Zombie Work Schedules 

For some reason, it is far easier for me to stay up until 3:00 a.m. than choosing to fall asleep at a more reasonable 11:3O p.m. I'm not a morning person in even the remotest sense of the word, but I am discovering that I am pretty much going to have to be in order to have a normal workaday life. Living the zombie lifestyle is nice for the amount of quiet and peacefulness that is available after midnight. There is nothing like it really. But, waking up at 7:00 a.m. after falling asleep in the small hours of the morning is like trying to push four ice cold cinder blocks off your bed with your nose and trying to roll them into a warm shower in the neighboring town. It occurs to me that the reason why all of those zombies in the movies are running amok is not their insatiable need for the culinary delights of a brain sandwich, but rather they are working on a severe sleep deficit and are angry about being forced to go to their mall jobs extremely tired.

Rainy Tulips

School marches on with its various art projects that constantly need doing. The maddening thing about all these art projects is that you can always work on a single one trying to make it ever better, but there is ever a limited amount of time to work on it, so you pretty much have to decide to stop at a certain point. I recently did a silly collage for a book cover assignment in Type class. I would have liked to have another week to experiment with glues and whatnot, but I was forced to hand it in after a poor laminating job that left a sizable burn mark above the little illustration I had made. I think it is about as obvious a large red zit on the end of your nose.

I guess this is coming up for me now because I have a major project due on Tuesday that I have yet to start, and I am planning on going to Portland on Saturday to go the Stumptown Comics Fest. I haven't started on it because I (wrongly) assumed that I had a couple more weeks. There were also several photo assignments I was rushing to complete too. As for tomorrow, I have been planning on going to Stumptown for months, so Saturday is a total wash for working on projects. I have the rest of tonight, hopefully all day Sunday, and most of Monday to work on it. We'll see what happens. I think I will get it in on time, but I want more time to work on the damn thing! Oh well, whattya gonna do? I think the real lesson for me is not how to assemble or research a nice looking art project but how to assemble and research a nice looking art project quickly. Working fast is not one of my strong suits.

I hope to take a lot of pictures tomorrow at the comic fest. I'm usually shy about taking photos of people though, so I may not be able to get any. But in any event, I am pretty sure that I will be posting about whatever happens here on the blog soon. One day, I will have my own comic and table at this thing, but for now I am content to be an attendee and observe all of the cool things that happen there. Since this is my second time, I now know more about what to expect.

25 April 2008


The back wheel tire on the passenger side of my car had a slow leak, a problem that I had been putting off for a couple of weeks. It's not that I especially hate going to the tire shop, but, I guess I really didn't want to spend an hour waiting around in a soulless white tile lobby wondering if Jimmy the tire tech was going to discover something worse than a nail in the tire. It's pretty much a given that, with a nineteen year old car, something will need to be fixed.

And, of course, when I eventually made it to the shop and spent the expected time in the waiting room, Jimmy indeed came out and told me that the leak in the tire wasn't the big issue. The real problem was the fact that the front two tires were "completely shot." Thankfully, Jimmy didn't give me the "I really can't let you drive out of here on those tire speech," but he might as well have. Now, I don't have the $250 to have them replaced, so I thought that I would wait a few weeks before I got them fixed. But, later that day, when I took my car to another place to have the oil filter changed, the oil change people noted (without me saying anything) that my front tires were shot. In fact, they even had me sign a liability waiver assuring that I wouldn't sue them if something bad happened to me by driving out on those bad tires! Good grief.

Forest Path

In spite of (or perhaps because of) the bad news about my car, I decided that I would go for a hike in the local wildlife refuge. The hiking trails had just opened up, and I wanted to get some nice photographs of the spring scenery. While I knew that I could use the exercise, I thought the time outdoors would be somewhat relaxing, a counterpoint to the stress of the car issues I was having. And it was a nice hike; although, I think I may have overexerted myself on the trails. I'm not as in shape as I thought I was, so more trips to the refuge for exercise may be in order.

One thing that surprised me about this hike was how many animals that I saw there. Normally, I will see an occasional bird, or a deer or two if I am there just after sunset. However, this time, I saw more animals than I had before. I saw several Geese, a few interesting birds, some ground squirrels, and couple of rabbits.


