Be still my geeky heart – digital spirograph!

Be still my geeky heart – digital spirograph!

Someone created a digital Spirograph. Oh, be still my heart! Yes, someone took the effort to convert the old toy from the 60s, into an online version. Nathan Friend created the digital Spirograph in 2014, and it’s still running. Check it out here Inspirograph (nathanfriend.io)

Opening screen for the digital Spirograph

Inspirogram is spirograph for adults

Digital Spirograph vs Traditional Spirograph

The digital spirograph is more fun than the original. My sister had Spirograph, back in the 60s and she adored it. She spent endless hours cursing the little gears for not staying in place and hunting for pens to use.  She created impressive designs. I was envious of her peculiar patience in working with the toy’s limitations.

Spirograph was insanely frustrating because I could never keep the gears from slipping, or the pens poking holes into the paper. Trying to figure out which gears made which pattern was irritating. I’d be humming along with a great design and then use the wrong gear and the pattern was destroyed. I preferred freehand drawing.

I have to admit, I was fascinated with the gears moving around and the possibilities. I still have a thing for gears and have a little box with old gears I’ve stripped from dead watches. I don’t do anything with them, just like them. But as for Spirograph itself, I would q with quickly get bored with it and wander off to draw birds and cats. Far more fun and I could use my pencils. I also have a weird thing for collecting pencils. Assorted brands, different leads. And pencil sharpeners. I love pencil sharpeners.  But I digress.

Folks on Facebook were chatting about old toys they had in the 60s and Spirograph came up. Someone pointed out a digital version of Spirograph existed. You have to love the internet, it’s filled with millions of ways to waste time. The digital Spirograph is called Inspirograph and it blows the manual version out of the water. No pen slipping, don’t like the pattern tap ctr z and remove it, change backgrounds, more colours than a jumbo box of Crayolas and you can save your masterpieces to download.

Digital Spirograph – more fun than a barrel of monkeys

Inspirograph is insanely addictive and memorising. You don’t need a mouse, just the arrow keys to move the gears around. I haven’t tried it on a touch screen, so I’m not sure if it works.

My first try at digital Spirograph - geometric patterns

Stars ‘n circles, oh my

White backgrounds are ok, but black is easier on the eyes.

Just tap the colour you want to use and start spiraling.

Inspirograph geometric design on black background

A person could waste an entire afternoon playing with this

The site is simple to master. No tricks, no bad code to trip up your design. Just a clean, functional site that offers a lot of distracting fun. When you stop to consider this was created in 2014, it’s a testament to Nathan’s skills that the toy works better than many newer online time wasters. 6 years and counting is old for the internet.

Digital spirograph - a flower burst on black background

I think of this as a flower bursting open

Go, have a ball, ignore Covid for an afternoon, download your art and put it on the fridge.

Here are a few articles I’ve posted about drawing, mechanical pencils and more. Enjoy

Search | Bitter Grounds Magazine Articles on drawing

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Watching out for new Australia 2021 stamps

Watching out for new Australia 2021 stamps

Some of the Australia 2021 stamps have been announced. Yes, it’s that time of year when post offices around the world tease out upcoming releases. Australia Post’s stamps for Jan and Feb offer tradition, history, creatures, and home comforts. One set will appeal to aviation, airmail, Australian history, and militaria fans around the world. As of this articles publication date (Dec 29, 2020), none of the stamps listed are for sale yet, but check Australia Post office closer to  release dates Stamps – Sending (auspost.com.au).

Stamp subjects for Australia 2021

  • Chinese New Year
  • 5 Home comforts with Memorable Moments
  • Happy Birthday
  • 100 Years of the RAAF
  • Norfolk Island Lizards
  • Front Line Heroes

Australia 2021 stamps – Kicking off with Lunar New Year Jan 8, 2021

It’s now expected that post offices will issue a Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, stamp and Australia Post’s Christmas Island stamps don’t disappoint. Of all the Lunar New Year stamps I’ve seen this set will go down as my favourite.

Year of the Ox Australia 2021 stamp showing a stylized ox

Year of the Ox 2021 Christmas Island $1.10 value

 

 

Year of the Ox Australia 2021 stamp showing a stylized ox

Year of the Ox 2021 Christmas Island $2.20 value

Year of the Ox Australia 2021 stamp showing a stylized ox

Year of the Ox 2021 Christmas Island $3.30 value

It’s interesting to see how each country interprets the same subject. I was thinking this morning that this would make for an interesting study.  The Lunar New Year series, will also come in souvenir sheets, maxi cards, covers etc.

Scan of the Christmas Island Post Mark cancel showing a stylized Ox

Come hither and buy my stamps

Christmas Island’s First Day of Issue cancel is, well, adorable. The ox looks like flirtatious. Not sure if that was intentional, but now I want to get hold of a cancel. It’s a hell of a “come hither” glance.

