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I say this as an agnostic who leans Taoist…

But it’s time to quote theologian1 Reinhold Niebuhr (via Wikipedia)2:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Or, put more succinctly: Pick your battles. It’s not all worth fighting for.

  1. And fellow former-Missourian!
  2. Color me surprised that The Serenity Prayer is as young as it apparently is! I thought it was much, much older!

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Dynamite! Army of Darkness/Xena: Forever… and a Day #1

Army of Darkness/Xena: Forever... and a Day #1 comic book cover
Army of Darkness/Xena: Forever… and a Day #1

This is just a blurb. And it’s mostly intended for a few people I know from Twitter.

Those people are Xena fans, but not necessarily fans of comic books. And that’s OK. The former doesn’t imply the latter.

But as Xena fans, you should check out this comic book! It’s the first in a short run of six issues, and I can’t speak for issues #2 through #6, but issue #1 reads like some of the funnier Xena eps. I even LOL’d for real once, reading this issue on a break between doing things on Zazzle and Mechanical Turk!

And having read it means that I may be done working for the day, because now I’m tempted to just sit on the couch and watch “A Day in the Life” and “Fins, Femmes and Gems”1 back-to-back, because Hey! What a great way to spend a couple of hours!

By the gods, people! Check out this book! You can pick it up at your local comic shop! You can also buy either the real world or the digital version directly from Dynamite! Either way, this scroll should be in your collection!

  1. Yes, I’m aware that these episodes are Autolycus-free. Ash is OK with that.

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Inktober 1st: Tiger Squid

Inktober 1st 2016 - Tiger Squid
Tiger Squid – Kuretake Zig Cartoonist Sumi Ink and Princeton Kolinsky Sable1 Short Handle Brush on Denik Sketch Paper

Granted, it doesn’t really keep with today’s InkTober theme, “Fast”, but I was inking pretty quickly while watching Luke Cage!

That counts, right?

1. See my disclaimer, here, about that sable brush…

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Unboxing the ArtSnacks InkTober Collection Box!

My birthday was in June. I’d just like to make sure we’re clear about that.

If you’re a regular reader (ha, ha; just kidding), you’ll recall that I got the main part of this year’s birthday present from my wife in August, even though part of the gift was delivered on my actual birthday.

Well, apparently, before Linda had discovered that Cabaret would be playing at the Segerstrom, she had already order a different birthday present for me, scheduled to arrive just before October.

Then she forgot to cancel it.

And it arrived today. And I’m delighted. Because, timing aside (and seriously, what the hell, babe?), my wife knows how to pick a gift!

Inktober Collection Brand on the ArtSnacks Box
InkTober Collection Brand on the ArtSnacks Box – Note that the ArtSnacks pretzel has been incorporated!

That’s right! Someone decided to combine the curated art boxes that Linda and I love with the InkTober that I also love, and the result is the Limited Edition ArtSnacks InkTober Collection!

The ArtSnacks Unboxing Sticker on Orange Tissue Paper
The ArtSnacks Unboxing Sticker on Orange Tissue Paper – Will those hashtags work on this blog???

This is my first ArtSnacks box, and I’m impressed enough that I’m now taking orders from stickers. See: #ArtSnacks

I’m also posting lots if pictures, so this article may be a little less wordy than my usual, but all that orange screams to be seen!

Unboxing the ArtSnacks Inktober Collection Box
Unboxing the ArtSnacks InkTober Collection Box – What was hidden beneath the paper!

That right there is an exciting box! And not just because of the color!

The ArtSnacks Inktober Collection Contents List
First things first – The ArtSnacks InkTober Collection Contents List

If you’re a blogger, and you blog about curated boxes, you know that the contents sheet is your friend. This one lists Kuretake and Copic among its other brands. If you own a Kuretake brush pen or a Copic marker, you know that the inclusion of either of those brands bodes well for a bodacious box!

31 Days, 31 Drawings - The Inktober 2016 Theme Calendar
31 Days, 31 Drawings – The InkTober 2016 Theme Calendar

If you can’t make it out in the image, there’s a part of that calendar insert which reads:

Your Challenge: Create a drawing everyday for 31 days, using only the supplies in your ArtSnacks InkTober Collection. For inspiration, use the theme that is in the corresponding day on the calendar.

The bolding is mine. That stipulation will make this InkTober a bit more challenging than last year’s!

Inktober Sticker
The included InkTober Sticker. Not sure what I’ll do with this. It’s still cool, though.

