I'm Jeff Couturier — a designer, developer and illustrator in Chicago. I also make comics, listen to punk rock and like to fall down mountains on a snowboard. I write about those things (and others) here.

Biking the Chicago lakeshore

It's a great day for a ride along the lake. Even though it's only a fifteen minute bike ride from home, I don't get over here often enough.

Good Riddance, Facebook

Facebook has slipped up for that last time, for me. I've stuck around despite their repeated mis-steps and severe fuck-ups when it comes to how they handle our data, and I've given them a dozen chances too many to get it right. Last week they leaked a few million users data (among them, a close friend of mine) to 3rd parties and didn't even apologize. A couple of days ago it was discovered that their Android app collects your phone number wether or not you give it permission:

The first time you launch the Facebook application, even before logging in, your phone number will be sent over the Internet to Facebook servers. You do not need to provide your phone number, log in, initiate a specific action, or even need a Facebook account for this to happen.

FB claimed they never used this data. We are supposed to believe they just collected it in order to throw it away. As one comment on Reddit said, FB didn't "accidentally" go through the effort of adding the phone-home code. It took intent and effort.

They have no respect whatsoever for their users. It is a pattern that they clearly have no intention of changing, a pattern that is systemic and at the core of Facebook's ideology. My continued use puts advertising money in their pocket and lets them sell my meta-data. I'm not okay with that anymore. It's not worth it to continue using Facebook when this is how the company operates.

I'll continue to use my Twitter account heavily, and will use my Google+ account a bit more in lieu of Facebook. That's not to say G+ is a shining example of user privacy. It has plenty of issues as well. The difference is that that Google continually makes an effort to be transparent, empower its users and fight for them, even if they don't always succeed.

Flipbooks in Gateshead Libraries

Via MilkAndCookies.com:

This is a short trailer with music by Andy Jackson for the flipbook Exhibition originated by Anton hecht that is running at Gateshead libraries. The exhibiton features a number of illustrators and artists who chose a book into which to install a flip aniamtion. The books are placed in the library on the shelves and visitors are given the names of the books and then find the books ont he shelves to experience the exhibition

Goodbye Roger Ebert

“‘Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs, no need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhapy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.” - Roger Ebert

Cobra Commander

This week's sketch jam topic from my comic artists minigroup was G.I. Joe, so I drew Cobra Commander. I couldn't decide between the hooded and helmeted versions, so I did both. You can see the rest of the entries here.



Dorothy and his "Tin Man"

In his Oz, Dorothy isn't afraid of any stupid little flying monkeys.


This is a sketch (done quickly on my iPad) for my comic artists' minigroup. We're doing weekly sketch-jams on the same topic, this week's topic being The Wizard of Oz. Take a look at the other awesome entries here.

As I drew this, I wasn't thinking about Proposition 8 being before the US Supreme Court today. But since it is,  it seems appropriate in hindsight to say this about Dorothy here: just try telling him he can't marry whomever he wants.

Here is my sketch from last week's minigroup sketch. The topic was Batman... Mine is purging Gotham of the donut menace.


Also, I've made some new comics over at Horde of Neurons that haven't been posted to this blog yet.

Learning Ruby: First Impressions

I've been a LAMP guy for about 12 years. Before that I wrote Perl and ColdFusion. With the start of a new job I've been learning Ruby. I'm only about a week or so in, but here are my initial thoughts so far:

The Bad

  • First, and maybe most importantly, the Ruby documentation sucks. Hard. Compare the level of information and useful search features of PHP.net to Ruby-Doc.org. The former is highly detailed, easily searchable and very helpful. The latter is a little barren, and really shows the immaturity of Ruby as a production language in comparison to PHP.

  • Ruby has this weird habit of renaming common conventions for no apparent reason. Where nearly every other programming language uses NULL, Ruby has to be special and use nil instead. This is pointless obfuscation.

  • Where most other languages use uppercase and lowercase to refer to the obvious, Ruby uses upcase and downcase. Why? Who the fuck knows.

  • The puts() method is poorly named too. It's equivalent to echo() but isn't called echo because that would be lame, I guess. I've tried to find logical reasons for these weird names and there are none. It really does just come down to Ruby having this strange egotistical need to be different. It's apparently the hipster of programming languages, and I want to smack its ironic handlebar moustache right off of its douchey face.

  • Constantly having to start and stop the Rails server via command line is irritating. I love my bash shell and am extremely comfortable there, but it seems like a waste of time to have to restart the server when making edits to my app.

  • The Rails console is too cool for decent formatting. When asking for a dump of an object, instead of returning easily readable blocks of text with line breaks it just barfs out a hairball of unformatted text and expects you to dig through it with a comb to find what you're after. This is profoundly stupid.

  • Installation is a messy, convoluted process for both Ruby and Rails. I'm sure a large part of my feeling on this is a result of being new to Ruby and Rails, but the installation was riddled with dependency and compile errors on my OSX machine. I'm no stranger to command-line installations, GCC, make and so on.... but the fact that there is no simple install bundle is surprising. And no, Homebrew doesn't count. Compare, once again, to PHP. In contrast to Ruby and Rails, PHP is ridiculously easy to install and configure even without using the excellent MAMP bundle.

The Good

  • Ruby is clean. Really clean. I'm rather used to ending lines with a semicolon, not caring very much about whitespace (allowing me to cleanly format my code however I like), and prefixing variables with the easily recognizable $. Skimming Ruby code, at first, is a little more difficult because Ruby is so clean. Everything looks the same and it's not as easy at a glance to differentiate between variables, classes, functions and so on. The more I use and learn it, the more that clean simplicity is growing on me.

Overall? Meh.

And that's it. I don't have any other good points yet. Many of the irritations I'm seeing are the result of Rails rather then Ruby itself so I'm reluctant to lump their faults together. We'll see if that opinion changes as I learn more. I fully expect that I'm wrong about many of these things (and hope that I am), so please let me know if you feel differently. I want to like Ruby, but it's not impressing me thus far.

Talk Like Jack Burton Day, 2013

Last year I around this time, I thought it would be fun to have a Talk Like Jack Burton Day. A friend of mine suggested it should fall on Chinese New Year, which I think was a brilliant idea.

So here we are, a year later, it's the Chinese New Year and now also the first annual Talk Like Jack Burton Day. Now go do what ol' Jack Burton would do, and run your mouth off all day long with witty Jack'isms. Tag 'em with #TLJBD and feel free to share this post and the image below.



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