Australia Post outdid themselves with this issue.  If there is a stamp collector in your life that is near and dear to you, you might want to consider the gold mini-sheet folder.  It’s breathtaking.

photo of Australia 2021 stamps for Year of Ox as a gold minisheet

Australia 2021 stamps feature a gold mini sheet with folder

Sydney, Australia based artist Chrissy Lau designed the series, and when I wandered through her site, I realised I’ve seen her art before. She designed Guernsey Islands Year of the Rat stamp series last year. Check out her distinctive style on her website: Chrissy Lau | Artist Illustrator | Portfolio.

Australia Post also has a full Chinese zodiac souvenir sheet displaying all the animals and years they are associated with. It would round out a Lunar New Year collection.

The full Chinese zodiac presented in stamp souvenir sheet

Souvenir keeper showing entire Chinese zodiac

 5 Home comforts with Memorable Moments – Jan 25, 2021

This is a set designed for comfort and home thoughts. Memorable moments for Australia 2021 stamps were designed by Keith Downes and Sonia Young, Australia Post Design Studio. Release date:  January 25, 2021. Five stamps in series. In the series will be:

  • $1.10 Bunnies showing stuffed toy rabbits
  • $1.10 Thank You
  • $1.10 Balloons showing colourful heart balloons
  • $1.10 Heart showing a heart graphic
  • $2.20 Blossoms

 

Australia 2021 stamp showing 3 stuffed bunnies hugging each other

You can never go wrong with bunnies – designed by Sonia Young

2 stamps from Australia's Memorable Moments. One saying Thank you the second stamp shows a bouquet of hearts

Thank you designed by Keith Downes & Happy Birthday Heart Balloons by Sonia Young

2 stamps from Memorable Moments showing a hand drawn heart and the other white flowers

Heart designed by Sonia Young and Blossoms by Keith Downes

The postmark reflects the overall “home comforts” theme.

Postal cancel for First Day Issue showing a heart balloon with the words Fist day of issue 25 Jan 2021 Sydney NSW

First Day Cancel for the Moments series

Happy Birthday Available from Order Jan 11, 2021

The Happy Birthday heart balloon stamp (above) will also be available for a personalised birthday greeting. Australia Post allows people to pre-order the stamp and birthday cover with a specific date on the cancel. You choose the birthdate of your choice and it will bear the appropriate date on the cancel.

Australia post cancel for the Happy Birthday stamp

Happy Birthday to you

100 Years of the RAAF Feb 9, 2021

As an aviation buff, this is the set for me. Although, my interest in airplanes stops with the advent of jet engines. I’m a canvas and wood kind of woman. The Royal Australian Air Force was formed Mar 31, 1921 and this stamp will help celebrate their storied history.

Australian Airforce 100th aniversary logo

1921 – 2021 the RAAF Logo for their centenary (not a stamp)

The usual covers, cards, stamps, and sheets will be issued. My favourite is the distinctive SE5a biplane. It’s hard to mistake that flat nose for anything but an SE5A.

RAAF biplane the SE5a in flight

The much-loved Scout

RAAF jet F-35 in flight

RAAF F-35 jet

Full image showing different covers and maxicards that can be bought

Covers, maxi cards and sheets ready for purchase in Feb.

The first day cancel features an F-35 in flight. It’s too bad the SE5a wasn’t offered as well.

First day Cancel showing a jet in flight

First Day issue cancel

Souvenir sheet showing both stamps

RAAF souvenir sheet

The series was designed by Jamie and Leanne Tufrey, who designed the 2014 Centenary of Military Aviation & Submarines for Australia Post. This series shares the style of the ’14 set, especially the Bristol Military Biplane number CFS-3 stamp.

Stamp from the 2014 Centenary series

Bristol Military Box kite, CFS-8 in flight from 2014

Norfolk Island Lizards Feb 9, 2021

Not to be left out, little lizards will be featured on a Norfolk Island series.

Norfolk Island stamps showing 2 lizards

Skinks and Geckos from Norfolk Island

Post mark for the Lizard stamps of Norfolk Island showing a gecko and skink

Best cancel of the year!

Skinks and geckos were designed by Jason Watts, who also designed 2020’s September Sydney to San Francisco mail steamer service stamp and the World Heritage Australia series from Oct.

Front Line Heroes Feb 16, 2021

Yet to be shown will be a series honouring the front-line workers of 2020. It sad it took a pandemic to make so many appreciate their day-to-day work.  When details are released, I’ll post more.

And finally

That’s all the news for Australia 2021 stamps to date. I spent a couple days signing up for newsletters from various post offices so hopefully, I’ll be able to keep you up to date on new releases. Keep coming back, I have a few more country issues for 2021 lined up and will roll them out over the coming weeks.

