I Love Webcomics

SickWatch 2014:  Minor overall improvements in Patient Zero; however cough and sore throat intensifying by the day. Infection has been transmitted to husband, hereafter known as Patient One. No end in sight. Send soup and crackers but do not make contact. Subjects likely contagious and certainly cranky.

I don’t remember when/how I discovered webcomics, or which was my First. I know I read through the entire archives of Between Failures at some point early in college, and I remember being devastated around that same time to discover Daisy Owl was no longer updating. A good friend of mine definitely introduced me to Dresden Codak at some point and it’s still one of my favorites.

However I got into webcomics, I’m super glad that I did. I was obsessed with comic strips when I was a kid. I dove into the Sunday paper each week for the two-page color funny pages, and I read the dinky little black-&-white page almost every day. I even read the weird narrative strips like Mark Trail and Prince Valiant, which… why? Why would I do that? They’re terrible. We got all the collection books of Calvin & Hobbes and Foxtrot. My grandparents had dozens of old Peanuts paperbacks from when my dad was a kid, and I always flipped through them when I visited. (I recently inherited those when they cleaned out their Kid Stuff, score!)

But eventually I “outgrew” gag-style newspaper comic strips, and I thought my comic days were over. As far as I knew, my only other options were superhero comics, and I’m not interested in that genre, in general. Discovering a whole world of “grown-up” comics with varied art styles and no spandex was Earth-shattering for me! I don’t have time to read through archives anymore, but here are some of my favorites to keep up with, in no particular order…

Dresden Codak

Dark Science | Dresden Codak

Clip from Dresden Codak by Aaron Diaz

I mentioned this one earlier, and it deserves two mentions because folks, it is amazing. Aaron Diaz paints (digitally) his strips, with incredible attention to detail, and a grasp of anatomy, light, and character design that is absolutely stunning. (He posts about that stuff on his art blog, which is also a great read) Updates are slow coming but absolutely worth the wait. The content of the comic deals with fun sci-fi stuff like Mad Science and transhumanism, set in a silly sort-of-dystopia, where the cities are built on the bones of ancient monsters and no one remembers how to fix the robots. You can read the full Hob storyline, or start the current Dark Science story.

Nimona

Nimona #1

Clip from Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona is Noelle Stevenson’s (gingerhaze) latest award-winning project, which is currently appearing serially on her website and will be published by HarperCollins in 2015. The story centers on the villain Ballister Blackheart, and his teen shapeshifter sidekick Nimona. They have great plans to wreak havoc on the kingdom, and particularly on Ballister’s former friend and nemesis (and possible hair model), Goldenloin. But Ballister gets uncomfortable when Nimona turns out to be a little too effective at villainy. Noelle’s art is so incredibly charming, and the characters – both Good Guys and Bad Guys – are endearing and sympathetic. The comic started out lighthearted but it took a super dark turn and I’m on the edge of my seat for the next update!

Starslip

Starslip

Clip from Starslip by Kris Straub

Starslip is one of Kris Straub’s comics (he also does chainsawsuit and Broodhollow, which I’ve heard great things about but haven’t read – I do enjoy his chainsawsuit podcast with Mikey Neumann). It has concluded, so you can read the full run either online or in book form. It starts out as a silly adventure story about the curator of a museum spaceship and his less-than-civilized crew, but ends up as a complex time-travel romance. The art is pretty simple, but the story is anything but. If I had to choose a favorite completed comic, it would probably be Starslip.

Hark! A Vagrant

H!AV clip

Clip from Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Hark! A Vagrant is the oddball on this list because it’s not a story comic – just a collection of random (usually literary or historical) jokes drawn in Kate Beaton’s insanely charming style. I am seriously obsessed with the way she draws; such doodle-y, messy lines create such lifelike expressions! If you like what you see be sure to follow her (@beatonna) on Twitter, if only for her adorable family comics around the holidays.

