Archive for September, 2008

Recluttering frustration

September 28th, 2008 by Reinder

Today, I'm frustrated about... well, a lot of things, really, but I don't want to share all of them with my internet readership and in any case, I think a lot of it is just a hungover feeling from having run that 11K yesterday, and not accomplishing much of anything today.

But one of the things that is frustrating me comes from the other thing I did yesterday, which was to complete the move of my stuff from my studio into my apartment. Over the years, the stuff in the studio had piled up, and since starting the move out, I got saddled with lots of extra computer parts, books, art materials, old sketchbooks, old sketches on loose sheets of paper, toys and figurines, furniture... put all of it together and my apartment is as cluttered as it was a year ago, when that was a major source of frustration and embarrassment for me. If not worse.

Some of it will sort itself out. I've got a potential taker for the old Suske & Wiske books that Jeroen took to the studio a few years ago and didn't want back. There's a whole lot of other stuff that isn't mine, including some items that I have to take back to the studio because they're Jelena's or belong to the company renting the place out. Those can be returned to their owners or thrown out if they don't want them. Original art can be sold, as can surplus books (the consolidation also caused my CD collection to overflow, so I'm now eyeing it with a view to selling most of my CDs). A lot of the paper can be discarded and the consumable art materials can be consumed. I'd really like to have more time to do that.

But I'll still have my work cut out dealing with the extra clutter. Time to head for The Unclutterer for tips. Though after a year of trying, there's not that much left to learn as far as the general principles are concerned. I try to practice the one-in-one-out rule, with mixed success. I limit the amount of stuff that I buy and try to discourage people from giving me stuff other than consumables. I have considered and rejected the One Year Rule on the basis that I often go back to using stuff that I haven't used in over a year, especially art supplies. And I've become a lot more dilligent about getting paper and other junk out of the house immediately than I was a year ago.

I've learned one thing two things from getting all this stuff back from the studio. One is that I've made some really poor book purchasing decisions - or at least someone did; there were about a dozen books that none of us thought belonged to them. The other is that I've bought far too many pencils over the years; my desk is overflowing with them.

Thesinge run results

September 28th, 2008 by Reinder

I ran 56:44 net (56:49 gross) in the 11 km at this year's Thesinge Run on Saturday, finishing 18th out of 49. I'm very satisfied with this result. Prior to the event, I didn't feel ready for it - I'd come out of trainings feeling like I couldn't keep up with my training-mates and on the day itself, I had some mild asthma problems. I was also worried that I'd knock myself out in the first few kilometers, because I'd never run an 11K or even a 10K before.

In the end, the asthma concern actually helped me, because I had another motivation to slow down at the start. My breathing was irregular during the first half but stabilized during the second. I was able to talk throughout the event. At the 1K point, the guy running next to me clocked us at 4:50, at which I slowed down a bit more. I passed the 4 Mile mark (official length of the 4 Mijl van Groningen) at a little over 33 minutes, and could speed up a bit during the last 2 kilometers, catching up again with the guy with the stopwatch before finishing.

Wilma de Vries, winner of the women's 11K, told me she'd seen me finish and that I was looking pretty good at the finish line. In short, I ran the race by the book and finished with energy to spare. Good. Next year, if I'm still in the Netherlands, I'll knock a few minutes off that time.

I love the Thesinge Run. It's only in its second year, but it's well-organized, with many of the teething problems from last year dealt with. The start was earlier in the day so no one had to run in the dark, and there were real dressing/showering facilities and a pasta meal after the run this year (I didn't go to the pasta meal, preferring to drop by at my parents, who live nearby and hit them up for food instead). Because the community center had been renovated, partly with the takings from last year's run, there was a bar as well, so when I fancied a beer after the race, I could have one. That drew some comments from people in the audience as I was drinking beer while still in my running clothes. Also, this year's weather was fantastic.

What hadn't changed was the inclusive atmosphere, with the entire village turning out to help out, encourage runners, take photographs and have a good time with the event and make everyone feel a winner. The different categories were also set up to allow everyone to take part, with special kids' runs for the very youngest (though young children who felt up to it could also take part in the adult events and the women's 4K was in fact won by a nine-year-old girl) and generous time limits allowing people to walk the 4K and 4M. It's the camaraderie that makes the Thesinge Run so much fun - that and running on gravel and shell paths running through farmland. I didn't notice quite as many cowpats as last year, which I'm grateful for.

