OK, I’m officially lodging a complaint against Mother Nature

I know, complaining about the weather (over which I have no control, at least to my knowledge) is dumb and pointless, but when I looked at the 10-day forecast this morning and saw eight days of everything from “light rain showers” to “heavy rain”, with a mere two days of “mostly sunny” in the middle (which will probably change to “light rain” in the next day or so), I felt I had to…post this.

On the plus side, this will prevent local forest fires, which we don’t really get, because the lower mainland (Metro Vancouver to outsiders) is not exactly covered in forest to begin with. It also means fewer incidents of skin cancer, since no one is going to be working on a tan, except possibly those two “mostly sunny” days (which are a lie, anyway).

On the other plus side (I’m trying to stay positive here), maybe instead of a scorching dry hot summer, it will merely be pleasant and mild and people will wake up every morning and feel refreshed and filled with joy, and return to a nice cool bedroom in the evening feeling the same.

Or you know, we could get maybe another sunny day sometime so I remember what they feel like. I’m just saying. (It’s raining steadily as I type this.)

Obligatory GIF:

A flower on Fader Street

We are in the midst of a rainy stretch here (boo1Yes, boo, not “But at least it means fewer forest fires because the forest fires happen up north, not in the Lower Mainland. People here just grumble when it rains in summer or summer-adjacent months, though admittedly it keeps the grass looking fresh and green.), so when I went for a walk yesterday, everything was rather damp, including this striking flower I shot on nearby Fader Street.

Shot on my increasingly aged but still perfectly capable iPhone 12

Angry Carrot vs. Quirky Bastards, Episode 6.5 redone!

Yes, this is a weird choice for updating the comic, a brief “Where are they now?” update I slapped together while I pondered where to take the comic (nowhere, ultimately!)

I got the idea to redo the strip because the original panels (as mentioned previously) are absurdly tiny on a typical widescreen monitor, at a mere 375 x 281 pixels.

It was a fun little experiment to modernize the comic, as I had to redo some of it from scratch and probably redid some of the panels significantly faster than originally when I handcrafted them from the chunky pixels and stone tools of 2002.

Angry Carrot vs. Quirky Bastards page to see the new and original versions of the episode.

The higher resolution gallery:

Notes on what I changed:

Globally:

- All panels increased to 1920x1440 resolution
- Main font changed from Verdana to Back Issues BB for a more comic book look
- Revised characters were drawn in Procreate on an iPad Pro
- Revised artwork, text and dialog balloons were added in Affinity Photo

Individually:

1. Completely redone.
2. Used screenshot taken from Diablo II: Resurrected.
3. Resized the dialog balloon to make it smaller. Painted over the old balloon, then copied and pasted parts of the background to better blend everything in. I was helped here by how crude and low resolution a blown-up image from Jedi Knight (1997) looks in 2024.
4. Found new still life for background, made the pepper look less still, more peppery, since that seemed a likely reason for him being fired. A “still” version of the pepper also exists in a hidden layer in the original Procreate sketch.
5. New background, new lighting effect added in Affinity Photo. Celery characters were traced over from the originals. Evil version has a tweaked goatee.
6. Changed GIANT Chinese Egg Attack!! to the less culturally insensitive GIANT Evil Egg Attack!! Redid the eggs to look angry/evil. Open mouths reveal yolk-filled innards.
7. Completely redone with new colour image of Freud (same pose) and new background.
8. Completely redone.
9. Completely redone.
10. Completely redone. Figures were traced from originals and refined a bit.
11. Completely redone.

I am planing to at least take another look at the high-resolution version of Episode 1 I also did recently, to see if I want to tweak that one (and maybe others) as well.

Google’s attempt to enrich Google through “AI”

I feel like “AI” always needs to be in quotation marks, because while it is clearly artificial, there is no apparent intelligence involved. It’s all just an elaborate guessing game based on a giant pool of answers that could be accurate, inaccurate, made-up, sarcastic, or some enticing combination.

Google is now rolling out an “AI Overview” in its search results, a furthering of its efforts to keep everyone on its search page (to show them ads and make $$$), with the side effect of killing off the rest of the web as all other sites slowly starve for traffic, revenue and everything else.