Internet Travel Guide: 3-28-2014

The thing I remember best about successful people I’ve met all through the years is their obvious delight in what they’re doing and it seems to have very little to do with worldly success. They just love what they’re doing, and they love it in front of others.
Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers

Hat tip to my mom for this week’s quote; I love Mister Rogers. She and I went to DFW Fiber Fest to see Stephanie Pearl McPhee (the “Yarn Harlot“) speak. It was great! This lady has a super successful blog, has published 8 books – 2 of which were NYT best-sellers – and is now pretty famous (in very specific circles)… and this is all based on the fact that she is a very good knitter and is also Funny About Yarn. The world is a magical place, people.

Speaking of the world being magical and amazing… In the 1850’s, paleontologists found half of a giant sea turtle’s humerus. It was the only known fossil evidence of this species for 160 years, until an amateur fossil hunter recently found another partial humerus that appeared to be of the same species. Lo and behold, the new piece was not only from the same species of giant turtle… It was from the exact same giant turtle.

I think he looks like a Roscoe.

“Giant” is not an exaggeration, by the way. At least one 10-foot-long turtle existed at some point.

Giant turtles used to exist and sometimes their fossilized bones turn up centuries apart in perfect puzzle-piece segments and life is beautiful.

 

Overnight Cookie Dough Oats

Overnight Cookie Dough Oats | Plan to Eat

I’ve tried overnight oats before but was always pretty underwhelmed. I think the problem was previous recipes were using all/mostly yogurt and less sweetener, so it turned out really sour. This one uses mostly milk and includes chia seeds to help thicken it up. I didn’t have butter extract, I used white chocolate chips, and added a little cinnamon, so I can’t really verify if the original recipe tastes like cookie dough or not. Mine didn’t (maybe snickerdoodle cookie dough?) but it was delicious all the same!

Stuff I Ate Recently

I’ve been sick as a dog since Saturday, so let’s do a simple Pin round-up, shall we? Here’s some food I made recently.

Sausage, Pepper & Potato Bake:

Easy + Yummy = Perfection

Sausage, Pepper & Potato Bake | Smartter Each Day

As I said, I’ve been sick… really sick. I stayed home from work Monday and Tuesday and basically slept for 48 hours, and I’m just barely feeling human today. So when I say I made this last night, you know it was EASY. And it just so happened to also be super delicious! I didn’t have any sweet potatoes and it tasted great with just white potatoes, bell peppers, onion, and sausage. I bet you could throw in any kind of roasting vegetable you had on hand. Everything is yummy if you douse it in olive oil and roast it. Everything.

No-Bake Mock Reese’s

I die.

No-Bake Peanut Butter Bars | Rachel Cooks

These really are very similar to Reese’s… They’ve got Graham cracker crumbs in the PB part to give them that grainy Reese’s texture, which is pretty much spot-on. I think these are a little too indulgent for me, though (never thought I’d see the day). They are super, super rich and I don’t even want to think about how many calories are in a little square-inch piece. Don’t think I’ll be making these again. But we will happily polish off the batch we’ve got!

Beans and Cornbread

Om-nom-nom-nom-nom...

Beans and Cornbread | The Pioneer Woman Cooks

I got an inexplicable craving for that classic meal of Beans and Cornbread recently so I tried out the beans from this version, and they were exactly what the doctor ordered! If’n y’all want some damn fine pork n’ beans alongside yer cornbread what ya cooked up in that thur skillet, then boy-howdy this right ‘ere is how ya do it. *eye twitch* Sorry, I think the Texan side of me took over there, for a minute. The beans really were perfect; I added a few shakes of spices like chili powder, cumin, and I think some turmeric? Anyways, perfect. I didn’t use her cornbread, because I don’t do Crisco. I did this sourdough cornbread instead:

Sourdough Cornbread | The Pocket Farmer

I baked it in my cast iron skillet (which is the only way to bake cornbread), but the skillet was a little too big, so it came out really really flat. But definitely crispy and delicious! Comfort food success. You’ll hear more about the beans & cornbread once I get around to the big post about that time I went insane and baked all day. Good times.

Note: Why the heck is it impossible to embed Pins in WordPress? I tried doing it in the html editor and everything. There are so many tutorials that claim it’s really easy, but nothing’s working for me. Anybody know why mine’s not working?

