How To Sketch A Thing


Drawing a thing can be a fun recreational and creative pastime, people who are able to draw tell us. For the rest of us it’s a lot of being angry at how we have this killer hilarious cartoon in our heads and it will never, ever be manifested in a way that doesn’t look like it was rendered by a squirrel that was handed a crayon and told there was an almond inside. And is now angry about being lied to. But still, you can’t get good at drawing without learning to sketch some, so let’s look into how to do that.

Before sketching the thing you should decide what kind of sketch to do. A “traditional” sketch is done with a pad of paper and pencils that have been handed down, from house move to house move, since you were in high school because they cost more than your house. I mean, yeow. They’re six-inch tubes of wood with colored lead inside, how do they run so much? Is the Koh-i-noor company thinking it will get rich piggybanking on artists? Have they considered, like, selling pencils to people with more money, like the folks with cardboard signs standing at streetcorners asking for any help and promising God blesses stopped cars? Good grief. Anyway. Traditional sketches are good because they’re easy and portable and you can hide them in your messenger bag for a quick getaway if someone asks why you’re drawing a picture of a squirrel without permission.

The other kind of sketch is “digital”, done on some glass-covered rectangular thing that has to be recharged. This is a popular choice not just because it means you can put off your drawing for the day for six hours while the battery fills back up. It’s also liked because you can effortlessly hit “undo” until your sketch looks not so completely messed up. And then you can try again, until the drawing program crashes. The main drawback is finding a good drawing program. There are six things that a drawing program needs to be good. Coding Law dictates that every drawing program has to leave one out. The one that looks like it has everything? I’m sorry, if you use that program now and then they send someone around to punch you in the stomach. It turns out there’s a secret seventh thing a good program needs: it needs to not sometimes send someone around to punch you in the stomach.

So, choose wisely, and then spend part of every day reconsidering your choice and wondering why you didn’t make a better one. It’s a little something to help you doze off better at work after staying up all night cursing the immutability of the past.

Now you need to figure whether you’re sketching something that exists or something that doesn’t. The advantage of sketching a thing that exists is you can check back on it to see what you’re doing wrong. The advantage of sketching a thing that doesn’t exist is that other people can’t say you draw it wrong. “But wait,” someone might say. “Sea serpents don’t have Popeye arms and warp nacelles!” And then you can glare at them and say, “Prove it.” This doesn’t help your sketch any, but it lets you win the argument, and isn’t that an even more precious thing in these troubled times? You get into some tricky metaphysical territory if you want to draw, like, Garfield, who as a creature of fiction doesn’t exist but who does have a well-agreed-upon appearance that you can’t vary from too much without getting fired by the Guy Who Does Garfield from your job drawing Garfield. If that’s your situation I got nothing for you. Sorry.

And the last thing is to decide whether you’re doing a realistic or a cartoony sketch. To make a realistic sketch, start by drawing a big oval on top of a slightly offset square. Then add cylindrical tubes to the side and the base. Then at the bottom put in a couple of rectangular boxes.

Realistic sketch of anything. Sorry, ArtRage wanted to round off all my lines.
Realistic sketch of anything. Sorry, ArtRage wanted to round off all my lines.

A cartoony sketch is very much like a realistic sketch, except that you draw while thinking about how you’re hungry. Start with an egg shape on top of a giant square food, such as a waffle. Instead of cylindrical tubes draw a couple of bloated hot dog shapes. Instead of rectangular boxes, draw mooshy dinner rolls. Then somewhere put in two dots with half-circles around so it has some emotion.

Cartoony sketch of anything. I forgot to put anything across the egg head.
Cartoony sketch of anything. I forgot to put anything across the egg head.

Now just add details to make your sketch look like the thing you wanted. Save it or scan it, and post it to your DeviantArt account with this caption:

Silly little sketch done to try getting back into the swing of things. Didn’t really come out like I figured but at least I like how that little mooshy dinner roll with the spaghetti curls came out. I’ll see if the art gods are nicer to me with tomorrow’s sketch.

Then, embarrassed by how much it is not what you thought the sketch would look like, put all your drawing equipment away for 34 months.

Sea serpent with Popeye arms and warp nacelles. He's happy, in his way.
Sea serpent with Popeye arms and warp nacelles. He’s happy, in his way.
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How To Clean A Thing


We continue this department’s investigation into the getting-done of things that were left un-done and have no questions in mind for anyone about why they were not already done. We understand. We’ve got stuff to do too that gets in the way of anything being done. There’s probably verb tenses working against us.

How To Clean A Thing

The first most important task to do when cleaning a thing is to ask yourself. Having finished that, the next most important task is to determine: is this a thing which is bigger than you are, which is smaller than you are, or which is about the same size as you? If you don’t like the answer, are you able to alter your size enough to matter? Your relative sizes do affect how the cleaning gets done, and if so, whether it does, and good luck diagramming this sentence.

