Tag: random

New Years Resolutions?

I’ve never done new year’s resolutions. I find them a bit silly in general because no one really goes through with them, and then personally I would find it depressing having to set goals at some arbitrary time every year that I might not be able to accomplish (and it won’t be for lack of trying). Not that I think setting goals is bad idea, in fact, I think it’s a really good idea, but not like this. I have to want or need them.

There’s no point in my opinion in searching too hard for a goal to set if you’re never going to want it enough to go through with it. So my goals are set at random times when I need some extra motivation if I need to get something done, or some extra organization when I want to do something. I tend to try to take on too much all at once. If they’re hard goals I also need to set them when I’m sure I’ve been feeling well, and when they’re easier they need to be achievable whether I’m feeling horrible or not. When I follow those general rules it’s unlikely I won’t accomplish whatever I set out to do.

This time my goal setting just happened to sort of coincide with the new year (I published this late, but I wrote this up in January). Also I’m currently stuck in a sort of health limbo for at least a year at the pace I’m improving so it also happens they are for a year. I’m not feeling well enough to work/study full time but I’m well enough to do a bit of something everyday so I really want to use the otherwise wasted time to make an honest effort at making a living from all the things I know. If I succeed, great, if I’m stuck in limbo for longer I’ll keep trying, and if this doesn’t go well, but I’m feeling better, I’ll go back to school as I initially wanted.

I’ve divided this into sections, and for each goal I’ve put in a blockquote how it might translate to content that you’ll see. Only the starred goals have due dates for this year. Others are just general things that can be dropped. I’ll be happy if I can at least get all the ones with due dates done. I’d plan it by the time each thing takes but there’s always too many variables at play.

$$Time_{f}=Time_{i}^3 + Life + Health – Luck$$

This has never not held true for me.

Goals

Website*

This is what has delayed this post. I’ve been working non-stop for the past month on this. I’ve scrounged together enough money to buy myself a domain so I’m doing it. The good/bad news is it’s not enough for hosting but that means:

Tutorial/s on how to set up a site with free hosting (via Github) using a static site generator.

Getting a domain is optional, but without having to get a hosting service, it’s really really affordable (~$10 dollars). Static site generators might look scary if you’ve just started learning HTML. I know I used to grown every time I needed to use a command line program, and I’m sure plenty of people have been equally put off by the little black box and UI-less programs so I will go through every little step, especially those that are often glossed over and assumed as obvious in the documentation. I’ll also go into making your own layout and theme, but again, it’s fairly easy to install a pre-made one or edit one a bit to suit you.

If there’s an interest in HTML, CSS, jQuery, I can also do a few tutorials on those.

I’m also learning PHP & WordPress because I have a few potential clients that want their site redone from scratch with a dynamic generator, but I think there’s plenty of tutorials out there for that. We’ll see. I’ve only just dived in, but the code looks relatively easy after setting up my static site generator.

Patreon Animation*

Since I don’t have much work to show off, I want to put a lot of effort into this and make it a mix of all I know. My page is up if you want to support me but I wouldn’t really call it launched yet.

After Effects Quick Start Guide

Art Tutorials Video Series*

Pick one subject and record all at once otherwise I tend to jump around everywhere.

Considering anatomy (starting with hands because I had a request), guide to programs (in general), or guide to Photoshop. If you have any suggestions leave a comment.

Organization

My Room*

…is a mess. There’s a bunch of projects just in organizing it, some of which I’m already working on like the:

Angled Drawers*

I’ve mentioned these a few times. They are delayed because I hit a bit of a snag with the varnish I have to sand them all again and redo the stain. Somebody kill me, please.

How To for these.

Camera Rig*

Recording drawings/paintings is almost impossible without one.

Timelapses w/ commentary!

Custom Blender Shortcuts

I want to learn Blender. I already know in general what tools I tend to use in a 3D programs so it’s just learning where stuff is and a lot of that for me relies on creating my own set of shortcuts. This usually doesn’t take more than a day or two, but this is Blender, I’ve been on this for nearly a week already.

Video explaining my methodology. A demo with blender, one for photoshop. All the shortcut config files.

Organize Hard Drive

Need to make a better system in general and narrow down the number of programs/places I keep stuff in.

Review of all the system and any software used.

Logging Method/New Notebook

It looks like I’ll finally be filling up my first notebook. I find notebooks aesthetically pleasing, and I love to make them, but I never know what to put in them. I don’t really like to sketch in a sketchbook unless I’m out and about. I hate any sort of journaling and most of my writing needs to end up on my computer anyway so using paper just adds an extra step.

