Monday, February 26

numerical order

i wonder what it is about upness and downness, forward and backward, open and shut that leads us to assign those words the connotations we do. what makes up happier than down? what makes open better than shut?

they aren't just words of course, they are ideas. they are points of view. just a few letters smushed together. if you go up far enough you run out of air. if you go down far enough the same thing happens. why do we pray to a father above and fear the depths of hell when really all we would most like is to stay right here in the middle, where everything is balanced?

i suppose it's all relative. on some far away star the perspective changes; the definition of up becomes different. the horizon moves. forward and backward depend on which way you face.

in a painting closer means more important? in a document bigger means more important? in a list of items first means most important? who gave us these rules?

some of them are inherent, rooted in the evolution of our language. first does mean most important. number one. on top. before anything else. urgent. priority. winner. only. best.

but why?

and if only one thing can be first... who gets it? me? i'm the closest one to me.

but i am so small.

Friday, February 23

scraps of productivity

freedom is a bit worthless if you don't do anything with it. so with my copious unoccupied hours the past few months, what have i done besides get let down by innumerable seemingly glamorous job opportunities?

well, i learned how to crochet for real. i made a scarf. it is fat and red.

i will probably never wear the thing. maybe i'll give it away.

yesterday i helped mum slap nine different clocks on the wall. i'm not quite sure where she got this idea, but it is kind of cool. each one is set to a significant time (except for the last two, which are set to the time in Beijing and Sydney respectively. they just fill out the square). there's one for Idaho, where my sister, her husband, and their upcoming firstborn hang out. one for our former home in St. Louis. one for some good friends in Michigan and so forth.

mum asked me to design labels for each clock, for which she bought these nice glass picture frames. what do you think?

i am re-exploring the art of embroidery, something i taught myself after learning the much less exciting art of cross-stitch. below is a half-finished handbag i'm in the middle of constructing out of this checkered canvas-type fabric.

anyway, i hope it turns out well. i think i may find more things to embroider... for practice.

elsewhere i'm fiddling about on the piano and in my notebooks, honing my fire-building skills and appeasing my mother's desperate pleas to cook dinner for her, reading much and thinking about things. there is naturally some pressure here to get a job. earn some money. bah. money.

unless anyone wants to purchase that fat red scarf, i think i'll stick with my once weekly webdesign classes and be content. won't i?

Saturday, February 17

magic words

markets are conversations, they say. yeah.

it follows that the job market is one big conversation as well.

we always knew this. it is who you know, not what. it is what you say, not what you can do. communication is wonderful. it is power. it is magic. it carves windows between your universe and my universe. solidifies ideas. makes things happen.

why though does this job market conversation seem so rarely honest? why is it so fraught with red tape? procedures and dead ends? most conversation is not like that. it is how're you and i'm just great and what did you think of that film?

but if you want a job, you don't just ask for one and see what they say. you fill out three hundred applications at three hundred different agencies, carefully tailoring your cover letter, saying something vaguely different to all of these people, crossing your fingers, waiting by the phone...

you go in for a few interviews. you answer questions, trying to read this HR person's mind, hoping you're making a good impression. and then they say they have a few more interviews this week and that they'll let you know.

yeah. right.

so it isn't easy always to talk to people, especially HR people you've never laid eyes on before. but is it really so rare to meet a person for whom you would honestly love to do the very thing they want to pay someone to do for them? is it so hard successfully communicate this mutually beneficial arrangement into a reality? what are the magic words you have to say to the manager to make him think you're amazing? what is the secret code you have to put in your resume to get noticed?

but life is no fairytale. there are no magic words. all words are magic if you use them right.

i can complain all i want about this arrangement. i can wait for another job on a plate to show up in front of me. what good will that do me today, right now, when i have a hungry car to feed and dreams to chase into the sunset?


i have so much to learn.

