How to Study Hard

Today I’m writing from the Cleveland Game Dev Meetup. This month we’re meeting in the Mayfield Public Library.  Strangely, both times I have come to a Meetup, my GPS has tried to tell me the destination doesn’t exist.

I’m listening to someone explain how Construct 2 is a great platform, and comparing it to Pulse. I wanted to ask someone his opinion of Ableton as a music DAW. But I’m not really getting any code written! I have to admit, I haven’t really touched the Unity tutorial I started last Meetup, and it has been a month. Now that I’m done with my code bootcamp, WCCI, it feels weird to not be working hard on anything in the evening after my day job. I really need to pick up some side project.

You’re right, I did not finish Identiflora yet. I was originally going to work through it as a .NET project, but now I’m not sure if that is the best idea. (Did I say this already? I feel like a broken record.) So in lieu of really “working on the big passion project”, I am working on some smaller things.

I still feel like I should be learning on CodeEval, but it is admittedly pretty dry. So I am excited that I just found Codingame – it is like CodeEval, full of problems to solve using your coding skills, but these are couched like games. It’s really a fun concept, even if it’s still hard work. Speaking of “hard work disguised as a game” I am also enjoying Human Resource Machine by Tomorrow Corporation, the same game company that made World of Goo. In Human Resource Machine you program (using a pseudo coding language) people to take certain integers and drop them into certain boxes – yeah you are really doing the same loops and if/thens that you would be learning in CodeEval, but giving it game trappings makes it fun!

I guess not everything can be made easier and into a game. I really enjoy listening to J. Vernon McGee. He is gone now, but his radio program is now a podcast, and it takes you through the whole Bible, verse by verse, over the course of five years. I once heard him say (and I think he was quoting but I don’t recall whom, sorry),  that if you are having a hard time with a Bible passage, because it is dry and hard to understand, you have to moisten it with the sweat of your brow. Hard work is hard work! But it leads to deeper insights.

That goes for coding too.


Game Development, JavaScript, and Persistence

Well, this week I have been taking a break from my Udacity project (in a sense) by strengthening my JavaScript and HTML5 Canvas understanding before going back to tackle FEND “Project 3: Frogger Clone”.  Here is some information that has been helping me:

Zenva has a class on making an HTML5 game from scratch. The instructor is fantastic and goes over every line of code. I highly recommend this.

After that course, I went back to my Project 3, and felt I understood a bit more of the direction I should take it. But my core knowledge of JavaScript is still lacking, and I didn’t know how to actually get from point a to point b. Currently I am working my way through Eloquent JavaScript by Marijn Haverbeke, seriously this time, taking notes, working through the exercises in the provided code sandbox.

As I am working through Eloquent Javascript, sometimes I have been hunting up further resources to explain the things in it. For this I am greatly indebted to JavaScript Is  even if the name makes me die a little bit inside.  Get a load of this explanation of Variable Scope!

This week I have discovered a really great podcast, too! It’s called Lostcast by Lost Decade Games and is all about game development. It’s from a very realistic perspective, unlike some of the other podcasts I’ve found.  You can join their forum too, they are great guys. They have encouraged me greatly with art tips.

Lately I’ve felt like I’ve had to concentrate on studying coding, and leave my art and craft skills to rot on the back burner (…that’s a kind of mixed metaphor). But it sounds like there are plenty of reasons to keep honing both art and coding hobbies together. Thank you Matt Hackett! I also look at Rob Stenzinger, another “coding artist”. Also add The John Su to the list of “coding artists I admire who are far more talented in their sleep than I am while concentrating very hard on something, like coding and art.” It’s a surprisingly long list.

Finally, here is a very informative blog post explaining what an entry-level front end (mostly JavaScript) developer really should understand in order to get a job.

I feel bad that all I do is link you to other people, but all these resources are  really great and I want to pass them along!




Twine and Flex

As I work through the Udacity classes on front end web development, I’ve been discovering some pretty good resources on “Flexbox”, a very handy way to make text move around your web page in easily predictable ways that allow your designs to adapt to different sized screens (laptop, tablet, phone).
Here are some of my favorite links. They may help you as well:

In addition to that, I’ve been reading a great book from No Starch Press called “JavaScript for Kids” by Nick Morgan. I have also been looking around at a free, html-based interactive fiction (IF) language/platform called Twine. So I made a little (very basic) tutorial on JavaScript using Twine. JavaScript is Fun.

