career, LIS, portfolio, psychology, self care, technology

Life without obsessions or compulsions?

I think I’m new to this.

We have moved into Week 9 in my class…not a huge deal, but it reminds me that there are only 5 weeks after this, left in the semester! It’s time to start thinking about next semester.

I’ve also found that it is still possible for me to take a Virtual Internship even though I’ve already graduated: one of the articles I’ve just read (extracurricular) says that as much or more could be learned through internships and practicums, as through classes. I may want to join my Alumni Association to keep access to the job search board, as well…but I’ll get to that, when it’s time.

I have about a month and a half to decide if I want to take a class on XML in the Spring…or hold out and try a private course, again. I’ve located one which looks like it will fit my needs…if it doesn’t, I know a place that gives an XML course every Fall. However: I can take up to 11 more units, there…maybe I want to save them for PHP, JQuery, or Drupal, and go ahead and do XSLT/XQuery, privately. Then I can re-take it in the Fall at the University, if I need to.

Also, I found a book on XML/XSLT/XQuery, which I can use to boost my skills. I haven’t read it yet, but the last book I read of the series (on Linked Data) was very understandable, and the branch of my association which puts them out…has a very good reputation.

Putting that all together: that looks good, actually. So I review over the winter, re-take XSLT/XQuery in Spring, and get the book on XSLT/XQuery for practice, afterward. For now, I can see what I can do about an Internship…and take some lessons on JavaScript. (It probably also wouldn’t hurt to review my Relational Database textbooks.)

After Spring, I can look at PHP, JQuery, and Drupal; though those aren’t skills as much in demand for my targeted positions. XSLT, though, it looks like I’ll have to learn (at some time — if I want to become a Metadata Librarian, which is what Cataloging Librarianship is turning into).

I think the major thing holding me back is frustration at having to use my, “slow mind,” as versus my, “fast mind.” I’m used to things being easy to scan and read — I can skip over information and my mind will close the gap — and Programming…really requires me to slow down and parse things as I come across them. I have to stop and think about what each symbol or nested tag means, that is…and reading in English is usually so easy for me that I don’t have to do that.

(It is, however, not easy when you’re reading subordinate clause after subordinate clause after subordinate clause…and then you start to think, “what am I looking at?” and you’re looking at an extremely complicated sentence. Maybe I should try and rephrase the lectures, or something.)

Reading in Spanish and Japanese is usually so easy for me that I don’t have to do that, and I’m not particularly great at either of those two other languages, at this point. However, at least I can decipher parts of the code. Whereas when I see something like //@lang, I have to actively remember what those symbols mean, and put together what they mean, in context with each other. That can be frustrating, when you’re expecting to do better (even though you only saw this code for the first time, six days ago).

It’s not easy, although W3Schools makes it look easy. And I’ve found out that maybe it actually is not best to depend on my instructor explaining things to me. I know how to find information on my own, that is; and some of it is clearer than the lecture.

I really…need to figure out what to do about these internships, though! Like, do I need to sign up for the Internship course, pay the tuition, and then work for free for 14 weeks (in exchange for experience)? You know?

Well, anyway: I can contact my Vocational team about that. I’ll need to get it set up by the end of the year, regardless.

And that means, to get the freakin’ Portfolio back online, before someone asks to see it.

I can do that. I can actually do that, soon. And for now, it’s a finite project.

Alright.

The title of this post relates to the fact that although I have been washing my hands more than normal, I believe my other obsessions are becoming less dominant. Thus, I could write, but I don’t have to write; I could make jewelry, but I don’t have to; I could paint or draw…but don’t have to. I forget the last day I was in a Japanese language lesson, or at which I sewed anything. Aside from these things, I realize that I don’t totally know what to do with myself when I have a lot of free time, and nothing that I’ve zeroed in on to do now, now, now, now.

They’re all parts of me, but they don’t define me.

Having choices is not necessarily the easiest thing, eh?

career, LIS, psychology, self care, technology

Fatigue.

It’s only been within the last 48 hours (last night) that I’ve recalled the fact that in my youth, I turned to writing because it calmed me. It stabilized me. I’ve recalled that out of realizing that I’m falling behind in my studies while I’m spending hours writing, although seriously, I only need to concentrate on my one University class, and no(ne of the) others.

In the abstract, in the ideal, I want to put my best effort forth for my XML class so that I don’t waste the money I invested. However…given the last week, no — given the last three weeks — I can see my priorities shifting. I was going to say, “I can see my mental state deteriorating,” but I’m not sure that’s true (entirely). It’s likely more or less normal to be disturbed at this time, with heat waves and fires and smoke and lockdown and politics and COVID-19 (although I think our own continued lockdown re: COVID-19 is voluntary).

I suppose I can be thankful for being as functional as I am, right now. At least I can still write, and I can still make art. Though yesterday, I was working on my assignments for my University class (not XML)…and it’s very clear that I’m experiencing fatigue, and it’s impacting both my motivation to work, and my ability to focus. This class is dry…and I’m wondering if a life of desiccation is what I want. (Apologies to my Professor.)

Late last night, I was able to get some studying done…though it is, honestly, seeming unimportant right now. I’m still 10 pages away (at least) from the end of my lecture, which isn’t…great, but I’ve gotten through the first 14, so that’s something. The thing is…the XML course series is about coding, but it’s on a different level from my Web Design (HTML5/CSS3) course. It takes work to understand what the code means, particularly for me, with XPath (which is a foundational skill for XSLT). XSLT is helpful in crosswalking data from one metadata schema to another, or for converting an XML document into another form of output (like HTML). This will inevitably come up, if I become a Metadata Librarian. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Nor does it mean I could have predicted it.