Friday, February 16

naturally open source

i don't know a whole lot about open source stuff, really. but the concept fascinates me. i will build this thing, and i will share it with the world along with all of its inner workings, all of the things that make it what it is. so you can make your own. or make it better.

like music. someone writes a song. sings a song. anyone hearing that song can reproduce the sound of it. singing along, picking out the notes on the piano. music is naturally open source. the more the merrier, right?

like food. i like to cook. so does my aunt minerva.* our cupboard shelf is stacked with books compiled of family recipes, neighborhood recipes, sunday school class recipes. recipes are naturally open source. you bake cookies. you tie the recipe for them to the little paper plate, and you hand them around. you can't have too many cookies.

like the alphabet. i love to read. my brain absorbs all those letters and words and phrases. you can spell quick brown foxes and packed liquor jugs or whatever you want with those letters. they are full of power.

or like potatoes. all you have to do when you want to grow new potatoes is cut up a potato you have and throw a piece of it in a hole in the ground. bury it. water it. shazam. more potatoes.

so anyone can sing. anyone can throw an egg in a frying pan. anyone can spell cat. anyone can build their own linux from scratch. beautiful, isn't it? so democratic and transparent and well, open.

but it isn't easy. it isn't as easy as the word 'transparent' implies. you have to learn to read first. you have to learn how to think in tablespoons and ounces. you have to practice the notes, make sure you're not tone deaf. you need to take care of that potato plant while it grows up. there's always a price to be paid.
"the future is open source everything." ~Linus Torvalds
i got that quote from wikipedia. they cite more examples: soda, coffee, medicine. encyclopedias. freedom. access. openness. it means something a little bit different in each context. sounds like a good thing. but then again, it might stir up a lot of chaos among people who want to keep things secret.

open source everything. i wonder what that'll be like?

* i don't really have an aunt minerva, that i know of. i do have some very nice aunts, but none of them are named minerva.

Saturday, February 10

things that don't matter

when i was a little girl, my grandfather's back yard was a jungle. wrapped in summer, trees taller than the moon, it had a little pond, old porch swings, and a few elusive cats. the garden was full of fresh raspberries. at night the sound of a train sang us all to sleep. it was so exotic, the train--calling out to me from the rest of the world and places i had never been. still, every train in the night sounds just like my childhood there.

i wondered what that memory means. why it might matter to anyone. it matters to me because it affirms my continued existence as a single individual, or some such thing. all i really know is that it comes back, every time i hear the sound. but nobody else cares, do they? it isn't their past.

it might matter... someday. mightn't it?

because someday, maybe, a child will be born who will never hear the sound of a train at night.

what a strange attempt to validate my own expression. in the unlikely event that trains become obsolete, mere shadows of ages passed away... then my memories of that sound will matter? what a scenario.

on the other hand, so what if it doesn't matter, right?

lots of things don't matter. like... this tree:

this tree is the largest spruce tree in the world. dad insisted we stop and take a look at it last weekend. here are all its details, for anyone who's curious.

so what? what's being the world's biggest spruce going to do for this tree? it gets a few visitors. it has a big blue plywood sign standing in front of it. someday it will fall down anyway.

everything does.
but the world is quite a glorious place, isn't it? meaninglessness and all.

Thursday, February 8

outdated aspiration

underneath the piles of mysteriously unlabeled VHS tapes is a scattering of old cassette tapes: musicals, moody blues, elton john... my parents' music. we have a slotted set of sliding drawers to hold these antiquities, each slot the exact shape of a cassette tape case.
i was haphazardly returning loose tapes first to their cases and then to the slotted drawers, musing as i did so on annoying design flaws. the following things bug me about cassette tape holders:
  • the awkwardness of having to fit them in fat side first.
  • the asymmetrical placement of the spiky bits; if you slide tapes in thin side first, the case just will not close.
  • the random cases that happen to accept tapes thin side first. why can't people be consistent?
now, i'm sure there are good reasons for all these design choices. and surely it is irrational of me to complain about cases that take tapes fat side first and the cases that take tapes thin side first. since nobody uses this sort of technology any more, my thoughts here are meaningless anyway. please forgive me my nostalgic little rant.

