Not the Post You Are Looking For

First: welcome to May, may it be warm and lovely and enticing towards things to come. Second: Robot Chicken Star Wars Special. Oh hells yes.

I’ve been working a fair bit, including overtime (which is ironic in that they made a point of explaining how that NEVER happens during the orientation not a week before), working on “things.” I took a few days off earlier in the week to take some classes they were offering on project management — seemed to make a lot of sense naturally to me, so I’ll take that as a good sign. I was sure to thank my employee rep the next time I saw her. After that, it was back to work, wrapping up the project we’d been working on all last week (I’m working this weekend, but I’m not sure on what yet… the project from before is now “done” for the time being).

I haven’t really been doing much with my time other than work, though. While it’s only an 8 hour shift, with commute and waiting for the shift to start, it usually ends up being closer to a 12 hour day. This isnt horrible, but it has been taking a while to adjust and make better use of the ~4 hours I have left before heading to sleep. I’m definitely thinking about doing less with the screen and more with the reading. (This is my first time in Zoka in over a week, simply because while I’m thinking that heading there after work sounds like a great idea when I get off shift, by the time I deal with 520 traffic, I just end up going home and not going out again. Good for the wallet, but is making me feel like a bit of a shut-in.)

My creative and social energy has always had a bit of an ebb and flow to it, so part of it I suppose is just that I’m in something of an ebb right now. The goal, of course, is to make the ebbs as short and minimal as possible, and encourage the flow, the upswelling of energy, to go as high and last as long as possible. I think it speaks well that I’ve still managed to write at least a little on most days, whether during lunch, or waiting for work or class to start. None of it has been something to post, simply a page at a time in my personal, physical journal, but it’s still something.

At work, I sit around and talk with a bunch of geeks about geeky things, and even then, I feel like something of an outsider, and always in the back of my head, I wonder if to them, I’m one of the “annoying hangers on.” You know the ones I’m talking about — they’re basically ignored by the group, but keep on trying to interject, and end up just sort of talking to themselves and laughing nervously and too loud whenever someone says something remotely, possibly amusing. I know what you’re thinking: wouldn’t you KNOW if you’re one of those? You’d think, but I don’t think anyone ever intends to be that way, so maybe you don’t realize it when you’re doing it? (And yes, I know it’s probably all in my head. It’s just part and parcel of getting to know new people.) I feel like I’ve been talking too much and too quickly, but can’t seem to stop myself or slow myself down: all the time alone over the past several months has left me a torrent of words when I’m finally able to break the seal (for better or worse). Definitely some interesting people, at least. I don’t know whether any lasting friendships will come out of it (since the job doesn’t actually pay enough to cover my monthly bills, I sort of need to move on sooner than later, and have been working with my employee rep about doing so), but it would certainly be nice. There’s a certain point where eating alone all the time gets old, and I passed that a while ago.

The Sun Sets

Needle and Post

Back at Zoka, and just spent the past hour or so sifting through pictures and prepping them for upload. They’re up now (11 new images, out of 123 taken… the skyline shots do vary more than the thumbs suggest — the curse of automated thumbnailing). I took the evening yesterday and got some Thai food from Tup Tim Thai on Mercer, and kept an eye on the sunlight… as it started getting a yellow-orange saturation, I paid and headed up the hill to Kinnear Park on Olympic (Uri knows exactly where I’m talking about), took a few shots, then walked up the hill to one of the streets above (for those not familiar: Queen Anne Hill is one of the taller hills in Seattle proper, and is a honeycomb of streets winding around it). From there, I had a perfect vantage for catching the skyline and the Space Needle. Very happy with the location, and may go back at some point for future (later in the evening) shots.

Today, I dealt with orientation for my game testing position with VMC (it’s been long enough that I was off the books, so all new paperwork and NDAs and such — wheee), and got signed up for a full week of testing next week (starting Monday). I’m really not looking forward to the morning commute, fighting Microsoft traffic across the lake, but otherwise I’m pretty happy to be back working there. We’ll see if I feel the same way after getting up at 6am to be at work by 7:30 for the next week (I’m not a morning person… I know I can do it, and I will, but the first few days of adjusting are going to be a pain, especially since my current sleep pattern has been keeping me awake til 3:30 or 4 even when I try going to bed at midnight or 1).