In practicality, I have an assignment due today, but am struggling with feeling overwhelmed. This may be due in part to the fact that I haven’t finished the reading for this week (and am also otherwise behind, in the series). And, well, the crazy weather. And the craziness in general. Let’s not forget that I’ve barely been out of the house in the last seven months, and we still can’t open the windows because of smoke.

I also see that it’s been a week since I’ve last drawn, I still haven’t gotten back to Middlesex, I’m stalling on my Japanese language lessons, and though I’ve got the seeds of three watercolor paintings in me right now (all with a little bit, to a modicum of work already done), they need some more planning and/or experimenting.

The logical thing to do is to get back to those last 10 pages of the lecture, and then at least try the assignment. However, I know I don’t want to.

If I’m going to read something to get my mind off of things, however: I might as well try reading that, first, and seeing if it helps anything. The fact is that I planned on signing up for these courses in large part so that I wouldn’t have the free time and energy to ruminate about lockdown. I’ve completed four of them already. I am likely OK.

I have been told that if I do get to work on my Art instead of my XML class, that will be acceptable, so long as I do the Art. It’s not…the worst idea…

career, LIS, technology

XML excitement :P

I’m writing this now because I’m determined to get to bed before 10 PM local time. I’ve been staying up way too late (even if I was doing homework), and I know I need to keep my immunity up. There is basically no excuse for me, not to do so. There is nothing more important right now, that is, than not getting sick. (I’ve been having slight irritation in my esophagus for the past two days, and I know it’s likely from not getting enough regular sleep.)

Over the past five days…a number of things have happened. For one thing, I’ve started to get into my XML (eXtensible Markup Language) training, which is actually really fun — kind of like a video game, except I’m learning. I know it’s just the first week, but I’m considering getting deeper into this than I had planned.

My main issue is choosing between training paths, where those paths diverge: the first being Digital Humanities and the electronic publishing industry (or the Publishing industry in general, which appears to be becoming decentralized); the second being Linked Data and metadata specialization. The second path — well — I already know that I’m interested in it. The thing is that I’m interested in Digital Humanities, as well.

The tracks just lead along different life paths…speaking of which, I did get back into Rethinking Information Work (I stopped waiting to transcribe my self-assessment), and just got my copy of Jump Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian. My fear is that I’ll be moving forward along a path so quickly that I don’t know where it’s leading.

However, not moving forward because I don’t know where I’m going is a repeat of those nine years I spent as a Shelver, where I was trying to figure out where I was going, without actually having the experience to be able to tell what I wanted, and why. Then I moved forward and discovered a bit about what it was like to work as a paraprofessional in Public Services in a Public Library…which was likely not a great fit for me, and I don’t know if it ever will be. (Sometimes students are warned away from Technical tracks in Library School; it would have been of use to me if someone warned me away from Social tracks.)

Linked Data, anyhow, is very forward-looking and oriented towards information organization (and the integration of Library work with the rest of the world of Information), while Digital Humanities seems to have more to do with coding, and getting things produced, visible, and online. (I also should not neglect to say that my Metadata Professor [who was excellent] didn’t hold one of the classes I’ve been considering from that track, in high regard.)

The spread of high technology, however, should it become ubiquitous and inexpensive (it is not yet so in my country)…it makes me question the future of paper books. I may have mentioned this here before; I know I wrote about it, but I don’t recall where (by that I mean, if it is in hard copy or digital or cloud storage).

I see the future of information dissemination and sharing moving in the direction of video, animation, digital interaction in the form of socialization and gamification, inclusive of music and art, and possibly still text…but I think text is going to be at least a bridge and transitional stage.

After all, text at least can be, if not often is, the basis of videos and animation — in the form of scriptwriting. There’s also storyboarding, but if you don’t have notations about the story, it’s probably going to be harder to envision it to make the storyboards (though not necessarily; my own writing grew out of comic work where I was drawing the images first without thinking about the story, and the story basically emerged from what I had drawn, or was in the process of drawing).

That is, a lot of these media are story or narrative (or lecture), with something else added on top. Now, whether that something else needs to be added, or takes relative advantage of its format: that is a different question!

The major issue is that most people, at least where I am at, do not read above a 6th-grade level. This means that when we’re publishing our thoughts in text, that just de facto is going to be read by a limited segment of the population (at least, should we write above a sixth-grade level, which I’ve done for as long as I can remember).

This means a couple of things, one of which is obvious: it is a very important skill to be able to understand complex concepts and explain them clearly and accurately in simple language (although that’s basically the main concept of teaching). The other thing is that if we don’t do this, it seems to enforce a gap between the educated and everyone else (and then, “everyone else,” or a faction of that group, gets resentful — and you have a situation like the present one in the U.S., or in at least one other place in the world I can think of in the 20th century).

Of course, at times concepts just can’t be explained engagingly in simple language. I’m thinking of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. That was engaging, but I couldn’t take more than three or four pages of it at once, and ended up not reading most of it. I mean, it is possible to be simultaneously incredibly interesting and boring, even though you know it’s pretty much the direct teaching of one of the most brilliant people of our time. (And, yes, he did after that, publish A Briefer History of Time, the title of which…was kind of funny, because you know right there that he was referencing losing readers with the prior book.)