But a few months ago, before my health had started improving, I was in a very bad mood because I didn’t have energy to do anything, not even things I wanted, and especially anything that demanded any sort of physical exertion. Going out of the house was chore. It was almost always for doctors. I felt like a caged animal, wasting away at my chair, lazy, not doing anything with my life. I knew it wasn’t true, but I couldn’t help but feel like it was. Then I had the idea of logging everything I did because I was doing things, they were just things that were hard to quantify. Just because I threw away a sketch, my project/experiment was a failure, or even just if I’d learned a few new things about programming and I had nothing to show for it, it didn’t mean I didn’t do those things or that I didn’t gain anything from them.

Well that little logging experiment turned into a huge success for me. Really improved my mood and I’ve been keeping it up for 5 months or so. But now it means I’m going to be using up notebooks. I have 2-3 half-used ones but most of them have ended up being used as scratchpads, and anything with decent paper I’ve saved for art, so I want to make/start one just for logging. And also by that time I hope to have a proper system in place. I’m still experimenting with different formats in my current one. It’s a bit of a mess at times.

  • Post on logging method.
  • Post/video on how to bind a book, and the secret to straight pages without a guillotine. I always see book binding tutorials that either skip this part and leave the pages all messy (which drives me nuts), or they use a guillotine and who the hell has one of those on hand?

Scan Work/Scanning System*

There’s not much past work to scan because I haven’t done much in the past years and everything before that has either been thrown out or is so old I don’t really want to show it. I just dread this because I have the slowest scanner ever. There will also be lots of newer sketches. I’ve been keeping up with those, but I really need a better system. There’s also some books I’d like to digitize for myself since they aren’t available as ebooks. I did one by hand, it was a nightmare, never again.

Might modify the camera rig I’m planning to also function as a scanner.

Ongoing (Art)

3-4 Sketches a Week

I finally have the energy to do this so I’ll be working up to one page a day (2-3 hours) once I have the time.

More art.

One Painting a Month

I need to get the camera rig made first though.

Timelapse paintings (some of the sketches as well) w/ commentary.

Sketch Before Restarting Painting

This might seem like an odd one but I’m a perfectionist when it comes to any realistic paintings from imagination so what happens is that I restart them over and over and over again and rarely finish. Practicing with the same painting makes it incredibly easy to see any improvement, but, the cons are huge and I don’t recommend it. It can be really really frustrating. You’ve got to really still want it months later on the hundredth try. The paintings I want to do have always been more than enough motivation for me to overcome the frustration. I mean, what better subject to practice with then the one that motivate you? And it has also helped that I don’t expect to finish the painting/s anymore. I’ve come to see them as practice that will someday hopefully pay off. Is it a bad habit? Maybe. Does it get me paintings? Yes, a lot. So I wouldn’t be bothering to change much where it not for the fact that I end up with nothing to show for all that practice.

Even if I finish (and that’s incredibly unlikely) I’ve only got the final piece. I might give patreons a behind the scenes look at a few of my attempts with any future paintings that take multiple takes, but otherwise old ones have long since been deleted, and the pressure of sharing all my attempts would probably just be too much while painting. The beauty of them is that I stopped putting pressure on myself to finish, just to improve in the hopes of finishing.

These aren’t the only types of paintings I do otherwise I’d have nothing to show at all, but they are where the bulk of my practice comes from, and also any studies or things I learn are usually for those paintings. The breakdown is something like this:

50% Failed attempts at realistic paintings from imagination.
10% Sketches from imagination (mainly for myself).
10% Paintings & Studies not from imagination.
20% Studies to improve the paintings from imagination (not very presentable usually).

What I want to do is change my process a bit so I get this instead.

10% Failed attempts at realistic paintings from imagination.
10% Sketches from imagination (mainly for myself).
50% All Studies (presentable).
30% Paintings not from imagination.

Before I explain how exactly, first I’d like to point out what I’ve been doing all this time is a bit different than being stuck with a painting and not improving after each time. If that’s happening to you, there’s something wrong with how you’re approaching it. I’ve not stopped doing this because although it can be and was incredibly frustrating at first, I have indeed improved from it. After reading Talent is Overrated I realized that’s probably because what I do fits exactly into it’s description of deliberate practice. It’s repetitive, it’s hard, it’s not particularly fun (when I hit that part I just can’t get right), I get really fast feedback, and I concentrate on a specific area to improve. Before, I knew this intuitively from trial and error but now that I have seen it described as a concrete process, a sort of list I need to check off, I can further refine my process. In fact, after thinking about what I did intuitively and the methods of other artists I saw that there could be more to it than the general learning process the book reiterates. They’re just a really good base. So to change the above I’ve created a set of steps for when I want to redo a painting.

