Category: Nerdery (page 1 of 5)

Inktober Day Twenty-Six: Box

I posted a request on Facebook for a picture of a cat in a box, and within a half-hour I had six. Naomi Kritzer responded first, so it was her cat Cassandra Fluffypants that got drawn, which is totally fitting because her short story Cat Pictures, Please won a freaking Hugo Award this year.

Enjoy.

Cast Iron Skillet Restoration

Late this fall, I was helping my cousins clean out their mom’s basement, and we came across a stack of cast iron skillets. I don’t know much about them, but I do know that there are a few highly collectable brands — and the entire stack was nothing but Wagners and Griswolds. I half-jokingly asked my cousins if I could have one, and they said yes, that their mom would have wanted them to stay in the family regardless of their value.

A little rusty, but otherwise in perfect shape.

So of course, because I’m me, I immediately went home and looked up the skillet online. According to this article on the Wagner and Griswold Society’s website, (of course there’s a society) this pan is a Fifth-Series Griswold #9 skillet, pattern 710D, with an inset heat ring and a rounded rib handle, manufactured in Erie, Pennsylvania sometime between 1905 and 1907. It is both wondrous and a little scary that there are people who know this much about cast iron — but as a fellow history nerd, I’m grateful they exist.

The skillet was in pretty darn good shape to begin with, but since you only find hundred-year-old cookware once in a blue moon, I followed the lye-bath directions on the WAGS site to electrolyze all the gunk off.

Let's do this.

Into the lye bath.

It took a couple of dips and some scrubbing, but after about two weeks the water had turned black and thick as imperial stout. After a couple rounds of scrubbing with Dr. Bronner’s and some steel wool, I had a clean, beautiful bare iron pan.

Two weeks in the bath: I think it's working.

Scrubbing off a few decades worth of grunge.

The WAGS site suggested one seasoning coat of Crisco, but I’m a sucker for Serious Eats with their photo-heavy food-sciencey articles, so I used J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s method. The results were stunning:

Lookit that shine.

Ironically, the first egg I cooked in this stuck like glue. A few weeks later and the seasoning's much, much better.

Once I’d got the antique skillet back in working order, I took our Martha Stewart pan that had served us loyally for the last dozen years, and stuck it in the lye bath for a couple of weeks. Unlike the antique, we’d ridden old Martha hard and put her away wet, and she was covered in a gunky black crust that no amount of scrubbing could remove. That lye bath, though:

The gunk just sheeted off in 2-inch hunks. I was very impressed. I forgot to take a picture of Martha before we passed her on to some friends, but once that stuff was off, she looked like she’d just walked out of the store: perfectly clean, gunmetal-grey iron.

The experts say that the older skillets are a higher-quality iron, and that they were polish-ground to a fine finish — and I certainly saw the difference between the old skillet and Martha, who was rough and pebbly, even after I’d taken a steel drill-brush to hear a couple years ago. When you run your fingers over the cooking surfaces, you immediately notice the antique skillet’s superior quality. It’s lighter, too — the antique is an inch or two wider than Martha, but she’s lighter. There’s a lot of debate over whether or not this makes that much of a difference when you’re cooking, and I probably have some sunk-cost fallacy / confirmation bias going on, but I feel like the Erie definitely cooks better. Still, for me, it’s more about putting a family treasure back in action. Allez Cuisine!

Comfort and Adam’s How-To Book is Here!

It’s here! Adam Withers’ and Comfort Love’s Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Comics is now on sale!

Available online and at finer book and comic shops everywhere, it’s the most comprehensive book on making comics, manga, and webcomics you’ll find! Our oversized mega-chapters include: Concepting, Writing, Drawing, Coloring, Lettering, Publishing, and Marketing! Everything you need to know to make your book a reality!

Plus there are sidebars from more than 70 of the best and smartest comics/manga/webcomics pros out there, so you don’t have to take our word for it.

… or mine, for that matter. Check out these reviews from Bleeding Cool and Comic Related. Paul brought our copy home from the Local Comic Store, and it’s even more gorgeous than I’d hoped.

Thanks again, Adam and Comfort, for including us in this amazing project. I’m so glad to still be part of comics self-publishing.

Paul’s at it again…

So hey, I know I spend an awful lot of time on this blog talking up all the awesome stuff Paul gets up to, but he’s a pretty legitimately amazing guy who’s always pushing his design abilities and making incredible art. I’m not just saying that because I’m married to him — that’s empirical data, and you can test that stuff in a lab.

He just did an installation for 826 Michigan, and I did a writeup with all sorts of photos and stuff over at the Fiery Studios blog, so you should go check it out.

Off to Wizard World!

Sorry for the repeat info, but I just had to show off this great banner that Paul made for me. We leave for Wizard World Chicago this morning, and we’ll be there all four days, in Artist’s Alley at Table C-41. Hope to see you there!

And the balloon comes down!