Silent Little Bird

Ground Squirrel


All the animals above were ones that I saw on this single three hour trip. There were more geese than anything else, probably a couple of hundred, and they spent the entire time honking above, and on, the small lake nestled at the bottom of the hill and below the hiking trails on which I walked. But they were not the loudest part of the trip, although I could definitely hear them the entire time on my hike. Something like the sound of gunshots was intermittently coming from the surrounding valley. It was a bit distracting. I admit I was very puzzled about blasts of noise in what should have been, to my thinking, a peaceful and quiet walk through the woods. But, I finally realized that the noises probably were meant to scare away the many geese away from the farms and vineyards that circled the refuge. It wouldn't take long for such a large amount of geese to devastate a farmer's precious crop.

I did see some deer too, but I wasn't close enough to get a good shot of them. It didn't take many photos for me to start longing for a decent telephoto lens. There were some really great pictures that I was unable to get because I couldn't zoom in close enough to get a nice shot. Photography can be an expensive pursuit. Tomorrow, I have another photography class. I will be taking a picture of my artwork for the studio project, and if all goes well, I hope to be able to post it here soon.

13 April 2008

Seven Paragraphs of Progress 

Usually I try to post a photograph when I write these blog posts, but today, I'm not going to do that. Primarily because it is already my bedtime at the moment, and since I have to get up early tomorrow to get to class on time, I don't have the twenty minutes to pull up Photoshop and do the tweaks that I normally do to the pictures here.

Class went well today. I had a chance during the break to ask the instructor who were his favorite photographers. He listed, aside from himself (good grief!), John Sexton, John Shaw, Tim Fitzharris, W. Eugene Smith, and Ansel Adams. I checked them out online and each one is a technical master at taking photographs, which of course, I knew they would be. I discovered Todd Hido the other day, thanks to a link in one of the blogs I ready occasionally, and although I am the rankest of amateurs who know little about the field of photography, I think that I would have to list him as one of my personal favorites.

But the thing that struck me, as it often does these days, is how much everything costs. Art supplies aren't cheap, and the reality is you need to spend money to create art. I know that there are those who would argue with me on that point saying that a pen and paper aren't that expensive, but I would invite that person to go to the art store and shop for supplies. You can spend over 10 bucks for a single sketchbook, and for the very nice pens, around 6 to 8 bucks. I'd love to learn how to paint satisfactorily, but I'd hate to spend 50 bucks just to make a mess trying to figure it out. I've got an entire shopping list in my head of items that I know I can't afford. And unlike the video games I longed for when I was a teenager, these items might actually help my development career-wise and personally. But then again, maybe I'm delusional.

After the instructor let us go for today, I worked on a personal image that I put in my moleskine, a project for my typography class. It features an asleep cat character in a smoking jacket and fez reclining in a Victorian wing chair. It's a silly image that, frankly, could be drawn better. I'm not normally a very disciplined person, but I've dedicated myself to drawing more--at least once a day--and so far I've kept it up. Eventually, I will put that up too.

Finally, I am writing myself a reminder here to write a post here about the time I drove up the coast in the middle of the night. I was simulataneously processing the rejection of a woman that I was attracted to with the big life worries and concerns about my future.

Thoughts like those seem so grandiose now when I look back into my twenties. I really had no idea how insignificant I was to the grand scheme of life. Now, I knew I wasn't some monumental hero in the history of the world, but I figured that I would have more impact in the larger world around me. I guess this is the ambition of youth. No one ever grows up dreaming that they're going to be a patent attorney for the rest of their life, or worse yet, homeless. There are so many people that life has chewed up; my own problems amount to just so much whining.

Anyway, it was an interesting trip up the coast that I don't think I have posted on my blog before, so I am planning on doing that soon. This is my reminder.

09 April 2008

Class Adjustments 

Today, I woke up early for some reason, perhaps it was the noise from the cat trying to weave himself through the venetian blinds in my bedroom. For some reason that honestly I cannot imagine, he's been practicing advanced mountain climbing maneuvers and apparently the blinds are some kind of kitty rock-climbing gym. The cat tends to get an early start on his day, so on these days when he starts his morning ascent at 5 AM sharp, I lumber wearily out of bed, chase him out of the window and around the room, and eventually capture him and unceremoniously toss him outside.

But I admit, there is also an equally good chance that the reason I awoke early was simply because I'm not on a good (read regular) sleep schedule. I tend to work better at night, so it is not impossible for me to go to sleep around one or two AM. Obviously, this is not a problem when I have an afternoon class the next day as I can catch up that same morning. But on the days that I do have a morning class, like today, well, I just pray that the classes that day are interesting. Otherwise, I'm nodding off in the afternoon and watching the clock.

