Apr 19, 2012

Footsteps in the sand

The "I" who stares back at me from further along the road of my life, what do you see? What mistakes will I make? These footsteps in the sand you leave behind, should I fit my shoes into them, or step out a new path?

Apr 18, 2012


Things I like about Pottermore:

  • The art is lovely
  • Attention to detail in the art and animation is fantastic: the car wiper starts when the mouse passes over it, cat tails swing, candles blow out and light when clicked on, the sausage sizzles when clicked on. Really good. My favourite is the scene inside Hogwarts Express: the animation shows the carriage bouncing on the tracks! (but it made the fans on my laptop go crazy)

  • The two layer idea is very clever. Allows for a lot more exploring and story telling, such as in the 4th chapter (I think) in the moment with flying letters where going into the second layer shows you the door nailed shut.
  • The eyes in the wand selection questions is so pretty~~

  • The wand selection quiz is much much better than the random ones you find on the internet and it's much better than I expected. I got Ash with Dragon core, 12 and a half inches, unyielding. I like it!
  • Ditto for the Sorting Hat. Good questions and really well drawn cards. I got sorted into Ravenclaw! I'm with you Helena! I don't really get the Wizard's Duel game though *shrugs* I'll figure it out. I realised after going back and forth a few times that the questions I got were different very time I went back. I got back the question I first had after the third refresh. That's fairly impressive.

Things that annoy me about Pottermore:

  • No real choice of usernames: they give you a list that you can choose from, and there wasn't even a convient refresh button that I could see. And the names sound like they came from a magic themed name generator (you know the ones where you can tell they have a list of words that fit the theme and they choose two at random and put it together? That's exactly what the Pottermore naming system looks like to me) with some ridiculously large number attached to the end. The choices are fairly ... I'll just say not as good as I had hoped (there are gems like MahoganyMidnight, UnicornWil, RoseWild etc.) Those could not have sounded more "My Immortal" style bad fanfic Mary Sue to the extreme if they tried. The lack of choice actually put me off enough that I abandoned the registration at that screen. It was only when Helena said that she'd add me that I went back and continued it and actually got an account. So it's all thanks to Helena, first for reminding me that the website existed so I went on it and encouraging me (though she hadn't realised it) to actually sign on. The option to give your friends a nickname is good because it helps me not lose track of my real life friends in that page.
  • So much clicking around blindly hoping it triggers something, incredibly annoying
  • Opening an account in Gringotts: how was I supposed to know that I'm supposed to dragged the key into the lock when all the controls before then was triggered solely by clicking and using the arrow keys?
  • Our pet will be our avatar? Again, very limited choice, no option to upload our own avatar.
  • Potions is glitchy and fairly hard to control, problems I ran into: you can not see the wand at first glance, or the second, or the third. It's a pale line that's easily mistaken with the other pale lines on the table (the porcupine spikes) and it almost completely obscured by the bags of ingredients. The mortar is hard to use, and I keep picking up the crushed ingredients instead. Turns out you have to click on the pestel (the bat shaped thing) to crush, missing and clicking on the mortar will only pick up the ingredients. The thing is, the pestel bounces, so it moves every time I click on it.
  • Not a lot of interaction possible between users, no chat, only comments and games.
Looking back, the complaints I have about the lack of choice can go both ways. It's annoying to have no control, but at the same time I understand that by not letting users have so much choice they can give a far more uniform and controlled experience. I can imagine all manners of weird and may-be-inappropriate usernames (I think the original purpose of that was to keep young children anonymous? Presumably they may be young enough to think that their real names are a good idea). It will be pretty cool to see all the avatars as strictly Harry Potter themed, which I'm sure wouldn't have been the case if user uploaded avatars were allowed. In the end it comes down to young children may use this and all else falls to second place behind ensuring their online safety.

Looking at the house points, I was thinking, wouldn't the house with the most students be at an unfair advantage? From that I extrapolated to the book, wouldn't that be the same for the real Hogwarts (for a given value of "real")

Apr 13, 2012

So this is from a few days ago

I think her weird mood's blown over now, because she's all friendly and nice to me :)
The proportions are all weird :( But I love the watercolour brush in Paper.