It looks like I’m going to actually make my photographic goal this month in terms of pictures taken (fill a dvd a month with photography), but I’ve been sort of slacking on the writing… I’ve been blogging, yes, and keeping up with my “waiting for food” journals when I go out, but in terms of creative/productive writing, I haven’t done as much as I’d like. I’ve been getting a lot of brainstorms for ideas to pitch as books to publishers, but I don’t really have the credentials to pull it off (this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t still write up a pitch and sample chapter and start submitting it, but it does sort of lower its priority in how I spend my time). I need to get into a better habit of writing them down and organizing them, so I don’t forget the good ones (and later separate the ones I thought were good but actually suck, and vice versa, after the initial “cool” has worn off). Haven’t decided whether it’d be easiest to carry an “ideas” book with me, integrate it into my normal journal, or what. Need to think about it. I’ll probably just integrate it… I’d like to finish up this vertical-flip Moleskine anyway (already have a normal book-style replacement waiting, just can’t justify swapping over when it’s still a perfectly good notebook, just not my binding preference).

Most of you already know that I really like watching people… it’s one of the reasons I hang out at coffee shops, to watch the interactions, to be at least peripherally involved in the social dialogue. I find that “distanced immersion” helps me focus on writing and productive endeavors. I’m bringing this up because there is a couple at the table across from me… an attractive blonde student with an accent I haven’t quite placed — initially though a light Irish, but upon further listening, I’m thinking Austrian (how could I mistake the two? *shrug*), and a guy, who gives off a general geek-frat vibe for lack of a better way to describe him. The flirting is hilarious. They banter a little bit, they physically bat at each other, let themselves get maybe 6 inches apart from each other, where it’s so obvious he’s aiming to move in for a kiss — and then she shuts him down, every single time. Maybe they’re dating and she’s just messing with him (well, regardless of the level of relationship, she’s messing with him), maybe they’re friends with some sexual tension (whether bi-directional or not), or something similar. Beats the hell out of me, but it is definitely amusing to watch.

The Days Go By

The past few days, I’ve been stressing about cash, since at this point, even if I start work tomorrow, my first paycheck won’t be here in time for rent. I mentioned a bit of that sort of financial mess last time, not worth continuing to expand upon it. In the meantime (to give myself a bit more float again), I’ve sold my stereo, still trying to sell the Vaio, and I finally got a call back from Volt about resuming my “on call” testing gig. The pay has gone down while I was gone, and I’ve been gone long enough that I have to go through orientation and paperwork again, but that’s happening tomorrow. I wouldn’t say I’m gainfully employed, but cash is cash, and it’ll help slow down the hemorrhaging while I continue to look for something concrete that can consistently pay my bills.

While they haven’t listed as hiring, I’m going to try and drop off a resume with Fantagraphics soon (need to get some actually printed). I really enjoy their work, and I think it would be great to work for such a respected graphic novel publisher. What exactly I’d be doing, I have no idea — they haven’t actually listed any positions, but I’m applying anyway. I’m also going to apply for the recently posted Community Manager position listed at Areae, but that’s something of a long shot (not because I couldn’t do it, but because they’re looking for a senior manager, with more experience and credentials… also, it would mean moving to San Diego). If you don’t try, you definitely won’t get it, but if you try, at least there’s a chance, right?

The same could be said for running for president as an independent, I suppose.

In other news, it’s lovely out, and supposed to finally start getting warmer — while it’s been fairly warm already, it sort of reached a plateau of an average of 55 and then stopped getting warmer… time for it to start incrementng upwards again, methinks! I’ve been trying to think about what things I’d like to do that doesn’t involve a lot of cash, to make use of the wonderful weather. Wandering around taking pictures is certainly an option (just had a random run-in with other camera people at the coffee shop right after writing this, actually… one running the XTI, and the other just picking up a D200), but the photos I’ve been feeling antsy to take are a distance away (I want to head into the mountains, capture spring and early summer in the Cascades and the Olympics). The other photos I’ve been wanting to work on and take are candids and portraiture. Which involves more humanistic interaction than I really have going right now… OR, putting ads on Craigslist and taking what I can get. (There is an element of “just go out and take the damn pictures,” but I’m not there quite yet.)

