Experiments in Loving Life

Life is journey, let's enjoy it.

Archive for the month “May, 2013”

Space Pen

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I’m loving playing with codepen. The practical use of this pen here is pretty small but I think this may just be headed somewhere exciting. What does it look like to you? You can view the code here.

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Deep Breathing and Change

I won last night. For the first time in years. And I was elated. So elated in fact, that I lost to myself. There was a little bit of gloating involved. I teased Savannah just a bit. And rode my bike 2 miles roundtrip just to post a status update on facebook detailing my success. For somebody that is actively trying to pursue a lifestyle of contentment, simplicity, happiness and all around goodness, I definitely feel as though I screwed up last night.

But as I am becoming increasingly aware, everything is a process. Changing something as fundamental as a thought pattern isn’t something that you can just do overnight. Certainly it’s something that I can make an effort to change every night. And I believe that noticing those mistakes, those places that I am not acting or thinking or reacting in a way I really believe I should be acting or thinking or reacting is quite possibly one of the most important things I can do towards improving and changing those lifelong habits.

For instance, upon noticing that I was gloating and teasing last night, it would have been most appropriate for me to direct my excited thoughts towards more constructive outlets. At the very least it would have been more appropriate for me to just take a few deep, slow breaths.

In fact, taking a few deep slow breaths is one of the most effective things you can do to gain control of your mind period. Whether you’re stressed, excited, angry, frustrated, confused, terrified, or any other emotion, the simple act of taking 60 seconds worth (I like to shoot for 5 minutes) of deep slow breaths, 4 seconds in, 6 seconds out while thinking of nothing but your breathing or visualizing how you would like to be acting differently can completely eliminate all traces of cortisol from your body, What I really like about this exercise though, is that it seems to have the ability to completely reframe the current moment and brings a sense of clarity that is otherwise extremely difficult to come by.

Deep breathing is just a small step in the process but if you’re looking to change a habit I strongly suggest you give it a shot. It’s well worth your time.

~Austin

Education and Debt – where to draw the line.

Well I had another one of those weekends with absolutely no creative outlets.  But, what do you expect when I worked 29 hours this weekend. 29 long hours delivering Pizza.

That being said, I did something totally unexpected of myself! I asked my Boss for one weekend day a week off. And she said that it would probably be totally okay 🙂 That means I might have a whole 1 day out of 7 where I don’t have to work! I’m so excited!

I also may be lining up a really fantastic job-like opportunity for when I move back over to Portland. So, things are looking up for me! Not that they were ever really down to begin with. I’m just super super busy.

And as Zen Pencil’s Newest Comic, and most other things I read and believe in are pretty good at pointing out, we should make a significant effort to do the things that we really believe in and really love  and not work ourselves into an unhappy death.

I’m working on slowly backing off of working too much but It’s going to be  a long challenging journey for me. I put in 154 hours in the last two weeks and unlike most, it’s not so that I can buy that new car, house, or round of golf, it’s so that I can pay for my education without sinking any deeper into debt than I am already headed.

How do you make the decision of where to draw the line? Where it becomes okay to take on an additional couple thousand in debt to get an education vs. working your ass off, being miserable, and not being able to focus quite as hard on the things you believe in? Where do you draw that line?

Any advice?

I have no internet.

As of monday. I have no personal internet at my place of residency. In case you weren’t sure, this is weird. Very very weird. I fancy myself a normal(ish) person. Sure I work a lot (80 or so hours a week). But for the most part I’m normal. I occasionally watch movies on Netflix or T.V. Shows on Hulu. I listen to Pandora regularly (when my computer is on (always)). I use Facebook. I have 4 emails that I check multiple times a day. I have a twitter feed. I read blogs. I write on a blog.  Alright. That’s the super normal stuff. Let’s talk about some slightly more abnormal stuff. I’m a senior at Pacific University studying Integrated Media (Web Design and Development) and while, sure it’s Summer. That is WEB design and development. My primary job is that of Web Coordinator for the College of Art and Architecture at the University of Idaho. Yes you heard that right again. WEB Coordinator. Honestly, 90% (at least) of my life revolves around the web. So when I let my internet connection at home go away earlier this week, it seems needless to say that I have had to adjust.

