Sunday, 27 September 2015


 My two fans will already know that occasionally when I have a photo that goes beyond pointless into just plain bad, instead of just tossing it I'll play silly photoeditor games for a while. It's just a bit of fun, really: how can I make this thing look completely different and yet still almost somewhat identifiable? The added challenge is that I use a fairly simple free editor with limited abilities. I've never set my hands (brain?) on Photoshop, and while I'm debating trying out GIMP, it seems a bit selfish to download it onto someone else's computer just so that I can play.

Um, yeah. Still don't have a computer at home. I spend enough time on computers at work or here at Dad's place, and frankly I enjoy both the down time and the lower bills. That's not the topic at hand, though.

The topic, such as it is, is about at what point a little bit of digital fiddling becomes art. Let me say from the outset that I'm not denigrating digital artists in the slightest (some of them are absolutely incredible) or for a moment calling my silliness art. It's not. It's me taking a crap photograph and trying to make it more interesting to myself.

But there's also no denying that when I'm playing around like that I'm making aesthetic choices. I'm trying things out, keeping some effects and discarding others, and in the end coming up with something that looks as close to the way I wanted it as I can make it with my limited software. Is that any different than, say, this? This below, I mean:

This is one of my better spider drawings from a number of years ago. It's a Thin-legged Wolf Spider (Pardosa sp.) carrying an an egg case on her spinnerets. The original was done in Wolff's carbon pencils.

Hmmm. Can you believe that I only just now realised I used a Wolff's pencil to draw a Wolf Spider? Entirely coincidental, honestly.

This was done for a display and to some people would be classed as illustration rather than art (although anyone who thinks that illustrators aren't artists is talking through his hat, to my mind), but here you see a choice of subject, a choice of medium, and working until I ended up with something that looks as close to the way I wanted it as I could make it with my limited abilities.

Is that different than playing with photos, then?

It's a fine line. I'll admit that my definition of art is a little old-fashioned, although knowing that helps me to do my best to try and broaden it. One of my blocks is effort. I put effort into drawing; I put very little into photoediting. My reflex is to think of the one with effort as being somewhat closer to real art.

It's not always true, though. Art can be an innovator like Jackson Pollock splashing paint on a canvas, or Banksy quickly spray painting a stencil on a building. And yes, there are plenty of people who would argue that neither of those people made (or are making) art, but there's no denying that what they produced makes -- or should make -- anyone with an interest in art at least stop for a moment to think about it.

Things turn pretty philosophical for me after that, and frankly I'd like to wrap this up and do some other stuff. I guess in the end people have been debating about what art really is for... well, probably since cave paintings, and whether my silly photos count as any sort of art fit in there somewhere. That's it for me today, though. Twitter users, don't forget that I become @PeopleOfCanada for a week starting tonight. Non-Twitter users? I don't know what to tell you.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

So it turns out I'm Canada...

Or will be, at least.

The photo is, of course, completely unrelated to the topic. Thus, pointless.


Next week I'll be Canada, folks. And what the heck do I mean by that? Well, it's a Twitter thing. A number of years ago the country of Sweden decided to turn its official account over to private citizens; a different one each week. The idea was to give people around the world a look at Sweden through the eyes of its people rather than just its government. The people curating the account could discuss almost any topics they wanted, with very little censorship. Many of us thought that they were a bit crazy.

It worked. It's still working. Check @sweden if you haven't already.

The idea caught on and spawned many other country, province, and city accounts. Some of these are official and some of them were just started by enthusiasts who wanted the twitterverse to get to know their country (town, etc.) better. They're cool. I follow a couple of them.

So what about Canada? Well, Canada does have an official @Canada account. It's government. It's tourism. It's... pretty to look at? Yeah, but it doesn't have much personality. Sorry, government, but that's the truth.

Long before the government got into the Twitter business Canada gained an unofficial curated account (@PeopleOfCanada). Unofficial, as I said, but they invite Canadians of all types and from all provinces and territories to spend a week tweeting their version of Canada to the world.

Starting Sunday night it's me.