From parking to the door, there was a delightful aroma of cut grass and lilacs in the air, pungent and alive. From my bedroom window, the sun transforms the green leaves into golden fire, aglow with light. Blue skies patterned with white towering clouds, a textured horizon arousing intimacy of space.

Free Cone Day

Flowering Tree

Yes, that’s right, today is the Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day — best wishes to those who work there for making it through the day. For the rest of us: Wheee, free ice cream! I opted for “Coffee Coffee, Buzz Buzz Buzz” for my cone. Quite tasty, and it’s do damn pleasant out (about 60 and sunny) that ice cream totally seemed like the order of the day. Ice cream out of the way, I headed over to Zoka to drink some chai and wait for a few calls — I decided to sell my stereo and my PC, and (unlike when I posted the PC on craigslist in Vermont) I received responses very quickly. Looks like I’ll probaby be selling the PC for less than I hoped, but it’ll be done and gone and the money will still be a welcome influx. The stereo I have two and a half interested parties, so to some extent it’ll depend on who gets ahold of me with details first (that would be the phone calls). That will be a MORE than welcome cash influx, since I’m fast approaching the bottom of the barrel, and want to make sure I have enough for rent and bills for May, since first paychecks often take extra time to arrive. (I should be able to squeak by with what I have, but squeaking by is decidedly not a good spot to be.) And besides, I don’t really have room to set them up in my apartment anyway. (To clarify, I’m selling the stereo components: the stereo with integrated amp, cd player, and interconnects, NOT the speakers and speaker cables. Those I figure I’ll be able to make use of at a later date, and in the meantime can live in a closet.)

I received a package today that I wasn’t expecting, from my dear friend Elizabeth. She sent me a card and a book (notably a cookbook gained from her days working as an intern at W.W. Norton) for my birthday. I can’t even begin to describe how much this means to me. I don’t really receive gifts very often (even for birthdays), and so to get this out of the blue… yeah. It means a lot. Elizabeth, you’re an absolute sweetheart — thank you.

The trees are full of young emerald leaves, and are beginning to look lush and full, which is a delight. There are a few towering trees that I THINK are poplars (weeping simons is my guess, since I haven’t stopped to check them out up close to actually identify the tree… going by pictures off google) on my way from my apartment down to Zoka, that are really just looking gorgeous illuminated by the afternoon sun, set against a rich blue sky. But really, in general it’s just lovely. (I’m not trying to rub in that the weather is great in Seattle right now while the east coast suffers, but it would seem a shame to not appreciate it while it’s here. When it’s great in Seattle, it’s really great.)

Of Many Things

Let’s just get it out there: Kurt Vonnegut died. Chances are pretty good you already knew that, given that it’s been all over the news and blogs and everywhere else. Still, putting it out there in case you hadn’t (also, because the article at the NY Times is pretty well written and worth the read).

Thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday on Tuesday — the day itself was pretty “meh,” a genuine non-day that I spent alone, but that in and of itself is an improvement from a lot of my recent past birthdays. So — thanks, it meant a lot to get the well wishes. I did pick up some shoes (my Keens are completely shredded, hardly a good impression during job interviews), so I swung by Wooly Mammoth in the University district and picked up some Clarks on sale. They’re pretty snazzy, though I must admit after spending the past month in sandals, it does feel weird to be back in a closed shoe. Still the toe room is good, they’re light, good insoles… they just feel light on the feet.

