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Day 109

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centaur sketch

Sketch of myself during the Write to the End writing group reading sessions. Eh, meh on the quick sketch, but I've got writing to do more than I need to be sketching.

centaur picture

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Day 108 and Camp Nano 12

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moore sketch

Quick Sharpie sketch of Roger Moore. Head's a bit squashed, but it's not too bad. I admit, I threw my first drawing away and made myself start over, rather than deal with one messed up line in his right jawline. It's interesting to me how much of the character of even a very young Roger Moore is made up not just by that whale of a jaw, but by the subtle lines all over his face. He was strangely old even when young.

moore picture

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

P.S. Only ~800 words today, which was quite a struggle. Roger Moore came up very tangentially when Dakota was snarking about a vampire looking like a cross between Roger Moore and Leslie Nielsen.

Instead of a $1000 Monitor, Try a $12 Cable

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three monitors

So, I have this particular type of multi-monitor setup I prefer - with a laptop screen abutting two other monitors, one horizontal, one vertical - but I couldn't quite do that here on my personal setup, at least not at first, because I didn't want to buy any more monitors after buying that Wacom behemoth, and eventually, the perfectly good ones from the old house will get shipped.

But I had a couple of spare old monitors from previous computers, long since retired - so old that only the DVI ports work, though one of them has an HDMI port I don't think I got to work. After lots of flickering, the oldest one of them finally gave up the ghost, but the other was able to slot into the same place. (It's on the left, above, with Roger Moore's mug from my Drawing Every Day session on it.) While can't rotate vertically like the other, it worked, at least, and I could use it.

Then it started flickering too.

Now, three or four things could be happening here. First, it could be a flaky old monitor screen, natch. Second, it could be a problem with the monitor's plug, since jiggling the software cable often fixed it; on the same grounds, I ruled out a device driver issue. Third, since it happened to two monitors attached to the same laptop with the same cable into the same port, it could be the laptop itself giving up the ghost.

So, after putting up with this for weeks, if not months, I finally started to look into new monitors. Apparently, the monitor I want costs roughly a thousand dollars with shipping, but I know I want that monitor because I have one in California waiting to be shipped here.

Then I thought back to my diagnosis.

Two monitors, plugged into the same laptop on the same port ... with the same cable.

Now, for various reasons, I can't swap the ports around much (the Wacom is SUPER finicky about what it wants it's 15,000 cables to attach to, and if you LOOK at it funny the stylus stops working) and I couldn't try a different cable because, THANK YOU, Apple and the rest of the computer industry, for changing the ports on all your laptops so my box of cables from previous setups is now virtually USELESS.

But I could order a $12 dollar USB-C to DVI cable off Amazon.

It arrived today. I plugged it in an hour or so ago.

The ten-year-old monitor? Working just fine.

Moral of the story: make sure to vary all of your variables when you are debugging, or you'll possibly trick yourself into the moral equivalent of spending a lot of unnecessary cash.

-the Centaur

Day 107 and Camp Nano 11

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apsara sketch

Quick Sharpie sketch of an Apsara dancer, a mythical spirit appearing in Southeast Asian cultures. Came up in some tangential research for a scene in Dakota Frost #7, SPIRAL NEEDLE, but decided this was too rich a mine of mythology for a throwaway line, so I ended up using something else.

apsara dance

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Oh, and on Camp Nano: just got ~1000 words so far. Not sure why I got fewer words when I had more to do yesterday than today. Perhaps I need to break more paintings?

Day 106 and Camp Nano 10

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mongkut sketch

Quick Sharpie sketch of King Mongkut of Thailand, the famous king from The King and I, and also, not a bad mathematician and astronomer. Tangentially came up in today's Dakota Frost Camp Nano adventure (2300+ words today, still behind, but catching up). The real guy's head is more egg-shaped, and the left eye has an iris placement mistake: we are near the limit of what I can do with a Sharpie, but it's still the best tool I have to keep myself drawing when it's super late and I'm tired.

mongkut headshot

Drawing. Every. Day.