  1. Don’t dive straight into restarting a painting. Analyze what went wrong with the painting.
  2. Pause for a bit, work on a random sketch or study.
  3. Next day re-analyze what went wrong with the painting (the more you let it rest the more things you’ll see wrong), go read up on that subject, if possible practice it on it’s own as part of the daily sketches/studies.
  4. After practicing an element take yet another look at the painting to see if there’s anything else wrong.
  5. Repeat 4 until there’s nothing left, then restart.

That sketch during the pause is a step of my own addition. I haven’t seen this mentioned in any articles about the subject, maybe because it’s not directly related, but I still think it’ll prove very helpful. I think we’re all familiar with the phenomenon of sleeping on a problem. Well we already do that anyways, so this is just like an additional dose of that. I need to stop thinking about the painting I just did, and to do that I need to obsess over a different one. In the future I plan to switch between two separate paintings if I can.

  • More more more more art! Since it’s likely there will be more than one thing to work on per try that’s where most of the subject matter and motivation for my daily studies will come from.
  • Post on this whole process once I get it down. The above is just my first rough outline.
  • Also I’ll be concentrating on making cleaner, more presentable studies w/ notes, both for my benefit and everyone else because they can serve as sort of mini-tutorials.
  • Lastly since all this makes it a bit less fun to work on the paintings that are least likely to see the light, I’ll probably end up doing more paintings not from my imagination, which I’ve been wanting to do, are general good practice in and of themselves, and will get recorded (when the camera rig is made), finished (because I find them easier in general even if they’re more boring), and posted.

Final Site Design Brainstorm

Because the first brainstorm ended up not being used (design wise) I did another one. This time I put more thought into how the mobile side would function.

Sometimes as designers we’re tempted to include things in our designs that look nice or can be attractive on a desktop interface, but just slow down the site and make it annoying on mobile platforms.

So I only left stuff to the top that I felt was useful for users. You’re usually not going to try to go through a blog’s archive tree from mobile for example. But at the same time it’s not completely inaccessible (there’s a link to the page). I think decreased functionality is just as bad as interfering functionality. By interfering functionality I mean things like the following. These are just things that annoy me as a user. Yes most phones are getting bigger screens but some of us are still stuck with 3.5 inch screens.

  • Fixed Search/Menu Header – They are really annoying on screens smaller than 3.5 inches (original iPhone size).
  • Popups – Don’t, just no, don’t do it.
  • Lightboxes – I have mixed opinions about these. If they’re super fast they’re great, but otherwise they suck. It’s a fine line. I ended up using inline thumbnails and pictures with easy links to the full image.
  • Un-hoverable Menus – Make sure if you have menus they “hover” when tapped once on mobile devices instead of going straight to the link or appearing then disappearing.
  • Infinite Scrolling – I would strongly advice against it. 90% of sites with infinite scrolling still crash my iPod Touch (4th gen). Even on a desktop this is a bad idea if users are likely to scroll past the 3rd-4th page (who doesn’t want their users to read a lot?). Each page that you load is added to the memory and therefore slows down the site. There will be a point at which it becomes sluggish on almost any device. The only way you might get away with infinite scrolling is if you only have text.
  • No Next/Previous Gestures – I don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but some blogs allow you to “turn” to the next post. But all that happens is that you accidently turn a page when you don’t want to.
  • Anything that messes with the font size when rotating the device.

How to Export Kindle Highlights (Personal Documents Included)

EDIT: Amazon has finally added the ability to export notes and highlights by email. This post is outdated.

I love highlighting in books, makes finding favorite passages easier. But I also do a lot of research so I need that feature. Unfortunately there aren’t that many devices/apps capable of syncing and exporting highlights. I don’t know why not. One would think this would be a really obvious feature in any app that allows hghlighting. Apparently not. For example, the only way I can really get highlights from a PDF is by going through Goodreader. Acrobat can’t do this!