Sick

I get sick all the time nowadays… Just constantly. Not sure what exactly happened in the past five years or so to devastate my immune system, but I seem to catch everything that’s going around. I developed some sort of sore throat / headache / sinus bullshit over the weekend, and it’s severe enough that I stayed home from work today.

I hate taking sick days. I don’t actually want to be at work, I just feel guilty, and I worry that my boss thinks I’m faking. Paradoxically, on the (very rare) occasions in the past that I have “called in” without being actually sick, I feel totally fine about it. Sometimes you need a Mental Health Day and you return afterwards happier and much more productive. But on days like today – when I’m actually physically ill and probably contagious – I feel like a terrible, lazy person for staying home.

Last night, as it became increasingly apparent that I was not going to be working today, I compiled a mental list of stuff I could get done at home. (That’s my consolation for missing work, usually – I am often insanely productive when left alone in a messy apartment feeling “lazy” because I’m considerate enough to not become the office Typhoid Mary). I was going to exercise, go grocery stopping, start house hunting, sign up for defensive driving, get some solid work done on my Big Creative Project, and finally put away the Christmas decorations (yes, I know it’s March. At least I took the holiday wreath off the door. Last week.). 
 
Unfortunately, I ended up sleeping until noon, stumbling around just long enough to make coffee, finishing The Fifth Element on my DVR, and then alternating between reading and falling back asleep on the couch for most of the day. I’m still in my PJ’s. I never even showered.
 
The obvious problem with trying to catch up on a sick day is – of course – that you are sick. 
 
On the bright side, from the time I started feeling bad (Saturday evening) to now I did start & finish both Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half and Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which were excellent and had been sitting around unread for months. I guess waiting until I feel awful to binge-read as much as possible is better than never reading at all.
 
Note: The text got stuck in italics halfway through and I don’t know why and I am too sick and pitiful to fix it. Please disregard the apparent gravitas of these words.
 
Other Note: Oh, apparently it didn’t. It just appears in italics in the post editor even though it is not. I actually want these notes to be italicized and I can’t make that happen either. Am too sick and pitiful to be very annoyed by this, or by the random extra line breaks that seem to be showing up everywhere.
 
Last Note: The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you get to Amazon through one of those links and then buy anything, I get a small percentage. This doesn’t cost you any more; it’s just a bonus for me.

Internet Travel Guide: 3/21/2014

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”

~Rabindranath Tagore

I made this Greek Chicken Salad last weekend and it is AMAAAAAAZING. I added some shredded cabbage for crunchiness. Delish.

Kitchen Scraps You Can Regrow with Nothing But Water | Lifehacker

This seems like a fun kitchen experiment on Lifehacker – kitchen scraps that you can regrow in water. You certainly can’t do this indefinitely but it might work okay for double-lettuce or whatever. Or I bet you could put these same things in soil for even better results. As you may remember, my love for free/recycled plants has been previously documented! (Every single plant featured in that post is now long dead, by the way. Oops.)

This week in Reverse Psychology News: simply giving yourself the option of doing nothing could make you more likely to achieve your goals. The idea is that people are more dedicated to their commitments if they feel like they were truly free when they made the decision.

You know what I don’t miss about my first job? CONFERENCE CALLS. Conference calls are the actual worst. They’re like meetings, but even less productive. This video imagines – with uncanny accuracy – what it would be like if conference call annoyances happened IRL.

Scratch Paper

"I get the chair because I'm cooler. Definitely too cool to sit in it correctly."

Doodle Location: General school notebook, says “age 11”

I’ve always drawn all over any available surface, almost involuntarily. I doodle to keep my hands busy while my brain is somewhere else, like in class or a meeting, and I’ve found it actually helps me concentrate. I often end up with drawings that are super interesting and/or weird, I guess because I’m just pulling directly from my subconscious without thinking too hard about it. Some of my favorite worlds and characters originated in the margins of school notes.

IMG_1779

IMG_1777

The "Doodlebugs" were recurring characters

Doodle Location: 6th grade Pre-Algebra homework; my teacher called me a “doodlebug” and so I created these little guys for her and she wrote notes to me about them when she graded my work. Mrs Brogniez was awesome 🙂

For that same reason, though, I tend to be super uncomfortable when people notice that I’m drawing and want to see. My absentminded doodles are dumped out onto the page with no filter, and they feel a lot more personal than my more structured work.

