Friday, January 27, 2006

Sketchy Studios Presents,,

... alright, I did a few more drawings of the little goldfish from yesterday's post. I repeated the whole process of coloring them in Freehand and made workable frames in Photoshop. Next, I used Jasc's (now owned by Corel) Animation Shop to put those frames together and produce an AVI file. The final production step involved converting the AVI file to an MPeg and publishing it on the web. To see the short cartoon, click on the icon below.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sketch-book Thursday: A Doodle Transformed

... this drawing started as a doodle I scribbled on a sheet of ordinary printer paper while I was online, downloading a movie. After scanning it into my laptop, I cleaned it up in Photoshop, saved it, and took it to the Macromedia Freehand program to color. Once I was satisfied with it, I worked on it in Corel's Photo-Paint program.

... I've done some other artwork related to fishkeeping,including having simple black and white sketches published on the cover of a montly newsletter of a "fish club" in Denver, Colorado. I also won a logo design contest for The North American Discus Association's website. Click here if you want to view that logo.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Wednesday Linkage

... Okay, I am adding a new link to The Sneeze to my blogroll today. I found the site through another blog I visit, and when I started to read, I found myself chuckling. I like the creativity at "The Sneeze" and hope you will too..

Sunday, January 22, 2006

$$ Money, Money, Money $$

... I found this link about credit cards on a site I visit frequently. After reading it, I immediately checked my phone and utility bills, making certain they were up to date. Visit the link and, I guarantee, you will too!
... a couple of weeks ago, I was watching an episode of Boston Legal and lawyer Alan Shore (James Spader) agreed to represent his legal assistant in a case against a credit card company. Shore was at the top of his game when he told a grinning, smarmy credit card company advocate, "We also have saying in Massachuesett's: maybe you'll get horribly sick and die." While millions of people probably wanted to say the same thing to those advocates, especially after receiving their January statement, there is a more practical and productive solution to the increased minimum payments and hiked interest rates. The first step is cutting up the cards. The second step is calling the credit card company, telling them to stop accepting new charges on the account. The third step is making a sound plan to rid yourself of the debt.
... Early on, before these increases became a reality, Michelle Singletary, in an NPR interview, provided some of the soundest and most useful financial advice I've ever heard. Speaking about the importance and wisdom of reducing consumer debt (ie: credit card debt),Singletary provided a strategy for doing it, with links to websites to assist with the implementation of this strategy. I listened carefully as Michelle spoke, taking notes and jotting down the website URL's in a notebook. Later on, I visited those, taking a lot of notes again. Sharpening a #2 pencil, I put fresh batteries in the calculator and gathered together my notes, credit card statements, receipts, and paycheck stubs and began to put my plan together. It was implemented with the very next round of bills.
... involving a lot of hard work and sacrifice, the plan allowed me to pay off three credit card balances and a car loan while substantially lowering the amount owed on a fourth card. I was able to minimalize the effect and impact of the increases that came in January by being proactive. The final balance will be paid off shortly and the money I earn will truly be mine. This link will help anyone get started. It's never too late. And Michelle Singletary is now on my Christmas Card list !!

( listen to Michelle Singletary every Tuesday on NPR's "Day To Day" )

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Tank Update

... I spend more time involved with my fishkeeping hobby in the winter than in the warmer months. Inclement weather forces me to spend more time indoors and tinkering with my aquariums is a great alternative to stupid sitcoms and ridiculous reality shows. Last November, as the mercury began to fall and snowflakes started to fly, I began a project, turning the 90 gallon aquarium in my office into a show/display tank for fancy goldfish varieties.

