Linkblog | Ava’s Demon

from the Tuls-and-Nevy-shipping dept

Ava’s Demon

Ava’s Demon is a web comic about a girl named Ava and the demon haunting her.

The spectacular sci-fi webcomic Ava’s Demon first hit the internet in 2012, and quickly made a name for itself with its lush, luminous painted panels, its occasional splashes of animation, and its cinematic one-panel-at-a-time cadence. Written and drawn by Michelle Fus, an animator formerly of Pixar and DreamWorks, it’s probably still the most beautiful webcomic online.

Until recently, the comic updated more or less weekly, dropping a handful of new panels about Ava, her titular “demon” tormentor Wrathia, as well as Ava’s…”friends” Maggie, Odin, and Gil; but despite putting in twelve years and over 2,500 pages of kinetic action, Ava and co. have only just finished up their first action-packed day as they run from the forces of the intergalactic god/despot/CEO Titan.

I lost touch with the comic by about 2017, when keeping up on webcomics proved to be somewhat incompatible with parenting multiple young children; and since then, Ava’s Demon has continued its steady drumbeat. Right up until November of 2022, when after a decade of fairly regular uploading, the comic just…stopped.

Webcomics lapse. They rarely come back. But Ava’s Demon did.

It lapsed for a good reason…and came back for a better one. If you haven’t read the comic before, I recommend you start at the beginning; but if you’re unconvinced, take a look at these incredible pieces of art, and imagine how much better they are in context.

Linkblog | Ars Technica: The amazing helicopter on Mars, Ingenuity, will fly no more

from the red-planet-whirlybird desk

The amazing helicopter on Mars, Ingenuity, will fly no more
Ingenuity has spent more than two hours flying above Mars since April 2021.

Well done, Ingenuity. The Martian helicopter—well, okay, it’s an Earth helicopter on Mars—flew its final mission this month, breaking one of its rotors during its 72nd out of five planned flights in the thin Martian atmosphere. The four-pound aircraft flew a total of 11 miles (17 kilometers) across the Martian landscape; by contrast, the first wheeled rover on Mars, Sojourner, only traveled about 330 feet (100 meters) before we lost contact with it.

It was originally planned to fly between 1 and 5 times; it flew 72 times. Its maximum operational duration was 30 sols (Martian days), but it made its final landing 977 sols after its first takeoff. Its design expected a maximum altitude of 12 meters (39 feet), but it doubled that expectation, traveling as high as 24 meters (79 feet). Having exceeded nearly every design parameter, I think it’s earned its rest.

The whole mission was impressive, but if you’re interested in the design of this incredible aircraft and spacecraft, you might enjoy this video from the YouTube channel Veritasium, made over a year before Ingenuity even reached Mars:

Congratulations to NASA, the JPL, and everyone who worked on this impressive piece of technology.

The Linkblog

I’ve just started a new thing, and it’s part of this very site. Inspired by Cory Doctorow’s excellent linkblog,, and born out of a desire to have less of my life depend on social media platforms I have no control over, I’m going to be putting together short posts based on a link and including some context, and perhaps some supporting links, and calling the result The Linkblog. Expected contents: anything I’m interested in, really. The first one’s already up; enjoy!

I hope you get a kick out of it.

(Yes, the little “from the _____ desk” thing is indeed inspired by MAD Magazine’s “departments,” though I was most recently reminded of this little bit of editorialization by Techdirt.)

Linkblog | The Verge: I’m sorry, but I cannot fulfill this request as it goes against OpenAI use policy

from the the-tech-isn’t-the-problem-the-implementation-is-the-problem desk

I’m sorry, but I cannot fulfill this request as it goes against OpenAI use policy
“Our [product] can be used for a variety of tasks, such [task 1], [task 2], and [task 3], making it a versatile addition to your household.”

The Verge posted this delightful article about how…uh…we’ll call them “ethically-challenged” companies have shown their hand on Amazon by wiring ChatGPT directly up to Amazon and telling it to generate whole product ideas for them.

