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Anime & Manga

Mirai Nikki Review -- Breathless

Dreaming Anime Reviews: Clannad -- Dreamcastor Rei


Art & Literature

On Writing: Mary Sues and Wish Fulfilment

On Writing: POV Miniseries [second-Person] -- Emotional Outlet



Let Me Tell You About Homestuck

Fables: Not Your Mother's Snow White -- Emotional Outlet




Ouya Has Shipped -- Emotional Outlet



Layer Basics -- Dreamcastor Rei

Tools of the Trade #2: Marquee -- poetictragedy



Flu Shot -- Minkseru

US Regulates Bitcoins -- Dae314


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With a single issue under our belt, we fully intend to continue to develop and improve the project in order to deliver a product that is both useful and relevant to our users.


However, we can't do it without volunteers! This is a project for Kametsu, by Kametsu. For any graphics artists who are interested, there is a standing request in the Graphical Division. For those interested in writing, even for a single article, we have the relevant information at the end of the issue.


And for those already on the team, articles are due Friday, 12 April! Remember to update the category's table of contents, even if you haven't written anything just yet.


The newsletter itself aside, this quarter's Superlatives have just wrapped up. If you haven't viewed the results yet, they're posted here on the forum. The next quarter's Superlatives will be posted this summer in June. If you have any suggestions for future events, let us know!


As always, we thank and appreciate our donators, and ask that any users who are able to please consider donating to the forum.


[ PDF Download ]


A note for those viewing the PDF version--links that span more than a single line are broken, so you'll have to copy/paste them from the PDF. Alternatively,  just follow the links from the forum version! There are also far more pictures in the PDF version than the forum version.


For those who intend to print, the primary colour is blue and there are 15 pages. This will likely be the standard for the foreseeable future.



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Mirai Nikki

Review by Breathless


Note: May contain spoilers


Hi guys, it's Breathless here. I'll be reviewing Mirai Nikki (TV), which, in my opinion, is one of the best anime. So without any further ado, let's go!


Mirai Nikki is a psychological, action, and romance anime, and it really shows it.


You follow the protagonist, Yukiteru, an introverted middle-schooler who's about to enter high school. Yuki has no friends and he thinks of himself as a 'bystander', always watching the events around him.


Even without friends he's not alone, as there’s an 'imaginary' God that lives in his mind. This God's name is Deus Ex Machina, with whom he talks to from time to time. During one of his talks, Deus Ex Machina decides to give him a diary that can tell the future - but it's not all fun and games. There are actually 11 others with the ability to see the future, and only one can survive.


The action scenes are amazing, which matches the character development you see throughout the series. There were times where I wanted to dive into the anime to help some of the characters myself. You just find yourself falling for them.


The art is top notch, and the character designs were great, though I felt it left something to be desired. That being said, the voice acting brought the characters to life and was superb.


As for the romance half of it, it's always there and plays a huge role in the anime, but it's never overbearing. The romance is crucial to the story and characters, so I'm thankful they portrayed it well. (It could have gone bad if done wrong!)


So the characters were great and the action scenes were awesome, but what about the story?


Well, I gave you a brief synopsis about the anime so I’m not spoiling too much, but ultimately the story doesn't go much deeper. That being said, there are definitely some twists and turns that’ll keep you glued to your screen, but what drives the anime really is the characters. Even the side characters seemed to resonate with me on multiple levels, perhaps more so than the main characters. And this is what Mirai Nikki does: it drags your emotions out of you with all the characters and their stories.


And now for the sound. How is it? It's great! I already mentioned that the voice actors did a wonderful job, but the music and sound effects pair up with the visuals to really create an atmosphere. I found that it was another vital point to help immerse myself into the Mirai Nikki world.


Regarding the OP/EDs of Mirai Nikki, they were quite good. I enjoyed them, and they all looked and sounded great, though sometimes the ‘English’ made me cringe. The sound was good but the art specifically was spectacular. They did a great job at portraying the atmosphere of the anime. All in all, the OP/EDs only added to the great experience that is Mirai Nikki!


To sum it up: if you're looking for a psychological anime that's paired with great action and romance, this is the anime you want. There are some moments that tug on your heart too, so beware that it's a little bit of a tearjerker. (Or a huge one if you're a crybaby like me!)


Characters: 10/10

Art: 9/10

Sound: 9/10

Story: 7.5/10

Overall: 9/10

OP/EDs: 8/10


Dreaming Anime Reviews: Clannad
Dreamcastor Rei


Welcome to Dreaming Anime Reviews. I’ve watched close to 200 different animes, and most of them are “oddball” animes, ones that never got really popular so not many have heard of them.


I’m going to start with Visual Arts/Key animes. I’ve watched them all, and I’m currently watching Little Busters (currently airing).