So what will I talk about as Canada? Dunno yet, but I'll probably start with where I work and take it from there. I'm asking for suggestions on our work social media since I do want to represent where I live rather than talking about, say, ostomies all week or something like that. The big, weird thing for me is that it's not only putting my city out there, it'll be putting me out there as well. Actual me. No deeol. Actual me with a location and a picture and everything.

That's something for someone who refuses to be on facebook because I don't think the internet at large needs to know that much about me, really.

Ah well. Had to happen sometime. Anyway, if you're curious at all you'll be able to find me @PeopleOfCanada (starting Sunday night, as I said) for a week, and then at my usual @deeolworld after that.

This is going to be interesting.

At least I hope so. And you can get more info here:

Monday, 21 September 2015

Unknown topic of the day:

Yeah, this photo is such a mish-mash that I really don't know if I even have a topic. There's a brayer (the roller thing. It's used in printmaking), some rusty wood chisels that I got at a garage sale and haven't steel-wooled yet (and why wood chisels? Printmaking maybe, and they were cheap), a foil picture thing from a dollar store, and a couple of art books.

They were all on the ottoman for my Ikea chair. They still are... except for the brayer, which I've actually managed to put away.

Why did I take such a weird picture? I dunno. It was a while ago. I was probably just bored.

Which, by the way, explains most of my weird pictures.

Do you get the feeling that I might be taking up printmaking? I might. Maybe. I've had a go at a couple of sample things, and one turned out. The other? Not so much.

50% is, I suppose, not too bad for a first go.

Aaanyway, blind typing (well, not literally blind. I do need new glasses though) hasn't led to a topic, so I think I'll stop trying for now. Not that I tried too hard to begin with, but at least it was a bit of a try. Blind type at you later.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Indian snacks

New photo! Phone photo, but still.

What you're seeing there are some containers with Indian snacks in them, surmounted by a plastic beaver.

Because why wouldn't they be, really.

Anyway, some of you by now are bristling and ready to tell me that Indian is offensive and it should be First Nations and...  you're wrong. This is Indian as in India, folks, and I don't think that they'd appreciate you getting miffed at the fact.

The snacks in the containers are Indian snacks actually imported from India (I hate even this much advertising, but you can find this particular brand through the various Loblaws stores if you're curious), and between Wheat and I we go through a fair amount in the office.

They're different, you see. They're not potato chips. They're a little spicy, for one thing (in the non-Indian category, we also like wasabi peas), and they're also made from things that the average Canadian -- or rather, the average WASP -- wouldn't think of as a possible snack food. The top one is an extruded potato, which has a different texture than a potato chip. The middle one is lentils (yummy, yes), and the bottom one is extruded bean paste. There was also a fried chickpea container, but I finished that one up today.

The only reason I'm blathering about them is that it's another facet of how much my tastes have changed since my white bread childhood. Were there Indians in my small town? Yes, in fact I went through all of my schooling with the younger daughter of one family. Were there Indian foods in the stores? Erm... a bit, yes, but I imagine that they went to the city for a lot of things. Would I ever have dreamed of even trying some of it?


And not in a snobby way. It just wouldn't have occurred to me.

Things change, though. When I was a little older I had my first sampling of Bahamian food at a friend's party. It was foreign, and way hotter than I was used to, but it was... good. Yeah, I was that surprised. When I went to university and a friend introduced me to real Chinese food as opposed to the pseudo-Cantonese stuff most of us grew up with around here, it was a revelation. A revelation that's left me with a life-long addiction to Sichwan Beef...

And yeah, I suppose that I haven't looked back since. If you were to take me out to dinner I'd likely be fine trying almost anything (although you'd have to talk me hard into green bell pepper. I really don't like green pepper). Well, maybe not any sedentary bivalves. As someone with a zoology degree I have a problem with eating filter feeders that can't move if the water around them is poisoned in some way. That's nothing to do with culture, though. That's just what happens when you've studied certain things inside and out (literally).

I need to do a bit more work (yes, I'm at work) before I call it a day, but I just wanted to end by saying that it was actually Dad who introduced me to these particular snacks. Yep, tastes change even for the older generations.

I think that's a good thing.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Pointless photo of the week or whatever:

I really need to get out and take some new pictures.

And, um, blog more.

Yeah, I know I'm the incredible disappearing me lately, but twitter's faster.

When I remember that I have a twitter account, that is.

