Thursday, November 17, 2011

phoneless and phreaking out

"You know, if you keep making those faces, eventually your face is going to stick like that."

That's what they tell me, anyway. I'm not sure if I believe it since I made a sour face for the first 20 years of my life and I seem to be recovering nicely.

However, I do see some truth to the statement. It's about habits.

If you keep doing something long enough for it to become a habit, eventually you will stick like that. This is true for the good things, like exercise or spending time with your family, and true for the bad things, like drinking too much or gambling away your savings.

But what about the in-between things? What about the habits we pick up that are widely sanctioned by our society?

There's something that I'm obsessed with. Something that I have to have with me at all times of the day. I take it with me when I go to sleep, when I go to work, when I'm in my car. I tend it like an obsessives' garden, making sure everything is in its' place, checking and rechecking. If I don't pick it up at least once every 20 minutes, I start to feel jittery. Others encourage me, asking where it is if they don't see it with me, proudly showing me theirs like brand new parents.

I'm talking about something I've started to take for granted over the past few years: my electronic tether; my cellphone.

By a gross miscalculation in timelines, I managed to shut off my own phone today while porting my number to a new carrier. I have no idea when I will have a working phone again. Note to my future self: next time make sure you have your new phone before turning off your existing phone.

What's most disturbing about this situation is not that I managed to misplan, I'm human after all. No, what's bothersome here is the way I'm reacting to my disconnect.

Whenever my mind starts to wander, I catch myself poking at the dead shell of my old phone. I turn it on and stare at its shiny screen, glancing to the top right for the tiny letter icon to tell me I have a message, hoping to see the little "G" symbol that means I have new Gmail. I might as well be curled up in a corner rocking back and forth while talking to myself.

When did this happen? I remember growing up without a phone, being a teenager who had to use landlines to call home and leave a message on the answering machine (the kind with the tiny tape inside). Heck, I didn't even have a cellphone until my junior year of college. Yeah that's right, I managed to survive until the age of 20 without sending a single text message. Amazing, huh?

But now? No fricking way! I've only been without the phone for a few hours and I've already lost my sh*t. If it wasn't for the fact that I still have the old phone to cradle softly in my arms, I'd probably be starting a fire or something. Like this girl who literally killed when her phone was taken (click to read the article).

I read an article a few weeks back that said that people reacted the same way to loosing their iphone as they did to loosing a loved one. As in, the same area in your brain that lights up when you are in mourning lights up when they turn off your phone. It's a creepy little member of your family. And now, with the Siri technology, it's even got a sweet lady voice to further your attachment (as if you needed it).

I'm sure I'll make it through this troubling time, not in any small part due to the fact that I still have the internet with access to Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all the other millions of internet locations that eat my time.

Thank goodness I have this virtual world in which to live, where else would I go for support? Real people?

Don't be silly.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hello World

"Don't touch anything," my Dad sternly commanded, wrinkling his brow in that certain way where you can tell he's confused, but just on the verge of a solution. He held a tangle of cables and cords, puzzling over a telephone book of instructions printed in both English and Japanese. My Mom drummed her fingers, looking bored and frustrated. I, for my part, gave all the help I was capable of giving by spinning around as fast as possible in the adjustable office chair.

There it sat, on a desk against the wall, in the room with the old zebra-stripped couch that smelled like dust, and the flimsy pressboard bookshelf housing an entire hardback set of Encyclopedia Britannica. This foreign invader, so strange in it's beige, boxy shell. The television seemed to look on in distress, worrying about being replaced.

Suddenly, with an electric fan whir and a happy little beep, the box sprang to life, emitting an alien glow. Filling the room with an eerie cast, throwing our shadows to the far wall.

I shot my feet out to the floor, stopping the chair mid-spin, focusing in on the bright white letters. They burned my eyes a little, jumping out from that deep blue, undulating with color and light.

I reached out my hand.

"She touched that thing!" my Mom cried, "why is there an hourglass?! This thing is broken!"


Within a few minutes of meeting someone new, it invariably comes up, "What do you do?" quickly followed by, "How'd you get in to that? Do you like it?"

Everyone wants to know, are you happy? And if you did you do it? Can I do it too?

Where did it all begin? When was the moment that it all came together and you said, 'Here it is, this is the thing that will change my life?'

It's been a few years since my introduction to the computer (maybe more than a few), but I still remember that first taste like it was yesterday. I didn't know right off the bat that I would end up using them to make art, but I did know that I wanted to learn everything about them, discover how they worked from the ground up; break them down and rebuild them, create something new.

One of my Mom's favorite stories to tell about me is the time she bought a new vacuum and couldn't figure out how to assemble it even after reading the directions multiple times. When she had finally given up, I began to pick up the pieces and stick them together, completing the vacuum simply by studying the parts. I was five.