Synopsis: Okazaki Tomoya is a delinquent who finds life dull and believes he'll never amount to anything. Along with his friend Sunohara, he skips school and plans to waste his highschool days away.


One day while walking to school, Tomoya passes a young girl muttering quietly to herself. Without warning she exclaims "Anpan!" (a popular Japanese food), which catches Tomoya's attention. He soon discovers the girl's name is Furukawa Nagisa and that she exclaims things she likes in order to motivate herself. Nagisa claims they are now friends, but Tomoya walks away, passing the encounter off as nothing.


However, Tomoya finds he is noticing Nagisa more and more around school. Eventually he concedes and befriends her. Tomoya learns Nagisa has been held back a year due to a severe illness and that her dream is to revive the school's drama club. Claiming he has nothing better to do, he decides to help her achieve this goal along with the help of four other girls. [MAL]


Review:  If you’re into the humorous yet touching love stories, then Clannad is the anime for you. The story revolves around Tomoya, a guy who has no aspiration or motivation for life, and Nagisa, a shy girl who has poor health, but aspires to be in a play which has no name. From hilarious stupidity to heart-wrenching tears to overwhelming happiness, you will experience all with this anime.


Plot:  5/5


Amazing plot that keeps you wanting more. Clannad has actually two story lines that are happening even through Clannad After Story (my next review). One occurs in the main world and one is happening in the parallel world that revolves around a young girl and a robot in an empty world.


Characters:  5/5


Has a diversity of characters of every type. A good anime will provide different character types, which this one definitely does. A variety of character types help provide an anime storyline.


Art: 5/5


Visual Arts/Key provides amazing art in their animes. The animation and the art is flawless.


Sound/Music:  5/5


Music was very well suited to the anime. This is an anime I loved both SUBBED and DUBBED. Key nails them both really well. There aren’t many animes that can nail the English and Japanese voice actors so well, but Clannad definitely pulled them both off.


Awesomeness Factor:  5/5!!!

I highly recommend this anime if you’ve never watched it, but only if you are into romantic/comedies.



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On Writing: Mary Sues and Wish Fulfilment

Emotional Outlet


On Writing is a series of articles based on different aspects of writing, from nuts and bolts to more nebulous aspects. Because the craft is different for each person and story, take these articles not as prescriptive, but as inspirational.


Perhaps one of the gravest criticisms a person can levy against a character, the term “Mary Sue” is hotly debated. Its very definition is constantly shifting as individuals and wiki pages alike try to capture what exactly a Mary Sue is.


The term originates from a parody of Star Trek fan fiction. A character named Mary Sue is introduced as a teenaged half-Vulcan lieutenant with whom most everyone falls in love. She saves the Enterprise single-handedly before dying a tragic and beautiful death.


Unfortunately, the origin of the term seems to be the only thing people agree on. There’s debate yet about whether male characters can be called Mary Sues, if all author avatars are Mary Sues regardless of quality, and whether the term can be used outside of a fan fiction environment.


One of the problems demonstrated by the parody fic above is that Mary Sue warped canon--not only with her improbable feats, but in the way other characters supposedly reacted to her. Some argue that because there is not an established canon for writers to warp in original fiction, the term cannot be applied to their characters.


Another issue is that it can be construed to apply to any and all female characters. Aside from the obvious regarding seemingly perfect characters, there is a trope called Anti-Sue, an inverted Mary Sue with endless flaws instead of perfection. Whether the character is obnoxiously competent or incompetent, beautiful or ugly, they can still be called a Mary Sue.


Some point to superheroes and the likes of Harry Potter--who was an orphan of average intelligence and aptitude, who also happened to be destined to save the world--as examples that readers don’t actually hate Mary Sues. What they do hate are poorly written characters. Suspension of belief covers a lot things, whether it’s Harry Potter’s magical circumstances or Tony Stark’s wealth, power, sexual appeal, and intelligence. (That most superheroes seem to be orphans is a topic for another day.)


Power fantasies, whether in the form of Batman or Harry Potter, are accepted and enjoyed by many. Unfortunately, it seems that once that power fantasy involves a powerful and competent woman instead of a man--Toni Stark and Harriet Potter, perhaps--this invokes some very visceral reactions.


As such, the use of the term Mary Sue can be construed as sexist. Consumers seem to freely levy the term against any female character they don’t like--if the male lead falls in love with her, she’s a Sue. If she rejects the male lead’s advances, she’s a Sue. If she’s proactive or competent, she’s a Sue. If she’s sarcastic or mean, she’s a Sue. If she’s clumsy or not very bright, she’s a Sue.


What does this mean for writers? A Mary Sue may be indicative of deeper problems--maybe it’s poorly written altogether, there isn’t a lot of depth to the plot, or it perpetuates dangerous stereotypes. Or it may mean that someone just doesn’t like your character.