In the meantime, check out Japan’s soon to be released MOOMINS.

Calling all Moomins! 2021 will be a great Moomin New Year

Peeking at USA stamps for 2021

Peeking at USA stamps for 2021

USA stamps for 2021 will see some old friends return along with a couple of fun new issues. The ever-popular Black History Month, Love and Chinese New Year stamps will be back of course. I doubt a US postal offering would be complete without them. Although not shown in the USPS press release, there will also be Christmas and Diwali stamps available. The US Postal Service is also serving up a few new stamps in 2021 that piqued my interest. Among them are coffee and confusion.

Old favourites return

Jan 14 will see the return of the LOVE stamps. Hard to believe the first LOVE stamp was sold in 1973. Since then, it has gradually turned into a perennial stamp. Check out the USPS online store to pre-order them Love Stamp | USPS.com

Black Heritage Month will celebrate the late, very great playwright August Wilson.

Wilson, a master storyteller, honed his craft by walking the streets of his Hill District neighborhood as a young man, observing, and immersing himself in Black street life, listening to old-timers talk about their daily lives. It inspired what would become his plays’ vibrant characters and lyrical language. August Wilson Archive | University of Pittsburgh Library System

This 44th stamp in the series is already available for pre-ordering August Wilson Stamp | USPS.com It will be released Jan 28th, 2021. The first stamp featuring Black History Month was the 1978 Harriet Tubman stamp. If you would like to research more on African Americans on stamps, start with the USPS page African American Subjects on United States Postage Stamps – Who We Are – USPS

One of the USPS’ popular series has been the Lighthouses of America stamps.  The series began 30 years ago, April 26, 1990. This year the following lighthouses will be shown: Thomas Point Shoal, MD; Montauk Point, NY; Harbor of Refuge, DE; Navesink, NJ; and Erie Harbor Pierhead, PA. I imagine collectors should start looking for them in April.

The US Lighthouse Society has a delightful page on collecting lighthouse stamps. If you haven’t checked them out, here’s the link Collecting Lighthouse Stamps by Richard T. Richardson | US Lighthouse Society (uslhs.org) If you are interested in starting a lighthouse stamp specialty collection, this would be a good starting point.

The flower offerings, Garden Beauties, will include a pink dogwood; a rose-pink and white tulip; ornamental onion; a pink and white Asiatic lily; a magenta dahlia; a yellow and pink American lotus; a pink moth orchid; a pink and white sacred lotus; an orange and yellow tulip; and a yellow moth orchid.  (From the press release Hello, 2021 – U.S. Postal Service Announces Upcoming Stamps – Newsroom – About.usps.com).

New Stamps for 2021 – coffee and confusion

The USPS Espresso Drink stamps are, as expected, of interest to me. It’s not just the caffeine content that caught my eye, it’s the warm design that I appreciate. The stamps are a combo of rich colours and great typography. Four stamps will be sold – caffe latte, espresso, caffe mocha and cappuccino. Too bad they weren’t scratch and sniff. The stamps are nice little works of art so kudos to Greg Breeding who designed the stamps using the artwork of Terry Allen.

Mystery Message stamps are intriguing.  “The new Mystery Message stamp will put your sleuthing skills to the test. Featuring bright colors and interesting shapes, the stamp design is a visual riddle spelling out a message. Each colorful square contains a letter in an interesting pattern. The patterns, though seemingly random, were carefully placed so that when put all together, the message reads.” Ah yes, a dose of frustration offered up with the daily mail and morning espresso. What could go wrong?

USA stamps for 2021

USPS 2021 stamps - LOVE

USPS 2021 stamps – LOVE Pre-order now available Love Stamp | USPS.com On sale Jan 14, 2021

USPS Black History Month Stamp - August Wilson

August Wilson – on presale now August Wilson Stamp | USPS.com

USPS stamps for 2021 showcasing barns

USPS stamps for 2021 show casing barns. Onsale Jan 24, 2021. You can pre-order now Barns Postcard Stamp Stamp | USPS.com

USPS stamp showing the brush rabbit

Little Brush Rabbit will be released Jan 24, 2021. Pre-ordering available now Brush Rabbit | USPS.com

2021 stamps for spring -Garden Beauty - USA stamps for 2021

Garden Beauty stamps for Spring 2021

USPS 2021 stamp - Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) nuclear physicist

Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) “one of the most influential nuclear physicists of the 20th century”

Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of WWII

Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of WWII

An intriguin offering for 2021 stamps - Mystery Message

So, what’s the message? We’ll have to wait.

