Friday, September 30, 2011

two questions

in the first presidency message for september, president uchtdorf talked about getting prepared for general conference this weekend.  he said that if we had questions that we need to have answered (and i liked how he said "need"), we can write them down and take them to general conference.  the answers might come in the exact words from a speaker, or they might come as a thought or feeling or impression during a talk that is unrelated to what we are pondering.

i don't think i've ever taken advantage of this promise before, but last sunday i wrote down two questions that i needed answered and planned to take this week to prepare for conference weekend.

by both my own choices and by circumstances beyond my control, this week has been anything but peaceful and contemplative.  further, i do not have the time to watch (or listen to) the saturday sessions, either.  but with modern technology, i'll be able to put them on my ipod next week and listen as i'm walking around campus.  and that's something.  (i'm also looking forward to hearing pres. uchtdorf's talk from last saturday's general relief society broadcast...)

so, i have my questions.
i hope i can hear what i need to.

life moves pretty fast...

this may or may not be an actual transcript of an actual conversation that actually took place.

me: hey, life?

life: yes?

me: so… how's it going?

life: fine. i've got lots to do.

me: yeah, about that… do you think you could slow down a bit?

life: no, this is my pace. why?

me: well, it's just that i could really use some time to just put everything on hold. you know, to regain my balance, breathe for a few moments, and then jump back in the game. i think i'd be better that way.

life: sorry.

me: no?

life: no.

me: so how am i supposed to catch back up to where i want to be?

life: you just have to do it.

me: huh?

life: i'm not going to slow down just for you. i can't. so if you want to catch up, you're going to have to do that yourself.

me: but that's hard. it'd be so much easier if…

life: no. it doesn't work like that.

me: ok. i guess i can wait until things slow down and get easier, then i'll catch up.

life: when do you think that's going to happen?

me: it'll be when… um…. after i…. dang.

life: look, i'm not going to slow down. 60 seconds in a minute, 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week; it's the same for everyone. if you want more or less of something, you've got to do it.

me: but can't you just...?

life: no.

me: please?

life: no.

me: so i just have to work harder?  or figure out some other way to do what i want and get where i want to be?

life: yep.

me: you're not going to cut me any slack and help me out here?

life: i can't.  you're the one who has to learn this.

me: ok. i guess that makes sense. thanks for your time.

life: meh.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


it's hard to throw things out sometimes.  there are some things you carry that you don't use right now, but you can imagine times down the road when you'll want to have it.

it's trickier still when doing this as an inventory of your personal character.

i've been looking at myself, knowing that i'm a good person with lots of awesome qualities but also acknowledging that i have areas to improve, to brush up on, to strengthen, and to flat out change.
and it can be tricky, in a couple of ways.

first, it's hard to clearly see some weaknesses as they really are.  there are too many people running around trying to "improve" things that they are already excellent in yet see themselves as deficient, while needing to spend more effort on another area of their lives.  it's funny how so many perceive as their greatest weakness things that the rest of us see as one of their defining strengths.

it's also hard to know what areas don't need improving but simply haven't had their season of usefulness. is there something to fix or to change or discard, or is it simply that you aren't in the right circumstance, whatever it is.  just because something isn't working immediately doesn't mean it's wrong.

and finally, it takes humility to see that there are some things that i need to do that are simply hard.  it takes a little strength to look honestly into the mirror and to agree to yourself that you'll be a little better about that.
i'm working on it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

falls to climb

just something to share.
the video is a little cliche, but the song is sublime.
take a moment to feel good.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

belay on

not texas.
or the western hemisphere.
a belay is a funny device.  it's so simple in its construction, yet it's the crux that makes you not get dead when you're rocking climbing.

today in sunday school we talked about paul's epistle to the romans and spent most of the times talking about the interplay between grace and works.  it can be a hard pairing to understand, our need for obedience and to keep the commandments of God yet remembering that our works don't save us, that it's through the grace of Christ that we are justified.  nephi sums it up best, actually, when he teaches that it is by the grace of Christ that we are saved, after all that we can do. (2ne25:23)
(as a note, it's interesting seeing paul write to some congregations and reminding them that they need to improve their obedience and bring forth good works, then to write to the romans and remind them that they needed to stop keeping the law of moses and trust in the redeeming grace of the Savior.  of those two sides to err on, it seems that latter-day saint culture puts too much emphasis on works and not enough trust in grace)

last week at sunday school in san antonio, my friend made a good point.  she said that God will sometimes stretch us beyond what we can do precisely for that reason, so that we can't do it without turning to Him.

