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Dreams of Old Dogs

“The memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime.”
“Free Four” – Pink Floyd (Roger Waters)

Nearly two months ago, we lost our dear girl, Sadie. By dog years, she lived to ripe old age of around 16. Still, it seems she was taken way too soon. Fortunately, she retained her relatively good health until the end, with only arthritis gradually hindering her mobility. In her later months, she slept more and more and I’d love to occasionally see her feet twitching as she dreamed…of what I can only guess. But given her lifelong hobby of chasing squirrels and rabbits, even when her spirit was far more willing than her body, I’m pretty sure she was imagining herself being on the hunt.

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GOP Healthcare Plan: Burning Down the House

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  -Mark 12:31

With this week’s non-vote on the Senate’s “Trumpcare” bill, one would think the GOP had learned it’s lesson that, despite dissatisfaction with portions of the Affordable Care Act, Americans are vehemently opposed to having their healthcare stripped away to give more tax cuts to the wealthy.

When the equally awful House bill was first rejected in March, Majority Leader Paul Ryan said “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the forseeable future”. Well, the unforseeable future sure came fast, and here we are once again in June, looking at another ill-conceived repeal and replacement of Obamacare.By now, it should be clear that the only way to fulfill Pres. Trump’s promise of health care coverage for all, with coverage of pre-existing conditions and lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs is by going to a single payer, government managed healthcare system like every other advanced nation.

But whenever the idea of single payer healthcare is floated, conservatives raise a cry of “socialism” and praise the almighty virtues of capitalism. Of course, we’ve had several forms of socialism in the U.S. for years, including, but not limited to, your local fire department. If free-market purists had their way, if one’s house were to catch fire and they couldn’t afford to pay the firefighters out-of-pocket, they’d better hope to get out before the flames engulf them.

Again to quote Paul Ryan (arguing against Obamacare): “the young healthy person is going to be made to buy health care and they’re going to pay for the person who gets breast cancer in her 40s or heart disease in their 50s.” The problem with that way of thinking, of course, is that’s how ALL insurance works. We pay into it when we don’t need it, in the hopes that we never will, but with the comfort of knowing that it’s there should misfortune strike.

Even if you don’t buy into the notion of healthcare as a inalienable right, most Americans agree that access to health care is a moral issue, and that the U.S. should provide universal health care for all its citizens. Someday, maybe Washington will agree.

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Proposed Pres. Donald J. Trump Memorial

Sometimes you just need to “go low”. Totally juvenile depiction of Tweeter Dum in his natural habitat.

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Donald Trump’s Loose Lips

The U.S government has always placed a premium on keeping its secrets, and this has extended into its  messaging to civilians as well, though today the emphasis is more on being aware of what we see and hear (If you See Something, Say Something) rather than what we say. But during WWII, wartime posters clearly sent the message that careless blabbing could carry dire consequences.

Last week’s meeting in the Oval Office between Donald Trump and high ranking members of the russian government, in which classified information was allegedly revealed, reminds us that trusting information to someone with “loose lips” could ultimately sink ships and all of us with it.

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March for Science- Earth Day 2017

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.  ― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

This Earth Day, April 22, 2017, scientists, those who support their work, and those concerned about our current government’s disastrous environmental policies will gather in cities and towns worldwide in a march to bring awareness to the state of our planet and what we’re doing to it. I, along with thousands of others, will be marching in downtown Chicago (and doing some sketching).

Here’s the March for Science mission statement as presented on their webpage:

The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.

Hope everyone I know will be there and/or lend their support in body or spirit.

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Theater of War


Only the dead have seen the end of war.  
~Plato

Administrations, leaders, and civilizations come and go, and through it all, warfare seems to be the one unavoidable constant that afflicts our world. For all our technological advancements, we as a species still just can’t seem to all get along.

This week, with the horrific chemical weapon attacks by Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the nuclear missle tests by Noth Korean madman Kim Jong-Un, we’re reminded yet again how fragile global stability is.

May cooler heads prevail and a saner world lie ahead. Peace.

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LasVegas ConExpo map & VR

This week from March 7-11, the CONEXPO-CON/AGG show is being held at the LasVegas Convention Center. I was asked to create a 3D map for convention visitors. The finished product was a large scale file that could be reproduced large enough to use for signage at the entrance to the show. Along the way, it underwent many changes and iterations depending on the purpose. The challenge was to balance aesthetics with clarity, so ultimately it was simplified from the earlier designs.
The 3D model I built was based on floorplans and images captured from Google Earth, which proved to be invaluable:

ConExpo 2017 wayfinding map

And here’s an an earlier version, which was to include lots of construction equipment rendered at various angles.

Another part of the assignment was to create a 360-degree environment that could be viewed using a Google Cardboard (or similar) viewer. If you aren’t familiar with Google Cardboard, it’s a simple inexpensive virtual reality (VR) platform developed by Google for use with a head mount for a smartphone. While it isn’t as totally immersive as more costly VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, it does give a pretty convincing feeling of being in an environment.