Companies hiding behind multiple nonsense names has been a problem on Amazon for a while, since listings for multiple copies of the same item are cheap and can create the illusion of competition; which is why you’ll see Amazon listings for NKNZLY, JXMOX, BKAYP, MUXA, IANOPE, and USAMS all selling the same charging cable. They’re probably all the same company. It’s not technically a *scam*—you’ll probably get your product, and it might even work!—but it also isn’t completely above-board either. With such a public screw-up, though, confidence in both Amazon and unknown sellers is sure to go down, which can only mean one thing: Amazon is doomed.

Haha, no, of course not. No, they’ll just update their policies to restrict or prevent AI listings, and begin the moderation whack-a-mole, while the sellers find new and exciting ways to trick the system, and legitimate sellers get caught up in the game as false positives.

Yearly Themes—2024: The Year of Storytelling

“I’ve got this great idea that’ll help improve my life in really measurable and noticeable ways!”

“Oh really? Tell me more! What is it? When did you start?”

“No no, I haven’t started yet. Silly. I’m starting on the Feast of St. Lulu.”

“Oh, of course, the Feast of St… Wait, that’s over three months away!”


“But you said this would help improve your life in measurable and noticeable ways! Why not start now? Why would you waste the next three months of your life not doing the thing that would make it better?”

“Because that’s not how it’s done.

“Oh. …Well, does your way at least work?”

“Ha ha ha. …No. No it doesn’t. In fact, I usually fail by Trelawneymas Eve.”

“So…four months later?”

“But this year! This year it’ll definitely work. Look! I downloaded an app!”

I’ve never had much use for New Year’s Resolutions. It seems like a great way to put off an unpleasant but important change, or a convenient scapegoat to blame for why you weren’t able to follow through with one; and the fact that the average resolution fails after 3 months, 2 weeks, 6 days, and 4 hours suggests that “the way it’s done” isn’t really a way to do it at all.

Human habit change is tough. And despite my disdain for resolutions, I do understand the value in setting a date as a breakwater of sorts, after which the tide of your life will (hopefully) change.

“Flowers bloom but briefly, the summer sun will wane, leaves eventually drop, snow falls and snow melts, and flowers bloom but briefly.”

That’s why, when YouTuber and podcaster CGP Grey (who, hey, I just mentioned yesterday) mentioned his idea about “Yearly Themes” in his podcast “Cortex,” I was fascinated by the idea. He later released a video running down the basics. It’s intentionally broad, and based on subtly modifying the trend and trajectory of your life rather than making sweeping pronouncements about huge changes (which inevitably lead to discouragement when you backslide or fail 3 months, 2 weeks, 6 days, and 4 hours later).

I like to think of it as a quest objective in a video game: choose a task from a quest-giver, and then you have a waypoint to follow. When you have an option of paths, you simply choose the path that will get you closer to the waypoint. When you must choose between particular pieces of loot, choose the weapons that will be most effective against the enemies you’re likely to face on the way. If you’re lucky enough to level up as you go, you can choose new perks and skills that will help you against the boss at the end. A yearly theme is guidance without governance, and malleable without being directionless.

Using a yearly theme has been very useful to me over the past few years. In 2020 (what a year that was to start something new!), my “Year of Reconnection,” I made it a point to reconnect with some of the things I had loved as a child and a young adult. In 2021, my “Year of Intentionality”—in which I sought to make decisions more on purpose and less by default—was bearing such dividends and so clearly not done yet that it simply continued into 2022. Last year, after a combination of factors meant that I didn’t have time to think through a theme at the beginning of the year, I started the “Year of Learning About Myself” in April (though I didn’t give it that title at the time). You can find out about that in the ADHD category on this very site.

Which brings us to 2024, which I’m calling “The Year of Storytelling.” Again, it’s intentionally very broad (and in this year’s case, maybe a little overly-poetic), and it encompasses some things that I don’t expect everyone to recognize as connected to storytelling, but I’m hopeful it’ll result in both accomplishments and personal growth. At the bottom line, my quest is simply to find ways to tell better stories, factual or fictional, with words and with actions; to take hold of the stories I can and try to write a better ending.

If you too have had trouble with resolutions, I’d like to invite you to join me by coming up with your own Theme for 2024.

“Your Theme” image © 2020 CGP Grey
All other images public domain