illustrator: updates

I just got a note from the Adobe beta program about a new build of Illustrator 24.x, so I guess maybe it’s finally time to move from 22.x (CC2018) to 23.x (CC2019).

Herein are my notes about the new features.


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a walker

So today I was sitting in a coffee shop with a sandwich and a drink and my computer and a game when the door opened and a dude walked in from the night with a very… distinctive… gait.

Leaning backwards, arms held stiffly out behind him, knees unbending. Skinny, maybe even emaciated – I fought to capture that in this drawing and don’t think I really did; I’ve programmed myself to hint at muscle and fat with a few quick lines.

He went into the shop. After a while he left. Same gait.

I am sure there is a rational explanation for why he was walking this way but damn if the only theory my brain isn’t serving up is “zombi”.

But hey, New Orleans. It’s a weird town.


Forty-seven is maybe a little late to be learning a new physical skill. And yet there I was cycling up and down Diagonal Drive in City Park with both hands off the handlebars for longer and longer periods of time.

Forty-seven years old and I’m finally trying to learn how to ride my bike hands-free. Growing up never felt like the time to do it; I was always on my way somewhere and didn’t want to take the time to slow down. Seattle wasn’t the time either; all those hills meant I had to constantly worry about trying to shift, trying to get enough leverage to make it up a hill when I’d failed to shift into a climbing gear before getting on the incline, hanging onto the brakes to keep control while going back down a hill. But now here I am on my way to being an Old Lady, with a life carefully arranged to give me enough time to just slow down and bike aimlessly around the very flat, fairly-well-paved park.

It felt like the right thing to do after finishing off the roughs for one side of Parallax. There’s a lot left to do; I’ve only finished thirty-six of the ninety pages that will make up both sides of this chapter – 45p apiece – and I’ve still got six pages to rough out of the other side. But I found myself thinking ahead to stuff I’ll have to do when it’s time to put it all together in a book – put together acknowledgements, make title pages, decide what kind of backmatter we want after the stories, stuff like that – and I really just wanted something to keep my mind off of that. It’s nowhere near time to worry about that stuff. So I distracted myself.

Riding hands-free is nerve-wracking at first but it’s getting easy pretty quickly. I keep pedaling, using the subtle back-and-forth balance change that creates in the whole system of myself and the bicycle to keep things mostly upright. I decide to change lanes and something happens to how I’m interacting with that back-and-forth; I couldn’t tell you what’s going on but the part of my body that’s been balancing me on a bicycle since somewhere in the late seventies knows what to do, and I sort of… drift over to another lane, and, if I’m lucky, even straighten out, without much thought. It’s kind of spooky to think about how little my conscious mind is involved in this.

There’s probably a metaphor for something in there. I dunno. I’m gonna go to one of the cafes around here that’s open into the evening, plug my computer in, and see how far I can get through those remaining six rough pages in the hour or so I’ll spend there.

considering obscure media that shaped me: The Books of the Black Current

I decided to spend today re-reading Ian Watson’s “Books of the Black Current“.

What a strange little trilogy. It starts out feeling like some kind of riff on familiar territory – an alien world where humanity lives along the banks of a single river, surrounded by desert, with a weird current of thick black goop down the center which drives you suicidally crazy if you try to cross it, and will drive any man who gets on the river suicidally crazy the second time he tries to take a boat ride; one side is run by a guild of Riverwomen, the other side is run by a bunch of misogynists who stay away from the river and burn any woman who tries to get on it. Then after turning this world upside down over the two hundred or so pages of the first book, the second sees the narrator dead and in the mystic service of the sentient, serpentine Black Current, which sends her soul to Earth, to be reborn as a permanantly-nine-year-old girl who fights against the “Godmind” (probably a semi-transcendent computer) that seeded humanity out in the stars and plans to eventually use its psychic link to all of humanity to kill everyone at once so it can seek Pure Enlightenment. She gets sent to Lunar Prison and blows herself up along with the Godmind’s lunar rose garden. Somewhere along the way I began to suspect I was reading a Satanist parable.

And then in the third book it gets weird. The heroine time loops herself, wanders around trying to get the people of her world to link themselves to the Current so they can’t be destroyed by the Godmind, and trying to get them to care about the impossible task of saving the rest of the galaxy as well. The ending is basically about the same as the last few pages of my Decrypting Rita except in text. And with more rose imagery.

