Archive for September, 2008

Invasion update for September 12

September 12th, 2008 by Reinder

Invasion has updated again, with Messenger Witch Agni getting back to work immediately, and Elspeth putting her plan into action.

This will be the last Invasion update in a while - I haven't been able to produce any new pages. Heck, I'm struggling just to do one penciled page of Feral each week, and may end up having to skip a few weeks for that too, if I have to draw anything particularly complex.

That about wraps up the market experiment

September 6th, 2008 by Reinder

I spent €60 at the market this afternoon, plus €17 at my local organic butcher's, and €6 at the market yesterday during my lunch break (when there were different stalls including an organic bread stall that I didn't discover until after I'd bought bread. I'd have spent much more if my lunch break had been longer) . It's safe to say that my food budget has exploded this week.

I'm not going through an itemized list this time, but I do want to mention that some of these expenses were one-offs. The biggest extra expense was tortilla chips plus four kinds of dip to go with them; the plan is for me to reverse-engineer and then improve on the dip I like the best (which is probably going to be the chilli), so that's €8-10 that I'll only spend once. I also bought enough cheese to last for three weeks, plus fresh cilantro, which I usually do without.
I've located milk! But I didn't buy any as it was €1.30 for half a liter. Locally produced and organic, so probably very good, but the price was one I'd expect in a cafetaria, not in retail. I can technically afford to pay € 2.60 a liter for milk, but only if I still save money overall, which I'm not doing.

Going back to the original purposes of the experiment, I ended up buying a lot of things that weren't whole food staples but prepared foods: melba toast, the dips, chocolate nuts, the tortilla chips which by Michael Pollan's definition are edible, foodlike substances. So the experiment's purpose was defeated entirely and I might as well get those things from the supermarket again. On the plus side, shopping at the market is a lot more fun - you're outdoors, there are bargains to be had and new products to try, and the smells from some of those stalls is just divine. Goat cheese in particular taunts and tempts me whenever I pass it, as do Moritz's olives, sun-dried tomatos and feta.

Experiment over! It would have been fun and interesting to do this for a couple of months; describing your shopping in great detail is the sort of thing that's dull if you do it once, but becomes more interesting if you keep it up until patterns become visible. But the pattern that's showing up already is that I spend more and don't stick to the experiment's purpose, so to protect my wallet, I'm cutting it off here. I'll be splitting my purchases between the outdoors market and the supermarket like a sane person.

On pencil art and time savings

September 5th, 2008 by Reinder

Using uninked pencil art, like I've done on Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan for the past three weeks and on American Gothic before that, saves me some time, but not as much as you would think. The time savings don't come from skipping the inking and colouring phases - all the effort that used to go into inking and colouring (keeping in mind that DFG has been doing the colour flats on my comics for almost two years now) now go into the final pencil line art and the grey pencil tones.

The time savings that I do get come from a) simplifying the process so there is no longer a separate Photoshop colouring stage after I get the colour flats back from DFG, and b) the elimination of wet media accidents, which I'm very prone to. The comic creation process still takes a whole afternoon even if I cut corners in drawing backgrounds - a page full of close-ups is easier for me to do than one with lots of scenery or action, so that's the sort of pages I've been drawing. I am very envious of Aggie's ability to just knock out an American Gothic page in a few hours.

Last long weekend (a local holiday), I didn't get two pages of Feral done so there's still no buffer. The buffer for Invasion is running out already. Next weekend, I may end up not having an afternoon of uninterrupted drawing time. It's gonna be a bumpy ride, and it's only three weeks into my resumption of art duties on Feral.

Invasion update for Friday, September 5

September 5th, 2008 by Reinder

Invasion has updated again, with a sad end for the bulldog who drew the short straw.

Production of new pages has hit a snag, but there's one more comic in the buffer.