Ultimately, what you do with your work is your own. Power fantasies and wish fulfilment stories will exist until the end of time. If you crafted a compelling story, something you’re proud of, don’t take it to heart if someone calls your character a Mary Sue. People can’t even agree what that means.



POV Miniseries [second-Person]

Emotional Outlet


Narrative Point of View (POV) is how a story is written and depends upon who is telling the story. There are three primary POVs---first-person, second-person, and third-person. Each POV has its strengths and weaknesses, but the most important thing to consider is how your story will benefit from a certain narrative voice. We continue with second-person.


“You walk into the store, hands shoved in your pockets as you mutter under your breath.”


Written from the apparent perspective of the reader through the use of “you” pronouns, second-person is exceedingly rare outside of Choose Your Own Adventure type stories, pen and paper roleplaying games, and instructional pieces like this article. Second-Person is often omitted from pieces discussing the strengths and weaknesses of different POVs. It also, unfortunately, is often recommended to writers as a POV to avoid.


Second person, if written well, can make a reader feel included in the narrative as an unnamed character. As such, care should be taken to make sure it is a story readers would want to be a part of and written in a way that is welcoming to their participation. Depending on the type of story you want to tell, you may find it more difficult to switch narrators when using second person, as compared to other POVs, because of this potential connection between narrator and reader.


On the flipside, however, for readers who enjoy reading as a means of escape, this perspective can be quite jarring and prevents total immersion, since it is able to keep them firmly rooted in the knowledge of themselves and their reality. It can also read as bossy and imperative, like someone is telling readers what to do and how to feel. This can lead to frustrated readers as they may find themselves exclaiming, “I’m not doing that at all!”


Some stories, otherwise written in first- or third-person, break narrative POV to address the reader directly in second-person. Depending on how well done the interjection is done, it can be a playful tip of the hat or a wink-and-nudge, maybe even a solemn or sobering remark. Or it can shatter immersion and remind people that they are, indeed, reading a book.


There can be a strong feeling of artificiality or novelty when it comes to the usage of second person. Thus, it calls for high levels of skill and art when it comes to implementation in a fictional setting. Even in instructional pieces, writers--particularly those in a more professional position--will avoid this perspective and stick to a strict third person perspective for objectivity.


As always, the important thing is to consider how this will benefit your story. Is it a story that can be told from the perspective of a single narrator? Are you able to craft a story in which the narrator fits the needs of your target audience? Do you feel comfortable with maintaining this POV for an entire story, whether short or novel length?


Don’t feel discouraged from experimenting with your craft! Do what you feel is right--even if it fails, it’s still a valuable experience.

Happy writing!



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Let Me Tell You About Homestuck

Emotional Outlet


Explaining the webcomic that is Homestuck requires more artistry than I am afforded, but I will certainly try. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers, but I make no promises.


Using a combination of animated GIFs, Flash animations, static images, games, and chat logs, Homestuck takes advantage of almost every form of media available to convey the story. It’s the fourth comic published on MS Paint Adventures, and while reading previous adventures aren’t a requirement to enjoy Homestuck, it does shed some light on its format and any references made. Homestuck features time travel, gaming and entertainment references, classical mythology references, and wordplay abound.


It doesn’t have much of an update schedule, but it updates regularly enough that the creator, Andrew Hussie, could take a several year hiatus from the comic and still have a better update ratio than most other comics.


We begin with John Egbert flailing about in his room. He eventually manages to get a hold of the Sburb game beta, triggering a meteor attack. He must work with his friends to transport his home, as well as the homes of his friends, into the game. The story then switches between John, Rose Lalonde, Jade Harley, and Dave Strider as they progress through the game.


The level of detail in the story pulls further and further back as events unfurl. Game mechanics, a major feature early on, grow less important as the characters become accustomed to the controls. It pulls out even further by bringing in twelve new characters called trolls, an alien species from the planet Alternia. Their story is told, and then later (much later), we are introduced to another set of four kids and twelve more trolls.


If it’s not immediately clear, Homestuck has a lot of characters.


Homestuck’s rough start and complicated plot can be off-putting to new users and has in fact turned away a great many of potential readers. It helps to understand where Homestuck comes from. The earlier adventures were essentially forum games, where people were able to submit commands to the game. Hussie would select commands to drive the story.


Thus, the first part of Homestuck, true to its roots, is a mess of in-jokes and meta humour. As the story grew and the number of commands became insurmountable, Hussie eventually took complete control of the story.


This does not mean, however, that audience input is no longer a factor--fan theories, art, music, and characters still influence and drive the story, whether in the form of a simple shout-out or even outright assimilation into canon (as he did for two readers’ fan characters). Some of the characters themselves are representations of Internet culture, to include those representing various aspects of his fandom and Tumblr.


