Wednesday, May 05, 2010

From the Book of Pots

A moment of spirituality and humor, courtesy of Fitzgerald's translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
"Listen again. One Evening at the Close
Of Ramazan, ere the better Moon arose,
In that old Potter's Shop I stood alone
With the clay Population round in Rows.

And, strange to tell, among that Earthen Lot
Some could articulate, while others not:
And suddenly one more impatient cried---
"Who *is* the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?"

Then said another---"Surely not in vain
"My Substance from the common Earth was ta'en,
"That He who subtly wrought me into Shape
"Should stamp me back to common Earth again."

Another said---"Why, ne'er a peevish Boy,
"Would break the Bowl from which he drank in Joy;
"Shall He that *made* the Vessel in pure Love
"And Fancy, in an after Rage destroy?"

None answer'd this; but after Silence spake
A Vessel of a more ungainly Make:
"They sneer at me for leaning all awry;
"What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?"

Said one---"Folk of a surly Tapster tell
"And daub his Visage with the Smoke of Hell;
"They talk of some strict Testing of us---Pish!
"He's a Good Fellow, and 't will all be well."

Then said another with a long-drawn Sigh,
"My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry:
"But, fill me with the old familiar Juice,
"Methinks I might recover by-and-bye!"
You're read some of the more familiar verses from this poem, e.g.
"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."
Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter---and the Bird is on the Wing.
"Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse---and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness---
And Wilderness is Paradise enow."
...and to those, I hope you enjoy adding the Book of Pots!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Avataring Sites

I needed to make some quick avatars for a presentation: a mom, dad, son and daughter.

A quick google gave me 12 Sites To Create Cartoon Characters of Yourself which was pretty useful, since it not only listed a dozen resources but gave me a quick idea of what each produced. I tried two:

Joystiq Mii

First I tried Joystiq Mii characters and in a short time made Wii-style avatars. I couldn't figure out how to save them but no worries: Windows 7's "Snipping" tool worked just fine. The results were quick and fun; not terribly detailed but o.k. if you want cartoony. I did run into a problem with gender and age differentiation; since there was only one body type I needed to use facial features. Putting eyelashes and long hair on the females, and a mustache on the daddy was an adequate tho not satisfying solution. In retrospect I might've used different lip styles too, since cartooning usually gives females fuller lips.

For age differentiation I tinkered with giving the children bigger eyes and smaller noses. Because you can move the features, growing or shrinking them, you can have a very large number of faces. I tried to give each child at least one feature directly from either parent. I would've liked more features, e.g. ears, body types, but for a quick cartoony avatar, I was happy.

Yahoo Avatars

I wanted a more realistics, "sexier" look, so next I when to
Yahoo Avatars. This definitely gave a more realistic (although still cartooned) look. One nice feature is that it saved your 10 favorite avatars; I still used the snip to save the avatar to my harddrive but it looked like I could keep up to 10 works-in-progress for tinkering. But a complication arose when I started playing with gender.

Gender differentiation was straightforward: you pick your gender and it gives you a female body type, and face/hair/clothing/accessory choices. However, switching gender was a problem: when you changed gender you lost all your favorites. It appears that yahoo's avatars are intended to be used for your login and not for other purposes. You might consider having a separate login for each gender (...or hey Yahoo! think about gender switching sometime!)
Age differentiation was also an issue. Yahoo avatars had a lot fewer face choices, since you can't move the features around as with the Wii above. To differentiate the dad from the son, I gave the former the face with a five-o-clock shadow, but I couldn't find something similar for facially differentiating mom and daughter. Instead, I had to do that with choice of costume, giving mom some definitely hotter outfits and the daughter garb that deemphasized body shape.

It would have been nice to be able to play with body proportions, for example giving the children relatively larger heads, as a way of suggesting age.


Since I'd met my goal, I stopped checking out avatar-building sites (but I'd like to get back to Simpsonize Me!, South Park Studio, and the interesting-looking Meez). None of these utilities are perfect, but for the price, what-the-heck!

I-1068: Kitchen Table Reasons to Decriminalize Marijuana

I don't smoke, but jailing those who do is the stupidest policy I have ever heard of. That's why I not only support I-1068, Washington State's Marijuana Deciminalization Initiative, but am collecting signatures to put it on the ballot.