When my artistic talent and my penchant for advertising began to emerge, my Mom started bringing home books from the library. "It's called Graphic Design," she said, "this is you."

And that's how I knew.

Onward from the age of ten, through adolescence and into adulthood, I tapped away at countless keyboard keys and double-clicked hundreds of mice, learning to express myself by interfacing with a machine.

Which brings me to today. Happily working as a freelance Graphic Designer and teaching others to use the fascinating tools of my trade.

That's kind of a long story though, so I'll just give you my standard answer: "I'm an artist, it's a fun job."

How about you? What do you do? How do you like it?


Here's a share, a couple of recent projects for non-profits. Using my skills to help others is part of what makes my job so great.

Christmas Party invitation for RiteCare Spokane a non-profit speech therapy clinic for children ages 2 - 7.

Site design for the Spokane Bike Swap a non-profit bicycle event to raise funds for the Friends of the Centennial Trail.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Good Form

First off, it's been a stupid long time since I've sat down to write, and for that I apologize; mainly to myself for forgetting the cardinal rule of success: Consistency.

I've finally gotten on board the Consistency Train with running and exercise, but I have yet to allow consistency to keep me on track for the other things I enjoy, such as painting, writing, and making time for my friends.

Most recently, consistency in my training allowed me to complete my very first full marathon, the Spokane Marathon, earlier in October. Sticking to the schedule and remembering to use my body in the way that it was designed is what got me through to the end. Working, resting, fueling, and thinking. Putting it all toward my goal.

Big surprise: it works. It's all that "you get what you put in to it," "your body is your temple," "you are what you eat" stuff that so many people like to spout. Who knew it would turn out to be true?

So here I am, post marathon, feeling great, wearing my awesome new hooded sweatshirt that says, "finisher!" and I declare out loud to myself...(don't worry, lots of people talk to themselves before, during, and after running)...anyway, I announce in my runner's-high afterglow that I'm going to train for an ultra-marathon. Something more than 30 miles, a real, crazy, over-the-top challenge.

With this goal in mind, I decide to incorporate longer runs (duh) and work on getting faster. You see, I'm a bit of a plodder. I shuffle along at about a 9:30 mile pace regardless of the race distance, and when I get to the end, I'm not even tired. I know there's more speed in there somewhere, I just have to teach myself to access it.

I've gone running with the boyfriend a couple of times, and it seems to be helping since he is much faster than I will ever be (I assume).

I want to say up front that there is nothing that feels more natural for me than running. Sitting sucks, walking is too slow, hopping is awkward.

When I run, my entire body feels like it drops into place. As far as I know, I've had the same running form my whole life: standing up straight, leaning forward, arms a little low, feet hitting the ground flat/mid-foot. <-- And there's the problem.

The first time running with Don he mentions something about my foot strike, and how it would be better if I stayed toward the front of my foot. So the second time we go running I try this different foot strike thing for the duration of the run, which turns out to be around 12 miles...and I feel something pull in my ankle. Goodbye Achilles tendon, it was nice knowing you.

Suddenly, my body that feels best after a 20 mile run can't even handle a 2 mile run. I took something that works, and I broke it.

This is not to say that he doesn't have the right idea (maybe or maybe not, it's up in the air) but I definitely had the wrong idea to immediately jump on something new without a consistent history of training in that way to back it up.

And now I'm out for at least a couple weeks. Leaving me with hours of free time when I would rather be running. Sidelined by form, which brings me to my tangent about paper forms:

There are certain aspects within the daily dealings of life where I expect consistency. One of these places is on official documents. I have no idea why I feel that way when there is absolutely no evidence to support those feelings.

Today I was reminded how little attention is paid to consistency when I sat down to fill out some paperwork and promptly found myself smacked full in the face by the grotesque mis-appearance of IRS forms: daunting. ugly. inconsistent.

Now, it's important to note that I don't find forms to be inherently ugly. A sea of grayscale boxes does not have to be a sign of bad design. They don't have to be a clown-vomit explosion of color to keep my attention, or have flashing banner ads on the sides to peak my curiosity.


Where these forms fail me is the same place I failed in trying to change myself too quickly. Whoever designs these IRS forms has taken a good idea and simply gone too far. Absolutely everything is encased in a heavily stroked black box. Somewhere along the way, some helpful soul looked at the form and said, "You know, I bet that would stand out better if you put a box around it...try making it bold!"

And a monster was born.

Changing up the form (the form-form or the running form) can be a good idea, but not if it defeats the original purpose. Form should follow function.

In the case of IRS forms, the function is the transfer of information from one spot to another. Or in my case, the transfer of energy from one spot to another. My existing form was doing it for me, without the add-ons, and I bet those IRS forms were almost attractive before they got painted up with boxes, bold text, underlines, different fonts, and 'helpful' symbols.

Lesson learned.

It doesn't have to be pretty. It just has to work.