you: how to fry a fucking egg.

Another unendingness is my frustration about people who say they want to do things and give themselves an excuse before they even try.

“Oh, that must be nice being able to go to study in Europe.  I wish I could.  You must be rich.”

       Ahhh… no.  I’m broke as fuck.  They’re called student loans.  But hopefully this experience will pay off in ways I can’t even fathom yet, allowing me to not be broke as fuck forever.

“Oh wow, you have a bachelor’s degree?   It must be nice to be that smart.  I could never do something like that.”

     Ugh…I know some people who would disagree with you.  Besides, it wasn’t my smarts that got me through college.  It was a helluva lot of coffee and perseverance and Ramen and coffee.  Did I mention student loans already? 

“Wow, that’s really pretty.  You’re so talented.  I can’t do creative things.”

     I bet you’re full of shit, and I bet I can prove it to you.  Now let’s make a sandcastle, bitch!

“I’ll never…”

     Well that, I agree with.  If you say you’ll never… you’ll never.

But never say never!  Especially when it comes to frying the perfect over-medium egg…(which I can do phenomenally well with my rich-talents-smarts)…because we’re gonna do it together, below.  No really, though.  I make a bom-ass fried egg.   Do kids still say “bom ass”?   Anyways, here, with love:


Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Taking a moment to think about what that really means this year, my mind wandered to a strange place.  Namely, this:

"Happy brthday, Jesus!  Make a wish!"
“Happy brthday, Jesus! Make a wish!”

It’s doubtful that Jesus was even born in December, but if today actually were his birthday, I imagined his Dad showing up with a big cake all a-glow.  Jesus might be told to make sure he blows out all the candles and to make a wish.  And maybe those candles are actually all the souls of the saints from yesterday, today and forevermore.  Really, what more would He want?

Although I managed to creep myself out with the idea, the more I thought of it, the more scripture came to mind that made it seem not so far-fetched.

After all, we are likened to candles,

“…thy whole body also is full of light…” Luke 11:34

 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

And isn’t human blood the wine that God has pressed here:

“…Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.  And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress…” Revelations 14:18-20

Surely that is creepier than my candle-soul cake musing.

And isn’t it Jesus’s father who gives him the elect, much like in the cartoon?

“My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”  John 10:29

Yeah, I don’t think anyone with half a mind would try to knock that cake out of of the hands that created the stars and man-eating dragons and lava-spewing volcanoes and all the rest…of the universe.  Nopes.  You shall not pass.

Now I don’t think Jesus would ever want to blow out our candles, but luckily, I don’t think he has to to make a wish.

So, merry Christmas, with blood wine and carnage and flesh-eating dragons and also ultimate safety from all those things!

Learning to Infographic and Adobe Illustrator on Surface Pro 3

Here I’ll share my first experiences with learning to use the touchscreen interface of the Surface Pro 3, Adobe Illustrator, and a digital pen all for the first time — all at the same time.  Going full tilt with learning them simultaneously was probably my first mistake.  Don’t worry, there are more mistakes to learn from below!

After the sweat-filled, harrowing experience of putting down all that money for the SP3 at the Microsoft store, I took her home, and gently tore her apart.  I let shitloads of updates run and even updated the N-trig Wintab driver for good measure.

That was Mistake #2.

DO NOT UPDATE THE N-trig Wintab Driver.  DO NOT!

At least not for as long as this guy:

says:  “Illustrator 18.0.0 x64 (CC 2014) – runs (intermittent pen with N-Trig Wintab R16, R17)”

I found out that “intermittent pen” is code for “totally fucks up everything” — at least in conjunction with Adobe Illustrator.  I even went to the Microsoft store to find out why my pen would complete a stroke with the paint tool and then not for the next 7 attempts, and then draw a line and then give up again.  After giving trouble shooting an exceptionally thorough go, the Microsoft pro offered, “Erin, do you like wine?”

Me: “well, yes, yes I do.  Why?”

MSDude: “Does your Surface Pro 3 like wine?”

Me: “…uhhh…”

MSDude:    ” … I think it’s drunk.”

Thank God Rick Rodriguez, the author at was able to explain that it was the N-trig Wintab driver and how to fix it!  (BTW, if you find the info on Rick’s site valuable, be sure to show him with a lil donation.)