Here’s Mark’s initial report on the Stratoballoon launch:

The launch of the balloon went off as well as can be expected. The deployment steps I was most worried about – filling and securing the balloon, and stringing all of the components together – went just fine.

The liftoff similarly went very well. We released the components one at a time to prevent any sudden jerks on the line, and then had a countdown when it came to the capsule itself. The girls jointly released that piece. We had very little wind, and a bright, clear sky when we released, so we were able to watch it ascend until it was just a pin-prick – about 2000 feet. We even had a small audience to watch it go up!

Read the rest here — and stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion when I’m back from Wizard World!

The balloon goes up!

A little over a year ago, I posted a signal boost on the JanerBlog about my coworker, Mark and his daughter Katherine, who were working on building and launching a stratoballoon.

As the launch date approached, Mark informed me that the test pilot had been selected: Rainbow Dash. Now, My Little Ponies being a favorite of mine when *I* was a kid, there was only one thing to do: Make an aviator outfit for Dash so she could ride outside the capsule like a boss:

Fast-forward another few weeks to today, and the balloon is ready to launch! Mark’s amazing wife CJ cut a bunch of press releases to the local media, and the results are equally awesome: two local TV stations came out to the house for interviews. Here’s the first:

The launch as been delayed a day thanks to the first thunderstorms we’ve had in two weeks (shakes fist at sky) but a launch date of tomorrow means that I can still be their water-rescue crew in case the capsule splashes down in a lake rather than on land.

If you’re as interested in the SCIENCE! as I am, Mark’s written a fantastic series of informative blog posts about the process of building all the components, purchasing the weather balloon, prepping the capsule — even dyeing the parachute a bright orange for better chances of recovery. Check it out, and check back in a few days for more pictures and reports from the stratosphere!

Wizard World Chicago / Chicago Comic Con!

Hey, everybody! This weekend I’ll be a guest at Wizard World Chicago, all four days, from Thursday August 21 through Sunday August 24. Paul and I will be exhibiting in Artist’s Alley at Table C-41.

I’ll have Clockwork Game trade paperbacks, both Vögelein books, and a bunch of clockwork jewelry — probably my very last batch, too, as I’m running out of gears.

My schedule is pretty simple: I’ll be at the table pretty much all day every day, except for a panel that I’ll be moderating on Friday:

Creativity That Lasts
Friday, August 22
2:00-2:45PM
Room 6
I’ll be speaking with Josh Elder, C.S. Marks, and Jack Reher.

This panel is an incredibly fun, off the cuff discussion about creativity within various mediums such as art, writing, music, design, and more. As an artist, writer, actor, musician or creator, there is nothing more challenging than the development of the creative process. Is art birthed from the spontaneous or is it a result of a carefully crafted rhythm and structure? In this panel, esteemed creators will describe how to overcome creative obstacles and share their keys to unleashing creativity.

If you’re in town, stop by and say hello. Hope to see you there!

Amazing Vögelein Cosplay!

Earlier this year, a fan of mine emailed me to ask if she could cosplay Vögelein at an upcoming comic convention. Of course I said yes, and yesterday I received a bunch of pictures from her that absolutely stunned me. Have a look at the amazing work of art Rebekah W. brought to the 2014 Denver Comic Con:


I mean, look at the detail! A friend of mine said, “A lot of love went into that costume,” and it’s really true. She made the wings, the dress, the prosthetic ears, got a (really good-looking) wig, and even built both keys from scratch.



Seriously, look at all the detail she put into the wings. They’re amazing, and must have taken weeks to build.


This one’s my favorite, though. It really looks like she’s flying!


And then some jerks went and put her in a cage. I’m not worried, though. She can totally break out of there.

I’m so impressed at the job that Rebekah did translating my character into real life. This is only the second time anybody’s cosplayed one of my characters (a friend of mine here in Kalamazoo was the first, a few years ago on Halloween) and I’m just so honored by her work. How lucky am I, as an artist? How many people get to create something, release it into the world, and then find out it affected someone so deeply?

One last note: It turns out an old college buddy of mine, who’s well-familiar with my books, was working at the convention and actually glimpsed the elusive Vögelein on the wing — but she was busy checking in artists and couldn’t stop to chase her down, then lost sight of her forever in the crowd. “At first I wasn’t sure what I saw; just that I recognised it,” she said. “Then it hit me after I had time to let it sink in but I hadn’t any proof.” Fitting, wouldn’t you say?

Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis have a new book — er, webcomic? — out!

Hooray, hooray! Fire up a new browser window, because Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis have a new book out! It’s the story of Alan Turing’s life, and as you may be able to guess from standing next to me for five minutes, I’m kind of nerdy about history, especially the kind of true story that involves a brilliant, driven man who helped break the Nazi code during World War II:

Our world is one of computers and secure communications, and Turing’s work is at the heart of both. He was an eccentric genius, an Olympic-class runner, a witty and clear communicator about complicated ideas, and open and honest to a fault. The secret he kept to safeguard his country could have saved him; the secret he refused to keep to save himself meant his destruction at the hands of that same country.”