Me at about 2 km || Me at a hundred meters or so from the starting line, though I can't tell if it's the first or second time I passed that spot

Hyperinflation I

September 25th, 2008 by Reinder

Hyperinflation I, nude woman with wheelbarrow full of money

Drawing that just popped up in my head the other day, after talking to Aggie about the economic crisis. Of course, after the drawing pops up in one's head, one has to do the hard work of drawing it - including research for things like wheelbarrows full of money.

When I googled for "Wheelbarrow full of money", I noticed something interesting. I expected to get only images of the German hyperinflation of 1923, but instead got a whole bunch of stock photos and illustrations showing succesful, wealthy, smiling people pushing wheelbarrows full of cash. I guess because the US has never experienced hyperinflation (yet), they associate wheelbarrows full of cash with wealth rather than with the collapse of a financial system resulting in poverty for large sections of the population. I have never personally experienced hyperinflation (yet) but to me as a somewhat historically educated European, the image of a wheelbarrow full of cash is not a happy one. Thinking about this has made me want to do more art relating to money, the lack or oversupply of it, and the different cultural assumptions and constructs surrounding it. There'll be more nekkid people in it, either to sugarcoat the theme, or because they've just lost their shirts.

Update: This drawing is now for sale through my Comicspace galleries. You will need to sign up with Comicspace to be able to see it (to certify that you are old enough to look at nipples) but the process is easy and does not result in you getting spammed. If you don't want to buy it that way, though, you can also e-mail me and buy from me directly. Price is set at $100 - not exactly a bucketload of money.

I have also made it available as a Print via DeviantArt, in a range of formats and at the default prices. There, too, you'll have to sign up to view and order.

Trying to fathom the magnitude

September 24th, 2008 by Reinder

Is it too much of an exaggeration to claim that the Bush presidency is over, and that President Bush hasn't been succeeded by Dick Cheney or any of the four people on the Presidential election ticket, but by an unelected Chancellor?
From Naked Capitalism:

This is a financial coup d'etat, with the only limitation the $700 billion balance sheet figure. The measure already gives the Treasury the authority not simply to buy dud mortgage paper but other assets as it deems fit. There is no accountability beyond a report (contents undefined) to Congress three months into the program and semiannually thereafter. The Treasury could via incompetence or venality grossly overpay for assets and advisory services, and fail to exclude consultants with conflicts of interest, and there would be no recourse. Given the truly appalling track record of this Administration in its outsourcing, this is not an idle worry.

(read the rest for context)

Feral updates on hold

September 21st, 2008 by Reinder

I didn't get to work on Feral again this weekend, and it's time I stopped kidding myself: I can't keep up with a schedule, so I'm going to take another break and putting up some filler in the mean time, until I've built a buffer.

The filler I've picked is the two Courtly Manners stories from 2002 and 2005, respectively. The second one used to be on the old site when ROCR was primarily available as a subscription comic, but didn't survive the transition to free and to WillowCMS. It's been posted on the Chronicles of the Witch Queen site, though, but it never got the audiences there that Invasion and Feral did get. Courtly Manners 1 has been languishing there as well.

The comics will be posted at a frequency of 1 a day, every day. I've always thought that'd be the perfect schedule, and so it annoys me that right now, I can't even swing one a week. A buffer will help.

Feral will be back at the beginning of November.

[Adam] Ursula Vernon has been robbed

September 16th, 2008 by Adam Cuerden

Artist Ursula Vernon, of the webcomic Digger, The Little Creature stories, and one of my favourite DeviantArt accounts has been robbed.

Here's her livejournal post about it. She hasn't lost everything - she was about to move into her boyfriend's, and that saved her laptop and (I think) her computer, but she lost her scanner, her printer - all the electronic stuff needed to, you know, do her job as a freelance artist.

I'd encourage everyone to do what they can.  I'm also going to try and do some fanart for her, I'd encourage everyone else to do the same.
-Adam Cuerden

RIP Richard Wright.

September 16th, 2008 by Reinder

Aw man....
Pink Floyd founder Richard Wright dies at 65.

