I’m sure it’s exacerbated by the fact that I’m sleeping on the floor with a sleeping pad, but I’ve had little to no sleep the past two nights. Last night I got roughly 20 minutes of sleep… I say roughly because I remember checking my watch and seeing that it was 6am, and then actually waking up at 6:30 when my alarm went off (had a job interview at 8… I’m hoping it went well, but I’m not sitting around waiting for it, either). The rest of the night I can remember in excruciating detail. Got up, went to my interview, then went over to Zoka to leech bandwidth and get some juice and a chai. Their network is a little overly locked down, in my opinion: most of the ports are locked down, which means that I can’t check my email securely, or even log into Avatar (found a nice little workaround for that… the standard ssh port IS open, so I ssh into the host and then telnet remotely from there). Interestingly, even the Gtalk port is locked down, though none of the other IM services appear to be.

Something I meant to sent to Lichen last week but forgot: are you aware of the library and literacy initiative in Portland, OR? It was remarkably refreshing to see billboards promoting reading nights not only at the local libraries, but at cafe’s, sponsored by libraries. I think that’s a fantastic marriage. Coffee and books have already been wedded together for years thanks to the prevalence of cafes in every Barnes and Noble and Borders (to name a few), so why not leverage that link for libraries as well?

Today, I think I need to buy a shower head and a pillow… I gave the shower head that’s in there a fair shot, but a) it sprays everywhere, b) it’s too low (I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have to practice yoga to wash my hair), and c) the water pressure out of specific parts of the nozzle could cut diamonds. The desire for a pillow I imagine should go without saying.

No Complaints

Back at the Fresh Pot, once again had lunch over at the Cup and Saucer… this time, a lucky scramble, which reminded me SO MUCH of Andy‘s scrambles that he used to make in Montpelier (only this had bacon instead of veggie sausage, though I’m sure you could have swapped). It had cheese and eggs and mushrooms and green onions and bacon and potatoes… damned tasty, though I did hit my egg limit and couldn’t finish it all. Ended up striking up a conversation with the folks at the next table over, who are (ironically) originally from the east coast (like, Boston, and went to St Mic’s), who are now in Portland. One is working on getting an assistantship in photography, and the other works for a trip planning organization for high school students to Thailand. I inserted myself when I heard them talking about cameras, and I ended up giving them both my card (may be helping one out with their portfolio site, even). It’s always nice to be able to strike up conversations with folks, though I’m always a little self-conscious about it.

I swung through the Hawthorne Street Tea shop while waiting for a table at Cup and Saucer (that place gets hopping on weekends), and picked up some white chocolate covered espresso beans… arguably, I think I prefer them to the milk chocolate covered beans… the white chocolate augments the coffee flavor really nicely. I also heard that Gomez is playing in town tonight, and I’m SORELY tempted to go check it out, but I can’t really justify spending the money on a show right now. There will be a time and place for such.

I’ve taken to writing in my notebook while I wait for food. I usually stop at a full page, though today I did end up doing a second page of just ideas for stories. It felt good to brainstorm, and hopefully I’ll actually go back and revisit them, and use them for writing projects. I’ve been doing a fair bit of introspection about my writing, and I’m noticing certain trends, and where I need to improve. I’m fairly comfortable with my informal prose, and my essay work, but as far as fiction goes, I’m a macro-writer with nearly no “micro” game. By which I mean that I’m good at outlining and summarizing an idea or a story arc, but when it comes time to actually do the details, the subtle dialogue and nuanced description, forget it. I think I would probably really benefit from sitting down and writing a bunch of “nothing” stories, just work on slowing down and appreciating the details and subtleties of, say, a conversation over a cup of coffee, or over breakfast in a diner. I mean, think about Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Yes, there’s a lot that happens, but the action scenes are actually relatively short compared to the dialogue. Early on in the book, sitting around in a hotel room, there are pages and pages of dialogue and detail about planning the revolution, but no action takes place, yet you’re still engaged. That’s the sign of good dialogue: it should stand alone as a conversation, not as a lecture, nor as filler within an event. The same goes for adding details to a scene… they shouldn’t be arbitrary or tacked on, they should be part of the tapestry of the scene… if you can’t think of a way to work an element into a scene without breaking the flow, then maybe that element isn’t necessary or the scene should be rethought.

This goes for all forms of storytelling, I think, not just writing. Visual storytelling has some other elements that it has to consider. Comics immediately come to mind, where each panel tends to contain an action or other method to signify the progression of time… though simply changing viewpoint can do wonders… I immediately think of the Grant Morrison run of Animal Man, the final issue, where Animal Man meets Grant (a brilliant story arc for those who haven’t read it… they’ve released it as a trilogy of graphic novels if you want). They spend a fair bit of time just walking and talking, and that slowdown from the standard pacing of comics did a lot to encourage the surrealist feel of the story.

An emerging medium that I think could really benefit from implementing a more nuanced dialogue and story would be video games. While it has been slowly improving, the dialogue in most games is a bit of a joke. Approached appropriately, the sense of ownership of action from an interactive medium could potentially make for a more poignant and directly felt reaction from the viewer. (I should really expand on this and put it up over here…)

No Werewolves, but…

To quickly sum up the past few days, the fruits of my apartment hunting turned out to be rotten (they decided they wanted a cosigner, which isn’t acceptable to me on a number of levels… I’m sorry, but I have issues with arbitrarily attaching someone else’s livelihood to my own to get an apartment. You’re not renting to them, you’re renting to me, so either yay or nay based on MY qualifications, or I don’t want to do business with you). I’m getting my deposit mailed back to me, and I spent Tuesday night and Wednesday morning doing more apartment hunting. I found a place in northern Ravenna that looks very promising, and checked it out yesterday, liked it, and have put down a deposit (again). The tentative move-in date is March 1st, but they’re going to talk to the current tenant (who is already moved out barring his bed frame, and needs to still clean) about getting me in sooner than later. I like the fact that they’re trying to accommodate my needs, and the fact that as long as I can pay the rent and my rental references and credit check are good, they don’t mind that I’m not currently employed. I should hear back from them sometime soonish with a concrete on when I can actually move in. The bright side is that this is actually a better laid out, larger space than the previous place, with better light and hardwood floors. Smaller kitchen, but it’s still workable. The theory discussed when I toured the apartment was that I could potentially move in as soon as next week, which would be good — I like traveling more than most, but this hotel-hopping holding pattern is starting to wear on me.