-the Centaur

My Review of the Studio Decor 24×36 Picture Frame

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frame, broken

I do not like this picture frame. While the wood border is beautiful and it handsomely frames posters, the attachment is an awkwardly placed pair of hooks, roughly 1/3 of the way down the frame and an inch inside the outer edges, making it almost impossible to hang levelly, or evenly, or at the right height.

In fact, I'd say that the placement is so awkward it actively thwarts "measure twice, cut once" in that on at least three or four different occasions (with two different poster frames, apparently not having learned my lesson trying to level the first one) I have measured the hook placement twice, or more than twice - most recently, using two different rulers, including a t-square - and after double and triple checking it, finding that the hooks are too far apart, or once moved closer, are not quite level, or, once leveled, are a whole inch to the right from where they should be, despite the fact that you measured the center and the hooks both against the sides of the wall upon which it was going, so, what the hell, Danielewski?

poster, damaged

Also, this frame does not well protect posters when thrown across the room. But it does make a very satisfying crashing sound, and the remains of the frame are well suited for pulling a 2001: A Space Odyssey monkey-smashing-the-bones-with-a-club re-enactment.

Sigh. "I don't have an anger management problem, just an anger problem." Sigh. And it's not like it was a great poster, but, hell, it's impossible to replace. And I checked.

Time to find a new frame - with a proper wire or central attachment, either of which enables you to add a single central hook, and to slightly adjust the angle and centering of the picture.

"We call it living."

-the Centaur

 

Day 105 (and Camp Nano Day 9)

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capaldi sketch

Sharpie sketch of Peter Capaldi from the Doctor Who episode "The Pilot," which is lightweight in tone and stakes but stands up surprisingly well to repeated viewings, especially Capaldi's knockout speech about time in the beginning, the Doctor's amazing office, and the introduction of the TARDIS.

The sketch is ... OK. Slightly squashed, and I'm still doing eyes too big (likely a function of the Sharpie sketches, which put a minimum size on the features I can draw). But it ... kinda looks like him? His head's not turned the right way, and I still have trouble getting the "landscape" of the face right.

capaldi drawing

Still, drawing every day.

-the Centaur

P. S. Only got ~50 words on Camp Nano, but I feel good about those words, as they're stitching parts of a scene together so I can really roll with it tomorrow. 11K words behind, but I've been behind worse.

Day 104 (and Camp Nano Day 8)

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chipman, pruitt, bolton

Quick sketch - much of it, just a dry erase marker, not even a Sharpie - on Strathmore 9x12. Not completely terrible for the first two, but I sure did squeeze Bolton's head. Sorry, man.

chipman-pruitt-bolton reference

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

P.S. Only 250 words with Camp Nano, but then, I still feel that maybe-vaccine headache, so, ugh.

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

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chipman, pruitt, bolton

tl;dr: Opponents of things should never be appointed to oversee them.

So President Biden has nominated David Chipman to lead the ATF - and he was wrong to do so.

It's not that Chipman isn't qualified to lead the ATF - he's a 25-year ATF veteran. It's that Chipman is explicitly disqualified to lead an agency that oversees firearms - because he's a gun control advocate. It's not that he can't be trusted to make good decisions: he can be trusted to make bad ones.

Previous presidents have made the same mistake. To lead the EPA, Donald Trump nominated Scott Pruitt, a noted environmental skeptic who had sued the EPA. To serve as ambassador to the UN, George Bush nominated John Bolton, a noted United Nations skeptic who said that it does not really exist.

Political cards on the table: I voted for Joe Biden, and I'm happy with him. And while I'm a gun rights proponent - if the Second Amendment didn't exist, we'd need to invent it - I recognize both the need for and constitutional legitimacy of gun legislation, which shouldn't be set in stone as our society evolves.

But intellectual and moral integrity demands that if I call an opponent out for their misbehavior, that I also call out allies for the same behavior. Calling out misbehavior only on one side is worse than hypocritical: it undermines trust in the political system, and encourages further distorted value judgments.

And humans are great at distorting value judgments when emotions are involved. From the most basic arguments all the way up to the most complex adjudication of fact and law, our moods and emotions affect whether we judge something to be true or false.

