Are There Martians in the House?

I posted earlier that I’d been having a hard time working with the assigned episodes this week. When I got home, I decided to watch a different episode and see what would happen. I turned on Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? from season two of The Twilight Zone. I hadn’t ever seen this one, and the episodes with UFO’s and aliens involved always intrigued me.

(As a kid, I borrowed a TON of UFO books from the library, and then I started to get freaked out, so I stopped.)

I loved the disparity between the characters in this episode, and I thought I had it all figured out. Well, it turned out that I forgot I was in the Zone, and Serling pulled a fast one on me. Again.

Don't think you know me.

Don’t think you know me.

I decided to do another minimalist book cover for this episode, mostly because the image popped into my head immediately. Plus, I figured the one I did on A Clockwork Orange was done before the class started, so technically, I’m not redoing a project I’ve already completed.

One of these things is not like the other...

One of these things is not like the other…

I used a couple tricks taught to me today by Shannon Tate after commenting on her beautiful House of Leaves book cover. They really helped me achieve more texture in the image overlay and the text, which made me happy.

I feel like I’m back on the horse and I’m looking forward to (maybe) getting another project done this weekend, and definitely starting fresh next week.

Book image photo credit: ~Brenda-Starr~ via Compfight cc

The Invaders Return

Man, this has been a long week. Aside from the remodel I began on my house, we had family visiting and a sick wife to boot. So, my ds106 work had come to a relative halt. I worked on some here and there, but couldn’t really sit down and put in some time.

I decided to do a sound story in which the United States revisits the giant’s planet…and let’s say things go a little bit differently. The story is below.

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

This is actually about half sound effects from and half from my own house remodel, with the different noises being used mostly for the machines that come out of the spaceship. The woman is caught off guard this time, and well…you tell me what happens.

In a perfect world, I would have had a design assignment to go along with this, but I’m just not going to get to it. If I do, I’ll be sure to post it.

A Short Story of Most Unfortunate Circumstances

We all need time to do things we love. But, time is not always on our side. Neither are the people around us. Henry Bemis lived a life in which he found solace in books, and contempt from everyone around him. In Time Enough at Last, he is given an opportunity to forget the world and live in his books, but the Twilight Zone had other ideas.

I tackled the One Story/Four Icons design assignment to get the juices flowing. I had a lot of great ideas after watching Tim Owens and Jim on the show about design yesterday. One I had known about was The Noun Project, but I had forgotten about it until the show. So, I hopped over there to grab some images and get going.

I started with 5 icons (full disclosure here) and then combined the man’s head with the mustache to make myself a Bemis. So, in the end, I still ended up with four icons (I’m not a cheater.)

A story, decomposed to elements.

A story, decomposed to elements.

To get the broken lens, I simply used the circle selector and chose the space inside the glasses icon. Then, I grew the selection (Selection > Grow) by 3px to grab some of the edge. Then, I used the Transform tool to skew the lens (we’re getting deep here (yes, that is a terrible pun)) to show some depth. Filled in some lines, and you’ve got yourself a cracked lens. This didn’t take me too long, so I decided to beef it up a little and give myself another star in the process.

Rather than a still image, I decided to GIF this into something a little more interesting.

When things go wrong, they really go wrong.

When things go wrong, they really go wrong.

(I played with the timing a lot. I’m happy with what I came up with).

Just like Mr. Bemis, he thought things would turn out one way, only to find that circumstances often get the best of us, no matter how much we plan.

— CC Attributions —

Person designed by Antonis Makriyannis from The Noun Project

Mustache designed by Fernando Vasconcelos from The Noun Project

Book designed by Diego Naive from The Noun Project

Explosion designed by Bohdan Burmich from The Noun Project

Glasses designed by Thomas Hirter from The Noun Project

On a side note, this episode makes me really, really sad.

3 Design Stars

Vintage Clipart

Rounding out my assignments for the week, I’ve got a brand-spankin-new piece of vintage clip art for you to use in your next PowerPoint (because PPT is so much fun).

The original image came from a SONY ad for a projection TV from the 1980’s. I found this on, which has ads from the early 1900’s, categorized by ad type. It’s pretty awesome.

You can grab the HIGH RES PNG if you want to use it for some ds106 fun:

I am Talky Tina...


…or the smaller file for something easier to use.

This one was mostly about selecting out the original baseball image, and then cleaning up around the hands still in the frame. If you want to change the resolution, here’s the .xcf for your riffing pleasure.

Ben Rimes is a Monster

The first week of ds106 is coming to a close, and I needed to finish my design work for the week. I clicked on “try a random assignment” and got the D&D Monster Manual assignment. I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, but the imagination and storytelling that go into the game are very attractive. (On a side note, if you’re near South Bend, I’d love to learn how to play some time.)

As Ben Rimes is 100% responsible for introducing me to ds106, it was only fitting that he become my monster.

He's a little trickster...

Watch out, or you're in a world of hurt.

This project took me a long time because the mage I pulled was just a line drawing. I also had to re-learn how to select out different parts of the image as layers to get clean colors. To add to the complexity, I had to play with the fill opacity and style to get the grainy look. I’m not 100% happy with the color in the lettering, but it would have been too hard to read if I had done it lighter. Finally, GIMP’s fonts aren’t so wonderful. But, GIMP does tie into my Mac’s system fonts, so I went online and grabbed one for the front from, and Dosis for the back from Google’s Web Font repository. Both free, both now living on my computer for use whenever I want.

The story part was a lot of fun. I had to do a lot of research into how D&D actually works with monsters (and I’m still not sure I got it right), but thinking up how it would act based on how I know Ben was a fun extension. There’s probably also some kind of backstory in there that I might come back to some day.