The first thing I noticed was the silence. Almost. But not quite like the stillness at the bottom of a cup of tea.

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After that came the realization that I don’t get to check my email compulsively every 5 minutes. Besides that’s probably not the best habit to have anyway.

I took a bath. Nice and hot and soothing. For one whole hour. I did nothing while in the bath. Just laid there, feeling relaxed.  I honestly can not remember the last time that I took a bath or the last time that I let myself simply relax without feeling pressure to get things done. I think that has been my biggest takeaway from the past week. It is OKAY to allow yourself moments, or even the occasional hour of being truly relaxed and not needing to get anything done.

Aside from that, I remembered how to use iTunes. I remembered that the only thing I actually need the internet to do web work for is when I am either not working on one of my own projects or when I am working with servers (PHP, SQL, Databases, etc.) and even then I can test on self hosted servers! So for the most part, I can do can do almost anything on my own using JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. In fact with books, things like learning JavaScript are still 100% in the question. What a revelation. I really only NEED the internet if I am actually going to upload new information (like this post) or if i need to communicate with people.

Hey that’s actually kind of cool! Maybe going the Summer without internet won’t be quite so bad after-all!

What would you learn about yourself if you had no internet?

An Inspirational Life – Cameras

I’ve been struggling to decide what kind of order I want to cover this lifetime of Inspiration series with. Do I want to chronological earliest? Chronological latest? Just go with whatever stands out on when I’m writing the post? For instance, I’m from a piano bench today and that reminded me that at one point in time pianos/music were definitely involved in the inspirations of my life. And if I go chronological with the latest things first where do I start? Yesterday? Last month? At the latest major life altering moment?

What I eventually decided was that I was going to go with a significant items presented in a semi-random order, occasionally interjected with “inspirations of the week” coming in the form of songs, websites, ted talks, podcasts, videos, or whatever else have you.

And of course that leads me to a new question right? How do I decide what holds enough significance to warrant a blog post? I think I will handle that decision with two questions. 1) Did it have a lasting impact on me? and 2) Would I be living the life I am living now if the event/person/thing was not a part of my life? I feel that if the answer to either of these questions is yes, then it is significant enough to merit a blog post.

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When I was writing the first version of this post I was sitting at a piano bench in one of the study rooms in a different building where I work and, it being Summer and me working at a University, it was naturally a fairly empty room. Just me and one other person. The other person was reading a newspaper so every once in a while I would hear the raspy turning of a newspaper page as everything rubbed against everything else. And the only other sound in the room was my pen on my paper and, here’s the part I found lovely, I was writing with my hands and notebook on the actual piano keys, and my foot on the sustainer pedal, so every once in a while I would shift just a little too abruptly and the piano would make some random combination of notes that echoed throughout the whole room. It was truly wonderful to have been there.
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Anyway, today’s Inspirational Life post is about a camera.

A number of years ago, about 10 days before Christmas, I picked up an incredibly old digital camera for the first time and took a picture of my cousin’s face. And then I took another one. And then a took a picture of the kitchen table. And then the popcorn bowl. And then my cousin’s face again. However on that last pass at my cousin’s face, she stuck her hand out to deflect the camera from taking her picture, accidentally hit the camera, and it broke.

And that’s my story.

No I’m just kidding. The camera broke, but in just those three or four pictures, I was hooked. I wanted to take more pictures so badly and my grandma on my mom’s side who had been bugging me about what I wanted for Christmas suddenly had something to go off of. A cheap digital camera please! And in the 6 months after that Christmas I took over 10,000 photos. Certainly most of them were crap but I still took 10,000 photos and in August of that year, almost 5 years ago, I bought myself a Nikon D80. The camera I still shoot with today. The camera I was shooting with when I decided to start selling my photography at the local farmer’s market. The same one I was using when I chose what school I was going to attend and decided to be a photography major. That one moment when I picked up the camera literally changed my life.

And how funny to think that one seemingly insignificant moment can completely change the road you are on and the direction your life is headed. Before that I think I wanted to be a math major or something. Talk about a diverging road. While certainly I have shifted and altered my perceptions and desires and changed my bearing numerous times since I decided to become a photography, photography is still a part of my life and recently once again something that brings me immense joy.

