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Supermassive Black Hole A*

Supermassive Black Hole A*

by smbhax
Stories of a human civilization at the center of the Milky Way galaxy: an area of space dominated by a gigantic black hole, where energy is abundant and life is cheap.

Updates M-F, usually multiple times per day.
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Supermassive Black Hole A*

Stories of a human civilization at the center of the Milky Way galaxy: an area of space dominated by a gigantic black hole, where energy is abundant and life is cheap.

Updates M-F, usually multiple times per day.

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Let's do a Wednesday special A* original art archive sale! Been a while : o but this is where I fish out a piece of original A* art that I think is particularly keen, and put it up for auction at a special sale price. : D This week it's the 16" x 6.75" watercolor painting I made for episode 32, page 44, when Selenis had just entered that den of aquatic iniquity, the Falquarium, and a big fishy was looming up in a fish tank behind her! It is the most fish (or robo-fish?) by volume we've had in the comic, I got to play around with more watery effects in the paint, and it is for sale for just the next seven days—starting at just $16.99!—right over here on eBay.

The auction listing has hi-res images; here are some lo-res ones to wet (see what I did there? : P) your appetite:

<img alt="Image" src="http://smbhax.com/ep/0032/d/0044.jpg" border="0" hspace="0">
<img alt="Image" src="http://smbhax.com/ep/0032/o/0044.jpg" border="0" hspace="0">

Thanks for checking it out! The most recent week's worth of new A* page paintings are also up for sale on eBay—you can find all my A* art sales through my eBay profile.
I've been reading old Superman comics lately, and stumbled across a reference to an artist named Paul Cassidy, who ghost-drew for Superman co-creator Joe Shuster in many of the early comics. Turns out Cassidy is also the author of the first graduate-level American research paper on comic books, and his 1942 thesis paper cites a Gallup poll (or anyway, a poll by Dr. George Gallup : D) that examined how many people read the news and/or the "funnies" in the newspaper: 68% of men read the comics, and 47% read the news, while 71% of women read the comics, and 36% read the news.

... Which makes me wonder if writing a blog attached to a comic is a bit of a waste of time. ; ) Ah well, keeps me out of trouble. : P
smbhax
January 13th, 2018
I'll be off on Monday as here in the United States we take a day to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who was brave enough to speak out against racism, hatred, and bigotry.
smbhax
January 12th, 2018
I didn't really get anything else done today. : P
smbhax
January 11th, 2018
Hey I've done one of these before but it's late so let's do another (new) spectacular enhanced-color view of Jupiter's clouds assembled by citizen scientists using data from the Juno probe:

<img alt="Image" src="http://smbhax.com/stuff/jupiter_n_hemi_clouds_juno_121617.jpg" border="0" hspace="0">
image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran (source)
smbhax
January 10th, 2018
There was an article today by the BBC about a Japanese astronaut on the International Space Station who is worried about having grown 3.5 inches (9 cm) since arriving on the station three weeks ago. (Update 1/10/18: He actually grew only 2 cm.) The article explains that astronauts typically grow (temporarily) 2-5 cm in space, due to the spine expanding in the nearly weightless environment.

Even on Earth, you may be about a half-inch or so taller when you get up in the morning than when you went to bed, due to the spine being able to expand while you were lying down!
smbhax
January 9th, 2018
If you guessed that the oceanic pole of inaccessibility is the spot in the ocean furthest from land, you are correct! And because of that remoteness, space agencies not wanting to hit anyone with their de-orbiting spacecraft have turned that spot on Earth, in the southern Pacific Ocean (also known as "Point Nemo," "nemo" being Latin for "no one") into our planet's spacecraft cemetary: "more than 263 spacecraft were disposed of in this area between 1971 and 2016."

China, whose Tiangong-1 ("Heavenly Palace 1") prototype space station has in recent months been reported to be out of control and destined to crash down in an uncontrolled manner somewhere on Earth, now says that the station is *not* out of control, and that they delayed the scheduled September 2017 re-entry "in order to ensure that the wreckage would fall into an area of the South Pacific ocean where debris from Russian and U.S. space stations had previously landed"—which is the oceanic pole of inaccessibility, as we all now know. : ) Some western analysts are skeptical of China's claim of having the station under control; in this case, let's hope they can hit the bullseye! : o
smbhax
January 6th, 2018
Regarding my blog yesterday about my PC being too old for newly uncovered CPU vulnerabilities, reader Walter Milliken rightly pointed out to me that my old Windows XP OS is nevertheless not the most secure these days, since Microsoft no longer supports it—and that I should change antivirus programs, since the one I've been using, having dropped its XP support, will no longer receive program updates. He also pointed me to this Ars Technica article, which does a great job of describing what the Meltdown and Spectre CPU vulnerabilities are. As to the threat they pose,