and i thought about rock climbing.  i'm really enjoying it and am learning a lot and like using it as an excuse to get out of the lab.  and there are times when i'm high on the wall, gripping onto just a few tiny holds and looking for the next one.  despite being 6' 1", the next spot on the route is just barely out of reach and i have to stand on my tip toe to reach it, or even jump slightly.
that's scary.
you don't realize how bloody high you've climbed until you stop and look around once in a while (life moves pretty fast....)  and suddenly you're in a position where you have to reach and stretch to move from one tiny foothold just to wrap your fingertips around another spot you can barely hold onto, all on the way to a ledge where you can actually stand for a few moments before moving onto the part of the route.
if you slip, you're going to fall.
but you're not doing to die.
God's your belayer.
He's got your rope.
if you lose your grip in the lunge, you'll slip, the rope will pull tight, and you'll hang there for a moment to catch your breath, then you grab the wall and try it again.

and we know that all things work together for good to them that love God. (romans 8:28, 31)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

the persistence of memory

intertwined with everything else yet still distinct from it all, i'm realizing more and more that i'm also missing my best friend.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

(latter-day saint television blues)

--arcade fire's "neon bible" is my favorite album of the moment.  i'm listening to it at pretty much every chance i get.

--my phone has a security app that scans for spyware, malware, and other nasty things.  there's something kind of comforting about looking at my notifications bar and seeing "everything is ok."

--leaving my office this evening, i thought about what my animation professor at byu said: "if we don't accept someone's application for the program and i later see them on campus in some other major, then i know we probably made the right choice.  but if i found out that they decided to go to another school to pursue animation, then i wonder if we made a mistake in not admitting them."
something to think about there.

--tuesdays are my favorite day of my week.  no viz classes, just rock climbing then country dancing then work.  it all feels pretty good.

Friday, September 16, 2011

you must be this tall to ride the ride

it's 11:13 and i'm going to bed.
lots to do tomorrow.
and a full day on sunday.

and i love this:

"i hate cynicism. for the record, it's my least favorite quality. it doesn't lead anywhere. nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. but if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen." -conan o'brien, jan. 22, 2010

Thursday, September 15, 2011

losing lisa

dear blog,

i've got a backlog of ideas and thoughts i want to share with you.  you're such a good listener, and i just feel good when we talk.  well, you don't say much, but that's part of why i like you, i guess.

funny, that's how it always goes; when you've got a lot to talk about, there's never any time.  and when you've got the time, there isn't really anything to talk about.

life is funny, but not "ha-ha" funny; "peculiar," i guess....  well, it's definitely ha-ha funny, too, like that thing with my new imac last week.

i'm yawning as i write this and i'm hoping to keep up my awesomely productive week tomorrow.

looking forward to some quality time with you,

-->jeff *

Sunday, September 11, 2011

switch points

i had thought about doing a 9/11 commemorative post here today and have enjoyed reading everyone's reflections on facebook today.  however, meh, i just wasn't feeling it and instead wanted to share what we talked about in sunday school today.

the lesson started of with a story from president hinckley and an experience he had while working in a train yard.  he said that a car had arrived in newark, new jersey without its baggage car.  as they traced the route of the missing car, they found that it had traveled from california to st. louis safely, but there it was careless switched an ended up in new orleans, louisiana.  1,300 miles from its destination.

yes, i think we've all heard these stories and analogies before, about how adjusting the switch point three inches can lead to a 1,300 mile difference in the end.  but i liked this one for some reason.

and we talked about different switch points in our lives.  the bishop informed me today that i've been going over my lessons by ten minutes for... oh, the past ten months (i knew that sunday school was 40 minutes, but when started teaching i was told to go until ten after the hour, which made for a 50 minute lesson, and no said otherwise, so yeah...), so we only talked about the switch point of setting good relationships as husband+wife and in how we approach the sacrament.