Product Photography Exercise

Today, classes were fairly interesting, especially in the morning, but the afternoon was more of a struggle. The instructor during the morning class gave her impression of the design conference that she recently attended. She said that the future of design lays in the development of making things "work" and creating "dynamic media." Clearly the instructor was excited by the ideas that were presented, but she was a little ambiguous so I was left unclear about what she meant exactly. She indicated that design students needed to learn to write (copy?) competently to compete in the design market of tomorrow, that the design job we might get in the future may not exist today, and that consultation was becoming more and more necessary in the field. No designer is an island unto themself, apparently. We spent the rest of the day talking about the letters we had designed for our homework.

The afternoon class consisted of lecture of art principles that I have heard a thousand times before, and the review of Adobe InDesign software, specifically how to use the tabs and the various keyboard shortcuts related to the functions in the character palette. I drove straight home after class, lay on my bed, and tried to rest as best I could. I didn't want to nap because that would have messed up my sleep routine even more. Later that night, after dinner, I drew in my sketchbook to try to improve my drawing skills.

Tomorrow's class is photography, and the picture above will be one of the ones I need to adjust. I took about seven photos of that pot in various positions, one of which will be used as the cover for the phony magazine cover we'll eventually need to create. It will be a nice class, and by then, I will have enough rest to get through the day without wanting to fall backwards into the sweet embrace of sleep and a warm comforter.

08 April 2008

More Reflections 

It slipped by quietly and nearly unnoticed: March 19th. Not only was that day the ominous start of the Iraq war, but it also happened to be the very day that this blog began. I had been sitting in the computer lab staring blankly at the copy of MS Word 2000, trying to force something interesting to say about Moby Dick. But frankly, I was a little bored, burned out, and anxious about finishing up my undergraduate career, so nothing was really coming to me. I listlessly flipped through the pages of Melville's novel and the loose sheets of notes covering my keyboard and glanced around the room. The room was nearly empty, only about seven or so students in a room of forty computers. A few fellow procrastinators were trying to write papers like me, but one student was watching an Anime show online.

I think I believed that if I did some "free-writing," a brainstorming technique we often talked about in my English classes, something about the novel would come to me, and that would magically help the words flow into half-hearted B minus paper. At least, I hoped it would. I surfed the Internet trying to force inspiration and motivation, and somehow, I stumbled on to my friend's "web log." From there, I surfed to a few others, and then eventually, to the Blogger site itself. I rationalized that a little free-writing on a blog, with the exciting prospect of an audience of some kind, would just do the trick for me and my paper.

Blogging then was slightly different, clunkier and less intuitive. Blogger, at least the free version that I was using, did not have the ability to host photos for you, that came later. I'm not sure if I remember right, but I think you even had to have your comments hosted elsewhere too. And, if you wanted to see how many people were visiting your site, you had to pay for their upgrade. I know it all sounds very silly to talk about the old days of something that is only a handful of years old, but, in the dotcom days before Youtube and Myspace, this all seems like ancient history.

In any event, rather than write a long free form post that I hoped would spark the idea for my Melville paper I was putting off, I surfed the net for various third party blogger addons (like comments and a site counter) and began learning how to do some basic HTML to adjust my template. The layout of the site is essentially the same now as it was then, with only a few minor changes here and there.

Finley Wildlife Refuge - April 08

I eventually wrote my paper, but I really don't remember any of that. I do remember watching the bombs explode in the night over Baghdad on CNN, and noticing, as I walked back to the computer lab to print something out, how eerily quiet the streets of the town were. It appeared as if everyone except me, a couple of other students, and a bored lab attendant, were at home watching the Iraq war begin to unfold on the television. 9 p.m. might as well have been 3 a.m.

So, in an odd spirit of things, perhaps in the spirit of changes and transitions, this blog shares its fifth year anniversary with the Iraq War. Tonight, I finally updated some of the links in the sidebar, and removed the links and image tags for the third part blogging services that no longer exist. (Blogwise and Feedster are no more!) Furthermore, partially because this is an old HTML site that I am sure no longer meets any sort of web standards (if it even ever has!), and partially because I don't have the patience to learn how to fix it, the comments have been, well, completely borked. I've decided to take them offline. In its entire five year lifetime, my blog has had less than ten total comments anyway, so I don't think they'll be missed. But if anyone is really dying to say something to me, I still have my [contact] link at the top of the blog page.

My current school issues are, for the most part, all worked out. I am in the right three classes that I need for this term, and the instructor that was seriously stressing me out last term is thankfully not teaching any of the classes I am now taking. His method of teaching did not mesh with my style of learning. During the very last session of that previous stress-inducing class, I literally held my head in my hands while I, and the rest of the class, listened to his tirade about why the majority of us were going to fail in school and later in our future jobs because we could not meet his ridiculous deadlines. I suppose this could have been his way of motivating us to work really hard and do well on the final, but it felt manipulative and condescending.