I’ve had the experience of trying to read notes on “crosswalking” data (for example, Bibliographic data) from one system to another, for example, and it was so dense and filled with so many external references and systems that I haven’t yet worked with (but which are now obsolete), that I couldn’t understand it. I would link it, but I doubt anyone here would understand it (or perhaps, care), either. The major issue is trying to make the language of the standards so general, so as to fit as many situations as possible, that the reader of those standards can struggle to grasp what is actually being referred to (especially if they aren’t immersed in the usage of the concepts on a daily basis).

Anyhow — XML is…it’s really simple, though it can be difficult to get one’s head around, at first. And I am just in the first week of class, so I likely shouldn’t be jumping the gun where it comes to being excited about it…but I can understand it, to an extent, right now. I have had some HTML/CSS training (which is related but different), so that helps. I just find XML and Linked Data to be comparatively brilliant solutions to creating widely-understood coding. I can also merge my knowledge of Cataloging in here…which is almost the first time I’ve really flexed those skills outside of my Cataloging classes.

(I should note to myself that I need to collect at least shortcuts to all the different places I have Cataloging/Metadata-relevant materials stored on my machine, if not just reorganizing the hard drive.)

I’ve also realized that I don’t have to learn everything at once, which is mostly a relief. (I can learn some things at a later date, that is.) My major issue is overloading my COVID-19 free time with too many classes…

beading, Business, craft, money, self care, technology

Too much analysis!

Apparently, I need to give myself a break, sometimes…though it’s difficult when a person has become accustomed to having deadlines. Particularly…it would likely be actually good for me to get back to my beads and sewing. And/or, you know, writing non-academic things.

That kind of explains why I’m back here, today.

Over the weekend…was it the weekend? The days are blurring together now, but some time last week, I found out my hard drive was failing. (They only have a lifespan of 3-5 years, according to the Web.) Two days after that and we get the replacement; and then D and I have to install the thing and transfer everything over to the new drive…which is done. It just stressed me out for pretty much three days straight, and I still haven’t fully recovered where it comes to doing things with my brain.

That is, it’s difficult to get back to having to think about and analyze things, again, which is tough when I have classes to get back to and deadlines to meet. But the hard-drive thing had to be done…pretty much immediately, if I didn’t want to have to use other machines. I’ve done it before; I just don’t like to.

As a surprise, today I did get a shipment of beads which I had stopped waiting for (they came from the Czech Republic, which has not been shipping things out promptly for at least a couple of weeks because of COVID-19)…that was fun. :) My spreadsheet says I ordered these at the beginning of last month. According to the Web, it can take up to 21 days for things to get here from Czechia, and there was about a month’s delay on top of that, which…is understandable. It actually got here about a week earlier than I would have expected, if I had expected it. I had just figured it would be a nice surprise, if and when it did come.

I did get one set of beads which is pretty much unusable due to what appears to be corrosion of the Blue Iris coating; like they have been rolled in cement, almost. I’m not even going to try to save these with washing; it may be more hazardous than it’s worth (these beads cost me less than $4, total, and everything else was fine). D joked that I should send them back.

Iris colors in particular — I mean, they’re beautiful, but they’re one of the coatings that I’d have some concern about when it comes to toxicology, just from unverified information I’ve seen online. There is a reason why these things (at least, the cheaper ones) generally say that they aren’t for use by people under 14 years old…though I started using them at 11-12, at the oldest; we didn’t know any better.

I know it took me some time to graduate to the more expensive beads, but I am not sure when, entirely, the switchover from dyed glass fabric-/craft-store beads, to glass beads from bead stores, conventions, and online, took place. I am pretty sure that I can recall going to a bead store at 14 at the oldest, though: I remember the clerk at the snobby (it was, I’m not kidding) bead store, keeping a close eye on myself and M. I was in high school, then…I recall making a necklace with a pendant from there which ended up chipping one of my front teeth, in my 9th grade locker room.

They’ve since gone under. I think the multi-hole bead trend (“which beads do we stock???”), along with open favoritism in customer service, high rent, a sparsely populated web page, and customer realization that it’s hard to make a living off of beading, did it. (I hesitate to say, “intellectual property issues,” but that’s there, too: both in using widespread/basic patterns that many people could spontaneously come up with, and in having unique designs used without permission.)

Going online sounds so easy, until it comes to actually doing it. But there is an opening here for people who know Web Development, obviously. I don’t see the trend decreasing in the near future, and actually, this was a secret reason why I took Web Design in Grad School. Of course, there’s a lot more I’d need to learn if I wanted to become a Web Developer…and I think I mentioned somewhere else that I don’t think I’d be able to maintain my initial interest (to keep myself abreast of new technology) for the rest of my life. Not keeping on top of new technology and being a Web Developer at the same time, sounds…like a very bad combination.

Anyhow, getting the beads today, was nice. It reminded me that I have a legitimate opening to sell my work. During this time while I’m in classes and purposefully staying away from other people, there actually is a way I can earn income. It just isn’t my primary career path. It is, however, something I’m skilled in. I have pretty much everything I need, now; and what I don’t have, is easy to get. There is a constraint now, however, in that I’m operating from a hypothetically closed set of resources. Like I would be if I were actually operating a business, and not just trying to break even with my externally-funded hobby.