Homestuck’s appeal isn’t the same for everyone and it’s not without its share of issues. You’ve likely heard of people who have done things like skip over all of the pesterlogs or even skip over entire acts to get to the “good part”. The comic can be considered bloated, featuring too many superfluous characters and loose storytelling. When it comes to social justice, debates rage yet over the races of the children, over gender politics and character sexualities.


Some have described Homestuck as a way of life. As someone with Homestuck shirts, a Sburb keychain, a tarot deck, all of the Homestuck music available for purchase, and several books, I won’t necessarily agree that it’s a way of life, but given its size, it’s difficult to completely disagree.



Fables: Not Your Mother's Snow White

Emotional Outlet


Fables, characters from various stories and tales, have been ousted from their Homelands by The Adversary and now find themselves in our world--New York City, to be exact. The series is a contemporary retelling of familiar stories like Snow White and Hansel & Gretel, breathing new life into tired tales, and is currently ongoing.


There are several spin-offs, which I have varying feelings about. They all add depth to the main series, but are largely not required reading.


The overarching story, at least in the beginning, deals with the Fables’ struggle against The Adversary. Old crimes are forgiven upon signing the Fabletown compact, wherein they’re made citizens of the community and forbidden from revealing their true natures to the mundies--normal humans. Those who can’t afford glamours to hide their non-human appearance are shuttled to the Farm, located in Upstate New York, and are essentially trapped there.


This, as you can probably tell, causes great resentment and is brought up several times throughout the story. And while old crimes are forgiven, they aren’t forgotten--Bigby, formerly the Big Bad Wolf, is barred from ever visiting the Farm due to atrocities previously committed. Fables also feel some uneasiness around Frau Totenkinder, a scheming and powerful witch representing many of the unnamed witches in various tales.


What I enjoy most about the series is the reimagining of familiar characters. Bigby is given a background and personality that feels organic and true to his roots. His dynamic with Snow White really sold me on the series early on, and I loved watching their relationship develop. The way he grows as a character and becomes someone more than a villain is heartwarming.


Rose Red’s progression from unrepentant troublemaker to an independent leader on equal footing with her sister is satisfying. The damage done to her--beginning with Snow White’s abandoning her after marrying Prince Charming--remains a factor as she continues to grow as a character. The fact that she is an oft forgotten character, even by her own sister, and her subsequent struggles with proving her worth, even to herself, makes her an easily relatable character.


Prince Charming is shown as a serial womaniser as he takes on the role of the princes who had married Snow White, Briar Rose, and Cinderella. He’s a liar and isn’t above using his charms to manipulate women into giving him what he wants, and his pursuits are far from few or unknown--in one issue, Charming is said to have had no less than 1,412 conquests by the age of fifteen. It is, perhaps, because of this that his later actions are supremely satisfying, because while he stayed true to his womanising ways, he proves himself an honourable man--if only on rare occasion.


There are many characters, but each are given some time in the spotlight and varying levels of importance to the plot. While an in-depth knowledge of fairy tales and folklore isn’t required, it can deepen the enjoyment experienced as lesser known characters are introduced or various aspects of folklore are played with.

If you’re in the market for a comic series that isn’t about superheros or cheesecake with flimsy plots, try reading Fables!



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Emotional Outlet


Submachine is a series of Flash games by Mateusz Skutnik of Pastel Games. There are currently eight games in the main series and four spin-offs. There will be spoilers as I talk about the series as a whole, but I’ll avoid as many as possible.


The art is simplistic and stylistic, the ambient music minimalistic and eerie--it’s an atmosphere largely maintained through the series, but is often played with. For best results, new players are encouraged to start with the first game and play them in sequence.


The first game is easily completed within the space of fifteen minutes, and is but a taste of what’s to come. At first, it feels like the typical point and click game, where you’re dropped into a room and given the implied goal of escape. The only clues you have that there’s more to it are a single diary page and an easily missed Wisdom Gem.


The second game ramps up the difficulty, featuring a total of 98 unique rooms as compared to the first game’s 19 rooms (the original only had 9). It also reveals more of the story, introducing by name Murtaugh, the author of the diary page you found in the first game. You are also introduced to the concept of portals and the gravity of the situation you’re in.


The third game is interesting--rather than collecting bits and bobs, your primary directive is to solve various puzzles given to you by the machine. It also emphasises the massive size and creepiness of the Subnet, a structure containing both self-created submachines and adopted locations enclosed in a submachine.


The fourth game requires the further use of portals and drives home the horror of your situation. You discover there have been others exploring the Subnet, not just you or Murtaugh, managing to only accentuate your loneliness. You progress through the game with the sense that you’ll always be too late.