... I chose fancy goldfish for several reasons, including their interesting shapes, bright colors, and peaceful dispositions. I learned from experience that a beautiful aquarium full of fish, grabs a visitor's attention faster, and hold it longer, than any television program. As this project progressed, I found my skills, abilities, and knowledge being challenged in multiple ways. This was a surprise since the prevailing view seemed to be that goldfish "are just carp". I spent some time and energy "fine tuning" the system in order to get to the point where minimal intervention and maintenance is required.
... Mechanically, things were "give and take". I had hoped to be able to keep from installing a heater, but the winter cold caused the water temperature to flucuate and stress the fish. Among my supplies, I had a brand new 250 watt submersible Ebo Jager heater, completely capable of maintaining a constant 74 degree water temperature at minimal expense. It will control this variable until the cold weather passes. The filtration requirements changed next. I was able to completely eliminate the Millenium 1000 power filter I was running. This filter created a strong current in the water that, again, stressed the fish as they constantly fought the current or sought out hiding places where they could rest. As soon as the goldfish realized the water was no longer a raging whitewater river, they came out of hiding and floated around the tank, visible for a change. I kept the HOT Magnum micron filter to polish the water and remove floating debris. It is a filter that, while very effective, requires more frequent maintenance. Fortunately, the maintenance is easy and doesn't require much time to do. The final mechanical change is the most dramatic and involves the bio-filter. I noticed a white cloudiness to the water, indicative of increased ammonia levels. Several of the fish were developing fin rot and two of the telescope eye Black Moors had a white fungal coating on their eyes. I didn't need to do any water tests to know what was wrong. I immediately changed about 50% of the water and exchanged one of the sponge filters for a larger version. This sponge, although dry, had once been used in another tank and contained the necessary cysts (shells) of aerobic bacteria. It would "revive" in days, repopulating its porous surface with ammonia converting, beneficial bacteria. At the same time, I repositioned the air pump, hanging it on the wall behind the tank in order to maximize the amount of air being pumped through the two sponges. A totally reactionary response, I lost a couple of nice fish that were weakened from the stress and ammonia spike. Almost immediately after these changes, the eyes of the afflicted Black Moor began to clear and all the fish are showing improvement. I am changing about 10 to 15 gallons of water a day to control water quality as the new sponge renews itself.
... amazingly, throughout the entire episode of "new tank syndrome" only one fish, a common orange fantail, showed no sign of stress at all. I will go as far as to say that this fish thrived and continued to grow while the inbred, genetically altered pearlscales, black moors, and orandas either suffered or died. Extend these findings into the natural world and one could possibly make a case for either evolutionists or intelligent design advocates.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Fat Bastard Syndrome

... I seem to have lost my inspiration. I believe it has something to do with the horrible cold I've been battling all week. There's just something about blowing your nose every 2 minutes and flushing away green mucous that resemembles gelatin, that kills creativity. During the trip up north last week, we stopped at one of those one stop,tourist trap gas stations to refuel. The place was probably one of the major employers in town. There was a huge gift shop that even included a clothing department. Fighting the urge to buy a "Bear Skin Rug" for just $29.99, I wondered how many of the local yokels received a ceramic Indian head sculpture (made in China, of course) or a "World's Best Grandpa" sweatshirt purchased there, for Christmas. The best part, however, were the two (knock-off) fast food franchise concessions in the back. My friend ordered a turkey sub from "Sub Central", but seeing the greasey haired employee sneeze and cough into her elbow, I headed over to "Papa Italy's" for a personal lunch size cheese and pepperoni. Imagine my surprise when the very same sniffling girl switched hats and rang up my order.
... I can never understand why sick people don't just stay at home and recuperate. Why do they insist on going out in public to expose everyone they come in contact with to the illness? If the "Bird Flu" gets to North America, this is how it will spread. Last January, I was working one night and approached a table of four, a family, that came in to eat. I set down the waters and asked if anyone would care for something besides water. Dad wanted a beer, the kids wanted 7-Up, and Mom, in a very raspy voice, sniffling, congested, and hacking as she wiped her nose, ordered hot tea, with lemon and honey . And more paper napkins.
"You're sick," I said. "You sound like you should be home in bed, resting,"
"I'll be fine," she said, mustering up that self pitying, I'm sick tone of voice.
I wanted to whack her on the head with my cocktail tray. Just one good, hard thump - not hard enough to knock her out, just hard enough to make her see stars for a minute or two. This woman obviously did not think, or care, about spreading her illness to the people she came in contact with and deserved the whack. Imagine her in the grocery store, the office, the mall, or car pool, spraying those germs all over the place with every sneeze, or, leaving her nose drippings on the U-Scan. And you are next in line, right behind her.
... I don't know of any employer who wants a sick employee working and infecting the rest of the staff. Even my boss will forego a doctor's note if he's certain you are truly ill. If it's about losing money while you're out sick, you have bigger problems than that cold, and, you should probably address them while you're at home getting well. Usually, however, it's about something else - a self-centered, selfish, lack of consideration for other people, otherwise known as Fat Bastard Syndrome.
... when the family with the sick Mom left the restaurant, I gingerly picked up the charge slip, noting that this woman carelessly left at least 5 wadded up napkins on the table, unconcerned that someone else had to clean up the biohazard she left. Maybe she deserved two good whacks.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ya Think?

...this one is for all my friends over at AAiO. In my opinion, it ranks right up there with Pope Benedict XVI's statement about Christmas and commercial pollution...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Road Trip !

Q: what does a "true northerner" do when he is sick of the gray, dismal days of winter?
A: a "true northerner" heads even further north into the land of snow and cold. Maybe there will even be some sunshine up there!

Sketchy is heading out of town and taking a road trip with a very dear friend today. He leaves you with this for a little fun and entertainment. Have fun!