I guess I could put this nifty InkTober sticker on whatever sketchbook I use for all my InkTober drawings… But nope! Someone beat me to it:

Limited Edition 7"x9" Inktober Denik Sketchbook
Limited Edition 7″x9″ InkTober Denik Sketchbook – Because drawing in a limited edition sketchbook isn’t intimidating, at all!

I didn’t actually notice the damage to the upper left corner of the sketchbook until I uploaded the photo to this blog post. As my mom always said:

If it’d been a snake, it would’ve bit you!

Sure would have, Mom!

That imprint is snake-subtle, too! Maybe it deserves a closer look:

Closeup of the InkTober Imprint
Closeup of the InkTober Imprint

Nice! But let’s get to the tools!

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen
Pentel Pocket Brush Pen

As you can tell by the caption, this is a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. I already have one of these, but I’m quite happy to have another. These are great for when you want the expressiveness of a brush, but also want to work on the go, or even just with a little less mess than a brush and open ink can cause. Easy to use and easy to refill, no one who enjoys ink would criticize the inclusion of this brush pen in this collection. (And, if they did, they’d be wrong.)

Copic Multiliner SP
Copic Multiliner SP

I’ve tried a wide-body Copic marker before, but never a Multiliner pen. This pen has an aluminum body and a nice bit of heft to it. It’s a bit thick, but otherwise feels great in my hand. It comes pre-filled with permanent ink that’s labeled as “water & Copic proof”, and it’s refillable. If it performs as well as some of my disposable drawing pens, this could become my go-to tool for detailed drawings.

Kuretake Sumi Ink
Kuretake Sumi Ink – This is my first bottle of sumi ink. I have Indian ink on hand, and pigmented acrylic inks, even ink with bits of gold in it, and a Kuretake brush pen, but this is my first bottled sumi, ever.

Ink is nice, but I don’t think I should use this particular ink with the Multiliner. What in this box can I use it with?

Oh, yeah…

Princeton Kolinsky Sable #4 Round Brush
Princeton Kolinsky Sable #4 Round Brush – Possibly my least favorite part of the entire box. I make a point of buying synthetic brushes because no weasel needs to die in order for me to draw or paint. (Some bugs might. But not weasels.)

I am probably going to use this brush. I wouldn’t have bought it, and I won’t knowingly buy another, but the weasel whose hair this brush is made from won’t benefit from the brush lying unopened on my shelf. When/if my conscience defies logic to make itself felt, however, there’s always this:

Kuretake Zig Cartoonist Nib Holder
Kuretake Zig Cartoonist Nib Holder

I’m pretty excited about that! This is my first nib holder that isn’t a Speedball, and my first that isn’t plastic! (That’s real wood on the handle!) It’s also my first nib holder with a grippy thingy on the barrel. I’m hoping I’ll magically get less ink on my fingers with this holder than I do with my classic Speedball holder, but I suspect I’m going to miss that holder’s bulk and shape.

There are also nibs to go with the holder:

Kuretake Zig Cartoonist Pen Nibs
Kuretake Zig Cartoonist Pen Nibs
Kuretake Nibs Laid Bare
Kuretake Nibs Laid Bare

These nibs are similar in size and shape to the nibs I normally draw with. I’m excited to see if there’s any substance to the notion that Japanese nibs are better than the Hunt and Speedball nibs I’ve always used.

The Assembled Kuretake Zig Cartoonist Nib Holder and Nib
The Assembled Kuretake Zig Cartoonist Nib Holder and Nib – I can see spending a month working with just this combo!

Finally, to truly make this collection complete, the box includes a letter from InkTober’s founder, Jake Parker:

A Letter from Jake Parker
A Letter from Jake Parker

And on the reverse, an inky bit of inspiration:

Way Cool Inky Octopus Illustration
Way Cool Inky Octopus Illustration

This is going near either my drawing table or the Veronica Guzzardi original we have hanging in the hallway. (You can see some of her octopus prints at Sharptooth Snail.)

And this? Well, the color is appropriate, and I guess that candy is, too, since InkTober, like October, culminates in Halloween.

Orange Airheads Candy
Orange Airheads Candy

But really, y’all? We both know coffee would be a better choice. It’ll take a lot to keep me drawing all month long!

As excited as I am to try most of the non-edibles in this box, I’m going to make an effort to not use any of them until the first of next month.

The rest of this month? Those 16 days are just for building anticipation!

And you? Would you like to draw along? Fire up your blog, if you have one, get out your pens, and go read the rules of InkTober!

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So, that’s how you got that up there!