I had some programming issues making even this tiny script, because I started reading a tutorial on Twine 1.4 and then realized that it has moved to Twine 2.0.x, and changed the syntax. Now, I discovered, you can choose 3 formats for your markup. I chose one called SugarCube because the syntax made the most sense to me (other options are Harlowe and Snowman).

Twine is great fun because it lets you create a branching story in a graphical way; when you link two passages you actually see the link. Then it lets you leverage all the CSS and HTML and scripting language tricks you know to add functionality and cleverness and even more interactivity, images, even animated gifs. And you can test and debug it all before you make it live. Twine publishes its games as a self contained html page using a wiki format called Tiddlywiki. This makes them extremely quick to load and run in a browser.

Of course, having a good story is the crucial part.

Online Learning Tools (Part 4)

I’ve showed you some of my favorite tutorial sites. Now I’m going to briefly describe some of my favorite tutorial podcasts. I love podcasts. I listen to them on my long commute, and sometimes while I’m at work. I sometimes embarrass myself by starting half my conversations with “I was listening to a podcast and someone said…”  Here are some of the ones I have found truly inspirational:

When looking for podcasts iTunes, I always find a lot that have “podfaded” and aren’t ‘making new episodes. They might be worth looking up, but I didn’t list any. I also avoided podcasts marked “E” for “explicit language”.

Web Development:

Start Here
This is a really wonderful podcast, designed to step you through the process of becoming a web developer. They have homework assignments, too! These guys are sincere about what they teach, and invite feedback.

Build & Launch
A new podcast for 2015, you can easily listen to this from its beginning to its current episode, and I suggest you do! Justin Jackson will make you want to make things! He gets me fired up. For season 1 he had a goal to launch a new project every week. I can’t wait to see what happens in season 2.

Coding 101
I don’t catch this one very often since I can’t watch a video podcast while driving to work, but I do recommend this for anyone who wants actual code examples. Father Robert Ballecer is a good teacher. I’ve watched this on my Roku.


Chris Oatley’s Artcast/Paper Wings
I have never seen anyone as intense about art as Chris Oatley, except perhaps Jerzy Drozd. These fellows take visual storytelling more seriously than a lot of Christians I know take Christianity, and it blows my mind.  Be prepared to analyze everything and come away realizing you don’t work hard enough! (Chris Oatley’s Artcast and Paper Wings are basically one show with two feeds, but that link will get you all of them.)

Lean Into Art
Jerzy Drozd is a master visual story teller who isn’t afraid to let you see the inner workings of his art, life, studio, and mind. He shows you what it takes to be a full time artist, and what you have to give up for your art. He is sober and personal and sweet and friendly and makes me want to attend his classes. These podcasts sometimes come with art challenges you can post via twitter to get comments and critiques.

Pencil Kings
Mitch Bowler finds a new rising star to interview in each episode, and they are always proof that if you are in the right place at the right time doing the right thing you can create your dream job. Or at least, someone somewhere did. But they never make it look easy!

Additional Resources:

These two I found while researching iTunes to see if there were any other good resources. I haven’t actually listened to them much yet.

<Web>Agency </Podcast>
A Responsive Web Design Podcast


Jetpens (Part 1)

I have discovered that I really like pens (by which I also mean pencils). I guess I always knew this, but I just realized “it’s a thing” and I’m not the only one who likes pens. So I found a few blogs of people who actually review pens. And via those blogs, I found some pens I wanted to buy.

I really love my Pentel P205, so much so that I didn’t have to go find it to remember the actual pencil part number.  So when I went to Dave’s Mechanical Pencil blog and looked at his “top 5 mechanical pencils” I was aghast to find it wasn’t on his list! And it had been edged from the top five by something called a Graphgear 1000. Vat ist dot?! (Yes I got so excited I went into really bad Jägermonster accent.) I had to go buy one stat!

(And I… ok just lied about that because I see now that the pencil that actually edged out the Pentel P205 was something else, but that makes my story much less compelling.)

But no one else reads this blog so I shall blithely continue.

I also started reading The Pen Addict blog. Many of his neatest pens are from Jetpens. So I decided to make an order. Now, Jetpens had the Graphgear 1000 pencil that I wanted… but they also had many other pens that I wanted. Specifically I had it in my head that I wanted a good fountain pen. First I checked Levenger, which is a lovely site that I have long drooled over, then I realized that I was too cheap to buy a pen there.