I mean, you know, there’s that added financial stress now…and I haven’t even begun working, yet. Before, it just would have been nice not to lose money; now, it’s don’t waste your time and investment! Of course, any income from this beyond breaking even, I could see as positive, so long as my living expenses are taken care of. If I were seriously doing this and living on my own…pricing would be a serious issue.

Of course, there is also the question of who will be buying jewelry at a time like this. But then we could also question, who is going out at a time like this, and obviously, the number is greater than I’d expect.

I actually have started a writing project, but I’m concerned that by working on it, I’m resigning myself to the fact that I’m going to die one day. Which of course, I will, unless I’m another Henrietta Lacks (which I’m not sure anyone would want to be). But the concern is about mortality (mine and everyone else’s) being an immediate issue. That kind of sets up…some difficulty, where it comes to recording my own thoughts. But I guess most people don’t like to think about that, so I’m probably not alone.

The other thing I had been doing for my sanity at home, was sewing. I can also get back to that, as it doesn’t require a lot of intellectual/analytical input, and it helps me feel helpful. Probably I also discouraged myself by trying to improve on my design, however. If my state makes it illegal to go outside without a mask (and it looks like we’re going in that direction, now)…I am going to have to make more.

Yeah, I just should. Building up the mask stash should be #1 priority, with #2 being jeweling, and #3 being authorship. Where it comes to work, aside of my classes and my Portfolio.

career, libraries, psychology, technology, work

Germ phobia, and the possibilities of tech

I don’t think this is a topic which comes up pretty often, but it’s applicable in this case: I’m already used to the germ phobia that is going around right now. That is, I am already used to having high barriers bordering on paranoia in regard to pathogens.

I’m still not great at not touching my face (though it’s almost always done with the back of my hand or my wrist, at this point), but the hand-washing stuff…this just gives me an excuse to wash as frequently as I feel is appropriate. It would be a good idea to put together a kit with extra soap and lotion, though: I have been at work when we’ve run out of soap, and lotion helps with the drying that happens with frequent washing. Drying also happens when using bleach-based wipes to disinfect things, without gloves as a barrier. My aim is to avoid cracked skin, which gives pathogens a way to enter the body (and is generally unpleasant).

So the rest of this month — not every day, but often enough to catch something — I will have to go in to work. Already scheduled. It wouldn’t be a big deal, except for the fact that there are seniors in my household — to protect them, I need to protect myself. As of yet, I’m not mandated to report for any more days than I’ve agreed to. Into April, though…it’s not certain how much I’ll be working. Thankfully, that shouldn’t be an issue, at least for the short term. Also — if I come down with something that isn’t Coronavirus, I’ll be able to stay home (and possibly miss people who could be contagious with Coronavirus).

The major issue I can see is that the libraries really should be closed, if the schools are closed and people are being cautioned not to gather in groups or travel unnecessarily. The entire basis of the library is gathering and sharing. I can see the necessity to stay open for people who need to use the computers; that’s an economic and technological disparity issue. But seriously: I’m even wary of picking up my own Holds.

I know what it’s like to be handling books. We can’t wash our hands after touching every book. What we can do is disinfect what is possible to disinfect after the items are returned, so that they go into the system “clean” (or at least, “cleaner”), but then there’s the issue of who does that work, and how we protect them. Protect them not only from the virus, but also from the effects of being exposed to harsh chemicals for so long (for example, respiratory distress).

I’m also expecting a lot of calls on how to access electronic collections. That’s not the easiest thing to assist a person with, especially as I can’t see what they’re seeing, over the phone, and I haven’t used every type of electronic device. I also set up my own devices a long time ago, and while at least the better versions of ebook-sharing software are fairly intuitive, that doesn’t mean that all of those versions represent anything easy to access.

To tell the truth, some of the more difficult versions, I don’t even want to try to use.

It is possible it will be quieter (though with the kids out of school…?). There is also the fact that in six months, no one has asked how to get set up to use the more difficult ebook platform in a way that required me to do more than point to the FAQ. Also frustrating is the lack of attention to the setup process and maintenance by whoever is running it.

But yes, I’ve had issues with my system’s electronic infrastructure for years. Just because I have a degree, now, doesn’t mean those issues go away. (I’ve also had fantasies of making it better, but the main point of that is the fact that making it better means constantly being on top of things — new technologies, new threats, and old and outdated tech; particularly as we figure out how to merge old information into new information systems — a burden I’m not sure I want to take on.)

It is satisfying to be able to actually understand some of what gets thrown around online…and my computer skills are probably more advanced than those of the average user (if that exists). However, having the responsibility to be on top of things, or the network goes down, or I lose my job…that’s not something I really want.

Now, if I actually trained for this, and knew what I was doing, knew the system inside and out, and exactly what was happening — that would be different. But that requires, likely, an additional degree (or two) in Computer Science (or Engineering) which I don’t have, and am not really Jonesing for. Though it would be a way to make an impact and a living — a fairly decent one.

There is also the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) thing that I mentioned a while back, though I’m not sure how much any of them deal with the fundamentals of how technology works, more than how to use it. As for whether I would actively pursue that knowledge…it’s a lifelong commitment to something I don’t think I love enough.

Is that because I don’t understand it enough?

technology

All I did was turn it off for the night

Tech…it’s so great when it works, so irritating when it doesn’t. I’m just getting used to turning my computer back on and needing to update four things before I can use it. And — having to look up how to update something before I can update it, because no one bothered to introduce the topic of how to run routine updates.