in years of teaching sunday school (when we hit hebrews in a few weeks, that will complete my cycle of the standard works as a sunday school teacher, excepting a few brief moments between changing wards), i've learned to plan out your endgame, to know how you're going to close your lesson and bring everything around to a relevant conclusion.
today, i closed with 1 cor. 15:9-10, where paul notes that he had a rough past and felt that he was the least of the apostles.  he had missed some switch points earlier in his life, but he had made the effort to make the change and to start taking the better tracks when he came to his switch points.  no matter where we are, there are always switch points available to us.  some won't get us back to where we want to be, but they will get us back on the right track and that's pretty dang great.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

morgul days

so i mentioned that my mfa course required us to produce artwork of any sort in the process of obtaining a masters of fine arts.  preposterous.
and while i'm sure the rest of my students are so effervescently passionate about Art that they're churning out pieces as if they were living on the banks of the seine at the turn of the century (note: they're not, except for maybe that one girl whom i've never seen before...), i had no clue what i was going to do.  go to hobby lobby (where they apparently sell more than hideous Christmas ornaments) and get some canvas and paints?
i like photography.  maybe i could do something with that....  then, later that day in my "digital image" class, our teacher briefly showed us a program that showed the code for any digital picture.
oh, yeah, it also let you play with the code.

basically, it works like this: the computer processes color in a type of code called "hex code", which, instead of having numbers 0-9 like we're used to, it has sixteen base numbers, adding letters A-F after 9 in a way that today's quiz proved i still don't grasp.  but this hex code can be translated from regular letters and junk like this: ´…v– `eù äwáƒ)mÈGÏÁ 7$ .
it can also come from junk like this: sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell.
and each letter gets translated into hex code, which then affects the image.

normally, you wouldn't want to mess with that.
but art projects don't do normal things.  : )

in full disclosure, this wasn't entirely my original idea.  my friend had this as his desktop wallpaper this summer, part of the publicity work from "the social network." (ok, i couldn't find the site with his wallpaper...)  i knew that it was created by inserting random lines into the pictures code and i decided i wanted a crack at it.

my initial thought was to go around campus and take some shots, but i remember from my byu days that it gets pretty old of seeing "your campus" in photography assignments of any kind.  and i've learned that all the more since i've graduated and have been all around the world.  so, i used some of those, instead.

doing the actual work, my screen looked like this:

again, i understand this only enough to know "put junk here to screw it up."

experiment the first:

i tossed in all sorts of things here.  i'd delete lines, i copy and paste sections from sheep go to heaven or other blogs, i tossed in some tally hall lyrics, a chapter from the song of solomon, and all sorts of things.

experiment the second:

 i did this one twice, first tossing in the same sort of random code.  then i started adding lines from daft punk's "technologic", which has slightly varied repeated lyrics, which meant that the code would be mostly the same with only subtle variations.  i thought that might be an interesting experiment.  and it kind of was.  the results are still very hard to predict or even see correlations between the code and the image.
an interesting note: my mutant images looks significantly different here than it does directly on my computer.  the colors are much more washed out here.  significantly.

experiment the third:
hi, sister

this time, i raided my junk mail.  lines about trusting kenyans who know i'm a good soul and want to send me $3.5 million u.s. dollars, viagra from russian pharmacies, and, well, that was mostly what was in there, i would just grab lines and toss them in there.

one thing i started noticing was that, obviously, higher lines of code would mess with the upper portions of the image.  but not until i started adding lines, rather than just deleting, would the color change (or was that the other way around?)  and it would usually shift to one color, rather than creating different colors throughout.  i think we may have learned about why that is in class.

experiment the fourth:
i'd started checking my progress as i was working, rather than just attacking all at once.  this was looking really cool until the bottom half suddenly disappeared (actually, it went grey for me.  but it's showing up white/empty here).  and there's no "undo" function here, so i was stuck with it.  i decided to stop there.
it wouldn't be my first casualty of progress, though.
but such is experimental art.

experiment the fifth:

i had gotten nervous about doing too much and ruining good work, plus i didn't like how some of them became so garbled that you hardly recognize the original image, so i held back on this one. besides, i really like the original picture in the first place.
i think it could use a little more work, but art is never finished, just abandoned, and i bailed early on this one.  : )  i freaking love that red stripe in the middle, though.

i felt pretty good with the ten images i took to class this morning but felt that i'd kind of exhausted the project: random stuff happens when you mess with code.  got it.  but the faculty liked my work (one said he would commission me if he had the money) and offered enough thoughts that i wanted to keep with it.
so, the experiment continues....

Monday, September 05, 2011


i've just completed day one of week 2 of my second year in the viz lab.  i was expecting to be in the lab late tonight and working through tomorrow to complete my first digital image programming assignment, but i successfully compiled the completed code about an hour and a half ago and came home feeling pretty awesome about myself, especially since i did it with very little assistance from my classmates.  so i got that going for me.

a few notes about my new year:
  • the department is beginning to offer an m.f.a.  being that pursuing a "masters of science" always sounded a little funny to me, i think this is a better fit.  so far, the first class in the track requires a whole hecka lotta reading (of really wordy art criticism and theory; you know the stuff i'm talking about)
  • i successfully gave my first keynote presentation today (apple's version of "powerpoint.")
  • i have three viz classes: 
    • the mfa course, which is new for us and for the teacher.  confusion may or may abound. 
    • digital image, which is essentially learning the 1's and 0's of what goes on inside photoshop and other graphics processing.  yeah, me and code aren't the best combo, but i'm going to take my early success tonight as a harbinger of promise for the semester.
    • advanced animation. this is an interesting case: the night before the semester started, a friend texted me and asked if i wanted to be the director of photography for the project he and his friend were doing for this class that i wasn't signed up for.  i had been hoping to do an independent study of composition and lighting this semester, provided i could find someone who had some models they wanted lit.  so this was literally an answer plopped right in front of me.  cool.  but the professor didn't want anyone working on class projects who wasn't officially in the class (so that you don't bail when your schedule gets busy.)  the catch was that this class meets at exactly the same time as my digital image class, and that one's kind of required.  but he let me sign up for it anyway; i'll just never actually go to class....
  • speaking of my teacher for the course i don't go to: check this video out.  the one guy is now the ceo of pixar.  the other guy is my teacher (he also taught my facial animation course last spring, which was cool, since he was the first person to make a computer-animated face.)
  • the new first years all look so young.  i try remind myself that they are mostly 8-9 years younger than me, but still...?
  • to keep myself sane, i'm also taking rock climbing and beginning country dancing.  yes, i still decry country music, but my sister astutely noted that, i'm living in texas, i may as well learn to country dance.
  • the avalanches are my current favorite band of the week.  the whole album is even better than i imagined.
  • i also go to the gym three times a week.  i'm afraid that i might not have time to keep swimming, though.  that may be on a case by case basis.
  • between finding out where to park and my trips to the rec center, i spend a lot of time walking.  now, one weekly episode of "this american life" is enough.  i'm trying to give "wait, wait, don't tell me" a shot but i haven't quite warmed up to it yet, but i love "radiolab." (thanks for the recommendations, former 786!)  
  • "this american life" will always be my favorite, though.
  • since i am a second-year, maybe i should change my title from "the king of pop" to "the heir of slytherin"?
  • i'm also working 20 hours a week.  more on that later.
  • i think today was the first day in 30-40 days that it wasn't over 100 degrees outside.  high-80s have never felt so cool....
  • an inside source told me that they will be sustaining a new sunday school teacher next week.  i suspect that, when i said how disappointed i was that amidst all of the calling announced on sunday, a new sunday school teacher wasn't one of them, the bishop may have gotten the hint.  or maybe it was because i said that during my testimony.  who knows.
  • for wednesday in my mfa class, we have to show our first visual studies, which makes it sound as if we're all wildly passionate artists who are throwing paint in our studios late into the night, not students who are trying to figure out computer code.  but i learned just enough about the digi-bits behind digital photography today to do some real damage.  i'm thinking of aggressively attacking the code in some of my photographs and seeing what comes out....
  • lastly, i'm perplexed why my blog formatting has gone out of whack.  still trying to figure that out.