They don’t even make a smiley that captures the look on my face, right now.

Discovered via Lifehacker, this video from Put a Cup In It has satisfied all of my curiosity about menstrual cups, and left me with a comfortable gratitude for peri-menopause:

“…it might take you longer to pee, but that’s OK.”

Nope. It’s totally not OK to make it harder to pee. Especially not after increasing pressure on my bladder.

I don’t even want to talk about how the cup responds to more than urination…

But if you’re curious about menstrual cups and how they work, this video provides a good – and very visual – introduction.

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Simplify! Förenkla Backpack from IKEA

The best backpack I’ve ever owned was one that was “free” from Marlboro, bought with Marlboro Miles — UPC codes from Marlboro cigarette packs — back in the ‘90s. When I say that it was the “best backpack”, what I mean was that its design was well-suited to my needs. It had a big main compartment which opened from the top, secured by an adjustable cord and a buckling top flap. It had significant padding on the back and straps. It had an insulated beverage pocket on one side and a snap-top pocket on the other. It even had a decent-sized zipper pocket on the front, with a smaller, mesh pocket attached.

I loved that backpack. It accompanied me to every college-level lecture I attended, and was a perfect grocery-getter! But fast forward a decade or so and I would end up sacrificing that backpack to something that I loved more.

I haven’t replaced it, despite the ready availability of packs just like it on eBay. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I haven’t smoked in four years. Maybe it’s because of the details of my original pack’s sacrifice. Or maybe I just don’t trust eBay.

Regardless of the reason, I’ve spent the past couple of years using either tiny bags on strings or a sleek and modern laptop bag, instead. I don’t hate the laptop bag. It’s nice. But WTF? I don’t even own a laptop.

I’m a desktop kind of girl.

I’m a desktop computer and big, wide-open, top-loading backpack kind of girl.

And I found my new, second-favorite backpack this weekend at IKEA Costa Mesa.

Like about half of our IKEA purchases, it was not something that the wife and I were looking for. We didn’t know it existed until we saw it in the store, and we only spotted it there because it was right by the door which presented our quickest path to get to the things we were actually there to buy.

This particular style of Förenkla backpack1 still has the word “New” on its page at IKEA US, and the current IKEA Family member price is $29.99 (compared to a regular price of $37.99). It has a larger compartment than my old Marlboro pack had2, with a rollover top that secures via D-rings, sturdy webbing, and a bolt snap. Two zippers allow side access to this large compartment, which includes a see-through ID slot and a zippered, mesh, inner pocket. The straps and back are padded enough to be comfortable. There are deep, narrow, non-fastening pockets on each side of the exterior, a zippered pocket (with interior compartments and elastic pen loops) on the front, and an expandable, double-zipped compartment on the bottom.

This is a great, smoke-free, trauma-free replacement for my old Marlboro pack, and it’s already done something my beloved old pack never got the opportunity to do: It hauled Bestå3 parts — drawers, drawer rails, hinges, legs, cabinet doors, and push-to-open hardware — and five Tjena boxes4 from checkout to the Mazda and from the Mazda to our condo, freeing my hands to carry other, larger, heavier parts I’d spend hours building, sweating and stressing over.

In Swedish, “förenkla” means to simplify, and boy, does this backpack ever do that!

Put things in big bag! Put bag on back! Done!

Its uncluttered, simple design is exactly what I had been looking for, and the price was too good to pass up. This is the perfect heavy hauler for my next walking trip to Von’s or Anaheim Central Library.

If you’re in the market for a new casual hauler, and don’t mind the size5, this is a great pack at a great price! What it lacks in style, it more than makes up for in function.6

  1. IKEA Article Number: 203.135.71
  2. Its capacity is listed as 35l, or nine gallons.
  3. Want to know how to make that “a” with the ring on top? On your Mac keyboard, press and hold alt/option, then press “a”.
    The “ö” in “Förenkla” is made by holding alt/option while typing “u”, then releasing before typing “o”.
  4. IKEA Article Number: 602.636.06
  5. It’s 22” tall. That’s nearly two feet, y’all.
  6. I regret that it only comes in black. Solid black. Backpacks should have red on them, damnit.

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Mac Backups and Local WordPress: A Reading List

Consider this a link dump.

I spent last weekend, plus Monday, getting my iMac set up so that I can work on building/customizing WordPress themes offline — in part because it’s embarrassing for you to see my work in progress; in part because I don’t know what I’m doing, and I need some room to play; and in part because my host,, doesn’t offer an ooey-gooey file manager, and it’s a pain in the ass uploading the same file over and over, especially if I’m working via Terminal and have to keep switching back and forth between SFTP and SSH.