It is generally easier to clean a thing which is smaller than you. Your greater size allows you to intimidate the thing, by occluding its light or just by overpowering it. Even should matters not come to that, it’s useful to know that you could, if pressed, overpower (say) the pantry shelves or at least eat them. Not every interaction with things should be a matter of domination and submission, but the option helps clarify matters. So should you have to clean a larger thing, try to enlarge yourself, or to shrink the thing, and then proceed as you would with a smaller thing.

With that done, the next most important task is to determine what kind of cleaning the thing needs. For example, does it merely need tidying? Tidying is the best sort of cleaning because it is done by taking a thing and setting it atop another thing. By creating this stack of things, both are tidied. The stacks can themselves be stacked. It is within the Marquis of Cleansbury Rules to tidy your entire house by stacking everything in it on top of everything else. This is why when you visit the house of your tidiest friend the entire first floor is a vast, empty space, decorated with a single futon capable of seating two people uncomfortably and a wall-mounted television that only gets shows about people buying houses in Peru.

I should say, the tidying urge runs strong in my family. I’m not saying that we’re experts. But we are good. Behind my house is a stack of like four love seats, a dining room table, a roll-away dishwasher, 426 linear feet of books, and eighteen potted plants one atop the other in a writhing pillar of photosynthesis. But it’s all stacked, and neat, and won’t tip over as long as the guy wires don’t snap or we don’t get a breeze. If it does, that’s all right. I have my tidying instincts to rely on. I could stack all that into a good enough pile so fast it wouldn’t even use up all my stockpiled podcasts. Yes, I have a pile of unfinished podcasts. It’s only about fourteen inches tall, but you better find that impressive or I’ll come over and glare at you.

But maybe the thing needs a real, proper cleaning. If the thing is smaller than you, great. Pick the thing up and carry it to a riverbank or body of water. A pond, say, or if you need something larger a hyperpond. And now I’m thrown because my spell checker is not objecting to “hyperpond”. I can’t have put that in my dictionary. There’s no way that’s a real word, though, right? Is my spell checker broken? Flurple. Cn’tr. Flxible. No, these things are getting highlighted. This is all very disturbing and I don’t know that I can continue from here. Knwo. Cnotineu. Yeah, it’s just broken about hyperpond. Hyperlake. No, it allows that too. Hyperocean. That too. Apparently my spell checker thinks “hyper” is a legitimate prefix to any body of water. Hyperriver. Hypercreek. Ah! It doesn’t like that one. Hyporiver. No, it doesn’t mind “hyporiver”. Hypocreek gets rejected. I’m sorry to get bothered by this but if you’re not bothered by this, what are you bothered by?

My TextWrangler window showing the paragraph with words like 'hyperpond' in it and not underlined for being suspect misspellings.
The eternal debate: when you discover a happy accident like this, work it into the piece or separate it out into something else? On the one hand, breaking the flow of an essay is a kind of comic path that can feel very tired to the reader. It’s a little stream-of-consciousness and that can read pretty cheap as a joke. On the other hand, it’s delightful to be surprised like that and why not embrace that delight?

I have to conclude that there’s some serious cleaning-up needed on my dictionary. Anyway, uh, for cleaning up your things I don’t know, try working from the top and getting to the bottom and use small, gentle circular motions. That usually does something. Good luck.

How To Connect To The Hotel Wi-Fi


There is a good deal of interest in these parts about how to get various things done. So this department will provide some explanations of how to handle some common tasks. Why you would do them is your own affair.