The fifth game takes you to the Root, the original submachine, and introduces you to a new teleporter system unique to this location. You learn Mur intends to have you explore the security system of the Subnet, which is the plot for the sixth game.


The seventh game is, without a doubt, gorgeous. The Sanctuary is grassy and covered in fluorescent plants, a stark contrast to the environments previously encountered. This is also where you’re introduced to Karma Portals, destructive portals created by Murtaugh.


The eighth game introduces yet another form of transportation, allowing you to travel through the different layers of reality. More questions are raised as you chase after Murtaugh, who has thus far been pulling you by the ear while maintaining his distance in a game of cat and mouse.


There’s something darkly appealing about the game as it pulls on your curiosity, bringing you deeper into the Subnet. Many fan theories draw connections between the games and extrapolate upon what little you’re given, further expanding on these feelings.


Though there are issues--the second game is notoriously buggy, the third game suffers several storytelling missteps, and solving the puzzles can be exercises in futility without a walkthrough--it remains that the game’s atmosphere, permeated by desperation and loneliness, is compelling.


So take the afternoon off, dim the lights, and explore the Subnet.



Ouya Has Shipped

Emotional Outlet


The Ouya, for those who aren’t yet familiar, is a video game console that runs on an Android OS. The project was founded in 2012 by Julie Uhrman and was funded by Kickstarter, becoming the second highest earning project with $8 million.


It separates itself from other consoles in several ways, including the fact that each system can be used as a dev kit, eliminating the need for licensing fees, and all games must have some sort of “free” aspect, be it completely free, a trial, or some form of purchasable in-game items. The system is slated to be available for retail purchase this summer on the 4th of June.


Currently, there are 104 published games for the system, including titles like Final Fantasy III and Save the Puppies, and eight thousand developers have created accounts.


As promised, the system began shipping to its Kickstarter funders on the 28th of March. Unfortunately, it did not go as smoothly as one may have hoped. As soon as the console is booted, a software update is waiting for you, an issue reminiscent of the Wii U’s launch. Although software updates are an expected occurrence, having it happen right out of the box can feel rather foreboding, if not simply inconvenient in an age where most consumers want the best out-of-box experience whenever possible.


Another aspect people aren’t especially fond of is the fact users are required to enter credit card details before downloading any games, regardless of whether they’re free or trial. Based on some of the comments on the Kickstarter page, this may be a detail that has been present since the start, but was overlooked in the excitement until recently. Either way, people find this requirement a contradiction to the concept of a open-source and easily modded/hacked platform, not to mention the fact that even companies like Sony and Microsoft have had issues with personal information being compromised.


Concerns about quality have been voiced since the start of this project, especially since the playing field for indie games still isn’t level. There is the very real possibility that a lot of games, at least in the beginning, will be direct ports of mobile games, which won’t necessarily be the best indication of the console’s capabilities.


Early criticism cited the project as a scam, as many found the concept of crowd-sourcing for a console that, at the time, only had a single working prototype to be suspect. There was also some concern regarding market fragmentation, echoing concerns heard when the Android OS hit mobile phone markets. Although the project delivered a product as promised, it’s yet to be seen whether it has any staying power.


Issues and criticism aside, the console does stand to be quite disruptive in the world of console gaming. By intending to capitalise on the growing popularity of cheap games and making its dev kit available for free with each system, it opens up avenues for newer developers to break into the scene.


It also has paved the way for other companies to make similar consoles. GameStick, Nvidia, and Valve are all working on similar, cloud-based projects, which may be more attractive options for consumers who aren’t willing to take a risk on an unknown name.


No matter what happens, it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. Even if the project is a flop, the waters are stirred and we’ll likely see more cloud-gaming options in the future.









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Layer Basics

Dreamcastor Rei

Anyone who understands how to work layers in graphic designing will be able to create amazing pics. It's the core of designing successfully. “Why?” you ask. Think of it this way: every form of art combines multiple layers in order to create one final masterpiece.


Today, I'll be using Photoshop for this tutorial. You'll notice in my articles that I'll use either GIMP or Photoshop. I'm going to be writing several articles on layers, because there is so much to be accomplished with them. In this part, I'll be covering some basics by going through an actual process.

Create a new pic and in the bottom right-hand corner, you should have the layers window. Here you'll be able to see, select, and modify all the layers to reach your final result. To create a new layer, press the right button at the bottom of the layers window. This should've created a new layer for you.

Use the Paint tool and click on the canvas to fill with any color. The blank layer should now be completely filled with whatever color you chose. This will only affect the selected layer you have selected. You should now have two layers filled with color: the default white layer, and the one you just filled. Since the layer you just created is above the first, only Layer 2 should be visible, while Layer 1 remains hidden. This is a layer hierarchy.

Switch the foreground color to a different color, and use the text tool to write something. Notice that Photoshop has automatically created a new text layer for you.