i wonder if the old 8-tracks we used to have are still lying around. my sister and i, when we were small, would dance mad, jumping dances in our bedroom to 8-tracks of Saturday's Warrior and Peer Gynt. reminds me of all the things i used to want. childhood dreams like ballet and dragonhunting, adolescent inclinations toward becoming a brilliant violinist or a fashion designer.

some things i still want. to be taller. to learn italian. to get married. to write a batch of well-loved novels. i have also already done a few things since my wild, innocent dancing-to-Peer-Gynt days. checked off a few boxes.

but there is so much more.

Tuesday, February 6

things that matter

I've been thinking about the rhetoric of money.
Rhetoric: influencing people via symbolic means.

Money: a circulating medium of exchange.

gold. green. silver. dough. lucre. a symbol if ever there was one. and of many things.

Creative Review's sale of one month's issue to a fancy London advertising agency has been a most intriguing link in a chain of ideas about cash flow, how it works, how it changes things. Given the fact that this is a magazine i have never held in my hands and only heard about for the first time in recent months, the incident ought not be so important to me, perhaps. but i've been reading about it, on all the little design blogs i frequent, and the approach has piqued my interest.

Said fancy London agency asks us, "Does the presence of money diminish our creativity?" From what i've seen of the issue's pages, it looks quite artistic. No doubt as shiny and attractive as any other design-focused periodical you'll find in a rack.

Money's just a tool. We pass it around, stick it in our pockets, throw it into little dishes to pile up penny upon penny. As with all tools, it comes with power. And this is where the rhetoric comes in. The right amount of money can make things happen.

How depressing to those without it. Inevitably i think of the little classroom where i teach webdesign to a dozen or so children once a week. If i could donate a hundred few dollars to buy them new software, would i do it? is it that important to me?

The reality of it is, i could. Is whatever i'm saving my money in the bank for more important than the opportunities of these children? Of course i would say so. It is my money, after all. We all have our own agendas.

My dad once borrowed a quarter from me when i was fourteen or so. I remember insisting that he repay me someday, because i had great plans for that quarter. He said to me, "If i took every quarter you have in your pocket you'd still be infinitely ahead," and what with hearing him say the same to various siblings, i will never forget it. Youth, he seems to imply, affords you vastly more opportunities than money ever could. Money is not the only tool. It isn't the best tool.

Does that erase my concerns for the state of education in this silly country of ours? Not entirely... but it explains the basis i hold for my insufferable, apathetic optimism. Things do tend to work out, don't they? Or have I been reading too much happily resolved fiction?

Magazines sell pages and pages to advertisers for money, telemarketers always call during dinner wanting money, the rainforests are being cut down for money, people are making fools of themselves on TV for money, and millions of people go hungry for lack of money, but life does go on, doesn't it?

Friday, February 2

good tidings

i invented a soup the other night. broth, carrots, creamed corn, chicken, an onion. some rice. but i don't know what to call it. chicken/rice chowder? chicken/vegetable mush? titling things is always hard for me. i either give things completely random titles or completely boring titles. maybe someday i'll get the hang of it.

remember that beach? the sunny one in your dreams, with the unending supply of cold lemonade and the softest sand in the world?

the beaches in washington are not like that. they're cold. rocky. full of mist, crowded with trees that are pine trees, not palm trees.

but they are beaches, just the same. the same magic of land meeting ocean. a horizon troubled by nothing but waves. gorgeous.

maybe it's utterly unrealistic to say i'm running away to live there. silly. meaningless. i can at least try it out for one night, can't i? i'll be sure to bring warm socks. i know it's only just february and the rainforests up here are not the tropical kind. i'll be fine.

i'll try and take lots of pictures too.