<table align="center" width="880" border="0" cellpadding="20" cellspacing="0"><tr><td bgcolor="#333333">"The most vulnerable users are probably cloud service providers; Meltdown and Spectre can both in principle be used to further attacks against hypervisors, making it easier for malicious users to break out of their virtual machines. For typical desktop users, the risk is arguably less significant. While both Meltdown and Spectre can have value in expanding the scope of an existing flaw, neither one is sufficient on its own to, for example, break out of a Web browser."</td></tr></table>
~~~~~~~

And thanks to readers for keeping this comic clicking along by supporting my work on it directly through the A* Patreon campaign! : D They can get themselves little monthly rewards in the process; for instance, here's a sketch I sent to a reader for their support:

<img alt="Image" src="http://smbhax.com/stuff/180106_patreon_sketch.jpg" border="0" hspace="0">

Thank you very much! : D I couldn't make this comic without you!
smbhax
January 5th, 2018
Security vulnerabilities in popular PC CPU chips—especially ones by Intel—were announced today, and patches rolled out to many systems. My new-ish Windows 10 laptop—I got that so I could stream my daily A* art-making : )—got a surprise update today. Supposedly the fixes—by design, apparently—can slow the system down, so uh hopefully I won't have to lower the detail setting of my streams or something, ew.

It's all a bad and apparently pretty thorny problem, and at least one vulnerability in many Intel CPUs remains. (That's "Spectre"; the "Meltdown" vulnerability is apparently easier for hardware and software makers to address.)

I was worried that my old, Windows XP-running desktop machine would remain a problem, since Microsoft doesn't seem to be in any hurry to put out a fix on that ancient operating system. Almost every article on the problem said pretty much any Intel CPU was vulnerable, with many saying "any made in the last 20 years" or something like that, but after some hunting around, I finally found a PCWorld article giving Intel's list of the affected CPUs...and apparently mine is so old and crusty (2006! woot) that its venerable architecture does not have the problem—if I'm deciphering that list correctly, anyway ("Intel Core 2" is different (and older) than "2nd generation Intel Core processors," as far as I can tell from the internet).

And to think, my friends made fun of me for running such an ancient machine and operating system. Haha! Er. And heck, even my free antivirus program raising a fuss about not being able to renew its authentication (in a free version? : o) yesterday, and apparently no longer officially supporting Windows XP, doesn't actually seem to have stopped it from functioning. So yeah, no problems here, no sirree! : D o_o
smbhax
January 4th, 2018
Big framed A* art prints for sale are coating the main wall in Spin's Barbershop just off N. 45th Street in Seattle's Wallingford district (map)! The show will run for three months—through the end of March—so you've got plenty of time to let your hair grow out a bit first, if you like to do that sort of thing, like I do. Thanks to mom and dad for, well, doing most of the work in getting the show together, and thanks to Spin for having us back for a third time! : )

Here's a shot of just a fraction of the 18 framed A* pieces there—plus two little birdie extras : ) :

<img alt="Image" src="http://smbhax.com/stuff/180103_spins.jpg" border="0" hspace="0">
smbhax
January 3rd, 2018
Not sure how much longer it will last, but at the moment there's still a DC Holiday Superhero Sale on digital versions of DC collected comics editions on Comixology. I mention this in case any of you are like me, who didn't catch a whole lot of DC comics back in the olden days—I was a Marvel kid : P—and would kind of like to get up to speed on them; most of the collected editions in the sale—pretty much all are discounted to $4.99 each, from as much as $34.99, and run from 200 to 400+ pages—are stuff from this century, but I managed to dig up the following list of old ('30s to '80s) stuff I was interested in:

Challengers of the Unknown by Jack Kirby
The Demon by Jack Kirby
Mister Miracle by Jack Kirby
Justice League of America: The Silver Age Vol. 1
Justice League of America: The Silver Age Vol. 2
Justice League of America: The Silver Age Vol. 3
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vols. 1 - 6
Batman: Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 1
Batman: Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 2
Batman: Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 3
Legends of the Dark Knight: Alan Davis
Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Vol. 1
Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Vol. 2
Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Vol. 3
Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rodgers
Tales of the Batman: Alan Brennert
Tales of the Batman: Archie Goodwin
Tales of the Batman: Carmine Infantino
Tales of the Batman: Don Newton
Tales of the Batman: Gene Colan Vol. 1
Tales of the Batman: Gerry Conway
Tales of the Batman: Len Wein
Batman: The Golden Age Vol. 1
Batman: The Golden Age Vol. 2
Batman: The Golden Age Vol. 3
Batman & Superman in World's Finest: The Silver Age Vol. 1
Superman: The Golden Age Vol. 1
Superman: The Golden Age Vol. 2
Superman: The Golden Age Vol. 3
Supergirl: The Silver Age Vol. 1
The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl (1982-1984) Vol. 1
The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl (1982-1984) Vol. 2
Wonder Woman: The Golden Age Vol. 1
Wonder Woman by John Byrne Vol. 1