My first objective was to learn Adobe Illustrator and the art of creating Infographics — at the same time, as I stated earlier.  This was also before I had figured out my driver issue, so there was that extra frustration to contend with.  I was about to pick up 1 more clusterfuck to complete the trifecta…

I went over to and jumped into the Creating Infographics with Illustrator course by Mordy Golding.

Mordy Golding's Infographics Course
Mordy Golding’s Infographics Course

Now, before I go on — this course is great.  Mordy Golding?  Also great!  What wasn’t great was trying to deal with all the other things I was learning + driver problems when drill Sergeant Golding was shouting out Mac commands on the regular.  That extra brain-processing half-second step of converting Mac to Windows speak on the occasions when the Mordster didn’t call out both would frequently squeeze out my last drop of patience.

In the end, I learned a lot from Mordy about Infographics and Illustrator and I’m glad I took it.  I just wish I’d taken this other course first — a real, live, in-person “Beginning Illustrator” course at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago with Cameron Keleher.  The easy-going, “no worries” Aussie gave us plenty of playing around time and was happy to answer any question that popped up.  And a bonus — the center had Macs for everyone so we were all speaking the same language.  After a lot of practice during those 12 uninterrupted  hours of Illustratorness, I feel tons more comfortable with the drawing capabilities in Illustrator.  I mean, just look at this amazing artwork I shat out during part of the last class:

Warholesque Thug Spock
Warholesque Thug Spock

Don’t be jealous.  Just go visit Cameron’s class at Lillstreet!

I’m definitely glad I took both courses, though, because they made it seem like I learned 2 completely different programs.  The capabilities and applications of Illustrator are that broad!

Some other quirks I’ve noticed:

1. Even without the Wintab N-trig driver update installed, the pen is glitchy with Adobe Illustrator.  It still works intermittently, but not to the point I’m happy for the insurance that protects me whether or not I throw it through a window.  It’s workable.  Just know it may not be you.  This is especially true with the brand new Touch Workspace in CC which I imagine is still having the kinks worked out of it.

2.  The pen is also glitchy with Chrome.  The scroll feature usually doesn’t work and sometimes drop-down menus can only be used with the trackpad.  Zooming and panning in Google Maps can get beyond weird, too.

3. While Microsoft programs like Live Paint seem to do a pretty good job of not picking up paw prints if you rest the side of your hand on the screen while drawing with the pen, Adobe Illustrator is pretty shit at it.  Looks like a half-mitten like people use with a Cintiq to keep the screen from getting goobery — like this Kickstarter glove:

— is advisable for now.  I hope this is something getting looked at by Adobe/Microsoft.

Good luck and if you have your own advice/experiences, please share!

Surface Pro 3, Digital Art and Conquering the Universe

Ok, so maybe this is really just about the first 2 things…

I’ve noticed there’s been a lot of search traffic lately to my site for Surface Pro 3 + Digital Art + insert synonyms.  Maybe people are researching last-minute Christmas gifts, or writing some last-minute Christmas lists, or something else for whatever other holiday around now where people get cool stuff.  Whatever the case, it seems now is a good time to give a review after I’ve played with my Surface Pro 3 for a few months.

To give an idea of where I started — I’d never created any digital media before.  Not really.  …at least not to the scale of the real paint paintings I’ve spent months or years on.  I’m an accomplished artist, but going digital was a scary and completely alien universe.  So, of course, I was set on conquering it.  Like a boss.

Boss, Mouse, Whatever

I finally decided on the Surface Pro 3 as my gateway drug for a few key reasons:

  1. Despite the reportedly unparalleled performance, the Wacom Cintiq Companion is comparatively clunky and not built for several hours of public transportation every day, plus it’s even more expensive.  Later in my research, I learned that users found the Cintiq’s screen would get hazy from scratches after a while of use, but SP3 has Gorilla Glass.  Not Gorilla Glass 1, not Gorilla Glass 2 like on my Galaxy phone, but instead, No Screwing Around Gorilla Glass 3.
  2. Apple doesn’t make any product like this yet, so no contenders there.
  3. Every other product, despite advantages did not compare to performance overall.