You should too.

The arguments are well-known and well-worn. You've probably sat at your kitchen table and gone over them with family and friends:
  • Marijuana is less harmful than either tobacco or alcohol.
  • If we want to jail somebody, let's put Big Tobacco's CEOs in jail for the hundreds of thousands they kill every year in the normal course of business.
  • The only people who profit from criminalizing weed are the drug cartels who, like their rum-running predecessors during Alcohol Prohibition, are making a killing, both literally and figuratively.
  • Weed makes some people stupid, but they were probably stupid to begin with; lots of other people it doesn't affect at all and there's a whole lotta people for whom it does as much good as my daily cuppa coffee.
  • While we may salute the sincerity and sacrifice of the Drug Enforcement Community in being Crusaders Against Evil, we must never forget that smiting the harmless and the innocent in the name of the Law only promotes more evil. It's sad and tragic that when you remove one ton or a hundred tons of the stuff from circulation, all you are accomplishing is to jack up the price of the stuff that remains ... making it even more valuable to the criminals. Retired police chief Norm Stamper is right.
And so on and so on. At this point, I don't think anyone who can be pursuaded by rational argument can oppose I-1068 so it's time now for We The People to make the law as our State Constitution provides.

I have my copy of the petition on a clipboard on the kitchen table. Anyone who comes into the kitchen gets asked to sign. Signing doesn't mean you support the inititiave; it just means you want there to be a vote on it, which may win or lose. When I leave the house, the clipboard goes with me in case I meet someone (heck if the LaRouchies can besiege the Post Office, I guess I have the duty to provide a sane alternative. Maybe I'll ask them to sign!) As soon as I fill it up, or in any event by the end of the month, I'm sending it in, having done that "civic action" thing we all heard about in school. It turns out that collecting signatures is also a fun way to make a little conversation. People will tell you the darndest stories!

Why don't you try collecting signatures too? Learn more at

Sunday, May 02, 2010

How To Compile Your List of How To's!

You probably have many postings of useful hints right on your blog. Think about it; after a couple of years of blogging, if you have written only one how-to a month, haven't you accumulated a lot of useful stuff? But it can be even more useful if you compile them into an easily accessible "How-To" list. 

Fortunately, this is easy to do: simply tag each post you want to put on your list with the tag "how to", and then post a link to your how-to list!

Here's mine:

If you're not sure how to generate the query, look at the bottom of one of your blog posts that you've put a tag on. When you click on the tag, you get a page of all your posts with that tag (... maybe multiple pages, but that doesn't matter.) Now go get the URL from the top of your browser, then copy and paste. You're done!

Different sites may call tags by different things; for example, in blogspot, they call tags "labels". It doesn't matter; the technique is the same whatever there terminology: you add a little metadata to the relevant posts, then link to a query for that metadata. Does that make more sense ;-)

I was inspired to post this by Inspiration Alley's invitation to a "Learn Your Lesson" Blog Party:
" You are invited to a blog party with a difference. Why yes, of course there will be tea and cake (what's a party without either of those after all?). There may even be lashings of ginger beer and perhaps something with a touch of sparkle too... Who knows what the party will bring?
One thing we do know however is that you'll be taking away quite a goodie bag. Yes my little chickadees every visitor, every player and every participant will be given some wonderful gifts - for this is a special sharing party. No posh frocks required, for you will be getting most messy, seriously sticky and terribly tangled. Just bring yourself and your gift... your lesson.... your tip.... your tutorial.....

We thought it would be terribly good fun to roll our sleeves up and learn something new. We'd love you all to share a lesson with us - perhaps you might have a photoshop trick you can explain? Maybe you know how to transfer images successfully? How do you glue paper without leaving bubbles? Do you have a receipe that no longer needs to remain a secret? Can you tell us how to make clay beads without cracks? To bleach a photograph or make something furry and felty? You may even just like to list your favourite tutorial sites. Anything goes, just bring your special gift to the party by way of a link to your own blog post and take away a goodie bag of lessons to try out for yourself.

All you need to do is pop along to our party room here at the Avenue on the weekend of May 1st & 2nd. Leave a comment with a link to your post and visit all our other party guests...."
OK, you gotta love their attitude, don't ya?

And thanks to my bloggy friend Reduce Footprints for telling me about this - she's hosting the party too!