And for ebooks, the Kindle can’t do this either! I don’t know why. It’s ridiculous. That, not being able to access personal docs on the Windows Kindle app, and the fact that you can’t scroll in the Kindle app have always made me want to ditch it, but no other app can sync with my Kindle… sigh. I’ve considered getting a different ereader brand next time (the Keyboard is seriously outdated at this point) but none have good sync options.

Technically with Amazon you can sort of export highlights if you bought the books from them (it’s easy to access them in a way that lets you copy), but not your personal documents. If you try to search for how to do this most of the guides are about this method which is useless for personal documents. There is a way to export your personal document highlights from your kindle itself and I’ll go over it quickly, but I don’t know if it works with newer kindles. The new method I found is as far as I know almost undocumented and will work from any iOS device, possibly even Android.

From Your Kindle

There is of course the Clippings.txt but this file is ONLY updated if you make a highlight from your kindle, which makes it useless if you read anywhere else as well. It’s also a mess going through it.

The better method is getting them from the .MBP files in your Kindle. Highlights are stored inside these alongside your books with each file corresponding to a book. You can copy them over to your computer and then use this little program, MBP Reader, (place it in the same folder as your highlights) to extract them. Just double-click and it’ll create a bunch of txt files containing the highlights for each book.

Now according to the people that created the MBP reader, Amazon changed the file type in response to this. Why???!!! and no before you ask you can’t copy an entire book like this, there’s a clipping limit still in place. But on my Kindle Keyboard this still works. Maybe they only did this on the newer ones? I don’t know. But this is one way to get your highlights. And for the most part I’d do it this way if you can because it’s slightly easier and the clipping limit, although still there, is larger. You’ll know if you hit it because the text file will just have a number and no highlights.

From Your iPad/iPhone (possibly Android as well)

NOTE: This has a clipping limit. In fact the clipping is smaller than what’s even shown on the notes summary screen of the iPad. It seems like it’s 50 words like the copyright limit (that’s about 3 lines in the iPad notes summary screen). Getting your clippings from the .MBP files allows for quite a bit more, hence why I prefer it.

There are times when using the first method is impossible though.

For example, I recently wanted to read a very large book (it had lots of images) on my iPad. It was a .mobi and making it into a PDF ruined the formatting. You can’t email a book over 25mb to your Kindle address because of Gmail’s file limit. I’ve tried different email services that claimed to be able to send big files (if anybody knows one that works, leave a link), but eventually I gave up and manually transferred the book through iTunes onto the Kindle app. The thing is this won’t sync the highlights so even if I put the book in my Kindle Keyboard the .MBP file won’t be generated. I thought well, come to worse, I would just use the fool proof third method described below, but I really didn’t want to by the time I’d read the book because I’d highlighted a lot of stuff.

I searched around and apparently according to this Stack Exchange question the Kindle App used to keep an SQlite file called AnnotationStorage. This is literally the only place I’ve ever seen a proper answer to this problem and it’s not even the first answer. Also the average user probably has no idea what an SQL Database even is and nobody else seems to have bothered to detail the process. So I thought I’d do it.

Instructions

Step 1

Okay first we’ll need to get the files. You’ll need some way to access your iPad/iPhone device’s internal files. This is a piece of cake if you’re jailbroken (iFile). If you’re not there’s supposedly desktop applications that do allow you to see App folder but I haven’t tried them (the Stack Exchange answer mentions iFunBox Classic).

Step 2

Depending on your iOS version the Applications folder will be in different places. Now I imagine this file probably also exists on Android, but I don’t have an android device to try. If anybody knows, leave a comment.

  • Pre iOS8 in /private/var/mobile/Applications and it’s easy to find the Kindle folder.
  • Post iOS8 it’s a nightmare. You’ll have to go to /private/var/mobile/Containers/Data/Application and then you’ll see a bunch of folders with different numbers. I believe this number changes occasionally. You could still attempt to bookmark it though, but it’s likely you’re going to have to do this every single time. It might be easier to just know the approximate size of the folder.
  • You’re going to have to go one by one and open then go into the folders to determine which is the Kindle app.If you’ve manually transferred a book it’s easier to check the APPNUMBER/Documents/ of each app as you’ll immediately see the .MOBI for your book there. Otherwise check all APPNUMBER/Library folders, the Kindle one should contain folders named ACX, AmazonADs, etc. and the AnnotationStorage will be there.

Step 3

Now if you’re not there already navigate to /Library in the Kindle folder. Here like I said you’ll find the AnnotationStorage file (ignore the other AnnotationStorage -smh and -wal files). With iFile you can just select it, zip it, and email it to yourself to get it on your computer. Or you can use an app or SSH, but get it onto your computer somehow.