The background layer is locked, signified by a padlock icon. This means it is unable to be modified. To unlock the background layer, double click on it and hit OK in the window that appears. (I just learned this, which is why my previous article had a much more complicated process.) Any time you want to keep a layer from being changed, you can lock it by selecting it from the layers window and pressing the lock button. You are also able to give a title to each layer by double-clicking on the layer title in the layers window.

If you select the background layer (Layer 1) and change its color by using the paint bucket tool, it seems as if nothing has changed. But if you look in the layer window, it will show that the bottom layer is changed to whatever color you gave it.

Now select the foreground layer, then select the eraser tool, and make the brush round and 300px. (These options can be found on the right side after selecting the eraser tool.) Now click once in the center of the canvas. That part of the foreground has disappeared to reveal part of the background. This, as mentioned before, is due to the layer hierarchy. In the layers window, move the text layer below foreground. You'll probably see that part of your text isn't visible, while the area below it is fine. Right-click the layers thumbnail and select the Blending options. You will be able to add changes to the layer. Select "drop shadow" from your available options and click OK to use the default settings. This is one way to add depth to your image. You can also add a soft shadow to the text layer to give the whole image a “pop-out” effect.

I hope this helps those who need it. This is only the basics of layer handling. I'll be writing future articles to go more in depth into handling layers.



Tools of the Trade #2: Marquee Jqb9Fqr.png


The most common use for the Marquee tool is to select a rectangular area on your layer. This can be done by selecting the tool, and click-dragging the area you want to select. The selected area will be outlined by dashes. From this point, you can fill, stroke, resize, etc.


In addition to the Rectangular Marquee tool, there are also Elliptical, Single Row, and Single Column Marquee tools. To access these, click and hold the icon for the Rectangular Marquee tool, and a new window should appear. Release your mouse on the tool you desire.

The Elliptical tool will select a round area, such as a circle or oval; you can decide the exact shape by clicking and dragging.


The Single Row and Column tools will select a row or column a single pixel wide. I have not found the Single Row and Column tools to be very useful.


As always, there is also an option toolbar that makes everything a little more complicated.


First, starting from the left, there are four picture icons. The first (New Selection) will select a new area each time the Marquee tool is used. The second (Add to Selection) will add to the already selected area each time the Marquee tool is used. The third (Subtract from Selection) will subtract from the already selected area each time the Marquee tool is used. The last (Intersect with Selection) is complicated, and I can’t think of any practical use for it. When using this option, the final selected area will be wherever two Marquee selections overlap.

Feather: This option will feather your selected area by x number of pixels. This can be useful for blending purposes. For example, if you want to copy and paste a render to a background, feather the selection a little to make the edges blend better.

Style: This affects the shape of the Marquee tool. Normal is the default setting. Fixed Ratio will keep the Marquee shape proportionate, such as a perfect square or perfect circle, depending on the values entered. Fixed Size will keep the Marquee shape a specified size, such as 100x50px.

Refine Edge: This option will become available when a part of the image is selected; otherwise, it is greyed-out, as seen in the picture. As the name suggests, this option is used to refine the edges of selections. I use this menu more with the Pen and Quick Select tools when making renders. It is most commonly used to smooth rough edges.

I learned new things just by experimenting with the different options to write this article. If you’re ever unsure of what a tool does, try it and find out! Experimentation is the best teacher in my book.




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Flu Shot



Welcome to this issue’s Flu Shot! :) We are going discuss what RAM is and does for your computer.


So first, a definition from Webopedia:


RAM (pronounced ramm) is an acronym for Random Access Memory, a type of computer memory that can be accessed randomly; that is, any byte of memory can be accessed without touching the preceding bytes. RAM is the most common type of memory found in computers and other devices, such as printers.


That, sadly, is where everything stops being simple on explanations. To sum up the rest of it: RAM is broken up into SRAM (Static Random Access Memory) and DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory). I’ll explain what all this jumble means in a moment.


RAM is what memory a program has to access. If a program is taking more memory than you have RAM, then the machine runs much slower. If you have much more RAM, then programs will run faster. After a certain point, however, the extra RAM becomes a waste of physical space. (Personally, though, I would rather be a little over on RAM than under.  :))


The difference between DRAM and SRAM is how they go about their method of working.


DRAM is like a leaky bucket. To make a binary 0 it stays empty, but to make a 1 on that spot, it fills up the bucket with electrons. The problem is it keeps leaking out near the bottom, so the electron faucet has to turn back on to refill.  This causes a constant refresh on the RAM.


SRAM, on the other hand, is more stable with its information, but this comes at a cost--power. So while SRAM will refresh a hundredth of the number of times as DRAM, it is a heavier drain on power.