It is easy to find examples of this overview being hilariously and sometimes dangerously wrong. Google appears to be fixing the most egregious examples, no doubt by coming across them in their own searches and then fixing the results manually (ie. with an actual human). If this is their plan, they are going to need a lot of humans.

Here’s just one story from Ars Technica and one screenshot (below) illustrating the whole big pile of nonsense. I really don’t think this is going to improve over time in any significant way. Since this is Google, I’ll go further and say AI Overview could eventually end up in their graveyard along with the hundreds of other things they’ve killed.

GIGO

This may or may not conclude AI Week on the blog.

Run 864: Baby runner, Part 2

View from Cariboo Dam, pre-run

Whoops, it took me two weeks to do the second part of my split 5K. I think I am paranoid about the knees now. Or at least the right knee, aka The Bad Knee.

But today I went out and did the other 3K, and now my total run distance is a nice round number again, my OCD satisfied.

Also, my knees survived. As with the last time, it was more about the stamina and less about how my legs were doing. I started out with a fine pace of 5:42/km, then surprisingly maintained that pace for the second km, flagging a bit at the end at 5:51/km, for a still decent overall average of 5:46/km. I didn’t detect any issues while running, nor any immediately after, as I type this.

Conditions were very similar to two weeks ago, though there was a bit of puddle-dodging after it rained all day yesterday. It was once more an afternoon run, because I both hemmed and hawed before finally heading out. I was planning on taking the side trails and looping back on the main trail, but did the opposite because a person was jogging ahead of me, but was moving slower, so I knew I would pass her, but she was turning off onto the Spruce Loop and there were three people ahead of her, forming a big ol’ bottleneck. I opted to bypass the whole mess by sticking to the surprisingly free main trail.

I am doing weekday birding again on Friday, so unsure of the exact day I’ll head out next, but I’ll be doing a full 5K. We’ll see if my knees explode, implode, or just stay attached. For now, I am cautiously optimistic.

Shot from the starting location of the run. Squint and you can see the distant towers of Metrotown.

Stats:

Run 864
Average pace: 5:46/km

Training status: Maintaining
Location: Burnaby Lake (CCW, short loop)
Start: 2:54 p.m.
Distance: 3:03 km
Time: 17:28
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 16°C
Humidity: 57%
Wind: light to moderate
BPM: 153
Weight: 168.9
Total distance to date: 6195 km
Devices: Garmin Forerunner 255 Music, iPhone 12, AirPods (3rd generation)
Shoes: HOKA Speedgoat 5 (335/626/961 km)

It’s now AI week on the blog

This perfectly captures AI art1I edited out the site and author name to protect the, well, not innocent exactly. Let’s say the purveyors.:

I don’t believe I need to add any further comment to this, except this is how Diablo II (a game steeped in clichés and stereotypes) depicts an Amazon warrior:

They’re almost identical!12

Addendum: I did an image search for “Amazon warrior” and unsurprisingly, they are almost universally depicted as being Very Sexy Women in questionably appropriate combat garb. And probably drawn/inked/painted by men. But it’s AI Week on the blog, not Men and Why They Always Draw Women as Objects Ugh Men Week.

  1. Mmm, sarcasm ↩︎
  2. Also, this woman looks like she’s heading to the office (“I really hope they’re prepared for the meeting this time”), not to fight some battle. I mean, she’s dressed for battle. Maybe this is appropriate for the modern office. Who am I to say? ↩︎

Ed Zitron is zesty and as the kids say, I am here for it

Ed Zitron has a free newsletter called Ed Zitron’s Where’s Your Ed At, in which he goes into great detail about how terrible tech companies are. Or at least that’s what he’s been riffing on lately. And he doesn’t mince words when describing the villains of these pieces. The current newsletter as I write this is titled Sam Altman is Full of Shit.

Some might think he’s being overly dramatic with the way he describes the various players and manipulators, but in the current political space, it feels right to me–we need to push hard on this stuff, so the average person stirs out of their social media-induced slumber and realizes what is happening and maybe (maybe) begins to care a little about it. And then change can (or should) happen.

Here’s the full description from Ed’s About page in case you are curious about whom this guy is and why you might want to read what he has to say.