P.S. yes, I am taking along a digital camera and a digital video recorder to document the journey!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Pomme du Terre

...somebody inspired Sketchy to post about food, virgin (yet familiar) territory for this blog.

... if we lighten our load in 2006 and leave anything back in 2005, Sketchy hopes it is the "low carb/high protien" diet fads like Atkins and South Beach. For one thing, I'm tired of typing "no pot/add veggies" into the computer, under "special prep", with 90% of my orders. I'm also tired of being asked if the restaurant carries "Splenda" besides the regular sugar, Sweet 'n Lo, and Equal . And filling water glasses 3 and 4 times, just so an old man can wash down a hefty portion of blanched vegetables he is obviously not enjoying, is simply annoying and time consuming. Like the commercial says, a baked potato contains no fat and a measly 100 calories, as long as you don't dress it with 3 tablespoons of butter and smother it with sour cream. Top that potato with a mild salsa if you want nice flavor! I have more bad news for you, that barbeque sauce that pulled pork is swimming in contains enough sugar to sweeten the Olympic size pool at the new YMCA. You might as well stop worrying about scaping it off the bun. And stop picking those croutons off your salad too, the low fat dressing is loaded with sugar too. How do you think the manufacturer makes it taste good and gets you to eat it, while using an overprocessed oil? They add lots and lots of super-concentrated sugar. Sketchy should work for the Idaho Potato Advisory Council.
... Sketchy often preheats his tiny oven to 350 F and tosses in a nice sized Idaho Russet to bake. Besides making a nice dinner, the oven heats the apartment, negating the need to turn up the thermostat. Once soft, he cuts it open, fluffs it, and adds some cooked chicken, ham, or roast beef. Topping it with about two tablespoons of grated colby/jack cheese, it goes back into the oven until the cheese melts and the meat is warmed sufficiently. Crowned with a nice salsa, it is a tasty and filling dinner.

Monday, January 02, 2006


... surfing the blogs late at night, Sketchy came across this announcement.

Ann Arbor blogger meetup
Tuesday, January 10, 2006 (7:00 PM)
Leopold Brothers
523 S. Main St. Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
Ann Arbor area bloggers will be getting together to drink beer, find out who is behind what domain name, and talk about politics, urban planning, tech, music & everything else people blog about.

By the time I finished jotting the pertinent information in my day planner, the notice, and accompanying editorial comment, dissappeared, leaving Sketchy scratching his head in wonder and uttering an audible, "Huh, what the ....?" Tonight the announcement resurfaced. And again, there was an editorial comment carrying the same basic message, however the rant was toned down - considerably. Sketchy didn't/doesn't have a problem with the post, either in its original or modified form, it's simply someone else's opinion. Sketch will form his own opinions after attending the meetup. Sketchy does, however, feel like he has something for the author to consider, or perhaps, reconsider.
...although I've never set foot inside Leopold Brothers, I did sample a bottle of their beer once. It was good too, and getting a fresh drawn draft is reason enough to make the trip. As for meeting the other bloggers, this will be my first "meetup". It makes me a "wildcard". But, I can think of at least two or three bloggers that I really enjoy reading on a regular basis, and not being the shy type, I won't hesitate to tell them that I like their content. Generally speaking, a positive and sincere compliment is usually a pretty good way to start a worthwhile conversation. I can talk tech and politics and I'm quite confident that my musical preferences will be a whole lot different than others in attendence. And I certainly know Ann Arbor well enough. In fact, I know Ann Arbor well enough to know that The Eight Ball Saloon is a rat's nest. I know that the bartenders there could benefit from a Techniques of Alcohol Management Seminar, and, that the bouncers seem to take special glee in bouncing an intoxicated patron's head off the pavement after their bartenders overserve them. I also know that nasty smelling beer soaked carpet sticks to the soles of your shoes as you walk, that there's a very good chance the idiot next to you at the horse trough urinal is going to miss the blue cookie by the drain and pee all over your shoes, and that "getting lucky" at The 8 Ball means going home alone. The place is like the continuation of the high school "basement" party your friend had when his parents went away on vacation. The pool room is a sausage festival, the blasting jukebox convienently overrules any hope of talking to any female, and if you're over 30 years old, you seriously need to examine the reasons why you enjoy the place and what you are getting out of that type of atmosphere.
... so on Tuesday, I'll leave my $1,500 laptop at home but I will bring my nifty little 5 megapixel, mpeg4 video camera to record soused bloggers trying to pronounce the mayor's name correctly. If I listen, I might learn something about urban planning. Maybe I'll just find another nice spot to enjoy a cold pint of beer, or meet another neighbor and make a new friend, enjoy a conversation, or walk out feeling a little bit more "at home" and more a part of the community that is Ann Arbor. After all, this is what I left "The Hills" of Oakland County for. To me, it's worth the effort.