So I started throwing pens into my cart on Jetpens instead. And when my total started approaching $75 I got scared and removed most of it. Alas, I removed my Graphgear 1000! But, you ask, why did you remove the pencil you wanted so much? Because I found it locally!

Googling, again, I discovered an art store selling them right nearby (within an hour, that is), called Utrecht.

I was going to tell you all about the new pens and pencil I bought, but this is post too long without it, so I’ll add that info next time… HEY LOOK, I’m going to post more than once in a month!

If you read this far, here is an unfinished sketch, and my Pentel P205. I was considering starting a whole bunch of blog posts just to highlight “unfinished sketches” since I never seem to finish anything…

Things Unfinished


I have a poor track record with actually keeping up with reading Webcomics, notwithstanding the fact that I keep considering making one. But these webcomics are ones written by people I actually know (or at least, have chatted with). So, for your consideration, I present an incredibly biased list:
My long-time great friend JB has TWO comics – not regularly updating, but fun to read the archives. And any day she plans to start them up again, really. Follow Gwen, Rremly the dragon, and friends with:
Further, JB breeds and sells Crested Geckos! You can follow their fictional antics here: (And if you are in her area you could buy one!)

DJ Trousdale is a fellow Christian I met on deviantART. Check out his comic here:

Sticky (or at least that’s the nickname I know him by) has a Morrowind-based comic here: That was a fun game. I didn’t finish the expansions – I keep meaning to.

I just met Samantha on Ustream last week, as she worked her way through the “24 Hour Comics Day” Challenge.  I have a big soft spot in my heart for overweight red-haired magic users (you in the peanut-gallery, shush) so I fell in love with her comic:

Urban Fey is written by a mother-daughter team! I know Windy (aka. Kim) from JB’s comic’s forum, and also deviantART – what a tangled web 2.0 we weave. I was also in their Guild Wars guild. Go Team Mystic Sheep! Anyway they have a novel take on the court of the Fey: AND are in the process of working on some more comics too! See what’s coming:

I know Natalie from watching her illustrate other podcasts, and from deviantART. She has a webcomic of mad science and underwater adventures: She also has a podcast! I did a guest mad science bit on it, once. Natalie has webcomics over here too: but if I told you about The Secret Lair, well, they wouldn’t invite me back. (I have an honorary title and that’s all I can say.)

Got a comic yourself?
Tell me about it!




Unfortunate Food

This was from the 4th of July. It really didn’t taste bad, but the presentation…

This instantly reminds me of James Lileks great books on “Regrettable Food” such as this one. (Amazon link )

But you can tool around for a long time on his website, looking at his goofy collection of… things… in the “Institue of Official Cheer”:

Yet a Few Games More

(The title was a riff on the delightful podcast of Paul Tevis, that you can find here.)

As mentioned in the last journal I bought a card game, called Rage. I also bought Farkle, and played Save Doctor Lucky. (Note: not Kill. You lose points if you accidentally say Kill.)

Now, Rage was very fun, even though I don’t like trick taking games. The fun part was the company I played with. Farkle was less fun, because I lost, and I’m not always a good sport – and it was so hard I had to make a house rule to add an extra die. We also tried it with two extra dice, but that made it too easy. Save Doctor Lucky worked surprisingly well, considering we only had 3 people. I used a chunk of glass that looked like an ice cube for Doctor Lucky’s meeple. I didn’t think about how ironic that was, on the Titanic.

I was playing with my family. And it turns out that shorter games work better with them. Much as I wouldn’t have minded buying a copy of Wealth of Nations or Pandemic, I can’t see many of my local friends playing it. (Not counting my game group – they are actually an hour away so I don’t consider them “that local”.)

Here are some more fairly-quick-to-play games on my radar screen. If you have any experience playing these I’d love to hear about it. (Also I shall be checking out

Tuesday I began a game of Spirit of the Century, a storytelling game of pulp action heroes! Let me just say that any game that involves crazy scientists with explosives (note: they were not the enemy!), and fighting ninjas on a train in 192- is 100% supreme in my book. The game play may be podcast, and I apologize in advance for my own voice and annoying (to me) laughter. But I do not apologize for picking on Chance Random, the Improbable Man With The Strange Arm Of Living Wood That He Inexplicably Got From Mysterious Druids Under Cardiff* Being a woman of [mad botanical] science (in this game, especially), that bothers me to pieces. The next time we play won’t be until April, but I’ll be working on my maniacal laugh.