There's some overlap there, and I sure wish they had more "Silver Age" (1960s) Batman and Superman stuff, but eh I think I've made a decent start at things—although this would all be easier if DC just had their own subscription service where you could read old comics to your heart's content, like Marvel does with Marvel Unlimited. But anyway I now have hm I guess 10,000+ pages of old DC stuff to read; at my comic or two a day rate, that will keep me busy for...years (and will make a nice switch-off with my Marvel Unlimited chronological read-through—I'm up to 1966 : D)!
smbhax
December 31st, 2017
I'm taking Monday off for New Year's Day, so I'll just jump the gun now and say Happy New Year! : D And to kick the celebrations off, here's Selenis uh doing an angry boogaloo:

<img alt="Image" src="http://smbhax.com/stuff/171230_patreon_sketch.jpg" border="0" hspace="0">

That's a sketch I got to send to a reader for supporting the comic through my Patreon campaign. : ) Thanks to all of you for a full 2017 of A*, here's to more in 2018! : ))
smbhax
December 28th, 2017
Let's do an A* archive art sale! This week it's the 16" x 6.75" watercolor illustration I made for episode 31, page 94, where Selenis is strapped in to a cargo module, waiting for the launch that will finally let her escape the nacreous clutches of The Pearl! For the next week, this original art piece is on sale, starting at just $16.99, over on eBay—where you can also see high-res images of it.

<img alt="Image" src="http://smbhax.com/ep/0031/o/0094.jpg" border="0" hspace="0">
<img alt="Image" src="http://smbhax.com/ep/0031/d/0094.jpg" border="0" hspace="0">

I had been planning, like last week, to put a page from earlier in episode 32 up for this week's sale, but I happened to be rearranging my A* artwork (had to make room for more : o) this evening and this one just caught my eye. Sort of a different look for Selenis than I've ever drawn, I think.
smbhax
December 23rd, 2017
Merry Christmas! I'll be holiday through this coming Wednesday, so new A* pages will resume on Thursday, December 28th. Have a groovy holiday season! I'll leave you with this sketch I mailed to a reader who's supporting the comic through my Patreon campaign:

<img alt="Image" src="http://smbhax.com/stuff/171223_patreon_sketch.jpg" border="0" hspace="0">

Thank you very much! ^_^ See you after this little Xmas break. : )
smbhax
December 22nd, 2017
Okay it's Thursday not Wednesday, but better late than never, let's actually do a Wednesday(-ish) A* original art archive auction this week! This is where I pick an A* page that I think turned out particularly nifty, and put the original art behind it up for sale in a special featured auction. This week's page, then, is the 16" x 6.75" watercolor illustration I painted for episode 32, page 41, in which Selenis floats calmly at the apex of her ejection and escape from a big explosion way down in the Falquarium parking lot far below; we also see a close-up of part of the Falquarium's big 3D marquee. This page originally went on sale, when it first came out, for $18.99, but prices have gone down to a more popular level now, and so we see it here in this featured weekly auction starting out at just $16.99. : ) The auction will run for 1 week, through next Thursday, and you can get in on it—and check out high-res images of the artwork—right here on eBay.

Here are some low-res previews to get you started:

<img alt="Image" src="http://smbhax.com/ep/0032/d/0041.jpg" border="0" hspace="0">
<img alt="Image" src="http://smbhax.com/ep/0032/o/0041.jpg" border="0" hspace="0">

I thought the way the multiple thin-ish layers of watercolor settled in Selenis' costume worked out particularly well here, where I went for a very subtle gradient from blue to more purple toward the toes. In fact the way I somehow painted her whole face and figure just all kinda worked out better than I generally manage—maybe that sort of Zen moment in the midst of ultraviolence sort of inspired me. I was also rather pleased at how my more or less first attempt at large 3D sign lettering in dramatic perspective—and in a cursive font, at that!—came out, where you see a section of the giant rooftop "Falquarium" sign on the left.

Explosion! Jet thrust! Vast parking lot! Aquatically themed nightclub facade! Selenis contemplating existence! It's an A* original art archive sale! Thanks for checking it out. : )
smbhax
December 21st, 2017
A page is done! It's done! The page, it is done! : P
smbhax
December 19th, 2017
Christmas is this coming Monday! I'll be continuing to churn out new pages every weekday this week, but next week I'll be festivating Monday through Wednesday (the 25th through the 27th)—so no new A* pages for those three days—and back at work on a new A* page that Thursday (the 28th).
smbhax
December 19th, 2017
I tidied up some old files today, woooooo! : P
smbhax
December 16th, 2017
Here's a sketch I got to send to a reader for supporting the comic through the A* Patreon campaign : ) :

<img alt="Image" src="http://smbhax.com/stuff/171216_patreon_sketch.jpg" border="0" hspace="0">

Thank you very much! = D
smbhax
December 15th, 2017
Well I got one eye painted. The other didn't want to cooperate. I should probably try doing something like David Downton does, painting one eye in very lightly, so if it doesn't quite line up with the other, you don't really notice. : D

Say have I mentioned yet this week that the 16" x 6.75" watercolor paintings I make and scan in for the comic each day have been going up on sale on eBay starting at a new, lower price of $16.99? Yeah! And that price is gonna stick around for the foreseeable future.

And if I ever fix my schedule so I have time to do real blog articles mid-week, we can even get back to extra pages from A*'s past going on sale at that figure, too. ... Didn't manage it this week. : P