All of this in three books of about 250 pages each. I feel like nowadays the modern SF/F market would demand that each of these books be about 600 pages, follow the exploits of about a dozen vaguely-connected characters, spawn a fan wiki, and dissolve into a vague smear of unfinishedness instead of quite decisively grasping the impossibility of the task laid before the heroine, finding an excuse to shatter into an infinite number of possible worlds a little before the Godmind destroys the universe, and ending with an in-world historians’s note that basically calls half of the last volume fanfic of the first two.

They do not write ’em like this any more. Or if they do I sure am not running into them.

I dunno if it’s exactly “good”; there’s not much time for much character development or more than vague sketches of secondary characters. It’s all about sketching out the shape of a world bent by this big weird idea running down its middle, then abandoning that for a bunch of even crazier ideas. Really this is a pretty good example of what people mean when they call SF “a literature of ideas”. I remember enjoying this when I read it in the eighties, and I still enjoyed it now.

But now I think I’m gonna meditate and go to sleep because I sure did cram a lot of crazy stuff into my head rapidly today.

a day of beauty

Today was slow to start. I spent most of daylight hanging around the apartment while the maintenance guys dealt with putting a new chain in the one ceiling fan that was lacking that, and with fixing the faucet handle in the tub that was barely hanging on by one screw. I got the first of my two bookshelves almost filled, an important step in feeling like Home, then sat around poking at the internet way too long.

But then I went out and while I was feeling so spoilt for being able to start every trip around the city by bicycling down an oak-shaded parkway, I saw something big and black coming towards me from one side. An owl? No, a fucking grey heron flying past my path to land in an oak tree. I think there’s a few living on the parkway near me, last week I surprised one while I was biking home in the evening.

And then I went out to City Park with the intent to maybe draw.

I sat on a bench by a fountain and just didn’t have the energy to work, so I did my daily half-hour of meditation instead. It was a lot easier than usual to quiet down my mind and I suspect this may have been because the sounds of cicada screaming WHO WANTS SOME FUK at each other created a pleasant distraction. Or maybe I just finally put enough time into it that my brain’s starting to cooperate. I suspect it was the horny insects though.

Then I went to a cafe and worked on Parallax for a while. I’m starting to get back into the arting groove and make some progress on stuff every day, which is really nice after like three months of Moving. I really need to get a workspace together at home, though. Can’t work on porn commissions at a cafe or in the park, plus I have a chance of getting more done if I’m puttering around the desk at home. Eventually I will find the right components for a standing setup that I like again.

I stopped at the supermarket on the way home. On my way out I noticed a mosquito hawk sitting on a notice next to the door, and reflected on how when I left I might have been tempted to kill it, but now I’m kind of delighted to see any bug that doesn’t want to eat me or shit in my stored food, especially after thirteen years in the frozen hells of Boston and Seattle where there are a lot less different kinds of creatures out and about in general. Every critter is kind of a pleasant surprise.

Every day here kind of feels amazing. It’s good to be back down here. I hope I get to live here for a good long time, though news like “the ice caps are experiencing a summer melt much more forcefully than ever before observed” makes me fear I won’t. Enjoy it while it lasts, I guess.

scenes from the swamp city

A couple of blocks away from me on Jefferson Davis Parkway, there is a stepped pedestal. I am pretty sure it used to have a statue of some Confederate military figure; now it’s just an empty pedestal. I have seen people sitting atop it meditating, and think I need to try that someday.

The other day I passed by there on my bike and there was a skinny dude wearing a big grey mask that I can only describe as “the skeleton of a dead carrot”. He was dancing around up there with a friend filming him. I did what came naturally, and hollered HAIL KING CARROT! ALL HAIL THE KING OF CARROTS! as I passed by.

Today I was bicycling home from a cafe in the Quarter. The tail end of a rainstorm was still passing through. I came to the place where the bicycle trail passes under the I-10; there’s a little parking lot there with a pop-up vegan takeout joint in a repurposed shipping container. In that parking lot were a half dozen dudes with assorted drums, banging out apocalyptic rhythms that were both infectiously danceable and really sophisticated; I could hear them a good block away despite the noise of the rain and the cars overhead. Turns out the space under a highway is pretty damn good for drum practice.