Step 4

Now you’ll need an SQLite reader. There are many (the Stack Exchange answer mentioned DBBrowser) I used a firefox Add-on called SQLite Manager because I already had it and the search function is better. DB Browser doesn’t seem to be able to search for fragments of a cell.

Step 5

Rename the file to AnnotationStorage.sqlite.

Step 6

Open it with whatever program you want. You’re going to want to go to Tables > ZANNOTATION and switch the view so you can see the table. In SQLite Manager that’s just the Browse & Search tab. It’s going to look kind of like an Excel sheet. The important columns are ZRAWBOOKID. If you sort by this, you’ll sort by book. If you can’t find your book you can search ZUSERTEXT for a phrase in a highlight then get the book ID from that highlight and search by the book ID. Another important column is ZRAWANNOTATIONTYPE if you just want to get your notes or something.

Step 7

To export the data you need to highlight the rows you want then Right Click > Copy as CVS (MSExcel Compatible). Or you can run an SQL Query to get just the columns you want then copy from that. In SQLite Manager just go to Execute SQL, paste your preferred query and hit Run SQL. Make sure there’s at least a space between each line or format it as shown. Either should work.

Here’s a basic query that will get everything and order it by book then the location.

Select * From ZANNOTATION Group By ZRAWSTART Order By ZRAWBOOKID ASC

Step 8

You can then paste this anywhere, that is, the formatting will be weird if you tried to paste it into Word, but the information is there. I would recommend Excel or Google Sheets (free) as they will arrange the data in columns automatically. You can then manipulate that however you want. I’m still not sure if the BookIDs are the same for all devices or even if they stay the same. If they do though, you could also keep a list of which book is which and then later batch replace the book IDs with the proper titles. I’ll do a tutorial the next time I need to do this once I know if the IDs stay the same.

Alternatively you can mess around with the queries a bit to get just the info you want and copy that. You can use any of the following example templates or edit them slightly to your needs. Here’s something simpler that’s easier to understand than the raw export.

Select ZRAWBOOKID , ZRAWANNOTATIONTYPE, ZUSERTEXT From ZANNOTATION Group By ZRAWSTART Order By ZRAWBOOKID ASC

This will get all your highlights, show three columns (Book, Annotation Type, and the Annotation) and sort them by book, then within that by the location of the highlight. Note that ZRAWSTART (you can add that as a column if you want to see it) is not the Location number in your kindle. That info doesn’t seem to be available or is somehow extrapolated from this by the app).

To add or remove columns. Just add a comma. The basic format is:

Select COLUMN1, COLUM2, COLUMN3 From TABLE

Table is ZANNOTATION in this case.

You can also filter by book ID in the SQL Query. The following just gets the Annotation Type, the Annotation, and then orders it by the location.

Select ZRAWANNOTATIONTYPE, ZUSERTEXT From ZANNOTATION Where ZRAWBOOKID="InsertBookIDw/Quotations" Order By ZRAWSTART ASC

And for just getting highlights out and into Word or Notepad, you can use something like this, then they just need to be separated on individual lines. If you first paste this into Excel or Google Sheets then copy the column from there to Notepad or Word it will separate each highlight into a line for you but it will also get rid of quotation marks. I don’t mind, but some might prefer them.

Select ZUSERTEXT From ZANNOTATION Where ZRAWANNOTATIONTYPE="highlight" And ZRAWBOOKID="InsertBookIDw/Quotations" Order By ZRAWSTART ASC

And to get your notes:

Select ZUSERTEXT From ZANNOTATION Where ZRAWANNOTATIONTYPE="note" And ZRAWBOOKID="InsertBookIDw/Quotations"Order By ZRAWSTART ASC

Anyways I hope you found my guide useful, maybe learned a bit of SQL. I’m not an expert at this but if you need some help with a query just leave a comment.

Foolproof Option

In case Amazon ever changes the way they do this (which I doubt), there will of course always be this method on older devices, but even on newer ones you can take a screenshot of your notes then OCR them. It’s a pain, but the option is available. You can also use this for the longer highlights that won’t export completely.

Other Updates

  • I finished the chest. It just needs hinges and a coat of paint.
  • Plastic! All the plastic. Will attempt to record a model making session.
  • I have discovered the magic that is the french cleat system. So in the future I’ll probably detail my attempt to cover my entire room with these.