I’ve been sleeping in a lot lately, which isn’t really a good thing, but hardly unexpected. The anti-depressant medication helps me through the day, but the process of waking up is still a pain (even if I take the meds before bed). I don’t think I mentioned that I’m back on meds for it before, but yeah, since November or so. I was having a pretty bad depressive relapse due to fallout from my breakup and stress from finances and lack of work and just in general trying to figure out what I was doing with myself. I wouldn’t exactly say I’m “better,” but the meds do help me get a grip on things. Except the sleep part. Worry about money and work is mounting, and so my “defense” mechanism of sleeping too much is rearing its head. (It’s not that uncommon, the rationalization is that if you sleep through it, it’ll go away. That the world doesn’t really work like that is irrelevant.) I suspect some low grade dehydration might also have something to do with it (it’s never good when you can actually recollect all the liquid you’ve ingested in a day, and that most of it is caffeinated — and not even much of that).

Not trying to get mopey or anything, just sometimes you have a down day.

The most recent issue of LensWork (an excellent photographic magazine if you haven’t already checked it out) discussed a new podcast they’ve launched, that offers “commentary” rather than “critique” for a particular image from one of their current issues. The article that expanded on this topic went on to explain that whether you like or don’t like an image is relatively useless to anyone but yourself, and similarly, while exploring the technical merit of a print has value, describing how you would change it is also irrelevant — you are viewing the finished product, so unless you are planning to do a variant of the image, it doesn’t really matter what you would change. So they’ve opted to instead call their work a commentary on the image, similar to the work a docent might do in a gallery or museum.

While I applaud the decision to explore the content and context of an image rather than simply review it, personally I would have preferred that they had opted to make an effort to re-take the value and intent of “critique”. Literary or Art Criticism functions exactly as they are describing, and as I’ve mentioned before, what they are describing is the core function of critique. Just because in the photographic community the term has been co-opted for what largely amounts to a technical (or even subjective!) review doesn’t mean that the term is a lost cause. Don’t get me wrong, a technical review absolutely has merit, especially within the professional community for the purposes of furthering one’s craft, but it is only one element of a wider form of criticism that is largely being ignored — ignored to the point that a national magazine like LensWork felt it necessary to divorce themselves of the term!

That said, I still really enjoy the magazine. The photography in it is exquisite, and reading over the biographies of a number of the artists is really encouraging — many start out with “I went and did something else for 20 years, and only got back into photography quite recently,” which is encouraging in that it suggests that 1) technical excellence can be gained or regained quickly, and 2) that you don’t necessarily have to work at your craft for 50 years just be start to be recognized.

It’s kind of strange, in that I feel that I still have so much to learn in terms of craft in so many fields that I wish to pursue, but at the same time feel like it’s time in my life to start leaving a mark, to create and do. It’s a weird dichotomy, the urge to create and but the need to further craft in order to do so. I don’t think I’m really properly explaining it, but this will have to do for now.

April the Ninth

Nabil 4/9/2007

I seem to be running in radio silence on weekends (generally speaking). I couldn’t tell you why that is, per se, but it does seem to be a trend. I decided this weekend to go back to being cleanshaven, and got a haircut today (picture is included to the right). Sometimes it’s nice to just have a change, and this is something I have control over. I’ve been fairly upbeat the past few weeks, which is good, but the general socialization has been wearing me down (I am still an introvert), and I finally just sort of crashed on Friday night, after drinking far too many chais (when I crash from caffeine, I get really depressed, which is why I usually limit my intake). I spent the weekend holed up at the apartment, only going out long enough to find a mailbox to mail out some bills, and I’m feeling much better for it.

Tomorrow is my birthday, and I’m trying to decide what I’m going to do with it. My birthdays generally speaking have been pretty lousy, often dealing with snow and rain, getting abandoned by friends, spending all of it driving and getting pulled over (though thankfully not ticketed) (and a week later having my marriage fall apart), and just in general being kind of lame and oft-forgotten. Considering how few people I know in this area, I’ll probably be spending it alone as well, so I’m trying to think of solo things to do on a likely rainy day to “celebrate”. Maybe spend the day at the movie theater, or something.