In a way, we should expect this: researchers like Antonio Damasio have shown that rational decision making breaks down in people whose emotions are impaired, because the value judgments provided by our emotions are necessary for making mental decisions.

But a functioning emotional system can also lead us astray: emotions can impair our judgments. Studies show we're more likely to screw up simple if-then syllogisms if they're emotionally charged. Even judges, trained to be impartial, are more likely to make mistakes with legal arguments on "hot" political topics.

Heightened emotion distorts perceptions, leads us to attribute our feelings to arbitrary targets we come across, and reduces self-control - precisely what you don't want to have in someone who needs to make impartial decisions about something, and precisely what you do have in the person of a political activist.

Now, I'm not questioning Chipman or Bolton's integrity (Pruitt's lack of integrity is well documented, down to his sound-proof booth), or Chipman or Bolton or Pruitt's patriotism, or their expertise. But all three of them are interested enough in the areas they later oversaw to have gone into them as opponents.

In our public life, there is politics, and there is civics, and the two should not mix. Politics literally means deciding how to allocate scarce resources, and it is right and expected for us to dive in rough and tumble to ask for what we want - a participatory political system grants moral authority to a government.

But government's purpose is to bring the use of force under rational control, and more broadly, to allocate resources correctly when policy has been made. Inevitably, decisions will need to be made on matters of fact at an agency - and a political partisan can be trusted to screw them up even if they're trying not to.

When a partisan appoints a opponent of something to oversee it, the person that they've appointed will, very likely, whether they want to or not, "lean their hand on the till" to make things come out for their own partisan ends - meaning they will, sooner or later, fail in their civic duty to make an honest decision.

If you're passionate about something, you might feel that it's all right to put a partisan in charge of it,  because then you'll get what you want. But that's evil, on two grounds - first of all, because you are subverting the political process to get a result through the back door that you can't through the front.

But more importantly, impartial decisions will need to be made - and by putting a partisan in charge, you're explicitly hoping for them to make a wrong decision to help implement your political desires. Tyrants, bigots and the corrupt throughout history have employed the same tactic. Stop doing it.

Regardless of our political desires, we need to step back and decouple our understanding of people into (at least) two parts: their politics, and their competence. If their political orientation isn't a direct conflict of interest for to the matter at hand, their basic competence is the primary qualification for doing the job.

I was happy when Trump picked Bolton as National Security Advisor: whether I agree with their politics or not, Bolton had the experience to do the job and the attitude towards the job to do it right. Bush should never have appointed Bolton to the UN: even when he made the right decisions, we couldn't trust them.

I might not have agreed with Scott Pruitt politically, but as a lawyer and state Senator, he was well qualified to be Attorney General of Oklahoma. It was morally wrong for Donald Trump to appoint a climate change denier to lead the EPA, and, predictably, that led to Pruitt lying about climate issues.

I thank David Chipman for his service at the ATF, and would approve of his nomination to another agency. But the moment that he joined a political movement against guns, he disqualified himself from overseeing gun law enforcement, and if confirmed, he will inevitably make some serious mistakes.

-the Centaur

Pictured: Chipman, Pruitt, Bolton

VAC-CI-NATE! (and Drawing Every Day #103, and Camp Nano …)

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vac-ci-nate

So! I got my first shot today, and other than a little arm soreness, a headache which may or may not be related, and some tiredness which may just be because it's 3:21am, I have not yet had any ill effects. I was totally lied to by my album covers though, and have not been able to hack into Bill Gates' secret global network through the tiny implanted computer chip in the vaccine, maybe because neither exists.

centaur, vaccine 1

Ouch. First picture failed for some reason, so we get this charming shot of the needle coming OUT rather than going in. But it didn't really hurt at all, maybe because I was fiddling with my camera. Our Dalek friend below is proud that he was able to contribute his catchphrase to our cause:

dalek toy

~500 words on Camp Nano, still behind, but I am too wiped to write more.

Drawing, writing, being a good citizen every day.

-the Centaur