Archive for July, 2012


Thursday, 19 July, 2012

Street on BuranoThis is a photo of houses on the small island of Burano, in the Venice Lagoon. I took it when I was there in May this year.

I’m pleased with this both because I like the photo, and because it’s given me my first entry into Flickr’s Explore for just over a year. :-)

Lightning Made of Owls

Saturday, 14 July, 2012

Lightning Made of Owls castThis is the main cast of the webcomic Lightning Made of Owls, which I run. It’s different from normal webcomics in that I don’t make (most of) the comics. Instead, readers contribute them. Since 2008, collectively all of the contributors have managed to produce over 450 strips.

The concept is fairly simple. If anyone has an idea for a comic, they can draw it up and send it in. “Draw” can be interpreted loosely. The art can be made in any way that tickles the contributor’s fancy. Most are drawn, either by hand and then scanned, or on a computer. Several people have illustrated their comics with photo art. You can also use clip art, or re-use art from previously submitted comics.

Comics are submitted and published under a Creative Commons licence, so all of the art of previous comics is available for remixing and turning into new submissions. Another rule is that comics are approximately PG-rated. No words or images you wouldn’t want a 12-year-old exposed to.

The only other condition on submissions is that they use one or more of the characters from the main cast list. Each of the six primary characters has several distinctive, defining characteristics:

Holly wears big round glasses. You can see her green eyes through them, and she has messy, wavy, auburn hair of medium length. Her colour is green, which she tends to wear a lot, mixing it with floral or other plant-related prints. She’s young, bright, vivacious, and cheerful.

Delkin has long, unkempt black hair. Sometimes he wears it in dreadlocks. Sometimes it covers his eyes. The funny thing is, even when his hair isn’t in his eyes, something else covers them up – dark glasses, goggles, a mask. You never see his eyes. He wears purple and likes diamond check patterns. He’s a bit of a geek, and a joker, always poking fun and seeing the funny side.

Meridien is the mother figure. She is spiritual and mystical and caring. She has long blonde hair and hazel eyes. Her colour is yellow, and her patterns tend to be stars, planets, or mystical symbols. She always wears an accessory made of cloth – be it a scarf, a bow, a scrunchie, a ribbon.

Oliver is bald and has brown eyes. He is strong and noble, which leads him to careers like law enforcement, charity work, or being a superhero. Which is probably why he sports an obvious L-shaped scar, somewhere in his face. He tends to dress in orange and eschews patterns for solid colours.

Samantha is a firebrand. She lives fast and parties hard; she likes being the centre of attention and has a strong will and ambition. She wears red, matching her short, neat hair, and likes stripes (because everyone knows red stripes make stuff go faster). She also loves earrings, and is never seen without a large pair. Her eyes are grey.

Ambrose is the old man of the group. He wears patched clothing, predominantly blue in colour. He has grey hair, bright blue eyes, and a bushy moustache. He’s bright, but eccentric and unpredictable.

The faces of HollyThese characters form a sort of Commedia dell’Arte, or in more modern terms, a universal adaptor cast. They change jobs frequently. They change species. Sometimes they’re not even living creatures. They also exist in all time periods, from prehistory to the far future, and all places, from downtown Earth to the far corners of the universe. They’ve been microbes, and dinosaurs.

As an example, here are just a few of the ways in which contributors have portrayed Holly.

Now why am I writing all of this, in such detail? Because, my friends, even though we’ve managed to publish 460+ comic strips in this project, the contributions are starting to thin out. I’d very much like to keep it going for as long as possible, and to do so I need to rustle up some more contributors.

So, if you have ever wanted to make a webcomic, but haven’t been able to find the time or energy or web skills to do so, here’s your chance. We have ready-made characters for you to use. All you need to do is come up with a single comic strip, make it, and send it in (my e-mail address is at the bottom of the Lightning Made of Owls home page). There are no ongoing commitments or update deadlines that you need to keep. You can send in one strip, or a dozen. Or become a regular contributor. If you have even an inkling of a desire to make a funny piece of artwork, please give it a go.

And what would also be cool: If any of you reading this are actually established webcomic artists – how about making a guest comic for Lightning Made of Owls? It’ll be a nice change of pace for you, and it’ll give you a chance to plug your own comic. I’m happy to include links to your other work. I’d love to hear from you.

Being creative is fun, but I know it’s hard work. Contribute a comic – be creative for just a day, for fun. See how you like it. Thank you.

Basilica San Marco, Venice

Friday, 13 July, 2012

Golden domes

Audio help needed

Tuesday, 10 July, 2012

Okay, can of worms time.

I want to buy new speakers for my home entertainment system. I am not an audiophile, and am not too fussy on sound quality, but I do want it to sound decent. I have a Yamaha RX-V596 5.1 receiver, which apparently has 100 watts per channel. This has served me well so far and I plan to keep it for years to come.

It’s currently driving two front floor tower speakers that were hand built by a friend of my brother’s. I have no idea what sort of specs they have, but they’re big and sound pretty good to my ears. They deliver all the bass, because I don’t have a subwoofer. They also deliver the centre channel (split up to the sides by the receiver), since I also don’t have a centre speaker. The size is the main reason to get rid of them – my wife is basically calling shenanigans and wants to reclaim some space. The receiver also drives two small rear speakers, which are relics of the record player I had when I was a teenager. I have absolutely no idea of impedances or powers or anything about the system.

This mish-mash of a system has worked well enough for ten or more years, and sounds perfectly okay as far as I’m concerned. But I figure maybe if I upgrade to a matched 5.1 system with centre and subwoofer, things might be better. I hope to spend $1000 or under. This option caught my eye, for example. The thing is, this says the front speakers are 300 watts.

Now, is a receiver supplying 100 watts per channel hooked up to 300 watt speakers: (a) perfectly okay, (b) sub-optimal, but not a disaster, or (c) OHMYGOD!!! DON’T DO IT! IT’LL CATCH FIRE!!! Should I be looking for speakers exactly 100 watts each? Or speakers up to 100 watts but no more? Or speakers at least 100 watts? Or does it not really matter?

This won’t cement my decision on this particular option, but knowing the answer will inform my search.

Losing my falsetto

Monday, 9 July, 2012

So, I’ve been noticing over the past year or so that I can’t sing falsetto any more. And it’s annoying.

I have no training whatsoever in singing. I’ve been told that my singing is poor. But I enjoy singing along to songs anyway. And for a long time I used to be able to hit (or at least spray with scattershot) ridiculously high notes by flipping into falsetto.

Only now I can’t. Whenever I try falsetto I get a creaky, raspy sound like there’s something wrong with my throat. I thought it might be temporary, or caused by a sore throat or something, but it’s been persistent for a long time now.

I did some quick Googling and found a bunch of sites talking about male singers losing their falsetto voice, and apparently it’s not a rare thing. But they were all on singing forums, and people were talking about stuff like “chest voice” and “head register” and “vocal cord flaps” and other things I didn’t really understand. Some places said that it’s common for males to lose falsetto as they become more trained in singing in their normal register, because of some technicality with how the vocal cords are being exercised or something, but I’ve never trained my voice in any way. I’m guessing it might just be a thing that gets people as they get older too.

So annoying.