Birthday art from Aggie

September 15th, 2008 by Reinder

Aggie posted this lovely Invasion-based drawing on her blog as a birthday present to me:Fay watches on as Kel cuts up a fish. By Aggie. Click to enlarge
Fay watches on as Kel cuts up a fish. By Aggie. Click to enlarge.
Thank you, sweetheart! I love you too!

Porcupine, for Aggie

September 13th, 2008 by Reinder

When Aggie and I were at Nashville zoo back in May, she was disappointed that all she could see of the porcupines was their rear ends. Yesterday, I was in Emmen zoo as part of a company outing, and got to take a few shots with my cellphone camera. Most of them were no good, because the cellphone camera is too slow and doesn't have zoom... but this one turned out all right.

Kid looking at a porcupine in Emmen zoo
Small child looking at a porcupine raising its spines, shot in Emmen Zoo. Click to enlarge.

The porcupines were in a bad mood that day. This one had its spines raised because one keeper whom it disliked was in the area. Later on, I caught two porcupines fighting, again with spines raised. They attack by nipping at one another and pushing, and only use the spines for defense.

I use the cellphone camera as sort of a toy camera that will get me into the habit of photographing interesting things, before dropping money on a real camera. It's not great, but then you don't learn to play the violin on a Stradivarius either.

No comic on Monday, birthday, driving, living expenses

September 13th, 2008 by Reinder

Some miscellaneous things:
First off: there will not be a new comic next week. My 37th birthday is tomorrow, and my present to myself is a day off the treadmill. No deadlines, no accomplishment targets. I may or may not do any work, but I'm releasing myself from all obligations for just one weekend in my life.

Driving class is going well, though it doesn't always feel like it. My instructor is sending me into more difficult areas to navigate and is finally letting me pay attention to traffic. As a result, it feels like I'm stagnating, because the more difficult things I'm doing don't go smoothly. I find some of it hair-raising, in fact and come home from the class all tired and sweaty. Give me a stretch of road I'm familiar with, though, and I do notice a difference.
I do now believe I should have done this much earlier. Not so much because learning ability declines with age (it does, but not by as much as people think; indeed, the biggest factor that causes adults to learn more slowly than young people is that adults typically aren't immersed in a learning environment), but because it's much more difficult for me to find the time and schedule the classes than it would have been 18 years ago. The cancellation rate on my classes is about 50%, because I can only make it outside ordinary work hours, and those hours happen to be difficult for my instructor to make.

Grocery expenses today: €21,10. Not bad, especially keeping in mind that I was able to buy for the pantry: various dried bean/lentil products will keep me fed for months, and I did the shopping while hungry (I had no breakfast foods in the house, which meant I had shop before breakfast) which is normally a big no-no. The general frugal advice is not to go grocery shopping while hungry. I overcame this problem by sticking to the periphery of the supermarket as advised by Michael Pollan and giving myself very little shopping time. Compared to the farmer's market, the selection of fresh produce was poor, but I got enough of what I needed for this week's meal plan (cauliflower korma, spaghetti bolognese and dal curry, each for multiple days) and probably will have to go back only once to buy odds and ends.

I got an € 609 tax refund, which is less than I expected. But I'll also be getting part of the nationalised part of my health insurance premiums back, which could well make up most of the total. If you actually look at your tax form, the actual income taxes in the Netherlands are pretty low in the lowest bracket or "box". Most of what you pay is for health insurance, which is a separate bill (and is topped up by a part that you pay to private insurers. Yep, it's a complex and expensive system, but as compromises between private and socialised medicine go, it could be worse). I'll be spending the refund on rebuilding my financial buffer, which has suffered a bit from my plane ticket and the cost of driving lessons. On the personal finance front, I'm also untangling the final issues with the rent of the studio, which I will be leaving on October 21. And I'm thinking of having another go at budgeting. I tried that in February, but I don't think I was ready for it at the time. Now, though, I've realised that my plans for the future will make it essential to save a lot more money than I do. Also, I have become aware of how much anxiety about money stresses me out. I have never had any significant debts, but I have no significant assets either, which means that it doesn't take much to cause my buffer to run out. Time for me to start dealing more intelligently with money.