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7/18/2001Drake

Man, I hate unsolicited soliciting. I hate SPAM, I hate junk mail, and I hate it when telemarketers call. They pestered us at least 4 times today, and that's not counting all the telemarketers who hung up when the answering machine kicked on. I sincerely hope North Carolina passes a law against this obnoxious method of selling.

When you get junk mail, you can exact a small revenge upon the offender by mailing them a "stop sending me this crap!" letter in the return envelope, for which they must pay postage. I've even heard of people mailing back boxes of rocks with the return envelope taped to the box. Not that I recommend such behavior... but then again, I can't honestly say I'm against it.

With telemarketers, the most you can do is tell the caller to take you off their solicitation list (always do this- I believe they are obligated by law to never call you again, at least where I live). I don't condone yelling at these people, though. More often than not they are just doing a job that they hate, dealing with angry people on the other end all day. The poor slob on the phone isn't the problem, it's the company he works for that I despise. I'm at the point where I will refuse to buy any product from a company that tries to sell me stuff over the phone- even if it is a product I would have normally purchased!

And now for something less bitter... Last week we saw the band Burning Airlines play in Chapel Hill, and they rocked us both. Jen was hyper-ecstatic for hours after the show. It was the second time we saw them, but this time was even better because they had a second guitarist (which really helps the sound live) and twice as much material. If those guys are coming to your town (and if you like to rock), go see them!

 
7/11/2001Drake

Something interesting happened over the weekend... Our website's traffic spiked to about 10 times the normal level. I couldn't deduce why this occured, but I figured out from the site logs that most all of the new visitors came from Finland. So, I guess we received the equivalent of a Finnish Slashdotting :) To our Finnish guests, Kiitos! ("Thank You") Saanko tarjota sinulle drinkin? ("Can I buy you a drink?").

Recently my brother Tod sent me an interesting link to a Salon article about Microsoft cracking down on pirated software in the public school system. I ended up writing a little rant that actually sort of defends Microsoft (quick, cut out my tongue!). You can read it if you are one of those people who likes to read rants. Personally, I never thought of myself as the rant-posting type, but I guess now I am.

 
6/27/2001Drake

Now Get 50% More Hackles, Absolutely Free!

That's right! Jen & I decided to just go for it and update 3x per week instead of 2x. We've wanted to do this for some time but didn't want to start something we weren't sure we could follow through on. Both our schedules have been pretty full since this comic started.

Really, our schedules haven't lightened up any since then, but we figured we just need to jump into this with both feet. Plus, I've become faster at drawing and Jen is always learning time-saving tricks on the Gimp. The strips are definitely coming faster these days. So look forward to 1/2 more wackiness compressed into the same amount of time! That's a lot of wackiness.

 
6/23/2001Drake

I finally succumbed to the dark side. I recently bought another computer- and left Windows 98 on it. Yes I know, Microsoft is evil, Windows sucks, blah blah, but it is nice having the ability to play Dungeon Keeper II once in a while, and now I can watch a DVD without breaking the frickin' law.

This is something I'd wanted to get for a while but couldn't really justify the expense. But last week Jen, Blue, and I went to one of those itinerant computer shows in Raleigh, and I spied a table selling 800 MHz Duron machines with 128 MB RAM, 20 GB HD, and DVD-ROM for only $330! How could I resist?

Now, the vendors at these things can be pretty shady- here are virtually untraceable "companies" selling merchandise of questionable origin, at rock bottom prices. The fact that the guy at this table spoke with a rather evil-sounding Russian accent didn't help my confidence either. "Da, of course ve have varranty plan!" But the good judgment part of my brain took a backseat to the computer-show feeding-frenzy part of my brain, and I bought the thing.

