Sunday, January 26, 2014

Geek Speaking of Doctor Dolittle's Whovian Collection

Geek Speak: Home at Last

I remember watching Doctor Dolittle as a kid in the same vague, conceptual way that you know you were once a two-year-old tearing around the house and driving your parents bananas. When I talk about remembering Doctor Dolittle I am, of course, referring to the original film starring Rex Harrison as the titular physician. My sibs and I must have watched that movie a dozen times, but I can recall only a few vague things. It seems like I thought Doctor Dolittle dressed funny. There was a scene at some point in the movie where Dolittle is making funny noises through a megaphone that he's floated on the surface of the ocean, and for some reason I remember him talking to a giant snail. 

It doesn't surprise me all that much that I don't remember much of the film. I was very young and my attention span was about what you would expect for that age group. What surprises me is that my brother and sister and I were able to sit through the movie even once, much less repeat viewings. Just to refresh my memory before posting this I pulled it up in Netflix and happened to glance at the running time. The original Rex Harrison film is two-and-a-half hours of an Englishman in goofy turn of the century clothes running around making burping sounds at trained animals. That's in the same general ballpark as the running time of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Admittedly there's more activity in Doctor Dolittle and the musical numbers are better. I still wonder how my parents managed to get me to sit through 146 minutes of movie. They must have drugged my juice.

We're going to be leaving Ted and Francis for a while after this. I have a few one-off strips I want to do, then it's back to some of our recurring characters.

Knock, Knock; Whovian's There?

When my son was born he was a few weeks early so he was required to spend some time in the neo-natal intensive care unit, NICU ("nick-you") for short. That it would cost us more as a result was something my wife and I knew without being told. What we didn't realize was five days in the NICU would effectively double the cost of our son's birth. The delivery itself was paid for by the time we left the hospital. The NICU stay, however, is another thing.

Around the same time I changed jobs, and there was a period of being between jobs where I didn't have any income. Money was tight. Between the holidays and no income we barely squeaked through the month of December and made rent for January. The hospital bill slipped as a result, and we received a letter from collections.

I'm not proud of it, but it happened, and it was something that needed to be addressed before our account went to an agency and caused our credit to be righteously screwed. To ensure that didn't happen I called the hospital's billing department and was put through to a lady to discuss our account.

The funny thing about being a fan of science fiction, and naming a child after a character in the long running British series Doctor Who is that you have a built in ice-breaker with other fans of the series. It's been long enough now since that phone call that I couldn't tell you how the subject came up, but while we were discussion my past-due account we also started talking about my son's name and where it had come from.

I asked the nice lady on the other end of the phone if she was familiar with Doctor Who.

"Oh, my yes," she said, and though I couldn't see her face I could almost hear her beaming, "I love that show. I've watched ever since it was in black and white."

I explained that my son is named for one of the characters and the actor who played him.

"Oh that's lovely," she said in a tone of matronly indulgence, "that show has been on for a long time hasn't it?"

Of course I agreed and said it had been on for fifty years. She joked, as people from her generation will, about how that dates her, and I laughed with her.

Eventually we conducted the business that had been the reason for my call. We managed to pull my account back from the brink of falling into collections, made arrangements to pay on a monthly cycle, and we parted on friendly acquaintance through a shared appreciation of a (if I'm honest) somewhat goofy British Sci-Fi drama.

When I spoke with Mildly Sensational afterward there was silence on the other end of the phone.

"How," she said and I could all but hear her hands being thrown in the air out of exasperation, "HOW do you do it?"

I really don't know. If it means getting exactly what I need at a critical moment, I'm not going to question it. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Geek Speaking of Heroic Random Trek

Geek Speak - Heroic Poser

I don't know if I'm in love with these names, but I'm officially going with Ted and Francis for these characters. They were going to need names eventually, but I couldn't settle on one that A.) I liked, and B.) didn't sound like I was lifting it from another (perhaps better) comic. With no better options presenting themselves I have arrived at Ted for the guy who talks to animals and Francis for Captain Dum Dum. To be honest I do think Francis is a funny name for a superhero.