That same D80 is the one I used to take these pictures during my walk at Lunch today 🙂
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A couple of nails sticking outside of this fencepost seemed almost like they were just itching to escape the confines of their wooden coffins. I don’t know how long it takes nails to work their way out of wood but it looks as though the one in back has a significant head-start.

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And this ladder appeared to go halfway up the building and then just stop. That’s interesting. A ladder to nowhere. Where does your ladder go?

I look forward to hearing about any of your inspirations! Please leave them in comments!

Thanks for stopping by,

~Austin

I have way too much stuff

 

This is a slight continuation from post the other day regarding how quickly things can accumulate.

I ended up not really doing anything creative this weekend except for giving the plants that I was going to put in my garden to an old man that was actually going to have the time to keep from dying. With two jobs, that definitely wasn’t going to be me. And on the note of my second job,  I got scheduled for about 29 hours of work next weekend. Gross right. I probably won’t be doing too many fun things then either.

On another brighter note my roommate moved out today! I finally have the house to myself! And until I meet another minimalist Vegan who doesn’t own a T.V. and doesn’t do drugs, I will have the house to myself. I’m super excited! Since I’m moving in ten days I moved all of my things into the living room thinking that I would need to start preparing for cleaning and needing to stuff everything I own into my car; a task that I honestly didn’t think was going to be particularly difficult. However upon moving all of my things into one room it looks like I have WAY more than I though I did. Oops. I took pictures of all my worldly possessions except for my bike and my car. If you had to fit all of this in one vehicle what would you get rid of? I’d love to hear in the comments!

~Austin

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Schools are bad for passion

I think that formal education (College, University, High School) is just about the most surefire way to suck the passion and enjoyment out of learning and doing things.

Maybe I’m just being dramatic but I can say from personal experience that it definitely happens. Not always I suppose but it happened to me with photography, and it happened to me with coding. What’s that you say? It’s just a personal problem and I should suck it up? You know, I thought about that as a possibility.  Instead of going there, let’s talk about my love for photography.

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(See more images at the bottom of this post.)

I use to absolutely LOVE photography. I would go out on the weekends, on the weekdays, in the mornings, in the evenings, any time I could get out. If someone said they wanted me to take pictures for them I was like, SURE! I would LOVE  to do that! and then I started my freshman year at Pacific University as a photography major. Suddenly, I was being forced to take pictures of things that didn’t inspire me. That I didn’t like or enjoy, and that had absolutely nothing to do with where I wanted to take my photography when I graduated. On top of that these unpleasant assignments had deadlines that pushed my ability to do things and take pictures of things that I enjoyed far far away from reality. I couldn’t even do it on the weekends because I was busy writing essays on ghosts or doing Discrete Mathematics that was assigned Friday and due on Monday. And I hope I didn’t forget to mention that I was working 40 hours a week to pay my tuition bills that going into debt didn’t cover. I had no time. None whatsoever.

And so my only experiences with photography for the next two years were both rushed (because I was so busy) and they were unenjoyable (because I was photographing not what I wanted to photograph but what I was assigned to photograph.) And again, I understand if you think that’s just “How Life is.” College is super busy and you get through it. If you don’t like it then drop out. And by the way, if you drop out, you suck.

I disagree. I think that’s a terrible way to look at it. I believe that college is kind of . . . wrong. The way that it is set up now. It’s a system that encourages stress, unhealthy eating and living practices, and doesn’t focus on the things that you really love and want to do.

Anyway,I stopped studying photography, because, while I had once been making a steady income from what I was doing and loving, I began to hate what I was doing and loving. For the next two years, I pretty much only took pictures out of obligation, somebody wanted me to, somebody needed me to. Somebody knew that I was, at one point, a pretty decent photographer and wanted me to shoot something for them. And I never said no because I knew that I could do it. I just didn’t want to. And I always hated my results. I hated what I came home with on my memory card at the end of the day. It was so bad that I couldn’t give myself permission to delete bad photos because I would literally delete them all. Instead I would have to just give the files to whoever wanted them and hope they saw a few they liked.