And what do you know, it works fine! So now we have a pretty cool setup at home; three desktops and a laptop networked together, all Linux except for my new box. The heat generated in our computer room reaches sauna proportions when the door and windows are closed. And the sound of all the fans whirring at once approximates the background noise of a typical airport. How do I like the new machine I bought? Well, I played a couple levels of Myth II the other day, and that was cool. Other than that, I haven't really used it. But I got a great deal, eh?

 
6/10/2001Drake

We just saw Memento yesterday, and it was pretty darn good. In this day and age, when bombastic Jerry Bruckheimer blockbusters like Pearl Harbor seem to get all the attention, it's nice to see a movie made with creativity and intelligence. If you did watch Memento you might like this Ko Fight Club strip I came across. If you didn't watch it, go now! It's a well crafted piece of work, I tell you.

While we're on that topic, I guess I'll ramble on about movies for a bit... Shrek was hilarious. Much more creative than your average Disney-ish animated adventure, and beautifully computer-rendered to boot. In the want-to-see department, Jen and I are looking forward to Cats and Dogs- who could resist a good animal world domination plot? And of course we're both psyched for Tomb Raider (Mmmm) and Final Fantasy (Oooh)... our summer is booked!

In Hackles news, I put up instructions for adding the comic to your website. Be our guests! I actually stole this idea from the BadTech online comic... Hey, "embrace and extend"- that's what innovation is all about, right? Bill Gates would be proud.

 
6/4/2001Drake

Someone save us, the "tontos" are coming! What the heck is this article talking about anyway? Initially, it looks like a mildly interesting piece on video game piracy or something. However, once I tried reading it, my mind started to warp from the journalistic insanity I had unleashed upon it.

"MPSJ president Ahmad Fuad Ismail said he noticed that 'tontos' are back to hound their backyard and follow enforcement teams on their rounds."
So a tonto is like some sort of dog? Or stalker? What kind of reporter would introduce a term like "tonto" and expect the casual reader to know what one is?

Well enough of that. This really isn't a rant... I don't care enough about "tontos" to rant about them. I just think that inane journalism is funny.

 
5/28/2001Jen

Today's strip was especially fun to make. It's cool to see the transformation from Drake's original sketch to the finished product. First, he does a rough storyboard. Then, he draws a good copy and inks it. Finally, I scan it and work some magic with the GIMP. It's a lot of fun and we enjoy working together. Take a look at the metamorphosis.

 
5/24/2001Jen

Well, we've put up a new survey. We listed some favorite pet peeves and you can vote for the one that irritates you most. Personally, leaf blowers are at the top of my list. They're noisy and create big dust clouds. Plus their two-cycle engines create a lot of pollution because they burn oil.

The same guy who uses a leaf blower probably spends a lot of money on a gym membership to stay in shape. Try a broom or a rake! Seeing a grown man chase a stone across a parking lot with a leaf blower makes me want to wrap it around his neck. Do we really need to be that lazy?

 
5/20/2001Drake

I don't know why I keep reading ZDNet for my technology news. Maybe I'm just a masochist at heart. Maybe I need that daily dose of horrendous journalism and FUD to jump-start my day. All I know is they consistently print the silliest articles imaginable, and somehow I keep reading them.

Take a gander at this gem I found last week: New open-source browser in the works. "Wow", I thought (foolishly clicking on the link), "this is great news! Maybe this will be the perfect alternative to Netscape that I can use in Linux."

The article goes on to praise this revolutionary browser's features, such as multiple rendering engine support and Open Source licensing. Sounds pretty good so far. Then it mentions that the browser, No Limits, is written in Visual Basic. What??

In other words, these cutting-edge developers are going to drop a browser ActiveX control into a VB form and call it a new browser. Basically, we are looking at Internet Explorer, but running within a crappy, slow shell. Something a bored programmer could develop in 10 minutes after reading a VB for Dummies book. This actually made it to the front page of ZDNet news. Gah!