Chris gave me some good advice for my resume, so I’ll probaby be doing a minor revision of it to better highlight a few things (namely my work on the Applegeeks column… incidentally, my interview with Wil Shipley is now up). I sincerely hope that it all results in at least some interviews, if not full job offers (one step at a time, after all, though I can’t really afford to wait much longer). While I’m on the mercenary tack, I’ve been also working on updating and revising Be My Patron, though the updates aren’t up yet. I figure I have the time now, I may as well get that a bit more up and running, actually post some projects looking for patrons. It’s frankly been a placeholder for the past several months while I dealt with the moving and life — a good idea that stalled out.

Listening to the new Panda Bear cd again at the coffee shop, and it’s still good. I’m pulling different things out of it this time, however, and nearly mistook one of the songs for a song off Smile by Brian Wilson ne Beach Boys. (Not that it’s a bad thing… that is also a good album.) Life is cluttered with new music, nowadays, between Zoka and KEXP. So many new bands, like Under Byen, Peter Bjorn and John, Beirut, and a slew of others. Some I’ve been able to collect via free downloads (ala Bastard Fairies who put up their album for free, and the KEXP Song of the Day podcasts), but being the collector that I am, I’d really like to go pick up full albums, even if it’s via iTMS. It’s a good lesson in patience, and in learning to write down albums and band names, rather than simply hoping I remember later.

Unbelievably Nice

UW Library

It is currently 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Everything is greening up quickly and wonderfully, and it’s just spectacular. I am once again at Zoka, drinking an iced chai and getting my daily writing done. I also grabbed the pictures off my camera from last evening… I only took a few, but they’re kind of fun in an abstract sort of way. It’s warmer and clearer out tonight, so I’m actually planning to head back this evening with my tripod, and see what I can pull out. (I’m still pretty proud of myself for getting the shots that I did get as clear and steady as I did via handholding… it helps that I tossed on my 50mm f/1.4, which made for speeds that were as short as possible. (1/5 of a second at 11:30 at night? Not too shabby!) Using the tripod, I’m planning on doing some long duration shots instead. Hmm.

They’re playing the new Panda Bear album here at Zoka, and I’m definitely digging it. It’s a nice coincidence that the honorable Mr. Ellis was mentioning them not too long ago. Panda Bear, for those not in the loop, is one of the core members of Animal Collective, a fantastic band for those not familiar with them. This is one of his solo albums, and musically it’s got some Animal Collective flavoring, while remaining relatively unique, intermixing more ethereal, electronic influences into the work. Something to add to my rapidly increasing list of albums and artists I’d like to pick up.

Chatting with Dad earlier today, and going over some of the photos I uploaded yseterday evening, it seems one of my perennial problems is cropping up again: it’s pretty noticeable, in, say, this photo. Do you see it? Yeah, my horizon line isn’t level. For whatever reason, a lot of my shots have a 1-2 degree drop on the right side of the horizon. It looks level to me when I take the picture, and one theory I have is that since I tend to have my head cocked slightly to the left a lot of the time, my brain is compensating by adjusting what I see to be “level”. Dad thinks it may have something to do with my posture and grip on the camera. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was some combination of the two. Thinking about it, even shots I take on a tripod tend to have that drop, so the notion that it is movement from pressing the button down, or a cockeyed method of holding it I don’t think would fully explain it. It’s certainly not an insurmountable problem, even in post, but it is something I need to be more aware of happening.

So, a question for readers: do you like me adding thumbnails and pictures to my posts? Is it a worthwhile habit, or would you rather I just link to the gallery if I want to point out an image? I’ve been opting to use thumbnails mostly, out of deference for those on dialup, and will likely continue that trend, but I would like to know whether people like the break from my text-heavy posts.


Tulips at the Bellevue Botanical Garden

I spent the afternoon photographing in Bellevue, first at the Botanical Gardens, and then from the rooftop of the mall parking garage, of the skyline as sunset approached, and then finally down by the lake, looking out at Seattle as the sun set. I’ll be getting pictures up in a bit [Update: Pictures are up, 22 new shots.], but I did want to share something.

A little while back, I posted a random thing I heard on KEXP on my LiveJournal (usually one-liners and quizes and stuff like that goes there… feel free to add me, but you’ve been warned). It was about two ducks in the road, a female duck dead, and the mallard standing near her, looking at her like “I can’t believe she’s gone.”