Apr 9, 2012

Drawing on iPad

So at first I did these really rough sketches in an app called Paper, which is really nice but is definitely not for detailed work:

And then I think after Cinda posted up her pro cloud drawing, I went into Sketchbook Express (which I hadn't explored in depth before) and started drawing with my stylus, and finished drawing one character in two nights while sitting on my bed while everyone else is asleep.

Note that this is not my character, it a simplified version of a character in the manga "Are you Alice?". I used this page as reference. This is pretty much my first time drawing manga characters, so I reckon I should go with copying for a while and figure out my style on the way. I'm still working on (and practising like mad) to draw eyes like that without looking at the reference.

Here's what came out of it:

The lineart took 2 and a half hours - that's the first night

Then the colouring took 4 and a half hours (last night):

Before I cleaned up the mess, it looked like this:

Those are the colours (the colour picker function is so awesome) and the opacities and size brushes I used. Turns out, you can manage pretty well without the blend tool if you use very low opacity and five  different shades of colour. I was also working with only 3 layers, so I had one layer of lineart on top, and then merge the other two layers before going on to another. I imagine that might not work so well for more complicated drawings.

The pupil of her eyes make her look either dead of stoned (maybe some lighter blue on the edges?) and I think I should have done more blending and shadows on the face (it looks too flat), but it's done!

Now I have to work out what to do for the background.

Apr 8, 2012

Photoshop CS6 beta

Helena and Cinda, this may be relevant to your interests. I don't know if you guys know about it (or want to download it, or even able to install it :( ), but the beta version of Photoshop CS6 is available for download free. From what I've gleaned from other places, "the beta will eventually expire, though at the moment there doesn’t seem to be a set date for that to happen". So it's free and it's new, and if you can use it you might want to download and try it (I don't know what your situation is). Just be aware that it is a beta product and it can still be buggy.

Download Photoshop CS6 beta from here.

Apr 7, 2012

The Fiftieth Gate

For English Advanced, I have to read The Fiftieth Gate. It's a book by Mark Raphael Baker and explores his parents' history as Jews that survived the World War. I'm not even half way through it yet (just started yesterday). There are so many gems in the book, sentences and passages that resonate. Some parts outright made me break into goosebumps.

This is a passage that actually made me cry:
They come waving their waving their flags, a contingent of Israeli students bearing the blue and white colours of a prayer shawl, at whose centre lay a Star of David. They observed the boulders from a distance, but do not lose themselves within the maze. They have no single thing to find here, just the whole cursed site. They stand as a group, establishing a new focal point against Warsaw, a unified entity at a distance from the dispersed villages. A girl stepped forward with a flute, and plays for the students who accompany her melody in mournful voices. She plays 'Hatikvah', the Israeli national anthem: 'The Hope'. Then another student stands outside the circle and recites a Hebrew verse: 
here in this carload
i am eve
with abel my son
if you see my other son
cain son of man
tell him that i
 I recognise the poem from Dan Pagis, a Rumanian-born survivor who emigrated to Israel. 'Written in Pencil in the Sealed Railway-Car', it is called.
The student completed his recital, and then another voice speaks the same words, each time stopping before the sentence is completed. 'Tell him that i ...' Another plea, then another, until every member of the group proclaims the unfinished message.
When I returned to our hotel in Warsaw, I recited the poem for my parents.
My mother says the train must have arrived.
My father says: 'When I was taken away from my mother she said nothing.'
I wanted to break the silence for him, to force him to look back for his mother, Hinda.
He is crying; I look away.
here in this carload
i am Hinda
tell him that i 
The poem is on the net here.

He establishes an eerie sort of mood and atmosphere that brings together the past and present, the personal and the factual. There's a strong sense of memory, like old books and ancient records and faded photographs.

What it comes down to is that he has a writing style that I personally like, and the subject matter has always been of interest to me. For a compulsory English course book, it could certainly be a lot worse.