When first given the assignment, I’d never done anything like this before, and online solutions for creating content for Google Cardboard were slim. It took some trial & error, but I finally hit on a way to render out the 3D environment and the client was pleased with the result. If you have access to a Google Cardboard viewer, you can click on the image below to see it in action.


Once I had a workflow, creating another environment for Dipstick Studio, my ideation sketching business, was easy:

This is the second year I’ve done an assignment for the ConExpo show. The previous work can be seen here. Thanks to all the great folks at Slack & Co. for bring me in on this fun job!

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Chicago Field Museum sketchbook

Here in Chicago, we’re lucky to have a wealth of world class museums to visit. Several of them, including the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium, are clustered in a group next to Soldier Field known as the “Museum Campus”. As a student, I made numerous trips in from the western suburbs to visit each of them years before I could appreciate what local treasures they are. Fortunately, I’m part of the Urban Sketchers Chicago group, a group open to artists of all backgrounds and training, who are interested in sketching in a live environment, and our regular sketching meetup this month took us to the wonderous Field Museum of Natural History. Here are some of the sketches from that trip:
This one is of a Peregrine Falcon, which has recently been upgraded from “endangered” to “threatened”, thanks to the efforts of wildlife conservationists.

This is a sketch of a Black Hat Dancer’s costume worn by Buddhist monks in the ritual of the Cham dance, which is considered a form of meditation and an offering to the gods.

This is the Field Museum’s most famous resident, Sue, sketched during an earlier visit. She was acquired in 1997 and is, to date, the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.

Here’s a sketch of a pair of fighting African elephants who, along with Sue the T-Rex, are featured prominantly in the main hallway of the museum. These elephants are one of the first specimens displayed by the Field Museum in 1909. Here’s a fun video about the people & taxidermy involved in bringing the pair to life.

And finally, here are a few more miscellaneous sketches of various exhibits throughout the museum.

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The Wind is Coming: Donald Trump’s House of Cards

The Wind is Coming: Donald Trump's House of Cards

The Wind is Coming: Donald Trump’s House of Cards

“Democracy is so overrated.” -Frank Underwood , House of Cards (Season 2, Episode 2)

In a recent New York Times interview with Donald Trump, the subject turned to energy policy, specifically alternative energy solutions. In typical Trump fashion, his response was meandering and full of vagaries. When pressed on a meeting he had with Brexit leaders regarding windmills and how they might detract from the views on his Scottish golf course, he came up with the memorable line, “The wind is a very deceiving thing.” From there he rambled on about how windmills are made in Germany and Japan out of massive amounts of steel that “goes into the atmosphere”(?) and “kill all the birds”.

This is a man to whom we’re entrusting the future of our country and in many ways the world. His decisions will no doubt effect every one of us, whether we live in the US or not, for the next 4-8 years and likely much longer, especially in terms of the environment and Supreme Court appointments. For those who haven’t read the interview and still say we should give the man a chance as we have all previous Presidents, I challenge you to read the interview in its entirety and NOT conclude that Donald Trump is mentally unbalanced and has absolutely no business anywhere near the Oval Office.

Already his cabinet nominees read like a who’s who of corruption, many of whom have expressed opposition and even taken legal action AGAINST the departments they’ll be heading . It’s amazing that the numerous charges of sexual harassment against him and his admitted sexual assault, disturbing as they are, are not even the most worrying of his corruption. Neither are his countless business conflicts of interest, which he’s done nothing to eliminate and stands to profit from BIGLY.

Now Trump and his cronies’ well documented ties to Russia are finally coming to light, conveniently AFTER the election. Whether Trump himself was unaware of the Russian hacking of the DNC emails, he now seems indifferent and even resistant to uncovering the truth. And now, he’s continuing his crusade to discredit all major media outlets and specific reporters who aren’t firmly onboard the Trump train.

In three days, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, an event considered unthinkable and I even took part in lampooning just a year ago. And just as surely, some day, either before his term is up or after, the full extent of his corruption will be exposed and his house of cards will come tumbling down.

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2016 review: One bright nugget

2016 sewer Cubs win
OK, so we’ve had better years when looking at the total picture. Beloved celebrity deaths, war, division, contentious elections, etc., etc. But, at least for Chicagoans and even many non-Chicagoans who have never been to Wrigley Field, the 2016 World Series provided a much needed sense of hope & joy. The Cubs are supposed to be as good or better in 2017, but it’s hard to imagine the magic and drama of this year’s World Series can ever be repeated.

May 2017 bring hope, heath, and much happiness to all of us. Best of luck in the New Year!

Summer’s End: Farewell Cicadas & Walnuts

  1. CicadaWalnuts06Fall has definitely arrived to the Chicago area, and with it the end to the summer’s familiar ambient buzzing sound coming from the native cicada. This year’s brood was the annual cicada, which according to Wkipedia, are also known as the dogday cicada or harvestfly, though I’ve never heard them called either. cicadaI’ve taken some artistic license and depicted the orange eyed and wing tipped 17 year cicada (aka. the periodical cicada) who, according to the “Chicago Botanic Garden website”, aren’t expected to emerge until 2024.