Today, I went to my usual bi-weekly meeting in the "Southern City," which, as it can be, was cathartic in its way, but it was cut short as we had run out of time to discuss every thing we needed. After finishing up at the meeting and grabbing something to eat at MacDonald's, I found my way to the art store downtown and bought a few supplies: a pencil, a fancy pen, a sketch book, and a presentation portfolio. Later wending my way back north to home, I stopped off at the Finely National Wildlife Refuge for a brief visit, it being one my favorite places to relax at on these off Fridays. The seasonal hiking trails had just opened up, but as it was raining off and on all day, I decided to stay in the car. Instead, I took photos like the one you see above, and listened to the birds sing their various songs while I tried to process the meaning of life in general, and my life in particular. I know I am trying to get back on my feet financially and career-wise, but I sometimes feel as if life has spun out into a direction that I truly did not expect and can, sometimes, barely control. If that sounds a bit gloomy, I suppose it is, but honestly, I am searching for that personal bit of meaning, an emotional meaning, not a purely intellectual one, that I think we must all find in life. I like to think that the birds and their songs were trying to help.

04 April 2008

Beginning Again 

I got my grades last week, and while they're not the best I have ever done, they're certainly not the worst. It was nice to have the spring break not to worry about turning in projects and doing the mental math necessary to allocate the right resources to the right assignment. (E.G. If I spend the next two hours on assignment A, I'll have just enough time to finish assignment B, which means that assignment C won't get completed in time, but that class is not as important, blah, blah, blah. It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I've always hated math, and these kinds of bargaining formulas are no different than the classical algebra one encounters in college.)

Spring Break is over and I didn't really do much of anything other than watch television or surf the net. I think I am halfway through my second viewing of the Star Trek: Voyager series that have been replaying on cable; and of course, the M.A.S.H. series is always good to zone out with.

But, truthfully, towards the end of spring break, I was horribly depressed again. I've often tried to describe what depression feels like, and somehow, I think I always come up short. Unlike cutting your hand, or breaking a bone, the pain is not entirely physical. It affects your outlook on things (of course!), so objectively noting what you're experiencing the very moment you experience it is a challenge.

Skinner Butte Blossoms

Despite that challenge, I tried thinking about it, and while reflecting, I came up with a few images. For example, I imagined that depression is like trying to run underneathe the waves of the winter ocean, akin to surfing on the opposite sides of the water. The cold tumbling currents wrap around your arms and legs, stiffening them, while also dragging and pulling on your body with the slightest movement. Or, I thought, depression is like having a companion monster who claims to love you, sit beside you on a little stool as it slowly, and remorselessly, eats your shadow, your shadow being that essential part of you which always keeps you rooted to the earth. The pain, the physical part, (aside from the lump that is just nearly in your throat), is a muscular hand clutching at the bottom of your brain stem, pushing blood up into your mind with a pulse or two. Fortunately, the grasp of that hand loosened today by a bit, probably because I had to get out of my own mind and attend to the necessary duty of going to school.

But school is not without its own problems. The instructors, all who appear to competent in the field that they teach, while discussing the course and its requirements, insisted that we must keep notebooks. Now, to my view, notes are a personal responsibility thing. The notes and the method of taking them should always be individual to the student and adapted to his needs. Yet, these instructors insist on regimenting a particular method for keeping notes, organizing them and the like, and, of course, I balked. It seems, yet again (with corresponding flashbacks to my previous class with which I had trouble), that the instructors are emphasizing behaviour over knowledge. Rather than trust that each student will learn to the best of their ability, the instructors try to enforce a one-size-fits-all study method to a diverse group of students, and I cannot express just how much I hate this. But, as I thought about it, I figured that the real issue is that I have already earned an undergraduate degree and, in the process, have already learned how to think critically. So, rather than just passively accept what I am told like many of the other students do (especially the younger ones), I think about what the best method of learning on my own would be. And frankly, this notebook scheme isn't it. And that thought further led me to the conclusion that I have been a student for way too long.

I have a couple of school schedule anomalies that I will trying to work out in the next couple of days. It isn't anything too important, just another one of those hassles life throws at you. Speaking of which, I also need to do my taxes ASAP. And, I have a slow leak in the rear passenger-side tire of my car. Soon, I'll have those things done, but I really wish spring break was two weeks long rather than just the one.

02 April 2008