USPS 2021 stamps - Year of the Ox

USPS 2021 stamps – Year of the Ox

USPS 2021 stamp - Colorado Hairstreak butterfly

Colorado Hairstreak butterfly

USPS celebrates the Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead – first stamps issued by USPS to celebrate the day

A fun set of stamps - Backyard Games

Backyard games – badminton, bocce, cornhole, croquet, flying disc, horseshoes, tetherball, and pick-up baseball

2021 US stamp Raven Story

Raven Story, from Indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast, will honour a 2021 stamp

Series of stamps highlighting Heritage Breeds for 2021

2021 stamps heritage breeds. Animals that were the backbone of farms in pre-industrial USA

Colourful stamps showing off Western Wear

Western Wear

Missouri Statehood stamps

Bicentennial of Missouri statehood

The always popular lighthouse series adds 4 more stamps to the series

The always popular lighthouse series adds 4 more stamps to the series

Espresso Drinks for 2021 USPS stamps

Now we’re talking – Espresso Drinks. Latte, espresso, caffe mocha and cappuccino

USPS stamp with Happy Birthday scene

Happy Birthday

Message Monsters stamps showing little colourful monsters

Message Monsters

 

Check out the upcoming Canadian stamps for 2021

Awesome 2021 Canadian stamps announced

 

 

3 Toronto’s skyline at night photos

3 Toronto’s skyline at night photos

Past attempts at taking sharp night photos have been mediocre. Occasionally, a photo stands out, but that’s due to luck rather than skill on my part. And no, I’m not being modest. This is an area I struggle with. For the past couple of months, I occasionally trotted out to the balcony and tried figuring out what I’m doing wrong. Last month I admitted a large part of the issue is impatience and shaky hands. I get fidgety and do dumb things when frustrated. Dumb things like doing the same thing over and over or not waiting to get the effect I want.

Impatience is a night photo killer

It takes a lot of trial and error to get a good night photo. It also means paying attention to settings and making notes on what works. I’m a bit lazy and found myself repeating the same mistakes rather than reading past entries. I was chasing longer exposure times to get a certain effect but would often lift my finger off the button too soon. Or worse, my hand would shake just enough to create a blurry image. I decided to tackle these problems with a remote trigger.

Canon smartphone app vs manual remote clicker

Canon has an app that can be used to trigger the camera. While it works, it had a horrible lag time between shots. I’ve tried it on two Android smartphones and encountered the same problems. It also caused the camera to lock up occasionally, so I didn’t really use it much.  It is handy to scroll through photos on the camera and look at the details via the phone, but to act as a trigger, it wasn’t particularly good. You can check it out here Canon Camera Connect | Camera and Camcorder App. You might have more luck than I had.

I picked up a cheap little remote clicker to test. It cost all of $15 so I figured it was worth the try. It solved the lag issue as well as cleared up some of my impatience. To set up a long shutter speed shot, all I have to do is flick the button up to hold and the camera shutter stays open until I’m flick it back down.

I experimented with various shutter speeds and had more fun that a person should have with a little plastic clicker. It also cleared up the shake issue. Despite using a good tripod, I still managed to pick up a vibration on the photos when my hand remained on the camera button. This little clicker fixed it.

First of the night photos of the north skyline

Toronto skyline, north facing - night photos

I’m pleased with the clarity

Now that’s a good photo. I especially loved the car lights below on the street. The building lights came out warmer than any previous photos. Not sure That’s a combo of no hand jitter and a longer shutter speed. The skyline came out just about right. I’m going to lug the tripod and camera out to the parking garage roof to try a few new ideas this week. It’s supposed to be clear tomorrow, but we’ll see. Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate.

Second night photo

Night photography- skyline with a bit too much light

Left the shutter open too long this time.

I like this one because it’s an interesting combo of warm lights and chilly winter scenery. But I left the shutter open a bit too long and the parking garage is washed out. The reflections in the building on the left are great thought. They really shine.

Last photo of the Toronto skyline

Night photo showing a car in the parking lot

The car lights were an accident

This one came out better. I didn’t hold the trigger so long and accidently got a car pulling out of the parking lot at the same time. That arc of white to red lights was a happy instance. I stayed on the balcony a bit longer trying to get a few more cool car light effects, but my neighbours weren’t cooperating. But this gives me hope.

I had plateaued for quite a time with photography and was feeling frustrated. As I said earlier, I kept repeating the same mistakes and couldn’t seem to shake it off. But something as small as a $15 remote trigger seems to have invigorated me. Now I can’t wait for a night to go out and try different views.

If you’re interested in seeing some of my earlier attempts, take a look at the article below.

An interesting view of concrete and light – a little night photography

 

 

Updated news here

When I have added information or something interesting about a post office, I’ll post it here. Occasionally I find a tidbit about a website that tickles me and this is a perfect place to share it.