Who Are You, Exactly? And What Is This Newsletter?

My name’s Ed, I’m the CEO of national Media Relations and Public Relations company EZPR, of which I am both the E (Ed) and the Z (Zitron).

I host the Better Offline Podcast, coming to iHeartRadio and everywhere else you find your podcasts February 2024. (Editor’s note: Ed should probably update this, as it’s May 2024 as I type these words.)

I write about stuff that interests me – issues in society, primarily those surrounding tech, but occasionally move into other areas and more personal pieces depending on my mood. I try and write once a week.

I was previously a games journalist, writing for PC Zone, CVG, Eurogamer and others. I’ve been published in the Wall Street Journal, USAToday, TechCrunch, and named one of the top 50 PR people in tech four times. I’ve written two books, and you are welcome to learn more here.

I live and work out of Las Vegas, Nevada.

From the About page of Where’s Your Ed At

Check it out, but be prepared to rein in your OCD–his pieces run long, but those 20 minutes feel like they fly by for me.

Everything old is new again

In another case of nostalgia gone horribly weird, I’ve started perusing the old Angry Carrot vs. Quirky Bastards comics I did a quarter of a century ago and realized that the images are super tiny because back in 2000 everyone still had 15-inch monitors. Observe a random panel from Episode 6.5:

Squint to see the filly.

This shot is shown at its full resolution–a whopping 375×281 pixels. It’s like a Diablo II postage stamp.

I decided to super-size all the images to 1920×1440 using the Super Resolution™ feature in Pixelmator Pro for the main comic panels (which are 640×480, so large postage stamps) and it worked surprisingly well, even preserving the text balloons decently. But some have required more fiddling and none of these panels were made with fancy layer technology, so it’s a bit like fixing up an old painting–you need to be careful to not muck it up.

This is mucking it up.

What I have found is in some cases I need to actually redo pretty much the entire panel. For example, here’s the Diablo II panel above in its shiny new 2024 version:

Even shrunken down for the post, it’s still four times bigger than the original.

Upscaling the original panel looked grossbuckets. The shot above is from Diablo II Resurrected, which offers much better graphics than the original, though I could have toggled on the original 2000 era graphics for maximum fidelity, but that many giant pixels would look very chunky at 1920×1440. I also changed the font to one more befitting a comic. This means I have to change the font in every panel now. Whoops.

And while it’s a bit silly to go back and do all this work for something very few people will see, I’m enjoying it, and it’s fun to revisit the old comics and make them a little more presentable for our shiny modern age.

It was flavour blasted and I regret everything

These:

The BLASTED part is in reference to what it will do to your tongue if you eat more than one of them. Maybe if you eat only one of them. I was checking email this morning and wondering why my tongue felt weird, and then I remembered having a few of these last night–last night–and the damage lingers on the next day, the top of my tongue does indeed feel BLASTED.

Recommended, maybe as a science experiment, but not as food.

The 44th anniversary of Mt. St. Helens blowing its top

It happened on May 18, 1980. I was 15 years old and remember being up that Sunday morning and hearing the screen door at the front of the house rattling, which struck me as odd, as there was no wind. A few minutes later, the Seattle station KOMO-TV (Channel 4) broke into whatever show was airing with a Special Report (kids, ask your parents what Special Reports were), confirming the volcano had erupted. Later that summer, we travelled through parts of eastern Washington, and I was able to scoop up a jar of roadside ash and a piece of pumice that had been ejected. I thought they were extremely neat at the time.

Sadly, I don’t know where either went. I know the rock at least made it with me to Vancouver, but that was in 1986–only six years after the eruption. I suspect it just got lost in one of my many moves (it strikes me that my parents only moved twice after hitting their 20s, compared to the million or so times I did).

I always thought volcanoes were cool when I was a kid (along with the other usual suspects, like sharks, dinosaurs and roller coasters), but this local-ish eruption (about 300 miles away) really brought home to me how destructive they were. The images of the devastation are ones I still vividly remember, and I read everything I could find in magazines and newspapers (kids, ask your…well, you know).

I came across this stunning pair of photographs on Mastodon, one taken just before it erupted, one shortly after, from the same vantage point. The post-eruption shot really does look like a moonscape.

Before:

After: