Tuesday, February 22, 2011

welcome to paradise

i've been in texas for six months now.
i hadn't really been counting the days and months, but a week or two ago i noticed that it was february, my half-birthday month, and that kind of tipped me off that my six-month anniversary for living in the lone star state was probably around.

like a lot of major life changes, it's a mixture of it not seeming real at all and feeling strangely normal.  naturally, most days i don't even think about it.  one day many years ago in japan, my companion noticed the "orient hotel" and then reminded himself that he was in the orient.  same sort of thing here.  i'm in texas.  idaho and wyoming and las vegas are no longer nearby.  but things like louisiana, arkansas, and hurricanes are relatively close to me now (when you live in central texas, anything other than "more texas" is a substantial distance away.)

six months.  i've got my apartment mostly unpacked and looking like my home, finagled my way into teaching sunday school, and am getting back into the habit of being a good hometeacher again.  i've got a friend to geek out about movies with, have hosted some good rock band nights, and my movie library continues to grow.  i've got a group i eat dinner with on sundays, friends to do things with on friday nights, and i've been on some dates.  i've interviewed with pixar, gotten somewhat used to the humidity here, and still don't say "y'all."  i've written numerous blog posts that i'm proud of, been to the houston temple five times (i think), and managed to find opportunities to design real lighting for photography and other performances.

in short, i'm still me.
and hopefully a little better.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

text results: hooray for sisters

my phone was starting to move slowly and i'm blaming the approximately four thousand text messages i had accumulated on there over the last five weeks.
breaking it down, it looks like this:

  1. jaime 898
  2. jess 537
  3. kristin 413
  4. joel 316
  5. mark 196 (cool, didn't know if i'd ever see you in the rankings again...)

yes, it is oscar season, so joel and i should have plenty to talk about.  and we do, but me and my favorite pair of redheaded sisters always have things to muse about as well.  i love you girls so dang much.

in the "actual phone time" category, sariah is dominating without any hope of being caught.

lastly, as my sister likely saw the post title and thought that it was referring to her in some way (the phrase usually does), i would like to note that she texted me three times.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

my dream house

"last night, i dreamt i went to manderley again."

there's house that keeps coming up in my dreams.  as best as i can tell, it's been in at least three different dreams i've had in the past couple of weeks (months?)  essentially, it's an amalgam of manderley, the house from hitchcock's film rebecca, one of my childhood friends' house, and the remaining memories i have of my grandma's farm house.  it's huge, it's very old, and it's completely rotten.  plaster seems to be flaking off of everything.

the house is vast.  narrow spiral staircases lead to vast ballrooms where extravagant parties must have been held a century ago and it seems it hasn't been touched since.  sometimes white sheets cover all of the chairs, tables, and bars.  there are other rooms that i don't know what they were for, but they're similar: large and grand and seemingly so old that they would fall apart if you touched anything.
it's very possible that this house is haunted.  i don't know, i've never seen a ghost there.  but that doesn't really scare me, either.  ghosts belong in a house like this.

whatever the case, it keeps appearing in my dreams and it's always a fascinating visit.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

the return of the king of pop

in the viz lab is a fridge.  two, actually, but i've never looked in the smaller one, so i can't comment on it.  there are also two microwaves, but this post will make no further mention of them, either.
the fridge is used to store things: food, mostly leftovers from grad students' attempts at saving money by bringing their own lunch or mid-day excursions to freebird's burritos or that gumbo shack.  sometimes there's photo paper in there, too, but it mostly functions as a normal fridge.

during the hot (blazingly hot) fall days of 2010, i thought i had heard or read somewhere on the department website that there were cans of pop available in there for a reasonable 50¢.  but on the few times that i would nervous venture over there to see if i could get something to drink other than the sulfurous a&m water, there would be nothing of the sort in there and i would have to try and think of some reason why i had open the fridge door so that the second years wouldn't wonder why this new kid seemed to have an impulse to open fridge doors.

soon my semester became consumed with animating a little kid and his teddy bear (i still owe you that post, i realized) and the drink fridge's mysteriously absent drinks became less of a concern in my mind.
one day as i was looking in the totally wrong spot on the department wiki for course descriptions in preparation for registration (not that it mattered, since i didn't choose my schedule until sometime in mid-january) i came across a history of the drink fridge.

it began in 2006, maintained by the drink pope.  soon the responsibility was bequeathed upon christine, who did not assume a moniker.  her reign was subsequently followed by a drink gopher, a period of privatization, then a cdo (chief drink officer), and a drink commander-in-chief.
after that, the trail went cold and the fridge had deteriorated into the wasteland of nasty old tupperware containers.
something had to be done and in times of anarchy, a king will inevitably rise to bring order to the chaos and light our darkest hour.  the most recent entry on the drink history speaks of rumors circulating about jeff gustafson rising as the new king of pop.

a few weeks ago i grabbed a friend and, after fhe, met up with him and bought a whole trunk full of pop.  in utah, diet coke and mountain dew would have been the staples.  texas, however, is dr pepper country. still, i grabbed a whole variety and stocked that fridge to the brim.  i then sent out a department email proclaiming my self-coronation and the new world order that was now in effect.
the next morning, i was a hero. (which is good, because a few days later i suggested that the weekly department party be non-alcholic for a night and was nearly lynched.)

i've learned that dr pepper is a pretty popular choice, diet dr pepper isn't as popular as i'd been told, ginger ale was surprisingly popular, and coke and it's associated variants (vanilla coke and cherry coke) are extremely popular.
i'm thinking of grabbing a few boxes of candy bars at sam's club and slapping a 50¢ tag on them, too, because the lab needs chocolate, dang it.
in short, that's the news from the viz lab.
now, back to programming....

(i got on ebay and bought myself a white sequined glove, too)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

my box

this is my finished assignment for my digital compositing class.

as a photography assignment, it's pretty lame.  but as you may have noticed, one of those boxes wasn't initially there.  and for a guy who feels pretty lost in photoshop, i'm quite proud of myself that it looks pretty convincing, at least on a first glance.

our first assignment was about matching perspective.  at points, this involved my turkish teacher drawing what looked like humpty-dumpty with a mohawk and antennae on the white board, but i think i got the idea. the most common way to tackle the assignment was to draw a box into a scene with some existing boxes.  not the most amazing cg ever done, but we're babystepping here.

great, i can take pictures pretty well.
from there, determine where the horizon is by drawing lines that diminish into the distance.  this is a main reason why boxes are great to work with: nice clean angles. (obviously, my line went way the heck out there, but i cropped it so it's easier to see)

once you have the horizon line established, you can plot where another box would go.
i'm actually a little fuzzy on the science of it all, but i got it close enough that i think it works (mostly).

with the grid lines in place, color in the box.  i was able to get good color variations according to the lighting conditions without too much work and i was pretty proud of myself.

what i wasn't as proud of was that this took me a couple of hours and pretty much exhausted my photoshop knowledge.  i spent the next few hours of my saturday in frustration trying to use the tools that i had seen better artists teach me this summer and had no luck whatsoever.

as such, this was the embarrassment that i handed in on monday morning, hoping that my teacher wouldn't keep my image up on the board for more than a few seconds.
thankfully, he said that we had until the evening to get out assignments in.  i grabbed a friend and asked for a photoshop crash course per what i had to do right then and there.  the next two hours were actually quite enjoyable as i did what would take a competent person about twenty minutes or less.  but i really like learning photoshop and felt pretty awesome by the end.  (i actually found myself pulling up the image a couple of times later that night, just so i could bask in the glow of my work again.)

here's the scene with some diffused shadow and contact shadow, although i'm still not happy with it.  but if you can't see why, i'm not going to tell you.  i also added some "noise" to my fake box, to make it look more like it belongs in the digital photograph.

like most things, it's the details that make it: some tape on the box, a little bit of dirt and wear (maybe a little too much?), smudge the edges of the box just a bit so it doesn't look too crisp, add a barcode and a label from my favorite company and that's pretty much it.

i really had no idea i was capable of doing that.  i feel pretty cool.
and i want to try more. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

at the library

most of my text conversations with the former 786 are about movies.  things used to be different.  he used to just be called 786 and we'd talk about movies in person.
joel was a library security guard at the byu library and when i wasn't on a project, i would often go there to read or do scripture study, just to get out of the house.  and on days when he was working the front desk, i would inevitably stop and talk with him for... sometimes an hour or so.

five years ago today i was doing just that when from the office behind him came a nice-looking girl in a white shirt with a red ribbon in her hair, as a subtle observance of valentine's day.  she cheerfully came up and quipped with us for a few minutes.  she was smart and witty and i liked her, so i introduced myself.  she laughed with us a little longer then excused herself to head down to the special collections area on the first floor to practice her dancing.

i watched her leave then turned to joel.  i'm not one to just meet a girl and want to start dating her.  generally i like to know girl for a while before i get into something.  but she seemed pretty cool.
"can you give me her phone number?" i asked.
this was how i met the great laurie jayne.

a day or two later, i called her.  she was impressed that i was just leaving a photo shoot (never mind that they were little league shots....)  i was impressed that she was a jazz singer.  we talked on the phone again the next night.  she had a strange fascination with the beatles' "maxwell's silver hammer."  later, i bewilderedly told my sister, "i think i may have met a girl."  
i later found out that, on the day that i met her, she also went back to joel and asked him about me as well.  in an awesomely playful act that would make amelie poulian proud, she blogged a short post entitled, "this one's for you, jeff", waiting for me to find her, then anonymously began posting comments on my blog.  i thought it was awesome.

being ever so literate, she took me to my first jane austen movie at the international cinema.  we started dating.  it turned out that i knew her brother.  her family was cool.  i bought her calvin and hobbes books when she was sick.  she thought i was awesome.  she was bold and brash.  i freaked out because i thought she saw more awesomeness in me than there was.  we kind of broke up.  i tried to talk my fears out with my sister and gave laurie another chance.  then, through a mistaken text that said more than i'd originally intended, we broke up.  it was march 14.  we had known each other for all of one month.

we never had time to get serious, but i surprisingly found myself missing her.
there's a jewel-encrusted coke
can coming up on my left...
for the most part, our lives went their separate ways for a while.  i don't remember how long it was, but many months (a year?) later, we started talking again.  she had recently broken up with a guy that she really, really liked and so we talked some.  i made her a cd.  we went to general conference together.  walking back to my car, we started an impromptu tap dance (until something else caught my eye.)

in an effort for each of us to move on from past relationships, she and i decided to have a burning.  it was beautiful and cathartic and she played her ukelele afterwards.  that summer, she did an internship in new york city, working for a newspaper there.  i made her some mixed cds for her trip then sent her customer evaluation forms regarding them.  while she was away, we occasionally wrote and mailed real letters to each other.
she graduated from byu and moved to arizona, working as the county p.r. person or something.  she was pretty official, at any rate.  she would occasionally come back to provo to visit her multitude of friends and mark and i took her out shooting.
possibly the greatest contribution she gave to my life was that she introduced me to tally hall.  if not for her, none of you would know tally hall.

with my sister now married, laurie became my friend that i talked to.  becky got married on a friday.  my best friend jack got married the next day.  as i was waiting for his reception to start, i was feeling very much alone and so called laurie.  she was invaluable.  and she would tell me her adventures of life in a little rural town in arizona.  in the spring of 2008 she told me about a date she went on with a guy who was nice enough but she wasn't really interested, yet he asked her out on a second date.
i think that the next time i talked with her was a few months later, when i figured i would call to congratulate her on her engagement.  her head was so high in the clouds i could hardly call it a conversation.

i don't think i've seen laurie since she's been married, but she's sent me a couple of sublime mixed cds and we've still kept in touch through this wonderful blogging thing.  and we've even written an email to each other now and then.
i've sometimes thought about this odd transiency of friendships, how someone can be such a good friend and yet as the tides of time ebb and flow, some will seem leave our life relatively quickly, without much fanfare or even pain.  so it goes.  but we get to cross paths with some seriously dang people along the way.
this one's for you, laurie.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

post number 545

i really don't have much to say this evening.  uncharacteristically, there's really not a lot on my mind and the few things that are i'm not giving much thought to anyway.
it was a busy week with school which is why i didn't post anything.  i attempted to model chloe o'brien for my facial animation class then, around midnight, quipped that she was kind of looking like lord voldemort and realized that if i chose to make the dark lord, i wouldn't have to sculpt a nose.  so i did.  i went to institute and ended up sharing a chair with someone, killed a cockroach in my apartment, and found the pile of Christmas cards i got this year that i had forgotten to open until last night.  i miraculously cleaned off my desk, realized that i could listen to "this american life" on my walks from the rec center to the viz lab (blessed be that podcast...), and had dinner at the cool kids' house tonight.  friday i was so stressed out with a myriad of things that i just left the lab and went out to the middle of a field and photosynthesized for about an hour.  i got some fuzzies and spent some quality time on the phone listening a few nights this week and yesterday pulled out my wacom bamboo.  i am trying to figure how to discipline myself to be spending more time at school and to make that time more effective, because there are moments where i'm wondering if a&m should have stuck to their first choice.  and i had an excuse to wear my red fedora.
in the end, it's just a post.  they can't all be rock stars.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

on being quick to observe

a few weeks ago i was in the lab reading a paper on facial parametrics and listening to nine inch nails.  and i was thinking about that.  not about facial parametrics; those are essential a superconcept of blend shapes.  i was thinking about how i was listening to nine inch nails.

for those of you who aren't familiar with them, i associate their/his music with harsh industrial sounds, dark heavy beats, and intense and often harsh and angry lyrics.  it's possible that tim would argue against that, but that's the connotation i have of them.  and i think it's safe to suggest that that is the general conception that comes when you say you're listening to nine inch nails.

the thing is, that wasn't at all what i was listening to.  i wouldn't buy any of those albums.  what i was listening to was ghosts I-IV, an album of instrumental and ambient music that would probably be passable as good sunday music.

but that had me thinking: are there other things in my life that would give a false representation of who i am if known only in part?  yeah, a lot, actually.  showing random interests on my profile, facebook noted that i like "a clockwork orange" and showed a picture of the movie poster.  the fact is that i enjoy the book and have no desire or interest in anyway of watching the movie.  i love the beastie boys; anyone who's been around me in the past year has picked up on that.  but i don't like vulgarities and so i got into them when i realized that amazon also sold their cds in "clean" versions.  and, perhaps most notably, a glance at my movie collection will reveal a wide variety of movies, including some rough ones like watchmen, the wrestler, or babel.  but i have those either in edited dvds or i watch them through my clearplay.  i don't watch R-rated movies and i'm somewhat selective about which pg-13 movies i'll go to as well.

it also got me thinking: are there other things about me and who i am that people falsely think or presume because of making their decision based on incomplete data?  probably.  and that's unfortunate, but i can only do what i can to present myself as honestly as i am.  oddly, i suppose that sometimes honesty can be misinterpreted if people don't think you're being honest, but that's more philosophical than i feel like getting right now.
one of the themes of solaris (either version) is that the people we know are really only what we know about them.  if i am greater or less than what someone knows about me, that is beside the point; "me" to them is solely the compilation of whatever they've gathered about me.  hopefully it's at least partially right.

this could become a post about being careful how we present ourselves, but my thinking caused me to look at it in the other direction: how am i judging the people i meet?

we're quick to say "don't judge" and that is good advice, but whether we saying "judging" or "evaluating" or "forming opinions", we are constantly revising our understanding of who people are as we learn more about them.  that's ok, natural, and necessary.  we cannot know how to interact with a person unless we know things about them, and we will respond to people based on their experiences and personalities.  which is why the revision "judge not unrighteously" is the better way to aim for.
and just as i would want someone to get to know me a little more than just what's on my ipod or my dvd shelves, it's caused to think a bit more as i'm getting to know people around here.

i think this post came out a little "heavier" than i had intended, but what the heck.

