Saturday, April 25, 2009

Galaxy Cadet: An Idea that Wouldn't Go Away

I created a picture in the summer of 2007 that I dubbed "Galaxy Cadet." I was just having fun with some 3D software, posting pictures on an online art community's gallery (DAZ 3D's ArtZone), and getting feedback.

I described the last of that run this way: "...Galaxy Cadet! Whether battling brain-burrowing bugs on Betelgeuse II, exploring new worlds in the Rigel sector, or developing a defense against split ends, Galaxy Cadet is there, patrolling the galaxy with spirit, spunk, and super-spritzer."

Although I accept responsibility for what's happening, it's a fact that someone on ArtZone responded with two words: "Cool idea!"

That started me thinking. "Galaxy Cadet" had been intended as nothing more that a sort of tutorial to get me more familiar with Bryce software. That "cool idea!" response suggested that I was looking at something more.

I revised the poster to conform to movie poster dimensions in October, 2008:

And the idea that "Galaxy Cadet" might make a good basis for a story or two was still wandering around, somewhere in the the utility closets and storerooms of my mind.

Toward the end of March this year I got organized and started a notebook of ideas for Galaxy Cadet - who the character was, what the 27th century setting was like, and deciding what sort of stories I could write and 'draw.'

Today, I sat down and created a sort of character sheet for "Galaxy Cadet." As you can see, a few things have changed since 2007.

Besides this, I've got notes and sketches (digital and otherwise) for a six-page online comic. I haven't established a publication date yet: I've never done this before, and have only a general idea how hideously complicated and time-consuming this project will be.

Next week, I plan to do character sheets for the other major characters, and get a start on the sets I'll need.

Online Comics: You Gotta Love the Idea

One thing I like about publishing these things online is that I don't have the limitations that come with ink-and-paper publication. I can make the comic as long or short as the plot allows - and don't have to worry about printing costs.

Although I don't plan to charge visitors for the privilege of viewing my art (or whatever it is), I do plan to make a profit on this project: in the long run.

The "Galaxy Cadet" (that's a working title, and may change) comics will have advertising, just like this blog does. And, if there's enough interest, I plan to produce a sort of line-art hardcopy version. That I will have to charge for: paper and ink isn't cheap.

Stay Tuned for the Next Installment of Galaxy Cadet

Meanwhile, I'm determined to have fun putting this thing together and seeing what happens. For now, I'll post progress reports on this blog.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Stuff - Useful and Otherwise - for a Home Office

"You're On Your Own: Outfitting the Home Office for Under a Grand"
Wired product reviews (March 23, 2009)

"Before taking the dive into self-employment, you're going to need some pony-up dough to outfit your home office. Fortunately, for a capital outlay of under a grand, you can get everything you need to turn that breakfast nook into a respectable workspace (and tax write-off). We burned down the industrial park and smoked out the best values to get you to the giddyap...."

The (very) brief reviews start out with the Aerobie AeroPress and end with the Ziszor Shredder.

That AeroPress is a sort of minimalist espresso machine. That, and #5, an Aerolatte - some sort of frother for milk?? - are items I wouldn't need. Or want. My ('instant') coffee comes out of a jar, and goes into microwaved water at about two times the label strength.

Some of the rest of the stuff - including a computer - might actually be useful.

If nothing else, reading the article is a sort of online window-shopping trip. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An Economist Says Saving is a Good Idea - Really!

The first item in Wired magazine's March 23, 2009, Mr. Know-It-All column ("Mr. Know-It-All: Feeding a Bear Market, YouTubing High School Athletes, Laying Dad's Brain to Res") caught my eye this morning. So did the last one, about a fellow whose wife had his head frozen - but that's not quite so relevant to business.

The lead item started with: "I've got a secure job, but this bear market gives me the creeps. Is it my duty to buy a new Jet Ski to help the economy?..."

If you own a store that sells Jet Skis, the advice we're hearing to go out and spend, spend, spend sounds pretty good.

Warning! Middle-Aged Reminiscences Ahead!