Ah well. Maybe tomorrow there'll be something of substance here. Maybe.

Hands up all who believe that.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Pointless photos of the day:

Yeah, I'm afraid it's just photos again. Mock Orange this time, from earlier in the season. Frankly, I just haven't been in the mood to blog about most of what's on the brain at the moment.

Ah well. There's your flowers for the weekend, at least. I'll try for a bit more verbage next week.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Pointless photo of the day

Yes, that's cranefly porn you're looking at.

Only because I don't have any beetle sex pics at the moment, of course.

I also don't really have anything to blather about, so... there you go, I guess.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Let's talk fonts

Today's pointless photo is, again, pointless. Just so you know.

Ok, fonts. Well, strictly speaking it's typefaces (for a good explanation of the differences have a look at this), but since the majority of people -- including me -- tend to say fonts instead of typefaces these days I'm just going to stick with the shorter word.

Feel free to grind your teeth, pedantic-types. I know I certainly do about other topics.

Today Google unveiled a new set of logos, including a new look to the main one we're all familiar with from the desktop search page. My reaction? Meh. It's kind of characterless, and a little too square for me somehow. I liked the curviness of the serifs. And with the previous font (see? now I'm having trouble saying font instead of typeface. Seriously. I didn't need to be more of a nerd) having lost the chunkiness of their earlier versions, it had a certain amount of grace. Now it has... uniformity? I dunno. I suppose it'll grow on me, but right now I'm finding it pretty dull.

But do typefaces (gah) even matter? Yeah, they do. We register them even if we don't realise that we do. Whether we want to or not, we think differently about the things we're reading depending on how they look. Typefaces (ok, fine. You're in typeface mode. Anyone who wants to mentally replace typeface with font every time you see it is welcome to do so) can make things look stodgy, strict, uptight, overly precious, approachable, childish... the list goes on, and you get that impression even if you're not involved in the design world. That's why companies put so much effort into typeface decisions. They really are the first impression.

So did anyone (anyone with complete font availability, that is. I have my defaults set up so that you may not be seeing what I'm seeing, depending on where/how you're viewing this) notice that the last paragraph was in Arial rather than Trebuchet? I'm not a huge fan of Arial, to be honest. It's a little plain and shouty. I suppose my feelings there come from it having been default for so many things for so long. That's why the blog defaults to Trebuchet instead, if your system has it. A bit rounder, slightly closer to handwriting with the little curve at the bottom of the l and t... yes, I actually did put a lot of thought into my default font. And now that I'm thinking layout, you'll see that the word font has come more easily than typeface. It's how they're listed in computer applications, so all of a sudden typing font is ok with my brain.

My brain's weird, but that's not news.

I'm not a font nerd (this one's Georgia, by the way, and that again depends on whether your system has Georgia installed) but as a pattern-oriented person I'm certainly aware of them and definitely take a little bit of time when choosing them. I also get a chuckle out of so-called Font Wars, where nerdier people than even me actually argue about the merits of different typefaces. Prime example of that, of course, is the "war" over Comic Sans. Designers hate Comic Sans (some of the reasons are here, which saves me from making this post even longer) and I can't say that I'm exactly a fan, but I've used it for a couple of displays.

Yes, that's right. I've used it, and I'm not ashamed to say it. The thing is, Comic Sans is the most readily available (note that I'm not saying the best; just readily available) easily readable font for that type of thing. Many dyslexics, for example, have a slightly easier time picking things out in Comic Sans. I had some short display texts that were supposed to be for a variety of ages, so at the time I put them in Comic Sans. Would I do it now? Maybe. It would depend on what else I had available. If I did, though, I certainly wouldn't give a rat's behind if you called me a Comic Sans Criminal.


I have more to say about fonts (who knew? Ah well, I'm always looking for blog fodder), but I need to wrap up for now. I'll leave you with a slightly related topic (depending on how ugly you find the new Google logo): ugly flags. Have you seen the choices that New Zealanders have if they decide to go with a new flag? Wow. Not sure how I'd go on that one. Maybe the fiddlehead if it was white and blue instead of white and black? Ah well, good luck to them. We went through it in Canada too, fifty years ago last February, and I think it turned out all right for us.
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