When I was down at the lake, there were two ducks, a couple, swimming around, heckling the kids who were there. Another mallard showed up, looking lonely, and was shunned by the couple, until finally he just sort of paddled off by himself. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the same mallard who lost his mate in the road. Felt bad for the guy, if I knew how to speak duck, I wanted to pull him aside and tell him it’d be alright, maybe buy him a duck beer or something.

Just needed to share.

Sunny, Beautiful

Before I continue: Happy birthday, Dad! I hope it’s been a good day!

It’s currently just under 70 degrees and gorgeously sunny here in Seattle, which is in stark contrast to the snowfall most of the northeast has been getting hit by. While I can sympathize, I’m frankly just grateful for the nice weather where I am. I’ve grabbed my camera and my tripod, and I’m planning on taking some twilight shots this evening, which should be fun (still need to decide exactly where, though… we’ll see), and in general I’m feeling alright. I was sitting in my apartment earlier, fiddling with files and sorting things (still planning a full clean “soon”), glanced out the window and checked the weather and said “Fuck it, I’m going out.” And here I am.

I didn’t really mention it here, but I had a “date” last night with Avital, a cute barista here at Zoka. (I’m saying it as “date” because I’ve never really done the dating thing before. I asked her out, which sounds like a date, we had dinner together, which sounds like possibly a date, but we spent more time geeking than flirting, which sounds more like friends? Beats the hell out of me!) It was a nice evening, and it was especially nice to get a chance to spend time with someone on a one on one basis, considering other than a few brief occasions with Mickey (which I am likewise glad for), I really haven’t had that since I moved out here. I’m generally pretty quiet, but when it’s been a long while like this, I find myself talking people’s ears off, for better or worse. I was definitely worn out by the end of it… even when I’m a geyser of babble, I’m definitely still an introvert at heart, and it wears me the hell out even if I want to be there.

Animal Collective’s Feels is playing here at Zoka at the moment, and while it’s truly an excellent album and well worth my time to talk about, instead I want to mention this catchy little tune called “Young Folks” by Peter, Bjorn and John. There’s a music video for it up on YouTube (which is linked on their site), and it’s just an amazingly fun little song. The whistling is unbelievably infectious, and since it’s been getting radio play on KEXP, I find myself humming or half-whistling it getting out of the car pretty often. Go look it up, go listen, and then try and tell me it’s not good.

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Springtime from a Zoka Window

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for blossoming trees. Maybe it’s because I’m a spring baby or something, but I totally dig the period of spring where the trees blossom and bud and just start to sneak out their small leaves. It’s been winter for months, and this revival is energizing, especially on those first few warm, sunny days that witness an explosion of life and growth. Flowers are blooming, and people just seem to be feeling upbeat about life (or perhaps it’s just me).

I’m torn on what to do with this beautiful day (we should have another 5 hours until sunset). I’m currently at Zoka (as the admittedly poor picture suggests), and while it’s nice to be here and perhaps get some writing done, I in some ways would feel remiss if I didn’t go out gallavanting somewhere with my camera in tow, and make use of the day. There is, perhaps, time to do both.

In a moment of eating crow, I would like to publically apologize to Mr. Samuel R. Delany, whose last name I’ve perpetually misspelled for the past decade as “Delaney.” In my defense, apparently it’s one of the most misspelled author names in SFdom, including by publishers, and I could have sworn the original edition of Dhalgren that I read had it spelled with an ‘e’, hence my confusion. Regardless, I’ve realized my error, and corrected its use in the prior entries of this blog (the only use of “Delaney” that will show up on a search now is this very entry). What sparked all this, of course, is noticing that his book on writing has been nominated for a Hugo. Congrats, Mr. Delany!

As a side note about the Delany-Delaney thing: When I got my copy of Dhalgren signed last year, he added an ‘e’ to the end of my name. Given that I now realize I’ve been doing the same to him for years, I find it highly amusing. (Little things!)

The Blue Heron Struts
The Fox and the Hawk Look On
Life Marches Onward!