Sorry, that probably sounds…”irritating.” :P (I know the word I want to use; just can’t use it, here.) But as I was waiting for my computer to become usable again, I actually completed a back-stitched seam for a quilt top. And started another one. After I searched all over my house for my glass head pins. It took that long.

T H A T _ L O N G.

Well, I guess I don’t need my needle to finish loading before I can get it caught in my finger, now do I.

And, now my fan has decided to be loud. Great.

See you later. Or tomorrow. Or never. You know, I can’t tell. I need to install some other updates.

art, technology

Solving technical difficulties

I had almost forgotten about those text-only posts about the drawing inks and watercolors! Well…let’s see. I do work over the weekend, but midweek I might have time for playing with this, some more. The drawback to posting (color) scans is that I have to use a machine with which I’m not highly familiar.

Then there’s the fact that I trained on Photoshop, but don’t want to pay $20/month to have permission to use it. I think I mentioned somewhere a while ago (maybe on a defunct blog) that I had been using PS Elements — until some update made it suddenly stop working. Was that intentional? I don’t know. But it didn’t make Adobe look good.

Of course, this is part of a long argument propounded by former Photoshop users. There are other solutions, but they take retraining, and their UX is often not as intuitive. Then there’s the fact that Adobe has probably made strides to make sure they get into the classrooms.

I do have half a mind to hook up my drawing tablet again. I took it off for my own reasons, but it reminds me that there are alternatives to Adobe. Not necessarily all open-source…not that open-source is bad, but I wonder what else is out there.

Having worked with watercolor paints recently made me realize something: one of my earlier instructors who was a Digital Illustrator, was right in that he said that digital art was made to emulate physical media, but it wasn’t a replacement for it. I haven’t been through all the art programs out there, but I wonder if anyone has replicated the blossoming of color that happens with good watercolor paint, in wet-in-wet painting. I bet someone has (it’s probably on a Mac, though).

Of course, if I’m photo-editing, I can probably do that better on the computer than in the darkroom (particularly because I don’t know how to process film, and the thought of developing photos has always put me a little on edge).

There is the possibility of getting a Mac tablet and Apple Pencil…but it’s seriously a lot of money. I mean, I’d have to work out a plan and timetable to save up for the thing, and I don’t even know if I’d like it. I guess that’s why there are Apple Stores.

Of course…if I’m going to do that, I could save up for a Mac first, and if I don’t like how the Apple Pencil works upon trying it out, I can apply the savings to a Cintiq. The price has gone down since I last checked.

(Really, Haru? You’re really entertaining this?)

Then there’s this stuff about scanning or photography.

This is kind of too much to think about, right now. I have, however, located a couple of models which would work…the question is…is it that important to me.

That depends on how much time I actually spend making artwork. It hasn’t been much, recently. If, however, I spent as much time painting as I did writing — trying to work on it every day, you know — that…that would be great.

And yes, I do need to give myself permission to make my life not all about my career. Though there is the possibility, I found yesterday…of helping to run the art displays at one or more libraries, which would give me valuable experience if I wanted to work in or run a gallery (and thus get back into the visual art world). It wouldn’t pay — it’s a volunteer position. But still…that’s really interesting, you know?

There is more I have to say about…languages. I realized the other night that while I may have been taught the basic mechanics of Spanish language, no one ever really encouraged me to do any recreational reading in Spanish, or to use the language outside the classroom. That (and the missionary angle of most of my teachers) has very obviously impacted my regard for it.

Also — I’ve realized that if I learn Spanish instead of Japanese — this would give me much more time to work on my Art. (I’ve also realized that the evangelical pamphlet that someone donated the other day, was likely written to be easy to read. I found a book by Neil Gaiman in the Spanish Children’s section the other day, which I couldn’t well read. I could read it well enough to know that it was likely disturbing.) ;)

Relearning Spanish also doesn’t mean that I won’t ever learn Japanese.

Anyway…it’s almost midnight, and I’ve got an early morning, tomorrow. More has happened…but I should get some rest.

art, drawing, graphic design, technology

Handwriting to drawing to painting

I’m not sure how much or whether I have mentioned on this blog, a thought about the interrelatedness of writing by hand, and of drawing. It’s something that was reinforced for me when visiting an art store today and emerging with a couple of little markers.

Whenever I start drawing, it seems kind of inevitable that I would be drawn into practicing my handwriting in Japanese language. I have a relatively solid grasp of kana (phonetic characters) and a very introductory knowledge of kanji (ideographic characters). The thing is…it’s very, very tempting to try and practice getting stroke quality, size, type, proportion of each character in such a way as it becomes beautiful at the same time as it contains meaning.

Of course, this is likely related to my interest both in Graphic Design and calligraphy, painting, and some spiritual bents such as Zen Buddhism. The last three, in particular, are very related historically in an East Asian context, along with poetry. I wouldn’t have known that without having researched the topic of art and writing within Zen, for a graduate project…but I’m fairly sure that this also pre-dates Zen and goes back to the literati in ancient China.

Okay, and that gets really complicated, with the introduction of Buddhist dharma (way of existence) into China, and the mixture of Buddhism and what are now called Daoism, Confucianism, etc. That was introduced into what is now Korea and from there, Japan, though there were multiple transmissions. (Buddhism is not native to East Asia; so far as I know, it originated in South Asia [now India], and traveled through Central Asia into China — but my sources are skewed due to the fact that I currently can only read English-language versions of the history of this. English-language versions of, “what Buddhism is,” by people who only know other English-language versions, are generally imperfect at best, warped and misunderstood, at worst.)