The next question is where RAM is in the computer. RAM is in the sticks located in the four rows that most motherboards have, a little off of the CPU on most computers.


|   CPU chip  || || || ||-Ram| slots


The sticks have two important bits of info on them. One is physical size, but just as important is loading speed.  Without size, the speed is useless to have. But if the speed is not fast enough to viably get the information quickly, it does not matter how much RAM you have.


Who benefits from high RAM?


The more RAM, the more you can do at the same time. So multitaskers, hardcore gamers, or anyone else who does high-end things of any kind can benefit from having a higher amount of RAM in the computer.


Well, why can't I just run any RAM sticks I want?


Motherboards have specific hardware that they will recognise. For example, there are parts for MAC versus Windows. More importantly, RAM sticks have notches in them that designate where they fit in the slot. Some cards are built for micro computers, laptops, and specific motherboards--those are just a few examples.


If you have questions on what you can run, look up your motherboard’s hardware support on Google or the company site it is from.


This has been your Flu Shot of the Week.


Next issue: How to install and run RAM for optimal results.





US Regulates Bitcoins




Image from Salon.com


March was a big month for the world’s most popular crypto-currency, the Bitcoin. Between achieving record high values1 and being recognized in a document by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network2 (FinCEN), the Bitcoin is slowly making itself a household name. The document by FinCEN basically brought certain Bitcoin establishments under US money laundering laws. This is not to say that the businesses targeted by the document were accused of money laundering, only that they will be required to register and conform to US regulation regarding the prevention of money laundering.


While the majority of Bitcoin users met this news with considerable celebration, others viewed the news more ominously3. Those who welcomed the new regulation viewed the event as a recognition of the Bitcoin as a legitimate currency by a major government agency. On the other hand, those who viewed the news with disdain saw the news as the beginning of Bitcoin’s fight for independence against government oppression. While the two groups debate the significance of FinCEN’s regulations, the Bitcoin continues to rise in value and gain more prominence and acceptance across the world.


However, despite the Bitcoin’s occasional appearances in news headlines these past few years, it seems that there is still a lot of confusion and ignorance surrounding Bitcoins and how exactly they work. Acting as consultant in this issue’s article will be my friend, resident economist, and couch theorist, Pipe Dream Penguin. The rest of this article was made possible largely thanks to his research and clear explanations. Together, we hope to clear up some of the common questions people have about Bitcoins.


To begin, it is useful to recognize where the value of the Bitcoin comes from. The Bitcoin falls into a classification of money called fiat money. Fiat money is money that is given value because people say that it has value. That sounds strange the first time it’s heard, but here’s a practical example of how it works with Bitcoins. When the currency was still young, the founders called for friends, small businesses, and site owners to begin accepting the Bitcoin as payment for some services they offered4. As more products and services were offered through Bitcoin payment, more people were inclined to trade cash in exchange for Bitcoins. Thus, the currency obtained its initial value. From there, Bitcoin exchanges were set up where people could exchange Bitcoins for cash and visa-versa. More and more businesses began accepting the Bitcoin, and as the demand grew, the value rose. The Bitcoin market value reported in news articles is often an average of the selling prices of major Bitcoin exchanges.


The Bitcoin exists thanks to a meticulously designed cryptographic system. The details of the Bitcoin system are rather complex, but the upshot of it is that the production of Bitcoins is strictly regulated and predictable. This is important since the system is able to then keep the Bitcoin scarce and therefore valuable. Other features of the system exist to guarantee the authenticity of a Bitcoin, mediate transactions to prevent overdrafting, ensure the fair distribution of new Bitcoins, and generally monitor the currency objectively and autonomously just as a government would monitor a traditional currency.


That last point is one of the Bitcoin’s most essential philosophies. The Bitcoin is meant to be the world’s first currency that doesn’t conform to or require the oversight from any human agency. The system is made to run by itself. In this way, the Bitcoin is the world’s first completely free currency. However, this fact makes Bitcoins a unique currency like none other in all of history. By that token, the Bitcoin is the 21st century's  great economic experiment, and nobody, not even the creators, can really know what will happen.








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Great issue. I just finished some coursework on feminism in literature and I was very intrigued by your article EO. I thought the male equivalent was Marty Stu? Who instead demonstrated 'ideal male' behaviour. Oh and aren't Mary Sues supposed to be self-insertions of the author? Basically, glorified god modding?

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To start, this Wiki page on Mary Sue is pretty interesting, especially down at the Controversy sections. You'll see that it, in addition to a lot of other expository pieces, refers to a Sue as a character deemed undesirable for some reason by fans.


I've heard Marty, Larry, and Gary Stu, but they aren't as commonly used as Mary Sue. "Mary Sue" on Google pulls up about 2.3 million results. "Gary Stu" 211k. "Marty Stu" 48.4k. "Larry Stu" 21.8k. Whether this means people are referring to male characters as Mary Sues or that female characters are more likely to be under fire is to your interpretation and experience, but I'm placing my bets on the latter.