The only real sticking point left was the flimsy keyboard cover on the SP3.  I was afraid that when the bus or train I was on rolled over a body, the machine might detach itself from the keyboard on my lap and go flying.  Now that I own it and have used it a while, I know this is a real concern (more for the computer than the bodies, but only slightly).  After spending hours researching covers and trying to visualize the bus thump-thumping over a carcass with the SP3 on my lap, I decided on this – the ESR Intelligent Series Case:

I theorized that as long as I kept the keyboard firmly against the case when open, nothing should go flying*.  The clips around the screen are surprisingly snug and don’t get in the way of buttons, ports or swiping motions around the perimeter like a lot of the other cases did.  Another bonus: the pen is also a lot less vulnerable tucked away inside the case when placed on top of the screen instead in the hanging-offy-in-the-wind tab Microsoft gives you.  The only noteworthy drawback is you can’t access the micro SD slot on the back of the machine, but it was a small price to pay.

*Use this shit at your own risk.

Here is an exceptionally clear photo of the case and SP3 in action:

Photography Skillz Set to IHaveAFluThisIsGoodEnough Mode
Photography Skillz Set to IHaveAFluThisIsGoodEnough Mode

I ended up choosing the Core i5 with 8 GB RAM.  The 4 GB would have probably been just fine for learning to digital art and word processing/browsing type stuff, but I wanted this thing to last a while.  I also wanted the option of being able to run optical simulation software at some point, and for that 4 GB would be a sad, paltry excuse for adequate processing power.  I’m an experienced pc murderer, so I know, having driven more than one machine into the ground with optical software.

Next post will be on my adventures with actually trying to use the thing with Adobe Illustrator and such.  Spoiler Alert: It’s proven to be a great little wonder-machine but I definitely have some tips I’ve learned the hard way to help you avoid headaches and fury.



Fantasy Game Artwork Commission? Cruenti Dei Gets Inked

I heard through my social grapevine (thanks, Paul!) that Sardarthion Press, a publisher of fantasy role playing games, was in need of an artist.  After the publisher perused my online pieces, he decided to take a chance on me, and I decided, “never done anything as weird as this before…that’s a good enough reason!”.  And so began my adventure of sticking my toes into this new and bizarre genre.

I was very nervous that I wouldn’t be able to recreate a feel similar-enough to artwork in previous publications, especially since the style and application was far removed from the majority of my experience.  Plus, I had to create some humanoid-lizard-and-ant-creature type people characters.  These things had biographies and personalities and that had to show in the images.  Wait, what?  What did I get myself into?

To help me get it right, my first questions were to help me acquire a good understanding of the game, the world it takes place in, the psyche of the dinosaur-man-monster, etc.  The author, Thom Ryng, was kind enough to give me a crash course on his game creation, Cruenti Dei:

 “…strategic fantasy game, where every player is a different country. Each turn represents five years. The various countries on the largest continent (Sahûl) are federated into an elective empire (sort of like the historical Holy Roman Empire). Each turn in the newsletter, a portrait of the current Emperor or Empress is printed. (That’s where I come in.)

     “There’s magic. The gods are real and aid their worshipers. Technology is early Renaissance, so cannons AND magic. Yowza.  (Yowza, indeed!)

     “Imperial culture ranges from quasi European in the northeast to pseudo Chinese and Japanese in the west.

     “More info here:

“The empire has four major kindreds, and only one of those are Human – and they aren’t really considered “civilized” by most of the others.”

So I needed to do 2 official-type portraits of humanoid leader things in this otherworldly society – 1 lizardy thing and 1 ant-type thing.  I was going to need some more information.  There are rules about their appearance and they have personalities, and… oh wow.   Luckily, there was still more info Thom helped me out with…  For the badass insect lady creature:

“Insect-like sentients known as Malebolge dominate western Sahûl. (Yes, badasses, check.)

“…Malebolge are descended from ground-dwelling hive insects similar to ants. They generally have six limbs, although some males may only have four. Different castes vary in size from the graceful Queens, who may be taller than Wenemet, to some Workers, who are two-thirds the size of a Saurian. (Oh wow, that’s a lot of stuff.)

 “…All positions of authority and power in Malebolge society are held by females. The males are considered mentally inferior and, in some places, held as chattel.  (Tee-hee-hee.)

“…This particular Malebolge is Countess Cir’ik VIII of Kicitchat. She lost an eye during the duel that guaranteed her accession to the throne of Kicitchat. She has just been elected Empress of Sahûl.”  (Woah, a one-eyed ant empress??  This will be fun.)

I started letting my hand get accustomed to drawing insect people and played around here:

Malebolge Sketch

Most of the picture would be made up of folds of fabric and patterns, so I decided I wasn’t too worried about her portrait.  I was very worried about his, though.