My point is basically that there’s a large historical precedent for my interest in this, and that I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these values were passed on to me by the cultures of family and friends (at the least). To get deeply into that goes into some personal spiritual beliefs (or lack of them), which I’m not even all the time sure on (see the Dao De Jing/Tao Te Ching for a reference to why I may not talk about this — it’s a short work), but it gives me some stability. An inkling of it.

Anyhow…I read somewhere that the expression of the writer/artist with ink and brush was supposed to be a reflection of the one who wrote it, although at times an artist would get someone else to do the calligraphy for him. (Most of what I’ve read goes over male artists/poets/calligraphers; that doesn’t mean they all were, but it’s what I’ve seen.)

I believe that it is because of the high value placed on literacy and writing in at least Japan, that the language has turned out as beautiful (and complex) as it is. There are thousands of kanji (ideographic symbols borrowed from Chinese language) to learn to read and write, though there are also patterns within the kanji (like their formative elements, or “radicals”) that give clues to their meanings and readings.

I did start this post talking about the interrelatedness of writing by hand and of making art. My concern is that when people shift from writing with their hands, to writing by typing — only — that the practice which allows drawing to grow from writing, and painting to grow from drawing, is avoided. I do have some concern over the fact that most of us — unless we make a conscious effort otherwise — will likely be writing mostly by using a keyboard, and facing a computer screen. Not by hand, with paper (or any surface) and whatever instrument you use to write with, which could be pencil or marker or pen or brush or charcoal or something else. Something that will make a mark. Anything that will make a mark.

There’s a freedom to any of the latter in that you can express yourself not only in how the text is encoded, but in how it is drawn, and also that you can draw other things that are not letters or punctuation! My drawing, really, started in the margins of my notes and writings for school, as a young teen. I got bored. I found a way to express myself which no one could take away from me, without also taking away my learning tools.

Coincidentally, it was also close to that time at which I started to learn kana. I was into anime, particularly Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon, and I wanted to know how to read the text in the Japanese-language books I had to accompany the series. This was also, particularly, because I knew there were a number of seasons and movies (most of them, actually) which had not been translated into English. The only contact I had with these movies and series were the anime books (these must have a name; they’re an entire genre) and untranslated VHS tapes which I found through local venues.

I’m guessing that for me — at least, right now — writing in Japanese is closer to art, than writing in English. That is changing a bit, as I experiment with incorporating more cursive into my handwriting (which inevitably makes it messier than my regular [legible] print; or my regular cursive, where my “r”s are a bit…hard to identify). It’s probably also because writing in Japanese is less familiar to me. But I think I need a bit of a challenge in my reading — and not from English sentences being indecipherable. (It happens in college readings, sometimes. I’ve had textbooks like this. I’m not kidding. SENTENCES WHICH MAKE NO SENSE.)

I have, off-and-on, heard arguments or concerns about Japanese youth losing the skill of reading because of the popularity of manga (comics). I’m not so much concerned about that at this moment, but rather the loss of artistic skill and development which may loom because of a digital revolution in which no one can even write (well) by hand, anymore. It’s already a given that a lot of schools in the U.S. no longer teach how to write in cursive, making the reading of things like old ledgers written in Copperplate script, difficult to read. (I can barely read Copperplate. How much worse must it be for kids who didn’t learn cursive in Kindergarten?)

I also wonder how much I have bought into that in the past, because I did have to spend so much of my time in front of a screen. Something that no one told me, though, is that going to school online does mean that you have to take copious notes (even when the Professor gives handouts). Which are best done by hand. It’s hard when you haven’t written quickly and legibly in a very long time. And, I’m finding, it’s likely harder to draw when you haven’t written by hand at all in a very long time.

I’ve been writing by hand recently, though (which I’ve referenced in earlier posts here), and…it is easier to edge back into mark-making by just trying to write correctly in Japanese. I am not entirely certain why, except for the fact that I now can tell when they’re right (or at least when they’re beautiful), and when they aren’t. I do believe that a lot of that is due to my art training. Before someone close to me dropped out of Japanese-language class, the teacher saw my writing trying to help them on their homework, and said I had “nice handwriting.” So…I don’t know what that’s worth, except that I know I’m not going way into calligraphic territory. It’s legible. That’s good.

So far, I’ve not personally focused on this Inktober thing, but it is kind of inspiring to see all the works people are doing. I’ve also been able to get into acrylic paint markers…which, alongside my Pitt pens and alcohol markers…they’re alluring because of the use of color, for one thing. Opacity also helps, and it’s absent in other water-based and alcohol-based markers. I wouldn’t consider myself into graffiti in any way, but there’s something in the graphic qualities of marker that’s there for me.

I’m thinking that if I get deep enough into this…work in paint may come easier to me. I realized that Acryla gouache is what I was seeking, in a hybrid between acrylics and watercolors which I could utilize on paper without abusing my watercolor brushes (gesso is rough) — say for miniatures. (I still love Shahzia Sikander.) There’s also the possibility of using gouache mixed with acrylic glazing medium, or the (gasp!) use of transparent watercolors mixed with gouache.