The process of completing the finishing work on these strips using Sketchbook Pro seems to be getting easier, though it does still take more time than if I were to do it by hand. On this strip I think it helped to do the finishing work using a brush with settings I had customized. Tweaks to the brush settings produced the cleanest lines I've made in Sketchbook Pro yet.

From the moment I created these characters I knew they were going to be roommates. The struggle was to find a reason for them to stay together. Every time I imagined Ted talking about his crazy superhero roommate, who also happens to be dumber than a bag of hammers, the only response that made any sense was, "Why don't you move?" If they're brothers it solves the "Why does Ted stay?" problem and it raises the stakes in the relationship. Me likey high stakes. They make for good comedy.

Star Trekking
A few times before our son was born my wife and I left our daughter in the capable hands of friends who volunteered to watch her, and went out on a date night. We didn't really deviate from dinner and a movie for our date night activities, but getting time together without the offspring is such a rare opportunity we weren't going to let a lack of originality be an obstacle to our enjoyment.

Our first dinner and a movie date was to see Star Trek: Into Darkness, which I covered in an earlier post.
It may come as a shock, but I really like Star Trek. I can barely remember a time that I didn't enjoy taking an hour or two to sit down and watch some episodes of Star Trek, Star Trek: the Next Generation, or one of the many movies (though some are better than others). I've even enjoyed several of the Star Trek novels. Every time [insert your favorite captain here] gives the order to go to warp speed and the action cuts away to an exterior shot of the Enterprise as its powerful engines send the ship hurtling off into the stars I get a small thrill.

My lifelong love of all things Trek can be easily traced back to my grandfather on my dad's side, a man I grew up calling Grandpa. He had an incredibly active and inventive mind and was constantly tinkering with things. His life was amazing. He was born in the early 1900s, moved with his family to Alaska long before it was made a state, became an airplane mechanic and pilot with is brother and flew charter passengers into South America, he was in the Alaskan Guard (not the mainland U.S. army) in World War II, and the list goes on from there.

Here's the thing, I was born in the late 70s, and he was already, admittedly, an old man by then. We were products of radically different worlds. He was one of the greatest generation, and I am marginally Generation X. His is the generation of flight, the space race, and many of humanity's landmark achievements. Mine is the generation of video games and MTV. Any chance of us finding something in common was pretty remote.

Then he introduced me to Star Trek, and we found it.

We would talk for hours about all things Trek. The movies, the shows, the latest episode of Star Trek, the Next Generation. He would tape episodes of the original series off of the TV and give them to me on VHS (these were the days before DVD, never mind DVR). I would watch them over, and over, and we would talk about them. He had a bookshelf full of Star Trek novels, and I read many of them.

We were Trekkers. Across a rift of years that constituted not one, but two generations the bridge of the starship Enterprise brought us together. I can't watch any Star Trek now without thinking of him, and how much I miss being able to share it with him. It's a bittersweet thing, but it's very special to me. 

Monday, January 06, 2014

Random Dumping of Dragon Coffee

Random Thoughts

Grapefruit is yummy...that is all.

We have to keep two boxes of Trader Joe's version of Cheerios™ in the house at all daughter is a cereal killer.

Sketch Dump, some stuff I've Been Drawing

There have not been a lot of updates to the "Geek Speak" chronicles as I go through the spastic gyrations of trying to settle into both a new baby routine and a new the same time. It should never be said that I ever did anything fucking halfway. 


My pencil has not been sitting idle (I know how that sounds, moving on...perverts). I've been drawing quite a bit. Especially in the waning days of my time at SADA Systems, Inc. I can finally give a name to the company where I spent the last almost eight years, as I no longer work for them I don't really fear much in the way of reprisal. As the days wound down to my final departure there was less and less for me to do as my job duties were picked up by others, so I found a lot of extra time for drawing. Though, I won't be posting any of those here today. I am a tease.

I give you two of my recent drawings. 

Here I give you the Terrible Terror, one of the dragons that can be found in the forests and hills of the island of Berk. My daughter has fallen ponytails-over-tiny-pink-crocs in love with Dreamworks Dragons: Riders of Berk, and its follow up series, Defenders of Berk. The shows are pretty much what they sound like; a television spin-off of How to Train Your Dragon. My wife and I both really enjoy the show, but not nearly with the all consuming passion of an enraptured not-quite-three-year-old. To earn some cool daddy points (and because I really do like the show) I decided I should start trying to learn to draw the various dragons presented in the story. 