How To Connect To The Hotel Wi-Fi

  1. Be at or near a hotel with a computing device capable of interacting by Wi-Fi. This may sound obvious, but you might be surprised at the number of people have come up to us, holding a plastic abacus and insisting they can’t get on the Internet with it. The figure’s less surprising if you discount sarcasm.
  2. Open a web browser on your computer. There’s no sense opening a web browser on your pillow. You don’t want Internet-equipped bedding. It never ends well.
  3. Look through the list of public Wi-Fi networks. It should look something like ‘RestIn’, ‘RestIn_4’, ‘Rest_In_5’, ‘RestIn_26’, ‘Rest_In_26’, and ‘RestIn_27’, ‘Applebees_Guest’, “RestInn_Nonpublic”, “U_SPYING_ICE”, ‘IHOP_STAFF_ONLY’, “Resting6”, and (with the faintest of one bar, flickering in and out of the menu) “Asperience_Guest_Lounge”. Select the one that most nearly matches the name of your hotel (“Rest Inn”) and has the number that looks least threatening to you.
  4. Enter the user id (“guest”) and the password (“restinnguest”). The system will then ask you to accept the terms and conditions of service. Accept the conditions, but refuse the terms, as they include some which were not covered in the reading material and are not on the study sheet, such as the “Bland-Allison Act”.
  5. Go to any web site to test your connection. Wait for the screen to change to a solid color, with one strip of banner ad on the top, the ad that’s supposed to be on the left side of the page running down the middle, and some text sprawled off past the right side of the page where you can’t read it and can’t scroll to it, at which point the computer gives up. This should take about four minutes.
  6. Try one of the other hotel Wi-Fi networks with a less-friendly-looking number until you get the same result.
  7. Try the hotel Wi-Fi network with the weakest signal strength and that finally lets things through and pops up, like, forty Facebook messages even when you aren’t on Facebook somehow. Then the connection dies again.
  8. Turn your computer’s Wi-Fi off and on again and try the first network you used again.
  9. Try the Applebee’s one. What the heck.
  10. Scream into your pillow.
  11. Never, ever, ever go to a hotel ever again.
  12. Try sitting on the corner of the bed with the laptop in your lap, which you don’t really have. But if you cross one leg over and fit it under your knee there’s just enough leg space there to balance the laptop without it getting too hot and without your foot necessarily being put to sleep by the pressure of your knee on top of it.
  13. That’s getting a little better, but maybe if you sit closer to the edge of the bed where the signal is a little bit … different? … somehow and you know the wall is right past you where maybe you could lean into it?
  14. Throw your abacus into the pillow.
  15. DON’T LEAN BACK INTO THE WALL! YOU’LL GET WEDGED BETWEEN THE BED AND THE WALL!
  16. You leaned back, didn’t you? You got yourself wedged between the bed and the wall, didn’t you?
  17. All right. Don’t panic. We’ll sort this out. No, it’s premature to hack your legs off. For one, you haven’t even tried shifting — oh, you’ve gone and wedged yourself in tighter then? All right. No, don’t go crying out for help. The last thing anyone in a hotel wants is cries for help from the next room over. It’s just going to spoil their trip too.
  18. So, better than hacking your own legs off to escape the bed-wall trap is to use your legs’ pre-designed detachment points. They can be reattached later by any reputable auto mechanics or certain advanced kinds of stereo salesmen. To find your detachment points refer to your year of birth, where discernable, and check the manufacturer’s web site for what spots you have to touch and in what order to — oh, right. The web.
  19. I don’t know, did you try the IHOP network?
  20. Have you tried a mobile hotspot? A mobile hotspot is a great way to turn someplace that doesn’t have Internet into someplace that is supposed to have Internet but doesn’t.

How-To: Make A List


  1. Select a topic.
  2. Write down a bunch of numbers, or maybe letters if you like those as indices better.
  3. Reconsider whether you should’ve picked another topic.
  4. No, no, the first one’s fine.
  5. Put something on the list.
  6. Put another thing on the list.
  7. Put something on the list that you can cross right out, for a feeling of better accomplishment.
  8. Find something that doesn’t really belong on the list, don’t put it on.
  9. Put something on the list just to show you still can.
  10. Find something that doesn’t really belong on the list, do put it on to show the list who’s in charge.
  11. Add something to get to a nice round number like twelve items.
  12. Maybe have no idea but add something to the list because a list with an odd number of things seems so freakishly wrong unless the number is five.
  13. Remember that thing that was going to be on the list but you forgot to add it earlier, possibly because you were in the shower and that helped you think of it.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose seven points to 106 today, surprising everybody. Coincidentally the rival Another Blog, Meanwhile index started by those dissidents also rose by seven points, resulting in accusations of plagiarism and poor sportsmanship. The rival index’s sponsors say this was just another coincidence and they’re sure that as different views on the fundamentals develop we’ll see more divergence between the indices, by which they mean any at all.

106

The Autocomplete Wonder


how to tell someone you're a... autocompletes to: angry, a virgin, a vegetarian, an atheist, anorexic, or a vampire.
I’m also surprised it takes any particular effort to tell someone you’re a vegetarian, when you could give it away by just admitting that you’re tired of having bacon made a new topping layer on every product, including wide-screen TVs, campaign flyers, and streaming video services.

I honestly did not realize there were enough people trying to break news of their vampire-ness to other people that it should be one of the top autocomplete results to “how to tell someone you’re a”. I choose to imagine most people being told this say, “Oh, you sweet dear, we knew long ago. … How? Well, the fangs, the long cape, the Transylvanian castle you had transplanted brick-by-brick here to Mantoloking, New Jersey. They mean things.”

How To Draw


Drawing is a wonderful way to express yourself, to force your friends to look at URLs of your art without leaving them free to express their real indifference, and to get pictures of what you really want without having to explain it to an artist. (“It’s Kim Possible’s Mom as Captain Picard’s new helm officer, only she’s a steampunk mermaid dragon Little Pony, and she’s eating spaghetti, in Tron.”) It’s also a beloved activity of childhood, something parents and teachers pass on to kids, along with making paper rings and snowflakes, to show humanity’s dominance to crayons and construction paper. Many of us stop drawing, but here’s how to do it again.

The first decision is whether you want to use pencil and paper, or “media”, or to use computer and drawing tablet, or “media”. The advantages of pencil and paper include cheapness, portability, and the ease with which the pencil will go missing every time you should practice, saving the bother of actually drawing things. Computer methods offer the chance to buy consumer electronics which always feels so good, unlimited undo’s, and 25-cent refills if you bring your own mug, and save you from practice by throwing up “Driver Error: Link token exchange ring to bus”, which sounds like some sort of contract squabble at the Port Authority. Best to give in to their demands unconditionally, as I’m fairly confident they have tire irons.

Continue reading “How To Draw”