In any case, useful links have been the thing for the past week or so, and they’ve been sooooooo useful that I thought I would share them with you.

Understand that I didn’t start at the start. Oh, no.

I started with getting my iMac backed up, just in case something went horribly, horribly wrong when I started messing with Apache and installing MySQL (and it’ll always be “My Squull” to me) and adding in command line tools. That meant 1. finally setting up Time Machine, and 2. creating a bootable clone of my drive.

Please also understand that I didn’t know anything about either Time Machine or cloning drives before I decided to do these things, so I read multiple sources before getting started. In the end, I used a trial of Carbon Copy Cloner to do the cloning, because my attempt to clone my drive via Disk Utility failed. Carbon Copy Cloner worked great, however. (Note: If you go this route, at the end, when CCC asks if you’d like to update the recovery partition, your answer should be “Yes!”)

My advice to you, if you decide to back up your Mac after years of neglect and a willful lack of know-how, is that you read the following articles, too:

Cult of Mac: How (and Why) to Clone Your Mac Hard Drive

Backblaze: How to Back Up Your Mac

MakeUseOf: Partition & Use Your Time Machine Hard Drive to Store Files Too

OSXDaily: Use a Single External Hard Drive for Time Machine Backups and File Storage

Please note that, if you’re running El Capitan (and I hope you are), the Disk Utility used in these articles is going to look different from the Disk Utility you’ll be using. The “Restore” option is now tucked away inside the “Edit” menu.

If you aren’t interested in developing locally on your Mac, you’re done with this article. If you’ve read the articles above, made sure you understood them — as a whole — and followed their instructions, you should have Mac backups two ways. The rest of this post deals with the second aspect of my days-long project: getting WordPress running on my Mac.

The easy way to set up a development environment, of course, would be by using Mamp or Xampp to install and configure Apache, MySQL/MariaDB, and PHP. But modern Macs comes with Apache pre-installed, those apps aren’t really needed to get an AMP stack running, and learning is good!

So, another set of articles:

Chris Mallinson: The Perfect Web Development Environment for Your New Mac

Jason McCreary: Installing Apache, PHP, and MySQL on OS X El Capitan

Karvel Digital: Setting Up a WordPress Development Environment on Mac OS

Coolest Guides on the Planet: Get Apache, MySQL, PHP and phpMyAdmin working on OS X 10.11 El Capitan

ITMUSTBE: A fresh OS X El Capitan install plus theming workflow using AMP, Node, Yeoman, and WordPress

The WP Guru: How to install MySQL on Mac OS X El Capitan

Be aware that there was more information than I needed in this collection of articles, but there was still information that I needed in each one. This was, for me, a matter of hobbling together the useful bits, discarding the rest, and eventually getting to what worked. There may have been missteps along the way: I’m not sure why I have Homebrew installed (perhaps my brief flirtation with Jekyll…), I may or may not have installed MariaDB, and phpMyAdmin tells me that my MySQL installation isn’t secure.

Getting a working, local WordPress installation set up was far more confusing than backing up my Mac was.

But I can theme in private, now, or practice PHP locally, outside of WordPress, to get a better understanding of the language. I can experiment with CSS until I get it to do the things I want it to do. I can use WordPress to build a site for private, offline use.

And Apache and MySQL both get shut down when I’m not actively using them.

My advice to other Mac-users with more desire than knowledge is to read all of the articles in the list, compare and contrast, figure out what you do and don’t need, and patch your method together from that.

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In Here, Life Is Beautiful

My birthday was months ago. Early June, in fact; and I woke up that morning to an elaborate puzzle which took me from clue to book to clue to book in our home library, giving me a list of titles of which the first letters combined, in order, to spell “CABARET”!

Fast forward to this past Saturday (August 13th, specifically — for my own reference, because I will want to know that date someday), and the last part of my birthday present finally arrived! The wife and I set out to Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa to see…

Wait a minute!?! Is that Justin?!? The kid from Queer as Folk?!?

Justin’s the emcee?!?


Was Justin ever!

Randy Harrison (he’s not really named “Justin”, ‘though I suspect he’s been called that enough to be annoyed by it) stripped me of my QAF lens with the first notes of “Willkommen”. He didn’t have to fill the theatrical shoes of Joel Grey or Alan Cumming, because Harrison’s emcee brought his own boots — and they were big and black and imposing.