Oh and at the end of the article, there is a quote from an "expert" technology analyst: "Sometimes, the best technologies don't win out. Microsoft's IIS (Internet Information Server) is faster than Apache, but Apache has the greatest market share, for example." Nice. IIS better than Apache? Excuse me while I gouge out my freakin' eye.

Sigh. Maybe I should just read Slashdot like a good nerd.

 
5/12/2001Drake
I spent the afternoon writing an article, PNG tips for cartoonists, for the edification of anyone who's interested. I learned a little bit about myself today: spending a Saturday writing articles isn't all that fun. I thought I'd give it a try for kicks, but nope- not fun. I'm guessing that's why most people don't write essays for the heck of it. Unless they're Francis Bacon or something. Which I'm not. It was similar to the time I decided to spend an entire week reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. It too wasn't very fun. I've got to come up with more entertaining pastimes, before I go insane.
 
5/5/2001Drake

Hip Hip Hooray! It's Web Comics Awareness Day! Check out all the special online comics created for this event. It was a fun thing for us to participate in- hopefully the tradition will continue each year.

So... the last two days have been a non-stop rodent adventure for me & Jen. We discovered we had mice in our apartment (they leave rather nasty calling cards, you know), so we bought a couple of humane mouse traps.

Last night, just as we were about to go to sleep, we heard the trap triggering. It caught a mouse! We took a 4:00 AM drive to a deserted parking lot to release the critter (about 2 miles away). We weren't sure how far we should take it. Do they have special tracking skills that can lead them right back to us? Who knows? We felt like mobsters taking the mouse "for a little ride." The situation also reminded me of a 21st Century Fox cartoon I just read.

Anyway, this guy comes out of a beauty salon and asks us what we're doing! Jen said, "nothing," which I'm sure the guy didn't buy. At 4:00 AM, what's a guy doing in a dark strip-mall beauty salon? Is he a night watchman? Burglar? Pervert? We got out of there, went back home, and prepared to go to sleep, when we heard the trap spring again! This time, (needless to say) we released the mouse in a different parking lot.

By the way, we ran a neat test with the mousetraps. In order to prove my theory that real mice, unlike cartoon mice, don't actually prefer cheese, we baited one trap with cheese and the other with peanut butter. Guess what? The mice chose peanut butter! It was a good day for science.

 
4/30/2001Drake

It's been a couple weeks since we put up the poll "What is your favorite operating system?" While the poll is still open for voting, I think enough time has passed for us to report on the somewhat surprising results.

OS poll

Perhaps the most unexpected finding is that no one on the Internet uses Windows! I think this poll will force many "experts" to re-examine the status of what was formerly thought to be the dominant operating system worldwide. Equally surprising, Unix/Linux proved most popular OS of Web surfers, accounting for 83% of all users. Macs came in a distant second, with 17% of the vote.

Admittedly, these poll results are difficult to believe. But if there's one thing I know as a consummate geek, it's that numbers can't lie.

In other news, sometime last week, Slashdot linked to an article about ComicsML, an XML language for online comic strips. I was excited about this idea mainly because of two important shortcomings it addresses:

  1. You can't easily search for comic strips containing specific keywords. Being graphics files, cartoons lack a searchable text element. A standard DTD (Document Type Definition) for comic strips can solve this problem in an application-independent manner.
  2. It is more convenient to browse Web comics when they are clustered together in a comics portal than when they reside exclusively on their individual sites.

The second point, put another way... It has been estimated (don't ask me where I read this- it was a long time ago), that the average reader spends about 7 seconds reading a comic strip. The typical Web comic, by nature of its isolation, presents a barrier for the casual reader. For a mere 7 seconds of reading pleasure, who wants to type in a URL and wait 20 seconds for the page to download, in the hope that the strip has been updated since the last visit?

An XML standard for supplying comic strip information would allow Web applications to fetch compliant strips and aggregate them on a common Web page, all without human intervention. Now that's a pretty cool use of technology, I think. A site that looks and acts like what I'm talking about is Webcomics, a very convenient place to get your daily megadose of comics (although the implementation is different- it doesn't use XML, and may not be automated at all, as far as I know).