As for the walnuts; our next door neighbor’s grand & glorious walnut tree has branches which extend over our fence, towering far above our driveway. Throughout the later summer months, the sound of squirrels cracking open the hard shells can be head clearly and constantly across the back yard. walnutsThe falling nuts striking the metal garbage can lids from 20-30 feet act as a warning gong for anyone passing beneath. They’re fairly substantial and a direct hit on the head could lead to hospitalization or, at the least, a nasty bump.

Like cicadas emergences, walnut tree production can vary greatly from year to year, and may be on an “alternate bearing” schedule, producing nuts one year and reserving their resources the next. As it happens, this was a very bountiful year for our neighbor’s walnut tree, with a sea of green, nearly lime-sized walnuts dotting the rear part of our driveway. Later, those that remain after the squirrels have had their fill take on the familiar wrinkled, brown look of dried walnut shells. As a bonus, I’ve discovered that disabling the electric eye on the garage door results in a powerful nutcracker.

For more info:

“University of Illinois extension: Cicadas in Illinois”

“Morton Arboretum:Black Walnut Tree”

 

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Trump & Putin: Really Into Each Other

RussianDolls“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”
-Winston Churchill, 1939

 

What to make of Donald Trump’s relationship (or lack thereof) with Vladimir Putin?

A sampling of Trump’s contradictory quotes only makes things murkier:

Donald Trump last week: “I never met Putin. I don’t know who Putin is.”

Donald Trump in 2013: “I was in Moscow recently and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer, and we had a tremendous success.”

Donald Trump in 2015: “I got to know (Putin) very well.”

Donald Trump yesterday: “Just so you understand, he said very nice things about me. But I have no relationship with him. I don’t…I’ve never met him. I wouldn’t know him from Adam except I see his picture, and I would know what he looks like.”

And Donald Trump is (just barely) seen as the more “trustworthy” candidate.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“For still there are so many things that I have never seen: in every wood in every spring there is a different green. I sit beside the fire and think of people long ago, and people who will see a world that I shall never know.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

A couple of weeks ago, which seems like an eternity in the current Presidential election news cycle, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a candid, off cuff comment when asked in a New York Times interview what she would do if Republican nominee Donald Trump were to be elected President in November. She jokingly replied that her late husband world tell her “Time to move to New Zealand!”. Not surprisingly, her sardonic comment was met with outrage from Trump and others in the GOP.
Shortly afterward, after briefly doubling down, she backed off, calling her own choice of words “ill advised”.

With the increasing possibility that Donald Trump could, in fact, pull out a win in November, some have looked into the very real notion of relocating, at least for the next four to eight years, to New Zealand, or some other welcoming oasis.

Hopefully, self-exile will no longer be an issue come November.

VOTE!

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Game On: Donald vs. Hillary

Hillary tormented by Alien TrumpSo it’s come to this. As grueling as the campaigns have been on the nominees, sildenafil it’s been truly agonizing for the voters. And at the presumed end of the nomination process to determine the two most qualified candidates for the highest office in the land, it’s hard imagine coming up with two less likable individuals.* And with the proven effectiveness of negative ads, it’s only going to get uglier leading up to November’s general election.

Only five more months until it starts all over again.
And remember: in the voting booth, no one can hear you scream.

*In the latest polls , Donald Trump has an unfavorability rating of 63%, with Hillary Clinton only slightly better, with a rating of 61%

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The “Golden Wrecking Ball”

Sarah Palin's Trump "Golden Wrecking Ball"This Memorial Day weekend, sildenafil Sarah Palin gifted political cartoonists the world over with the perfect nickname for 2016 GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. In a glowing and rambling rally introduction, she dubbed him the “Golden Wrecking Ball”, a name that will hopefully follow him through the remainder of his campaign. Thank you Sarah!

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Hillary vs. Bernie- Showdown in New York

Today, Wisconsinites vote in their Democratic and Republican primaries. Until recently, best Hillary Clinton was comfortably ahead in the Wisconsin polls and was hoping to further widen her national delegate lead over Bernie Sanders.

But in the latest polls, Sanders has surged ahead by about 5 points, and is now predicted to win by a little, or maybe a lot, if his upset in Michigan was any indication. Realistically, Bernie Sanders still has a lot of catching up to do if he wants to wrest the Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton. But no one can deny that the momentum is definitely with the Sanders campaign.

Which brings us to New York.

As elsewhere, Sanders’ New York rallies are drawing thousands of potential voters compared to the hundreds at Clinton’s rallies. Losing the state that twice elected her Senator would be a major blow to the Clinton candidacy and would be a huge game-changer. while he would still trail in the delegate count, there’s no doubt that a Bernie Sanders victory would send a message to the DNC that Sanders isn’t going down easily, and could, just maybe, pull the ultimate upset. His rejection of income inequality and special interest money controlling Washington resonates loudly with voters across all demographics.

As of now, Hillary still holds a single digit advantage over Bernie in the latest New York primary polls, after leading by 20-30 points just weeks ago, but the trajectory is undoubtedly in his favor. Whatever the outcome, New York’s April 19th primary should be a strong indicator of who will be the Democratic nominee come November.

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