I haven’t tried any of that yet, though they’re all creative possibilities. Right now what I have to deal with is how to get my markers out so I can see them, and how to combine transparent, opaque, and permanent inks…

…and paints. If I try, I’ll find out what works, and what doesn’t. As I’m learning, a lot of art (or at least design), seems to be about that. That, and not getting hung up on what other people say art should be…

art, craft, seed beads, self care, technology

Taking account: Humanities/Social Sciences/Arts/Crafts…yeah,

I’m not a Hard Sciences person, and I shouldn’t try to be one for the sake of being like my dad. I’m not him.

Today, instead of JavaScript training, it’s back to tiny tiny beads for me, and macramé. Micromacramé. Nanomacramé? ;) I have been using size 11° seed beads, 3mm Czech fire-polished beads, and C-Lon Micro, which are all very tiny, and kind of made for each other.

I didn’t even realize before breaking back into my 11°s that they’re basically about 2mm across. Using a pattern that looks like a macramé version of Daisy Chain (without the roundabouts), I’ve been able to tinker my way to a smaller version of what I was working on last with standard C-Lon and 8° beads. I don’t know if I’ve posted images of it here, yet — or if that was on an alternate blog (which is down, for now).

Right now I’m not even sure as to whether I should go back to Photoshop. I think I would post a lot more images if it were easier to modify them…though what I’m using now has a lot of options (and likely more technical options than at least PS Elements), it isn’t the most intuitive program. Its UX isn’t great.

I’ve been reading Adolfo Best-Maugard’s A Method for Creative Design (first published in 1926). It’s been interesting, though at this point (30 pages from the end of the book), I don’t think I’ll purchase it. There is some interesting content, but the book is based on a pretty idiosyncratic viewpoint which I’m not sure I buy into. I mean, it’s interesting to read, but whether I accept the author’s argument is something else.

There’s also this thing about the context of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that seems to resonate with me. I wouldn’t be surprised if the author was influenced by Spiritualism, which was active around the same time period. Both reflect a desire to seek out what is common between all the world’s peoples, at an early stage of globalization.

Best-Maugard essentially analyzed world or “primitive” art and broke down many of the designs he found into simple constituent elements which could be rearranged into various two-dimensional representations. What’s disappointing for me about this book is that it seems he is only teaching a method based on one form — the spiral — meaning that there is a lot more that he holds back. I would have preferred a longer edition with fewer drawings, explaining or demonstrating further these other primitive forms. As it is, I haven’t so far seen him speak about the latter; only that they exist, and that he isn’t going into them.

Anyhow: as much as I appreciate the fine arts, and love the color mutability possible in painting…painting isn’t easy for me at this point. I’ve been attempting to get back into it…but for some reason…flowers aside, I’m not drawn to common subjects, like portraits or landscapes or figures. I just don’t see the point. I can appreciate art made with these subjects, but it’s not my art.

That could be me coming from a writer’s background, too. In writing, conflict and tension are the main drive behind the narrative: in fine arts, it seems people reproduce (or create) the placid and agreeable a lot of the time, and I haven’t been able to reconcile these two modes or methods.

One of the things that has struck me is that it’s possible my native method is more lexical; as stringing different colors of beads on colored thread and tying those threads together, echoes the form of language or parallel processing. It’s just a thought: I’m not even totally sure about it yet.

But one thing I realized today is that I really did not want to get back to my JavaScript training. I got to my course, looked at it, and decided to do something else. I know I focused on Digital Services in school, but I think the experience of training under that method has made it clear how little I like to interface with computers in computer-language. It’s not quite arcane; it’s more binary.

And the beads were staring me in the face (I bought maybe 14 little 7.5 gram vials recently: no point in getting a whole lot of any one color when I hadn’t seen them), and I had bought a lot of tiny C-Lon, so I just went and got the stuff out. No reason to get the stuff if I’m never going to use it.

For some reason…dealing with beads and cords and color…it’s relaxing. Whereas work on the computer is more often than not, tension- and anxiety-inducing. Not to mention that it’s likely in the process of destroying my eyesight.

Before going to an online Master’s program, I thought it would be OK to be on the computer more. But being intensively on the computer for 6+ hours a day is something I don’t think I could tolerate.

But really, the Digital Services path only really determined seven to eight classes out of the twenty I took.

Yeah, I guess that’s a lot. Like, a third.

Maybe what I need is really to decompress and stop taking classes for a bit. It would be ironic if taking these classes taught me that I didn’t like the subjects the classes were about.

It really wasn’t too bad, until I took Database Management and Fundamentals of Programming. Then…I was like, “what did I get into?” I also don’t have a Computer Science or IT background (or even a Hard Sciences one after high school, although I still love Geology and Astronomy), so I’m at something of a disadvantage in the digital field. I know that if I want to stay current in Web Development, it will take constant acquisition of new skills to keep up with the pace of technological change. I’m not sure that I care enough to actively choose to do that for the rest of my life.

Maybe that’s why the people in those positions get paid so well.

At this point, I’m clearer that I am a Humanities and Social Sciences person, although I don’t think Sociology is where I want to be. I attempted that for a couple of years in my undergraduate training. It was depressing.

Psychology was easier and more engaging, but I never really went deeply into it. History was amazing — particularly World History. I loved that: being able to fit pieces of thoughts together into a coherent image. I also loved Ethnic Studies, even though I took classes just different enough from my own position to be able to expand my view. Though I somewhat regret not having taken Japanese-American Literature, I also know that I’m immersed enough that nothing in an undergraduate class on it would have been new to me.