What a Sue is "supposed" to be is different for almost everyone, hence the controversy. Since there is no single definition for it (look at the TV Tropes page and look at how many subtropes there are--it literally covers the entire gamut), people are abusing the term and applying it to almost every female character they don't like regardless of how well-crafted the character is. It demeans female power fantasies, which is pretty sad considering how little airtime those fantasies get in any form of media.


I'm not saying your definition is wrong, because it is definitely one of the definitions out there! It's just not the only one--ask 30 authors and you'll probably get 50 definitions and an innumerable amount of reasons why it applies to this character but not that one. Some think Sues can only happen in fan fiction because they warp canon, and some think Sues are any author inserts, regardless of how well-written they are and regardless of whether they are god-modding or not. And hell, some people think it can apply to real life people--I've heard people refer to Helen Keller as a Mary Sue, tasteless as that is.


Authors--fan or otherwise--are so afraid of having one of their characters called a Sue, they avoid writing female characters altogether. You don't get that kind of fear with writing male characters--unless, of course, you're writing a non-heteronormative and/or non-cissexual character, which is pretty dangerous territory these days anyway, what with "tokenism" still being a thing.

The argument I make, and the argument a lot of others make, is that a "Sue" isn't necessarily a bad thing (poorly written characters tend to generally be bad, but I don't see why we need a term for it, much less one that is harmful towards women)--a "Sue" is actually a power fantasy, something male characters have been able to be for ages unhindered.


There are arguments that the term is another symptom of internalised misogyny, which is another can of worms altogether and way beyond the purview of a expository piece on writing, haha.

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Wow dat improved layout. If people want the full K-former feel they should definitely read the PDF.

Nice little note about taxes.

Clannad - I didn't find this anime to be too sad honestly. Good thing because I was expecting and dreading it. Now AF on the other hand...

Mary Sue - Hm I've never heard of this term before. Sounds like it's basically like the OP character in a story that the writer loves the most. If I ever wrote a fan-fic on K-On! my Mary Sue would be Azusa I think.

Homestuck - Yeah another thing I haven't bothered looking at. I know it has a cult following though. Many of my internet friends seem to love it. But since it's become so big I don't really have the dedication to give it a go I'm afraid.

Ouya - More like Ew yeah? Lol honestly though I'm actually glad that Ouya is getting hammered by sites reviewing the initial backer kits. I feel it has been getting too much hype and people think it will honestly change the face of gaming as we know it. They say the UI is minimalistic, but I find it lazy. There's also hardly any innovation in the controller. Just a regular gamepad with a touch pad? Eh oh well. I agree that it has somewhat started a disruption of the gaming world we live in, but I'm not sure it will be the one to outlast till the end. The only alternative that I have towards the big 3 is the Steambox. That actually makes sense since Steam is a proven platform.

Bitcoin - Thanks you Pipe Dream Penguin! I look forward to hearing from you again!

Heh I like that Adult Swim tribute at the bottom. :P

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Clannad - I didn't find this anime to be too sad honestly. Good thing because I was expecting and dreading it. Now AF on the other hand...


I agree...Clannad was nowhere near as sad as After Story (which is my next review).  I cried forever on AF, but love it all the same and I'm watching for like the 20th time right now.

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One day I'd like to sit down and make a layout that isn't a template. One day, haha.




I'm surprised you never heard the term "Mary Sue"! It's pretty freely thrown about, even outside of writing and fan fic circles, haha. I suppose I never hear Java use the term, so I guess it depends on the circles you travel. You aren't missing much, though.




Homestuck is huge and, in my opinion, pretty bloated (like what the hell is even the point of half of these characters--I love them all, but seriously). I ended up reading it the first time around in the space of a weekend while lying unshowered on the couch, and only because a lot of people who read Gunnerkrigg also read HS. I wanted to figure out what the hell people were referring to all the time.


There is an adventure game coming out sometime next year though, which may or may not be able to stand on its own. Hussie likes to fill everything he does with references to everything he's ever written, so there'd be a layer of enjoyment that might be missing, but since I haven't even seen a dev blog go up, who the hell knows, haha.




The OUYA is interesting to me, at least from a price consideration (games are expensive). It is kind of lame that there's no bridging between apps bought from Google Play (if people are just porting mobile games, it'd be pretty useful to carry over purchases instead of forcing people to buy things over and over again), but I can dig it since it's technically a different app store. Still pretty lame.


Either way, I didn't jump on the bandwagon because it's still experimental and if I want to play smart phone games, I have a smart phone already.


I am definitely interested in the Steambox, though. Especially if we can port previously purchased games to it oh god please Valve do this.

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