I was born in the Truman administration, my parents survived the Great Depression, and learned a few things from the experience. They were far from mattress-stuffers who didn't trust banks, but they had a modified 'if you don't need it, don't buy it' approach that kept me from enjoying all fifties and sixties equivalents of Nintendo and X-Box. They weren't tightwads by any means - but they didn't waste money, food, or water. And their definition of "waste" included "keeping up with the Joneses."

An Economist Says Saving is a Good Idea?!

My notion of what economists are like was formed by reading about Keynesian economics: that famous brainchild of John Maynard Keynes, that Cambridge Math major who studied for a year under a couple of people who presumably knew something about economics.

The bottom line of Keynesian economics seems to be that letting private sector entrepreneurs run around loose was bad. Centralization is good: as long as it involves a government-run central bank and what's euphemistically called 'fiscal policy decisions' by the federal govenment to control business. The idea was that with Big Brother in control, the business cycle would settle into nice, flat line.

Keynesian economics was enormously popular - and the more I learned about it, the lower my estimation of economists sank.

My guess is that Sam Allgood, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is doomed to live out his career far from the hallowed halls of ivy and hemp in the northeast. His notions about economics make sense.

From Wired:

"...'Saving is essential for economic growth, says Sam Allgood, an economist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 'The money we save and invest is used by businesses to expand, update, or just get started.'..."

Allowing our money to be used by lending institutions to finance business growth? Without an all-wise federal agency to make sure they spend it the right way? That's close to blasphemy!

And, to me, sounds like solid good sense. But then, I'm one of those people who think that a surprising number of people - given an opportunity - will spend their money with a bit of sense.

I'm concerned, though that it's going to take a reality check like the Great Depression to produce a generation of parents who have a vague notion of which end is up. But that's another topic.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Massachusetts BerkShares: Not Such a Goofy Idea

"Communities Print Own Currencies to Keep Money Local"
FOXNews (April 9, 2009)

"GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — It looks like Monopoly money, but the colorful currency created by collaborators in the western Massachusetts town of Great Barrington is legal tender.

"The creative cash is called 'BerkShares,' a play on words, referring to the mountainous region called the Berkshires, where businesses and citizens have come together to support each other in these tough economic times...."

An interesting idea. I think I can understand the feelings behind having a strictly local currency: but I'm not at all sure that this is a good idea.

Beyond Great Barrington, Massachusetts and BerkShares: Business Bucks

The idea behind BerkShares is something that businesses can (and do) use: an association of businesses can agree to treat ChamberBucks, or whatever, as real money. Accounting could be tricky, of course.

I've got a notion for using the idea of 'play money' in an online setting, too - oops. Too late. It's gone now.

Maybe it'll come back.

Friday, April 3, 2009

FTC and Bogus Blog Endorsements: Sounds Sensible

"Report: FTC to Crack Down on Blog Endorsements"
FOXNews (April 3, 2009)

"The Federal Trade Commission may be going after bloggers and Facebook users.

"Not just any bloggers or social networkers, mind you. Rather, the Financial Times reports, the government consumer watchdog will be cracking down on people who post false statements endorsing certain products — and the makers of those products as well...."

I don't particularly like regulations: but this seems to make sense. Lying about a product isn't, I think, particularly helpful to society as a whole: or to readers who don't have my, ah, heightened sense of caution. Or enthusiasm for due diligence. Or, maybe, paranoia.

What's important, of course, is what's in the details: exactly what the FTC says it will do - and what it actually does.

More: "Advertisers brace for online viral marketing curbs"
Financial Times (April 2, 2009)

"Advertisers in the US are bracing themselves for regulatory changes that they fear will curtail their efforts to tap into the fast-growing online social media phenomenon.

"Revised guidelines on endorsements and testimonials by the Federal Trade Commission, now under review and expected to be adopted, would hold companies liable for untruthful statements made by bloggers and users of social networking sites who receive samples of their products.

"If a blogger received a free sample of skin lotion and then incorrectly claimed the product cured eczema, the FTC could sue the company for making false or unsubstantiated statements. The blogger could be sued for making false representations.

" 'This impacts every industry and almost every single brand in our economy, and that trickles down into social media,' said Anthony DiResta, an attorney representing several advertising associations...."

I still don't see a problem: but then, I'm one of those naive people who won't extol the excellence of Slurm: even if given a case, fresh from the manufacturer.

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