The dude I refer to is the lizard man warlord Mr. Ryng describes here:

 “Saurians are descended from a group of herbivorous, hollow-crested hadrosaurs similar to Parasaurolophus. (Oh, right, of course.  Wait, what?)

 “They believe strongly in tradition and any new innovation is likely to be justified using past precedent, no matter how obscure.
Saurian society is legalistic almost to the point of ossification… (K, crochety.  Got it.)

“Their head crests are (in polite society) always hidden by a hood or hat, except when they are at prayer.  A Saurian army is typically equipped with the heaviest armour and weaponry available…” (So dude is gonna need some sort of head dressing that I have to come up with and I gotta make some armor for him, too.  Alrighty.)

In addition, there was a portrait of a real human person that Thom wanted the artist to draw inspiration from.

So, to recap, I needed to come up with a humanoid lizard creature with a big bump thing on his head, something covering the bump, armor…oh… and he will have to have a similar expression as a certain grumpy old man.  I got this.  Here were my first doodles:

Saurian Sketch

I tried to not think about the resemblance to Madonna too much and resolved to simply make the final version not pop-star like at all.

It was exhilarating to think that I would shape the mental image of these characters for all the players of this game…shaping a virtual reality of sorts.  What a challenge.  What an honor!

The author gave me feedback and further direction on what he wanted and I set out to finish the pieces as quickly as possible.  There was a tight deadline and since I’m away from home 12+ hours every day during the week, I had not a lot of time.

The dinosaur guy did prove to be as difficult as I anticipated, and I believe the author winced so hard he didn’t even want to tell me over my first two attempts.  Finally, though, we arrived at versions for both that satisfied him.

Carberic the Usurper


K’ivik the Deposed

More than anything, this exercise made me wish I already had the Surface Pro 3 I finally bought afterward to help me take my art digital.  These originals were done in real, actual ink-type ink and I was not able to adjust the contrast with layer adjustments alone in Adobe Photoshop.  Instead, there was a lot of time-consuming, painstaking pixel-by-pixel manipulation with a mouse on my somewhat ancient laptop.  “Ohhh how I wish I had a digital pen for… dammit!….’undo’…ohh, I wish I had a digital pen.”

The final versions of these without the snazzy, gigantic watermarks can be seen here on the Turn 23 editions on page 28 (“132”) for the Malebolge here:

And on page 28 (“132”) for the Saurian here:

Do you want to play Cruenti Dei?  Well you can!  Here’s a link with more information:

Happy gaming!


“Better Butter!” Magical Skin Potions Now Available For Sale

Back during the brutal winter of 2007, my heterosexual lady friend and I lived together in New York, battling arid death-desert, heated indoor air together.  I didn’t have a job then, and couldn’t afford to start up my car and use gasoline too often, so I stayed indoors a lot.  Really, I was a prisoner of sorts.

…a prisoner in arid death-desert, heated indoor air.

Death Valley, a.k.a. Fairport, N.Y.

After a while, my dry skin recoiled so much from the extraterrestrial conditions that it began to revolt.  Cracks appeared along every crease in my hands and feet and then they began to bleed.  Things were worse than just getting ugly — they were friggin painful, and my friend didn’t fare much better.

We tried every cheap solution available in bulk sizes – aloe, baby oil, Vaseline, baby lotion.  Nothing helped.  It’s a wonder our outsides didn’t die of thirst that winter!

I think back now on that time and wish I could send back to my former, broker, younger self a crap-load of this amazing hard lotion and “lip lotion” I have now that the same friend I lived with formulated recently.  IT’S AMAZIBALLS.  (And yes, that is the proper spelling of “amaziballs”, I’m sorry if you can’t accept that.)

When my friend gave this to me as a birthday gift after my poor hands, feet and lips had just gotten through a similarly terrible Chicago winter, it changed me back to looking human again overnight.  Like I said, AMAZIBALLS!


Better Butter!  Hard Lotion
Most Amazing Body Butter Ever.


Better Butter! Lip Lotion
Best Feeling Lip Stuff Ever.


For a limited time, the last of her latest batch are available on E-Bay for sale!

I don’t know if there will be more available after this, but I’m pretty freakin sure it’s not gonna be a balmy 75°F all season, either.  If your hands run away screaming from you this winter, well, they’re in your hands now!