If you want to grab the .xcf files, here’s the front, and then the reverse.

GIF a Trip

Last night, I posted a photo set of images taken every mile for 20 miles.

Today, they’re alive and in color.

Central IL is pretty flat, so you can drive fast.

Central IL is pretty flat, so you can drive fast.

This was the hardest GIF I’ve done to date. First, I imported everything into GIMP as layers. Then, I had to figure out how to create a GIF where only a pice of it was animated. After searching, going to Twitter, and searching some more, I came across this tutorial from our very own Jim Groom did on how to animate just a portion of the frame. I had the right idea when I was working on it, but I didn’t know you had to apply the layer mask.

Then, I went through each frame and lined it up with the rear-view mirror on the base image. There is still some wiggle in the top right corner and around the mirror, but I’m happy with how it came out, considering I may or may not have been driving while trying to snap the picture.

If you want to spruce it up or riff on it, here’s the .xcf

Riffing 10 Steps into 20 Miles

I was in Centralia, IL all day today (5/22), which is about 5 hours from where I live. Somewhere in between hour 1 and boredtodeathville, I was trying to think up something I could do for ds106 while I was driving. My mind flashed back to an assignment in which you take a photo every step for 10 steps, and then create a collage.

I’ve wanted to do that one following those rules in my back yard, but it seemed like a good place to start. So, I decided to take a photo every mile for 20 miles. What I got is shown below (click the thumbnail for the full-size image to see details, all 4000px worth).

scenery flashing by my lens

scenery flashing by my lens

The hardest part for me was convincing myself to only take one picture. I wanted to maintain the heart of grabbing a raw image and then sharing the flow of time, space, and imagery. And that included the blurry photo. I had to almost tell myself out loud not to take a “better” picture.

I have another plan for this image series, but that will have to come another time.

As always, the GIMP .xcf file is available for remixes.

When you’re in a pinch…

I’m traveling today and tomorrow to lead some training on Flipped Learning and let’s just say it hasn’t been the smoothest trip so far.

First, I thought (my own fault, btw) we were doing Mac training. Turns out, we’re doing PC. So, I partitioned my hard drive and managed to get Windows installed before I left.

Second, I’m tearing out my kitchen this weekend to begin a big remodel. So, while I was packing to leave, I was also trying to straighten out my junk so my pregnant wife didn’t have to do it all on her own. Oh, I forgot to mention that my entire family is coming to help. I love them all dearly, but its going to be a packed house for a couple days.

All of which brings me to my third point: in my haste to leave, I left my computer’s power cord at home. Ugh. Rookie mistake.

I got down to the very cozy bed and breakfast that was arranged for me, and I began thinking about how I could keep up with my #ds106 work for this week using only mobile apps. Thankfully, Ben Rimes, Jim Groom, and Scott Lo came to my rescue. This network really is amazing. Everyone is extremely encouraging and eager to help. I’m loving my experience so far.

Anyways, I opened up SketchBook Express, which is the mobile version of the SketchBook platform for OSX. It’s a pretty powerful drawing program which gives you all kinds of different brushes and tools as well as layer editing. Exactly what I needed. I decided to take a stab at the “Looking at Yourself” assignment because it would give me a chance to play with the app a little more.

Dang, I love it.


As always, the photo is free to use.

I was able to create the image using a previous shot from the camera roll and layering a quick screenshot on top. All of the editing, including the trimming, positioning, layering, and transparency were done in the app. It’s free, and definitely worth downloading.

I’m wondering if I should try and do as many assignments as I can using mobile only. As a former teacher, I’m a big believer that mobile is going to be the new normal in schools, and having a broad range of experience creating on mobile might be useful in the future.

Anyways, just some things to chew on. Now, I’m finally going to get some sleep.

How To: Riker

Week 1 of the summer ds106 course has begun, and I’m trying to stay on top of the work and do as much as I can with the rest of the summer cohort. I feel like I’ve got the chops, I just hope I have the time.

Today, to kick things off, we have a Design Assignment from the bank. This assignment asked us to create an image for a fictional character with the title of “How to _____.” (Meaning, how to emulate said character.)

I’ve been on a ST:TNG (follow the link if you don’t know what that is) kick recently, so I decided to model my guide on the ever-present Commander Riker. Always there, letting his beard shine out (at least after season 1), playing sweet brass tunes on his trombone, and in general, being a 24th-century-bad-ass-womanizer when Worf wasn’t around.

Let the beard wash over you. I'll wait.

Shared by CC by Brian.

I did this by grabbing a picture of Riker online and then using the free select tool in GIMP to grab his beard, hair, and to chop out his mouth. Then, badabing-border, badaboom-text, and there it is.

In the spirit of remixing, I’m also going to post my GIMP files on my server that you can download, remix, and play with. It should save some work for everyone in the end. You can grab the Riker .xcf here.

These are some of my favorite things…

favorite things and some other junk

CC by NC-SA by Brian Bennett

In a spinoff from the

Colorize It and Focus on One Color, I took a photo of my desk at home and then colorized some of my favorite things that surround me each day.

This also makes me think about how much junk I have on my desk. Maybe it’s time to make some strategic decisions and cut down on stuff I haven’t looked at it too long.

I did this pretty quickly in GIMP. I took the photo, duplicated the original and made the copied layer monochrome. Then, I applied a white layer mask and used the free select tool to get nice, crisp lines. I then filled those spaces with black to erase the mask and let the colors show through.

The thumbnail will take you to the full-res photo.