The thing about XML is that everyone and their grandmother are proposing new DTD's for every industry under the sun- and I would bet one out of a hundred of these "standards" is ever put to widespread use. ComicsML is a cool idea, but we'll have to see if it gets anywhere...

Man, this is one long news update. What are we, Penny Arcade or something?

 
4/18/2001Drake

It looks like some folks got their hackles up over a B.C. comic that was supposed to run over Easter. Apparently it was to depict a Menorah with the quote: "Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do." Then the Menorah gets extinguished and replaced by a cross at the end of the strip. Could this be a slight to Judaism? That's how I read it at first - it seemed pretty condescending of Hart to show a Christian cross triumphing over an extinguished Jewish symbol.

Then I thought for a second: could the beloved creator of B.C. and The Wizard of Id really have a Jew-hating agenda? That sure would surprise me. Most likely, the extinguishing candles symbolized Jesus dying, and not Johnny Hart's desire to "extinguish" the Jewish religion. I tried to view this strip for myself, but couldn't find it online. I guess the negative public pressure scared Hart and/or United Media from running the cartoon at all.

Censorship issues aside (do I really need to talk about how stupid it is when people try to ban a cartoon because it doesn't agree with their religion?), I think any comic strip that tries to pass off a religious theme in a serious and unfunny manner is just lame. I mean, this is Family Circus territory (and not the funny kind either). A little advice for you, Mr. Hart: If you're going to make a cartoon that offends a minority group, at least make it funny. A cartoon that is offensive and funny can usually be forgiven. A cartoon that is offensive and serious is not really a cartoon, is it?

 
4/13/2001Drake
Well it's tax time again. Blech. I just wrote a big check to The Man, and I only hope my taxes will be used for good and not evil this year.

We've been pretty busy these days. I'm working 60+ hours/week at my job, coding and drinking Java like mad. Jen has been waking up at the crack of dawn each day to bake cookies (I could never do that). Yet still we find time to churn out comic strips for you, our very special fans!

Ok, ok, I admit we don't yet have any "fans" per se, much less "very special" fans, but we remain optimistic. Judging by our Website statistics, I estimate that our popularity is gaining at the staggering rate of one click per week. Verily, we are an unstoppable juggernaut! All your base are belong to us!

 
4/06/2001Drake

I wrote a poll-taking cgi script tonight. I tell you, perl is one messed up language. Don't get me wrong- It does the job, and I've grown to tolerate it for the most part. I just think it was created by sadistic aliens. After all, How could it come from the mind of a human?

Until our Web host decides to install python (unlikely), I guess I'll be stuck coding in this gibberish. *Sigh*. Oh well, I suppose I dislike it less than many other languages, so I'll quit my little rant. I put up a survey asking the age-old geek question on the left; give it a whirl!

 
4/04/2001Drake
I just installed a guestbook, so feel free to, like, sign it. It's a pretty cool perl script written by a guy from Denmark. The program is called guestserver, and it installs easily with only a minimum of tweaking. Apparently, it's the same guestbook program used by Lagwagon, so I guess it rocks.
 
4/03/2001Drake
Ok, we got our email working again! You can reach us at obsolete address now. Also in the news, we have a new strip up. Woo Hoo, Now all 2 of our fans can rejoice! We'll try to make these updates happen at least once/week, but hopefully more often depending on our crazy schedules.
 
4/02/2001Drake
Ugh. I tried signing our site up with this 3rd party email service, but it didn't seem to work... If anyone tried to email us in the last couple of days, we wouldn't have received anything. Sorry man.
 
3/31/2001Drake & Jen
Welcome to the brand new Hackles comic strip! We will be adding more comics and fun Web features to this site very soon. In the meantime, feel free to hang out with Hackles the dog and his office friends. Thanks for stopping by!
 
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