I have been toying with the idea of doing a series of portraits of deities to flog at some of the galleries downtown. As I cycled home in the rain, I decided maybe I should do one of the city’s personal Storm King, as well – praying to the ghost of Nash Roberts for a little extra intervention with the weather feels like a good idea as we slide into hurricane season.

I continue to feel astonishingly spoilt to have grown up in this weird little city that no sane person would have founded in these swamps, and to be able to return to it after enough time away to realize how unique it is compared to the rest of the US. I hope it continues to not be washed away for many a decade.

fursona thoughts

So last night I sat around and drew a picture of my dragon self, put it on top of a photo I took of a part of City Park, and then spent a little time making her look vaguely sweaty.

click for full size, contains bare lizard titties

This morning, I realized something. For the past several years I’ve mostly described myself as a dragon from New Orleans. But in a technical sense, Peganthyrus has never been from New Orleans – the player entity on Furrymuck bearing her name was created in fall 1995, and I moved to Los Angeles in summer 1995. She was something I created as I figured out who I was outside of the expectations of the place and people I grew up with. Nick’s been calling me a “swamp dragon” for a lot of the past few years as my desire to get the hell out of Seattle for somewhere warmer grew, but it’s kind of been a lie if I look at the dates like that.

And now here I am back in New Orleans, discovering that running around with a fine film of warm sweat on my body is something I miss. And since she is basically Me, so is Peganthyrus.

I’m just gonna retroactively declare her as also being from here, I guess. Or something. She had her own history once but it’s mostly fallen away as she stopped being A Character and started being Me, But A Cartoon Dragon. I kinda feel like I’m not entirely from New Orleans any more either; I was twenty five years old when I left, and Peganthyrus will be twenty five years old this year. That’s a significant chunk of a lifetime.

This feels like a weird complicated thought to untie, and also not like one really worth spending a lot of time untying. Enjoy the sweaty dragon titties.


I spent a while today and Monday doing something I’d been putting off for a good while: resizing the styles for the Mixolyne mechs. See, I’d drawn them super-huge originally, and a lot of the graphic styles I’d built out of those drawings performed poorly when I tried to use them at the right size. I’d been resizing them on an ad-hoc basis every time I pulled the styles into a new page, but last Monday I pulled up the first of several rough pages where Kirt and Noa will be spending a lot of time running around in their mechs, emoting at each other through body language, and I just really did not feel like rescaling these styles for every page individually like I’d done for the first few pages.

A few weird Illustrator hangs later, I’ve generated a feature request for folders in the Graphic Style palette, decided to do an ugly organizational kudge in the meantime of blank styles serving as separators to help me find stuff in the giant sprawling pile of styles I’ve ended up with, and created sets of styles for these mechs in both their shiny, healthy versions and the “dehydrated” versions they started the story in.

This took me a few hours but it should help a lot when I start actually drawing these pages; by doing this I’ve piled up a bunch of cool effects and taught Illustrator how to do them for me, and now I can just mindlessly re-use all of them at high speed.


So last year I was in this anthology Alex DeCampi put together called “Twisted Romance”.

It’s up for an Eisner. I get to put “Eisner-nominated” on every attempt to find a publisher for Parallax now. Maybe I’ll even get to put “Eisner-winning”. I’m not sure what the protocol is for saying “nominated for/received one thirteenth of an Eisner” but I guess I get to figure that out now.

If you make comics then you’re eligible to vote. Yes, even web comics or small press stuff. has everything you need to know if you wanna vote for me and the rest of the Twisted Romance crew, anthologies are in the second page if you don’t have any opinions about the other categories.

I am also up for a fraction of a Lambda; the all-trans anthology I was in is in the running for one of those. Those don’t seem to be public voting so we’ll see how that goes. It’s been a good year for this sort of thing for me, I guess!


I just woke up to the first real thunderstorm I’ve heard in… I can’t even remember how long. Quite possibly since I left New Orleans back in 1995. After the center passed over us (as telegraphed by the time between seeing flashes of lightning through my still-closed eyes while lying in bed, and hearing the thunderclap roar across the land), I got up and went out on the porch to watch the rain come down for a bit.

I have missed that more than I knew.

And the back of my head is singing a little song from nursery school days:

It’s raining

It’s pouring

The old man is snoring

Went to bed, bumped his head

And couldn’t get up in the morning.