Live by the list, die by the list

September 4th, 2008 by Reinder

I am disorganised, and this is hurting me at my job, at a time when I feel very strongly that I need to maximise my career and perform as well as I possibly can. I have tried to get more organised by keeping lists, but today, I ran into the limit of what lists can do for a person, hard.
And I was actually quite satisfied with my progress over the past few weeks. This morning, for the first time in weeks, I had enough peace of mind to sit down at the start of the work day and spend half an hour doing nothing but plan: write up my early-morning list (one of two - the other is the end-of day list which is a memo of things that need to be done the next day, in a rough order of priority. By the time morning has arrived, new urgent work to be delivered the same day has usually arrived in my mailbox and that planning has to be revised, but at least I have a starting point for the next day ready before I leave the office), prioritise in some detail based on how best to prevent surprised and then talk to people about that. I was doing well.

Right until a client e-mailed me about a job that was due yesterday that I'd forgotten about completely.

And that's where lists reach their limit: if you live by the list, you will die by the list. Because I rely on my lists so much, and because one of the ways I use them is to jot things down to enter into the company Intranet later so I won't have to drop everything I'm doing and lose my place in my ongoing work, what isn't on the list doesn't exist. As a result, a job that would normally take a day to do but would have been completed easily if I'd started on time just disappeared from my planning. Needless to say, I'm very frustrated with this, and a bit despairing about what I should do to prevent this. It needs to be solved otherwise I can't perform well at my job; but I can't go back to dropping whatever I can to prepare and administer incoming projects, because in the work environment I'm in, I wouldn't get anything done.

I don't have a solution yet. Sites like The Simple Dollar have endless lifehacking recommendations. That site particularly recommends the book Getting Things Done but implementing some of the solutions in that takes a time investment upfront that I simply don't see myself having in an environment where half an hour of idle time is a rarity, and as for implementing the most important step of that, listing everything, I've just demonstrated the risks inherent in that approach.

What do you do to keep track of things? Please let me know in comments. If you're a fan of the comics I make, your solution just might help me to spend less time in the office and to come home with more energy left to work on them. I did get the project back on track with the help of some of my co-workers and a new deadline, but at a cost of me coming home much, much later than planned, putting in overtime which I'm not going to get paid for.

Google funnies at the Register

September 3rd, 2008 by Reinder

Re-interpretations of Scott McCloud's comic for Google. See also the Related Stories at the bottom of the page: the Register is pretty critical of Google Chrome, devoting several articles to its faults already.

No-supermarket experiment follow-up

September 3rd, 2008 by Reinder

Well, my experiment in staying away from the supermarket ended quickly. As predicted, the need for durable baked goods (or rather the need to have breakfast and lunch after the middle of the week) was what pulled me back in. Worse, I was so strapped for time I had to use an Albert Heijn supermarket, and it turns out their assortiment of durable baked products sucks as hard as their bread. And now for the boring minutiae: I did end up buying:

Half a loaf of organic whole-grain bread - on the off chance that their organic bread might be more palatable than their regular bread.
1 kg muesli, Euroshopper brand, non-crunchy.
3 tins of tomatos for use in pasta
1/2 kg bag of fusilli pasta
1/2 kg bag of whole grain rice
1 liter of organic non-skim milk, because I fear not the fat.

Total expense: €7.50.

Yes, I'm picky about bread. I blame my parents who raised me on fresh, whole-grain bread that they sliced themselves into thick, rough slices. Actually, I wasn't that keen on that particular kind of bread because it tended to lose its flavour after being frozen. But because they cared about bread, I learned to. Bread has to be non-mushy, have plenty of roughage and should have a smell to make you more hungry.
As for the whole milk, I only recently switched back to it after two decades of drinking semi-skimmed. It's tastier and the vitamin A and D in milk are fat-soluble. Considering how much oil I use in cooking, the difference in fat percentage between non-skim and semi-skim is trivial. Fat is tasty.

Google Chrome and that comic

September 2nd, 2008 by Reinder

I'm sure everyone has seen the comic Scott McCloud did for Google Chrome by now? It's rather entertaining and does a decent job at explaining what's good about Chrome even though it's not entirely succesful at making a complex, nerdy subject seem simple. It's definitely a sign though that Scott has arrived... though when Jim Woodring did work for Microsoft, it didn't quite manage to make him a household name.

I do wonder if Google are going to need it translated into other languages, and if so, whether they will be working through their normal channels