I also regret not having bitten the bullet and taken Japanese Language & Literature as my undergraduate major. I don’t regret having honed my English writing skills, but I am irritated that people devalue good writing so much. There is also the issue of being able to ever find work or a way of being in Japan in which I wouldn’t be exploited, being a dark-skinned female (kokujin, or “black person,” is still an accepted term in lieu of amerikajin, even if the “black person” is also “American”) with no plans on marriage or children…but yeah, insider stuff.

It was likely my experience with my birth family — and trying to be included in an Asian clique — which caused me to lean against learning Japanese language, though.

I could get further into that, but I won’t.

In any case…I’ve been finding people just kind of randomly on the Reader who do things that no one else does. Like the person who paints silk scarves, or the person encouraging me in tatting. There are a few of us who do regularly post on beadwork, but not many. I get many more “Likes” on my painting posts than on my beadwork posts…but that doesn’t mean I should work on my painting, instead.

Seriously. I think more people can just connect with painting, whereas bead weaving or beaded micromacramé is relatively niche (which is a good thing so far as niche markets are concerned, but)…

It’s just kind of tough to be disconnected. I should probably go out of my way to join a beadwork forum or two, though as my specialization is beaded micromacramé at this point…yeah, that’s…that’s kind of special. (I was inspired with the macramé bug by someone working with cords and gemstones, though what I do is much different from their work.)

I wonder if giving resources would help others get involved in the hobby? I’ve been reluctant to do so, for my own reasons…

creativity, technology, work

Priorities?

There are a number of things I could and should be doing with my time. Due to constraints, I’m prevented from disclosing everything, right now: but I was able to download my certificate from the last of my short courses, today. I feel that I should go back and review, but at the same time, I’m not really that driven to do so.

I do feel that it’s very probable that I should not be a full-time Cataloging Librarian, although I know some say I would be really good at it. The problem is, the work itself is something I don’t like.

So…what I was saying earlier on this blog — that by August, I’ll know if I want to be a Cataloger — has indeed come to fruition. Although I wouldn’t count out a library job that happens to include it, I know I wouldn’t want to do it as my primary work. Up next is getting back to JavaScript, which so far I haven’t really begun. This is largely because I pretty much hate having to review. I can get back to it, though.

Once I have a handle on at least one Web Programming language, I’ll know if I want to work in Tech — specifically, Full-Stack Web Development. Like I was saying earlier…I think I’d be really engaged in working on Front-End Web Development, including Web Design and User Experience, but Back-End is something I know I don’t particularly like. I’m fairly certain it has to do with the same reason why I feel such a constraint when writing online — that it’s very linear and rule-bound and — well — technical, in a mathematical-logic sort of way. (If it violates logic, that is, it isn’t possible.) It’s just different to work by hand. It’s something that isn’t as tightly bound to logical reasoning.

One of the big reasons I got into Digital Services, though, is that I’m fairly certain that communications and learning are going to move more in the direction of multimedia, and away from just plain text as you can read in books. Because of that, I felt it was worth my while not to just focus on books.

Even text as read online, in e-books — there is a logical jump from reading paper books to reading e-books, and then wondering, with the abilities of a computer, why we’re only replicating print. We could do video, music, image (in larger format than print), interaction, animated illustration and design, gamifying, community-building, and eventually immersion. I think this is the direction in which we’re moving as a society, and it could lower barriers to learning for a lot of people who experience difficulty with traditional instruction (i.e. books, text, lecture).

Of course, I’m not an Instructional Design Librarian — though what I’ve just written makes me think about becoming an Emerging Technologies Librarian. I don’t think I have the undergraduate background for it, though (English!), and I’m also not sure I have the risk tolerance for constantly trying out new technologies (and partitioning my hard drive to routinely restore the operating system, and keeping several levels of backups).

I mean, I’m really into the Arts and Humanities (I think Digital Humanities could be interesting) — I don’t have a Hard Sciences background, so I’m not sure I’ve gone through the intellectual rigor necessary for understanding the possibilities of new technology. I just have the brain to dream up what one day might be (and to some extent, already is) — not whether it’s possible with current technology (or will be possible).

Anyhow. Like I said, there’s a lot I could be doing, and up next is getting back into Web Programming. Also, Japanese language. Also, beadwork and tatting. Also, writing. Also, job search. Also, watercolor. Also, sewing, embroidery, and designing embroidery patterns. I should really prioritize these things, but with everything in flux, I’m having a hard time. Maybe I can try, though:

Not necessary:

  • Beadwork (can use this as second income)
  • Tatting
  • Sewing
  • Embroidery
  • Watercolor
  • Drawing
  • Block printing
  • Art study (currently: embroidery design) — books

More necessary:

  • Web Programming study (useful at work) — digitally and books
  • Japanese Language study (useful at work) — by hand and digitally
  • Writing in English (skill retention) — by hand or digitally

Essential:

  • Job Search (finding better work) — digitally (at Library)
  • Learning to drive (finding better work) — activity
  • Learning to cook (to feed myself) — activity
  • Customer-service study (useful at work) — books

And looking at this, getting another fountain pen and ink is like…well, why?

Why, indeed. Maybe I can do it as efforts toward making a Bullet Journal, and my Bullet Journal could be my excuse to be creative while still working towards getting done what I need to get done…