Which brings me to how this version of Cabaret differed from the 1972 film. Both share a timeframe: Germany, at the rise of the Nazi Party. Darkness and imposition are inherent aspects of the story, whether on stage or on screen. But the horror of that place in time — along with the horror of denial — was driven home much more effectively, for me and for my wife, by the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production than by the film.

It wasn’t even close.

Linda and I were both crying in our seats at the Segerstrom.

(Forgive the parentheticals. Consider them a lazy gal’s segue. But fellow theatre-goers: Do you really think it’s appropriate to applaud at the ending of “If You Could See Her”? I’m pretty sure it’s not. Take the term “punch line” literally, in this case. Like Herman, there’s nothing funny about that whispered bit of anti-Semitism.1)

Oh, and Andrea Goss? This Cabaret’s Frauline Sally Bowles?

Best. Mic drop. Ever.

I’ve heard Liza Minelli’s “Cabaret”. I’ve listened to Natasha Richardson’s version so much that it’s burned into my brain. But I’ve never heard the song interpreted the way Andrea Goss interpreted it for this production.

That performance, through both its power and interpretation, was the first swing of the hammer in the drive toward a finale where every nail. Hit. Home. Even the mic drop, itself (I may have been speaking loosely, but I wasn’t speaking figuratively), was powerful, impactful, and completely appropriate.

“Impactful”, in fact, is how Linda and I both described the play when we talked about it in the car, on our way home from the theatre. There was nothing vague about the ending of this story; no Nazis filmed through filters at the end of the show. Visually, aurally, (and yes, symbolically), you understand how this story ends.

We took Randy Harrison’s advice after taking our seats: We left our troubles outside.

We enjoyed the raunch and the spectacle and the slow turn of the emotional climate.

And we came away far more troubled than we were when we went in.

If you’d like to experience that disturbance for yourself, Cabaret is playing at the Segerstrom through the 21st of this month, with dates across the U.S. — and Toronto! — through mid-2017.

  1. See Peter Felicia’s “That Controversial Cabaret Lyric Change” for more info/another take.

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Our Elevator Is Broken

We live on the third floor and our elevator is broken. That might not be such a big deal, except that the stairway has no ventilation; I walk the dog every 3.5 waking hours; I carry her up and down the stairs; and gravity just doesn’t like me hefting my bulk own upward, never mind my bulk plus 10.

(Did I mention that one of our neighbors has major back issues?

Yeah. I suspect she’s in for the day.

But back to me:)

I live on the third floor. That was my wife’s doing.

I thought I would have been more comfortable living on the second floor of this three-story building, in which the first level is nearly all garages, minus a couple of townhomes out on the building’s face.

I thought I’d be more comfortable on the second floor, because there, I wouldn’t have to worry about disturbing the neighbors below me. I wouldn’t have to worry about walking too loud, because there would be no one below me to hear.

But my wife wanted to be on the top floor. Her concern was the opposite of mine: She didn’t want to have to listen to people above her, and she was willing to pay more for the privilege of not hearing.

My wife got her way (because of course she did; this very conflict serves as proof that she’s more ambitious than I am), and it has been to my benefit. I don’t hear people above us — ‘though, sometimes, it certainly sounds like someone is up there, stomping around on the roof — and I don’t worry nearly as much as I thought I would about walking too loudly for the downstairs neighbor’s comfort. I can see things that I might not be able to glimpse from even one floor down. And we catch nice breezes up here, too; blowing in through the windows in the master bedroom, sweeping down the hallway, then gently exiting through the balcony door.

It’s good to be on top, y’all! It really, really is!

…except for when your elevator is broken.

Then you realize that the higher you live, the farther you have to climb just to get back home.

And you wonder at the notion that something as mundane as a transportation glitch can be the catalyst for understanding that maybe your self-esteem was never as high as you thought it was, and for seeing that your spouse has literally lifted you up.

Thanks, Linda! I appreciate you every day, but maybe today more than most!

And I’m sure it’s a day that I’ll make it through, trudging up and down multiple flights with 10 pounds of canine under my left arm; climbing my way back to our life together, where it’s clean, and safe, and high, and home.

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Nena’s Big Freakout

The video below was recorded by my wife, Linda, and is used with her permission. It was shot this past Saturday, upon our return home from a shopping trip that our recently-adopted Maltese, Nena, didn’t get to tag along for.


There was a time when I was afraid that my size and energy level might be a bit much for a small dog. (Especially a small, senior dog adopted late in life.)

I clearly remember the thought, but I’ll be damned if I can remember its justification.