I went to china for two weeks last October and brought my Camera. I shot over 1,000 photos and almost deleted all but 5 of them. Instead of deleting all the ones I didn’t like however I simply extra saved the ones that I like. I made them desktop backgrounds on my computer, put them in different folders, and then hid everything else in some deep subdirectory of my computer’s harddrive. 6 months later, early April of 2013, I was able to look through the images again briefly for about 15 minutes during which I pulled out another 3 images that I actually really liked and then put the rest of them back in that same subdirectory.

And then something crazy happened. I picked up my camera a few weeks ago and realized that, I actually WANTED to take pictures again. The traumatic horror of two years ago had finally begun to wear off. It was that point, when i tried to really take pictures again, that I realized my camera needed some open heart surgery and I sent it in to the doctor. And since I’ve gotten it back, I’ve been taking it out almost every other day and truly enjoying photography again. Something that I honestly never thought would happen. Which really just goes to show that it was in fact the external stimuli that was driving me away from what I enjoyed doing.

After all, how CAN you enjoy something if you never have time or the ability to do the parts of it that you find enjoyable? But isn’t that how life is? Everything is just so busy rush rush that if you have spare time to be doing something that you truly love you must be doing it wrong? No. Surely that can’t be right. It just sounds wrong. It doesn’t resonate with any bone in my body. I just can’t handle that being the truth.

And yet a very similar thing happened to me this last year when doing computer science at the University of Idaho. I enjoyed using programming languages. Nothing but symbols on my keyboard to make beautiful things happen. I truly enjoyed that. And then two semesters and 4 classes later when I hadn’t actually made a single thing because
a) I was being assigned meaningless little tasks that in no way advanced towards an end goal or outcome outside of, can you use an “ifstream” properly,

and b) taking 18 credits and working 40+ hours a week left me no time to work on personal projects that would advance towards some sort of goal or outcome. It just wasn’t happening.

And if just about the only thing that I need to feel is that I am accomplishing things and creating things and making life happen, when I don’t get any of those things, I slowly start to evaporate into a puddle of terrible feelings and sad emotions. Because I am not being fulfilled.

But isn’t it the case that most if not all people need to feel like they are working towards a goal and making things happen? Not just sinking into an ever expanding pool of quicksand? I would think so.

And if that isn’t the case then I guess I really am the problem. But if it is the case. If the vast majority of people on this planet have a deep need to feel like they are accomplishing things and working towards goals, then our education system does absolutely nothing for the vast majority of people but make them be miserable for the first 20 or so years of their life. And that’s a loooong time to be miserable.

Thankfully next year I will be both working on my senior project and be firmly entrenched in our project management class, both of which should keep me from feeling as though I am not doing anything worthwhile. 🙂

Would you like to see a couple of the pictures that I took yesterday?

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Sometimes I like to pretend I’m a chef

It’s a true story. I get so excited when somebody is coming over and I get to fix THEM food. Put it on their plate. Arrange it all nicely. Ask them how it tastes and what I could do differently. I have this one friend that generally comes over at least once over the course of a weekend and plays a game of chess with me. And for anyone wondering, yes, she is the same person that I have yet to beat at a game. 0 – 1 – 6 is a beautiful record friends 🙂

Anyway, this friend, Savannah, pretty much likes ALL vegetables and fruits and things. Which is absolutely perfect for somebody who is secretly aspiring to be a Vegan Chef. I usually run a brief question by her, “Do you like such and such and such things?” And her usual reply is a resounding “YES!”

So Sunday night I had been planning on a sweet potato lentil Chili as I said last week, but at 80 degrees it just wasn’t going to happen.

So with a last minute run to the CoOp, I picked up what would eventually become three things:

– A rhubarb Compote
– A sweet potato
– And a steamed onion

Yes you heard me. A steamed onion.

I don’t know about you but I thought that sounded like an incredibly strange thing to eat. That being said, I can assure that an onion steamed with oregano and black pepper is nothing to pass up. Nothing at all.

I also cooked up the Jerusalem artichokes that I snagged at the farmer’s market last Saturday. Cooked at 400 degrees with peanut oil, thyme, black  pepper and a touch of salt. Equally delicious.

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My good camera was still in the hospital on Sunday so I apologize for the quality of the pictures. I promise they will be beter in the future. But you can’t tell me that that doesn’t look good.