Friday, February 04, 2011

the old man and the c

i had the idea to write in my journal as a "jeff on jeff" interview and i think i'm going to do that here, too.

jeff: how is your c programming class coming this year?

jeff: i just handed in my first assignment tonight.

jeff: and?

jeff: and it's about the same as last year: this stuff seems to slide right off me.  nothing seems to stick.  i was usually really good in school and remember seeing other kids in class who just didn't get it.  that's me, now.

jeff: you're the idiot?

jeff: i'm the kid who trying really hard and just not getting it.  like bart simpson in the season premiere of the second season, when he tries really, really hard to pass his test and he still fails.

jeff: (idiot...)

jeff: jerk.

jeff: i know you are but what am i?

jeff: either juvenile or existential.

jeff: cute. anyway, what's the problem with the class?

jeff: i don't know.  like i said, i sit there every class, trying to follow what's going on and it's like the class is in a different language.

jeff: i suppose that, technically, it is a different language...

jeff: yeah, it's occurred to me to pray for the gift of tongues....  what surprises me is how many other people seem to get it.  naturally i'm sure there are some other kids who are confused, too, but a surprising number seem to follow all this mess about structs and pointers and malloc and arrays.

jeff: sounds like you know something.

jeff: i'd hardly call that "knowing something."  i've got some good friends who are very patient and helpful with me, but it's increasingly embarrassing/frustrating when they'll guide me along and then ask, "what would you do next?" and i stare completely blank, not having the foggiest clue as to what comes next.  literally, not an inkling.  they don't give me then answers, and i appreciate that, because i don't want to just pass the class, i want to actually understand this stuff.  it's a 200-level undergrad class for crying out loud....

jeff: dang.  so, what are you doing?  you passed the class last semester, right?

jeff: yeah, and i actually got a better grade than i think i deserved.  i mean, according to the breakdown of the grading scale i earned it, but i don't feel like i know as much as my grade shows.  the teacher was very helpful with me, taking time to meet with me outside of class, but i'm trying this semester to be much more up on everything.  hasn't really worked yet, and it looks like it's only uphill from here.
the flip side to it is that, on those few moments when i do understand how a function works, it's actually really cool.  kind of exciting, actually, like cracking a math problem.

jeff: in a way, it's exactly like cracking a math problem....

jeff: you know, you really aren't any better at this than i am.

jeff: granted.  so, what else is on your mind?

jeff: tons.  but do you mind if we talk somewhere else?

jeff: oh. sure.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

what i've been listeing to lately

first, let me say that today i swam the whole length of the pool underwater.  : D
yes, thank you.  i cheered when i surfaced.

a slice of what's hot on my ipod these days:
  • broken bells by broken bells
  • the king is dead by the decembrists
  • volume one by she + him
  • the social network soundtrack by trent reznor and atticus ross
  • random album title by deadmou5
  • the bends by radiohead
  • the hazards of love by the decembrists
  • computer world by kraftwerk
  • the odd couple by gnarls barkley
  • volume two by she + him
  • 31 fuzzies by kristinco
at the moment, i can't get enough of the social network soundtrack.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


yesterday in swimming we practiced underwater swimming.

on my first go, when i just went for it, i got much further than i expected.  almost three quarters the length of the pool.  it was kind of exhilarating and i wanted to try it again, now that i knew what i could do.

once we had all done it once, our teacher then told us to try it again, but this time to take three deep breaths then go for it on the forth.  so i did.  and i was thinking more about my breathing and how much air i had that i barely made it halfway.

"it's all mental," said the marine cadet that i was sharing the lane with.

on my third time, i was determined to do it.  to go all the way.  to focus on looking ahead and just go.  i dove deep.  i thought about my breathing.  was it better to hold my air in my mouth or deeper?  did that make a difference?  what if i swallowed my air?  was that even possible?  i panicked, exhaled a massive amount of air and found myself barely halfway again.

i was quite disappointed with myself.

as i write this, i'm in the lab, drinking homemade hot chocolate and listening to "dog days are over."