Young Amy wasn't a morning person, either.

Doodle Location: middle-school history notebook; I had a whole cast of pig characters at one point

Plus, when people get all gushy about little scribbles that I expended almost no effort on, I feel uncomfortable and sort of guilty about it. I’m terrible at accepting praise for stuff that I slaved over, much less random doodles that I’ll toss in the recycling bin on my way out the door.

Probably not the most flattering portraits

Doodle Location: Conference for my first job at a hotel; I was drawing my coworkers from life (stealthily)

Does that sound arrogant or just crazy? Oh, woe is me, people like the things that I draw. I know that’s a stupid thing to be uncomfortable about but I’m a shy person and a terrible perfectionist with this weird Puritanical work ethic that makes me hate being rewarded for anything unless I worked my ass off for it. I have no idea why. I’m working on it.

MY DOCTOR

Doodle Location: Cut out of a blank page in the class materials from Green Belt training at my first job (Quality science, not martial arts. My job was not that exciting)

 Anyways, I usually just toss my drawings without a second thought, but occasionally I see the nugget of a character or a story or a world that’s interesting, and that I’d like to flesh out. So I tear it out of whatever work-related document I’m defacing and stuff it in my pocket. Point is, I tend to accumulate a bunch of terrible scratch paper with drawings that I love on them. Almost every early drawing in the big stack I took from my parents’ house is on notebook paper. More recent doodles from work are on the backs of engineering drawings, or sticky notes, or receipts.

These ladies are awesome; I want to tell their story so bad! Someday I totally will.

Doodle Location: Work notebook; drawn while waiting for a big Solidworks file to load.

So I’ve got all these drawings floating around in my life, and I rarely actually do anything with them. I have a lot of ideas, generally, for stories or more formal art pieces that never come to fruition, so this accumulation of scratch paper sort of mirrors the accumulation of “scratch ideas” in my brain. Only so many hours in a day, and I waste far too many of them.

She was so cute, seriously. She looked like a Pixar character.

Doodle Location: The back of a Which Wich receipt; our cashier was so uniquely adorable that I had to draw her immediately

One cool thing about my collection of doodles that I hadn’t thought about before today, is that I remember roughly where I was, what I was doing, and how I was feeling when I drew them. I guess they’re sort of like a diary that way. I know some people keep picture diaries for that reason, but I’ve never been able to get into the habit of carrying a sketchbook around with me. I guess my picture diary is just really disorganized.

Three pretty people

Doodle Location: Team meeting either right before or right after I gave two weeks’ notice at my first job; I was… pretty thoroughly checked out of this meeting

Maybe I’ll figure out some sort of system someday. Until then I’ll just keep finding strange things shoved into pockets and purses.

The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home is my favorite

Doodle Location: Work notebook; waiting for another big Solidworks file to load while listening to the Welcome to Nightvale podcast

Distinguished Motorcycle Gentleman

Ever have those days where you’re just not running on all cylinders? I don’t know what it was today but I just never fully woke for some reason. Spent all day on a super simple project at work because I kept doing stupid stuff and having to backtrack. Frustrating for me and also, I’m sure, for my boss who ambushed me with the project before I even sat down this morning and probably thought it would be done in a few hours. Long, long day.

All this to say, I’d planned on big ol’ narrative post about some Intense Kitchen Shenanigans that I got up to this weekend but it is just not gonna happen. Time to veg out and watch The Voice and work on my cross-stitch and maybe my brain will reboot.

WIP

In other news, on the way home I saw a man with a long beard riding a motorcycle wearing all-black and A TOP HAT. It somehow makes me feel better about life that this dude is ridin’ around, doing his thing. Ride on, Distinguished Motorcycle Gentleman. Ride on.

Ride into the sunset, your top hat silhouetted as you pass into unseen lands; gone, but not forgotten. Never forgotten.

Related note: what does a motorcycle look like? I obviously have no idea.