 *Perhaps that is not his official title.

The Quest for Immortality… in Houseplants

I am plagued with very little natural light at home and very little natural light at work, so, through a many-years-long series of trial-and-error experiments, none of which were mad. NONE OF WHICH WERE MAD I TELL YOU.  I have divined a very VERY short list of the Absolutely Impossible to Kill NIGH-IMMORTAL HOUSEPLANTS.


Croton – this is a lovely plant that often has shades of red and yellow on the leaves.
Not to be confused with cubes of crunchy bread, or Cybermen. I can’t say much about it, but there was one that my mother got in a get well arrangement that hung around for months and months with very little care, so I expect they fall into the category of “thrives on neglect”.


ZZ Plant – it looks like a Cycad but it isn’t! I named mine Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander for obvious reasons (and also I name most of my plants after wizards. My [not very healthy] Hawthoria is named Howl.). Ok I’ll get botanical for a second.I really like Cycads, ever since I read The Island of the Colorblind by Oliver Sacks. So I sort of wanted a cycad. This is, as I said, not a cycad, but it is called ZZ which stands for Zamioculcas zamiifolia because it has leaves (foliage) that look so much like a Cycad of the genus Zamia – hence “zamiifolia“. And that’s how you decipher plant names, for the record. Anyway I give mine a good soak only once a month, and not much light, and it’s growing like gangbusters!


Snake Plant (also called Mother In Law’s Tongue) – several species of Sansevieria –  this thing “thrives on neglect” they say. And they are right! You can throw it in the dark corner and water it once every few months and it will probably still not die. My cat has knocked mine over twice, though, and attempted to bite the tough leaves. They also seem to have their own international society where they do… something. Most likely involving Death Eaters. I mean hey, it’s SNAKE PLANTS.


Dumb Cane – Dieffenbachia –  this one is so easy to grow you often see it in offices/get-well-soon planters. But don’t eat it! This one’s poisonous in a particularly painful way. Did you see the disgusting episode (or two) of House where the guy’s tongue was all swollen? Yeah don’t eat this. It has Calcium Oxalate crystals in it that form needle-like crystals right into the moisture in the tongue (throat, etc.). So does skunk cabbage and just about anything in Araceae. Don’t eat any of them. But I’m probably the only one around here that sticks wild plants in my mouth so I’m preaching to the choir. Since it is an arum it has flowers that look “like calla lilies”, with a spathe in the middle, and the ones in the office here have little red berries. Don’t eat those either.


Dracaena – these come in many forms and so I can’t tell you how to identify one, exactly. But some other person with a lot of time on his or her hands made a whole domain dedicated to them and so I shall link you.


All of these plants are easy to find anywhere from a nursery, to a hardware store, to a WalMart. So if you have no green in your thumb, take heart – some plants will grow anyway!


NOTE: If you Google “#1 houseplant” you will get Golden Pothos (Devil’s Ivy).

This is, in fact, living in my cubicle right now, but it isn’t mine – it’s the company’s plant. It was invading my cube so I cut a bunch off and made it into a “laurel wreath” to put on the IT guy’s head yesterday. So I will say it’s certainly another good, healthy plant, but I haven’t raised any myself to know how to care for it.



Steampunk Artisans, Inspirations, Resources [EDiT]

Oh! And just to plug the two other sites I know that use the Aspire WordPress template…
(And both are neat sites!) and (great images! I’m using one right now!)
I’m not going to bother to explain what the Steampunk genre is all about this time.
Feel free to check out the Wikipedia entry. But what enthralls me about it, is the beautiful combination of craftsmanship, technology, history, magic, sci-fi… wow! No wonder it’s growing!
I want to do more in this style myself!

Steam-type Dragon by Rachel Ross
Steam-type Dragon by Rachel Ross
Now, to start linking to people.
Four folks on deviantART whose Steampunk stylings really inspire me:

Porkshanks also on Etsy.
Earthenwood Studio also
Her husband is a great fantasy artist, too.
And of course, some other resources for you – these already include just about everything: (even includes drawing tips )

Brass Goggles


And don’t forget

Girl Genius comic! (I am so frustrated, I can’t find my copy of Volume 5)

Finally, PMOG is a free browser-based Steam-stylized game (only for Firefox)!