The sweet potato would have been perfect all by itself; Organic, juicy, and perfectly orange as it was. Did you know that if you simply stab your sweet potato a bunch of times with a fork at stick it in the oven for an hour you will get a sweet potato with a caramelized inner wrapping seeping out of the newly discovered pores? That’s right. Sweet Potato caramel seeping from the sides. You should try it. Just make sure to put something down underneath it.

What really took the stage though was the rhubarb compote.

I first tried a variation of this two weeks ago at our local CoOp while they were giving out tastes of this on bread and I immediately knew that at some point I would be trying it out in my own kitchen.

I’m not much for doing things exactly the same every time so I don’t usually right recipes down but from what I can recall this one consisted of:

  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • some raisins
  • some ginger
  • 1/2 cup demerra sugar (you can use whatever kind you like)
  • 2 stalks of rhubarb

Put it all in a sauce pan (except the rhubarb) and heat gently on medium while stirring until the brown sugar has dissolved.

Chop the rhubarb into smallish bites.

Mix the rhubarb in with everything else.

And keep stirring until it looks like Jam.

Conventional wisdom says to serve this warm, and I certainly can’t argue with that. I kept stealing pieces of rhubarb out of the sauce pan and letting them melt into my mouth. SO Delicious.

But I really wanted it to be cold so that I could fully appreciate the contrast between the warmth of the sweet potato and the tangy chill of the rhubarb.

Like I said before, absolutely amazing.

Of course, cleaning everything up after our game of chess wasn’t exactly fun. Peanut sauce at 400 degrees becomes Tar fairly quickly.

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Do you have any secret aspirations? Like becoming a Vegan Chef? Let me know in the comments below.

Have a great evening!

~Austin

A lifetime of Inspiration

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Sometimes Inspiration comes in oddly wrapped packages. An overheard compliment. Criticism. A smile. Roadkill. The ocean at 2 A.M. Illicit Kisses. Community Service. All these things have the power to represent some form of inspiration in our lives. All we have to do is tap into the universe and listen.

As I’m getting closer to going into my senior year I find myself thinking about things like,
“What do I want to do with my life?”
“Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?”
“Is my senior project going to take me where I want to go after graduation?”
“For that matter am I 100% sure of what my senior project is going to be just yet?”
“Am I prepared for this?”
“Am I good enough?”
“Can I do this?”
“Is my relationship going to let me do the things I want?”

And the list goes on and on.

Occasionally I think things like,

“I’m so excited to finally be done with these 4 years!”
“It took 20 years but I finally get to be an adult.”
“People will respect me soon.”
“I’m gonna have the best senior project ever!”
“Jeez I’m ready to be done.”

And other expressions of excitement to be at this point in my life.

But it is certainly clear to me that there are many many conflicting emotions bubbling around in my head. And so, what I try and make a point to remind myself is quite simply that I am indeed good enough to be graduating from college in 12 months. I worked hard to be here, and even if I didn’t take the most conventional route to get here, (transferring, changing majors, dropping classes, getting terrible grades for a semester, transferring back to where I started, spending 3 months trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, and just being generally conflicted) My life has still led me quite satisfactorily to this point. And regardless of what the future holds for me after these next 12 months are up, I can pretty much guarantee that it won’t be anything completely terrible.

By the way, I can see the question forming on your lips now,

“What does any of this have to do with inspiration?”

I thought that maybe I could tell you a story over the course of the month of May telling you about the different inspirations in my life that have gotten me to where I am today. I thought that it would be nice, not only to reflect on that, but to talk about how you can take inspiration from the everyday. I also thought that perhaps it would inspire some of you to reflect back on how you got to where you are today, and that’s really somewhere that you want to be. After-all shouldn’t we all be right where we want to be? And by the way, occasionally I feel as though for me, that’s playing the role of cashier at a whole foods grocery store or Food CoOp.

While I may not know exactly what I want to do with my life, I know that being a professional web developer has the potential to be extraordinarily fulfilling and that even if I don’t do that, there are plenty of other fulfilling options available to me.

I look forward to undertaking this journey of inspirations with you.

~Austin

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Oh by the way,

I took the first photo yesterday, it’s all my fairly grown up vegetable plants that I won’t have time to put in the garden this year.

And the I took the second one on a walk that I took yesterday with my friend Sandi 🙂

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