I’m back in Portland while I wait, because it really is significantly cheaper (if the current apartment hunting had fallen through, I may have ended up moving to Portland instead… comparing via Craigslist, what gets you a small studio in Seattle will get you a 2br flat or townhouse in Portland). I’m currently down at The Fresh Pot again, again drinking delightful Pixie chai, after eating a fantastic lunch at The Cup and Saucer just down the street. (Start with good coffee, then a side salad with buttermilk ranch, then a cup of zucchini and rice soup, followed by a spiral pasta with creamy pesto sauce, tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms… did I mention that pretty much everywhere I’ve eaten in Portland has a ton of vegetarian and vegan options, but without forcing it down your throat?) All in all, life is pretty damned good, I’d say.

Last night back in Seattle, I found a theater that was playing Pan’s Labyrinth, and made a point to go see it. What a remarkable film. I really enjoyed it, on all levels. I found myself thoroughly engaged from the beginning, and felt that the story was strong, the acting was excellent, and the visuals stunning. I would happily go see it again, and look forward to owning it on DVD. I can’t encourage others enough to go see it while they can. (It is unfortunately a limited release, so some of you might have trouble finding it near you.) Fair warning: it’s dark, both visually and in nature. It’s also subtitled from Spanish. On a personal note, the actress who plays Ofelia (the main character) reminds me very much of Jamie Staudt from the last time I saw her, which was when I was 12 (crikey…). I’ve got something of a quirky memory like that.

Returning again to the topic of The Fresh Pot… the guy behind the bar is apparently one of the co-owners… and is selling his half of the coffeeshop to go traveling with his daughter. I just wanted to say kudos and congrats to them, I hope they have a really fantastic good time. We chatted a bit about travel and how invaluable it is. I think it’s really wonderful that he’s taking this opportunity to instill a love of travel in his daughter while she’s still young.

The Fresh Pot

I’m down in Portland, Oregon at the moment, down on Hawthorne at a coffee shop called The Fresh Pot. One of the things I love about Portland is that they really “get” chai. It’s nice to go into a coffeehouse and be able to choose from multiple varieties of chai, in case you’re looking for a sweeter chai, or a spicier chai, et cetera. I’ve had the Dragonfly chai before and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I opted for the Pixie chai this time (these are brands of chai, by the by), which is a sweeter chai. I’m pretty happy with it, it’s good both on first sip and also as it rolls on the tongue… you can definitely taste TEA within it, rather than being overpowered by the spices. Another thing I like is that everyone is really friendly and mellow. Walking down the street, people are genuinely smiling and polite to each other, and everyone seems to be relaxed and enjoying the day. It’s a good thing. If you contrast this with, say, Hanover, where everyone is walking like they’re on a mission, avoiding eye contact with others at all costs, with a cell phone glued to one ear, the difference is palpable.

I’m due to upgrade my WordPress installation to 2.1, but I’ve paused briefly before doing so to consider exactly what I want to be doing with the site, and possibly redesign it so that there is a coherent theme for all aspects of the site (blogs, main site, gallery), and how exactly I’m going to do that. I still want to keep my personal blogging distinct from what I put up on Critical Games, but I would like a more unified “this is all one site” sense from it. It feels like I’m asking a lot, but I already have a few ideas on how to do this. Part of it comes down to reassessing the layout of the page. Every day, fewer and fewer computers run a square or square-ish ratio, with a trend towards a 16:9 (or similar) wide screen ratio. The most obvious at-a-glance example is Apple, where every single product they offer now is a wide screen (MacBook, MacBookPro, iMac, the Cinema displays), but they are by no means alone in this. So, if our viewing space is stretching in width rather than in length, why not design a layout that suits a wider screen? This isn’t a radical new idea, either, as is indicated by the promulgation of wider, 3-column sites. I’ll aim not to bore you with site mucking details, just giving a heads up that if you come here and the site looks different, don’t be surprised. I’ll be doing my mucking about on a test site local to my computer, so in theory nothing will break in the process. (Hah, how novel!)

Nothing New to Report

Just a quick post to say that I have nothing new to report. My semester is wrapping up in two weeks, though realistically I want to be done by the end of this week, since I’ll be travelling for most of next week, and thus will not have much time to do school. Which is fine.

We were down in Portland, Oregon this past weekend, which was really a lot of fun. One of Mickey’s friends from High School was running in the Portland marathon, so we decided to go down and cheer her on. It sort of snowballed during the planning phase, though, and about 10 or 12 of Mickey’s old High School circle of friends ended up coming in for it, from all over the country (which is a pretty darn cool notion in of itself). We hung out and in general had a pretty laid back weekend all weekend, most of which I was amused by, because everyone was feeling pretty surreal about seeing everyone for the first time in 10 years for some. Lots of good conversation and good food and a fun trip to Powells (Powells is a LARGE bookstore in Portland… it takes up 3 stories of a city block). Spent probably $160 when all said and done there between Mickey and I, but I should be able to recoup at least a little of that, since they were books for my upcoming semester of school.
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