At the moment, it’s serializing on Tor.com, and will update daily for its entirety.

What’re you waiting for? Go read!

I have a comic in The Metro Times!

When I was still in high school, one of the coolest things I could think of to do in Ann Arbor — after going to Dave’s Comics and Dawn Treader — was to hang out in one of the two big art stores, Ulrich’s and Michigan Book and Supply. I’d stay in there for hours, picking out Prismacolors and wishing for fancy sketchbooks. I never left without a copy of The Metro Times, the free weekly newspaper that introduced me to alternative radio, Matt Groening (before The Simpsons, that’s how old I am, guys), and best of all, Lynda Barry. So you can only imagine how excited I was when I got a call from one of the editors at The Metro Times asking me to contribute a comic for an upcoming issue. It arrived this Wednesday, and I’m still on cloud nine about it. Big thanks to Walter J. Sports and Runway Photography, Colin Johnson and DB Family Photography & DJ who all generously allowed me to use their photos for reference for the comic, and to all the skaters who volunteered their words and likenesses!

Exciting News: Paul Onstage with Thomas Dolby!

You guys, you guys, I have such amazing news to share! Paul has been invited to join Thomas Dolby up on stage at the Royal Oak Music Theatre! Mr. Dolby is currently on tour with his short film, The Invisible Lighthouse, and after the performance ends, Paul will join him on stage to talk about all the work they’ve done together!

It is my pleasure to announce that I will be joining Thomas Dolby on stage Sunday, November 3rd at the Royal Oak Music Theatre stop of his INVISIBLE LIGHTHOUSE tour for an after-film Q&A session, a la “Inside the Actor’s Studio”. We’ll be talking about the collaborative work we’ve done on his album designs, the Floating City trans-media game, and the Invisible Lighthouse project, with a slide show of my work and images.

If you are able to come, I would love to see you in the audience for what promises to be an interesting night. The Q&A session will be taped and available on YouTube after the event. Tickets are still available for the performance at the Royal Oak website.

Get your tickets here!

Nightmare in Silver

Though I haven’t seen it, I hear from my readers that this season’s penultimate episode of Doctor Who, written by Neil Gaiman, features a chess-playing cyberman with a secret inside. Maybe this will be my excuse to finally get into the series.

Clockwork Game Update: 10/18/12

This week’s Signal boost is a bit late, but still worthy: Tuesday was Ada Lovelace Day, the annual celebration of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, aka “STEM fields”. Though the window appears to be closed for sharing stories this year, we can still read stories that other women around the world have posted, and there are several upcoming worldwide events. Yay, Ada Day, and yay Sydney Padua, for the great graphics!

We’re NASA and we know it

I swear, this is the awesomest thing I’ve seen in a very long time.

Jailbreaking is legal now, so I can post about it

My iphone died yesterday, and I couldn’t get it to start up by any other means than restore mode. Hey, better than nothing, considering it’s a five-year-old first-gen model. I restored it from backup, and it worked great — but lost its jailbreak. I confess I was pretty scared about the possibility of bricking the thing and having to shell out for a new-used phone, but luckily the jailbreaking process was a snap. I now have my cheapskate, contract-free, pay-as-you-go T-Mobile iPhone back, and this makes me ridiculously happy. Heck, the restore will probably make it work better.

Back from NYC

Paul and I made a (very) quick trip to New York City last week. It was a whirlwind of cabs and subways and museums and amaaaaazing food, from barbecued duck soup in Chinatown to goat curry in Midtown. Highlights included sharing a knish at an upscale deli, getting to see the top of the Empire State Building at 1am (with only thirty other people!), talking to a protester in Union Square, having lunch with a good friend in Bryant Park, gaping at the main branch of the New York Public Library (I’ll be in my bunk) and buying a pair of beetle-wing earrings in Soho. We also saw some famous dude play some music.

I didn’t take too many photos, as I was concentrating on drinking in the sights, but here’re a few:




HOT/COLD – Exhibit Opening at Headspace Gallery

The Headspace Gallery HOT/COLD opening is tonight! Head on down to Green Brain Comics and see some art by Suzanne Baumann, Alice Meichi Li, Katie Cook, my old college buddy T. S. Lamb. Oh yeah, and me, too!

You can also check out the Facebook Page.

Onwards to glory

I have one of those colds that I like to think of as a Cú Chulainn flu.

Your body comes to you in the morning, with oracular prescience, and says to you: Listen, you’re sick. You can either stay home like a sensible person and rest up, whereupon you will live a long and happy life. Or, you can not only keep to your regular schedule, but take on a whole bunch of extra stuff that sounds like a good idea, and you’ll go out in a blaze of glory, and be unable to get out of bed for a week.

Guess I’m going skiing today, then.

So how’s this for a start to the New Year?

We just got the first substantial snow this winter, so I skiied to the office, and as I went past the bar with the mechanical bull, their loudspeakers started blasting Guns of The Magnificent Seven. Pretty good music for the opening credits of 2012.

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