It's not really a secret that I love coffee. I can take that something of a step further and say it might ruin me if I were ever forced to give up sipping that sweet nectar of the morning. I've given up smoking, and that was tough but went ok. I still drink, but I've long since given it up as a daily ritual, and I think I could stop drinking entirely and it would be ok after a short period of sucking. 

The same cannot be said of coffee. I tried to go cold turkey once. I turned into something like Mr. Hyde meets Officespace. When I realized I was being an irritable jerk I broke down and poured myself a cup of Arabica Bliss. I found a pair of rose colored glasses in the bottom of that brew and my day turned right around. 

For all that I love coffee I am something of a caffeine lightweight. I can only drink coffee within a narrow range of potency. I need something between a medium and dark roast. Too light, and I shuffle around like the undead. Too strong and the results are...entertaining, if not pretty. 

If anyone is interested, the best way I've found to get coffee that is just right for me is to combine Trader's Joe's house brand coffee "Joe: Medium Roast" with their house brand dark roast "Joe's Dark." I use equal portions of whole beans and shake them in a container to make sure they're well distributed. Then I grind them together myself (until I burned out my coffee grinder, but my birthday is coming up (hint hint)) and make coffee as usual. 

The result is a brew that's stronger and more flavorful than a medium roast, but not as bitter as a dark roast. It's a nice balance in terms of its caffeine content. It gets me going better than a medium roast, but doesn't make me shaky, queasy, and weird like a dark roast. 

I think I should put this one on a t-shirt. 

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Random Geek Speaking of Hobos Moving Up

Random Thought
One of the lessons I've learned as the father a brand new baby boy is this: when changing a boy's diaper don't bend too far over the changing table, and for the love of God keep your mouth closed. I didn't have to learn this the hard way, fortunately. All I needed was to see my son demonstrate his "golden fountain" technique a couple of times.

Geek Speak: Hooch for Hobos

It's been a while since I've posted, so I understand if this strip doesn't make a lot of sense as the context has gotten a little stale. To refresh everyone's memory, or for those coming to this for the first time, here are the several strips leading up to the one I posted today:

Wow. I've been milking this gag for a while. Not much longer, though. There are two more in this series, then I'll take a little break from the regular characters and post some one off jokes before starting up a new mini-arc.

The Delay in posting strips was the result of a number of things, the most significant of which was the birth of my son. I talk about that in another post so I won't go into it too much more, here. In addition to the birth of my son I also left my job of more than seven years for a new position, which I talk about in more detail below. Throw the holidays on top of the rest of it, and it's actually amazing that I managed to complete the finishing work on today's comic strip.

With so much happening in the last few months I'm hoping 2014 is a year of relative peace and stability. I've had enough life altering changes for a while, though I'll probably explore that a little more in another post.

Moving On...Moving Up?
On Friday the 13th of December I left my position as a project manager with the company for which I had worked for more than seven years. My departure marks the end of what is far and away the longest single stretch of time I've spent with any one company.

There is an odd, even portentous symmetry to my departure. When I started at my last job my first day was June 6th, 2006 (6/06/06). My last day at the same job was December 13th, 2013 (12/13/13). Perhaps a numerologist could tell me what, if any, significance this has to my current job prospects. Short of consulting one I'm going to interpret it as I'm leaving at a time that is right for me.

In my new position I will be working for a Fortune 500 company as a project coordinator with other project managers. The new company is very recognizable, but (for obvious reasons) that is about as specific as I can be here.

The first couple of weeks have been slow, which is understandable. Christmas and New Year's are a weird time to start a new job anywhere. Right now I have a new email address, a Microsoft Lync ID, a network password, and a computer. All that's missing now is someone to install the Windows image on the laptop I've been issued and I'll be off to the races.

Two weeks in the change is still both terrifying and exciting. Though for the first time in longer than I care to discuss I'm actually looking forward to going to work in the morning.