Archive for the ‘Plans’ Category

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Insomniacs, UNITE!

In Plans,Slice of Life on January 5, 2011 by ryepdx Tagged: , , ,

I am crazy-busy. I have a much bigger (i.e., more demanding) freelance job on my hands than I thought I had, and that marketing start-up that interviewed me all those weeks ago just now sent me an e-mail with some work to be done. Just thought I should let you know. Otherwise my decision to stay up until 10am last night… er… this morning… might strike you as rather odd and ill-conceived. It seems my mind has been abuzz and my fingers tingling with entrepreneurial optimism and excitement. “Irrational exuberance,” some might say. I blame Cory Doctorow‘s book, Makers. (Started reading it a couple days ago.)

I’m going to be moving in to an artist’s community soon. It was, in a former life, a senior care home, and has all the warmth and homeliness that one might expect. Still, the people there have managed to breathe life into it and animate its dimly lit, eggshell white halls. My bandmate lives there too, don’cha’ know, so my band should start getting more active as well. Expect more songs.

Speaking of songs and bandmates, the same bandmate has been writing a musical. Perhaps I’ll share a link here when she finishes. She’s been working on it hard recently in hopes of completing it and shipping it off to the east coast by January 10th. That’s the deadline to apply for the residency program she found over there. She happened to be working on it when I came over to check out the vacancies.

Bandmate: “Hey! Want to sing on a couple of my tracks?”

Me: “Sure!”

So I spent an extra hour and a half over there singing and talking in character voices that, for the most part, sounded vaguely like Sean Connery. It was stupid amounts of fun.

The freelance job I mentioned earlier, on the other hand, has been a pain in the neck. The whole experience is helping me realize that, though I am good at programming and though I can make good money programming, programming for dollars gets to me after a while. Couple that with the “gee-whiz” optimism soaking every page of that book I’m reading and you have me itching to go do something I like to do, something I want to do, and make money off it.

Right now I have some pretty cool ideas rolling around in my head. I’m hoping to get those off the ground and then perhaps sell them. I get a bit ADD sometimes and I know that I’ll get sick of those projects a year or two into them. The point is just to see them off. I also have my music and writing, which will always be ongoing; I’ve learned I can’t ignore any aspect of myself with good result.

And perhaps all this optimism and manic energy is no more than a wave washing over me. Maybe reality is stark and gray. But it’s warmer here, under the wave, and it does me no harm to hope and dream. It’s a good break from all the uncertainty and nervousness I’ve been dealing with up until now. Of course, I’ve got to be smart about my dreaming, keeping my feet on the ground and all that. I heard from my girlfriend that a number of people in her criminal justice courses who hope to become cops are just shy of the average police retirement age. Some moves are smarter than others. Some moves do bring us closer to our goals, and others don’t, and it’s not always possible to see which are which.

It helps me to realize, when I get lost in that kind of indecision, that no one profession or work will fulfill a person. I think we all have basic desires and needs we’re all trying to meet in one way or another, and I think there are a million ways to meet them. If you want to help people, for example, you don’t have to be a cop. If you have that desire and you don’t become a cop, you haven’t precluded yourself from having an enormously fulfilling life.

But now I’m rambling. You can see how I’d have troubling sleeping with thoughts like this, yeah? At any rate, I ought to go bang on that freelance job a bit more. I hope you all have a good Wednesday, and stay tuned: this Friday I’ll have a video for you of that new song I wrote!

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The Plan

In Plans on December 29, 2010 by ryepdx

“Adapt, react, and overcome.” This is touted as a Marine motto in The Last Centurion. I learned that while driving back to Portland with my girlfriend after meeting her family. I had just picked up a copy of the novel at Waldenbooks and was reading it as the miles passed. This motto, I think, will have to become my own as I progress. The bugger of planning is that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.”

There are no hard numbers behind my plan, so it could be that I’m wrong. Plans were made to be changed, and it may be that I will have to change my plan at some point as I begin to better grasp the shape of the problem I face. But simply having a plan helps immensely. Though it may only be an illusion, the sense of security it gives me is in itself of value. It is, to be sure, a first step. No journey begins without a first step. No scientific laws are made without hypotheses. So here it goes:

One album a year. One show a month. One YouTube video and three blog posts a week. Promoting my blog and YouTube channel (once I have videos) every day. Just enough freelance work to stay financially solvent and plan for the future. Some sort of entrepreneurial project to eventually make looking for freelance work unnecessary. As for writing, I want to have at least one novel ready to be shopped to publishers (or self-published) by next year.

In my mental thrashings-about I’ve discovered that the tasks in my life tend to fall in one of two categories: “creeping” tasks and “static” tasks. Creeping tasks can be expanded out to take up all the free time one has. This encompasses things like “become a better writer” or “practice guitar.” Tasks without a solid, tangible end-goal in other words. Static tasks, on the other hand, have a solid, tangible end-goal. These can generally be contained in a set period of time.

Creeping tasks, I think, can either be converted to a series of static tasks, or limited to a certain length of time. Rather than simply writing “practice guitar” on my planner, it’s easier for me to write something like “practice guitar for 1 hour” or “learn ‘Classical Gas.’” So that’s the way I went about coming up with those particular tasks. I know I need to become well-known if I want to make a living doing what I like to do, or if I want to change the world. That’s a creeping task. All the stuff I came up with? Static tasks.

Fingers crossed. Hope this works.

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An Ant Going Crazy

In Plans,Slice of Life on December 27, 2010 by ryepdx

I spent all of December 22nd reading The Last Centurion (a book by a friend of mine, John Ringo) and bidding on freelance jobs. I also did a little bit of Christmas shopping. My girlfriend went back to her hometown to be with her family for Christmas. My best friend was spending all his time with his girlfriend, as he hadn’t seen her since school began. I was having trouble getting ahold of him. I felt like I had next-to-nothing to do. I mean, there’s always blogging, participating on forums, songwriting, and just plain ol’ writing. But I had writer’s block, and blogging and talking on forums just didn’t feel like work.

In The Last Centurion, the author goes on at length about “grasshoppers and ants,” referring to the story of the Grasshopper and the Ants, of course. If you’re not acquainted with that particular fable, here’s a summary:

There’s this grasshopper who spends all his time fiddling around and having fun. It’s summer, so hey, why not? It’s warm and there’s plenty of food. He comes across these ants who’re preparing for winter, storing food in their hill. Man, they’re working hard. So the grasshopper sits down by the hill and starts making fun of them.

“Hey brah, why’re you working so hard? The sun’s bright and there’s food a-plenty.”

“Well, um… it’s not always going to be bright and sunny, y’know. Winter’s coming.”

“Psh. Winter. Stupid ant. That’s just something the media made up to scare people and keep them from having fun. Haha…” (And I’m sure it was a stoner laugh.)

“Riiight…”

“No, really. I read it somewhere.”

“Okay. Hey, look, you wanna’ help us out here? You can have some of this food if you help us out. I know you don’t believe in winter, but… winter believes in you, man.”

“Wow, that was retarded, brah.”

“You’re quite the douche, aren’t you, grasshopper?”

“Got your antenna!”

“AUGH! WHAT THE HELL, MAN?! THAT WAS MY ANTENNA! I NEEDED THAT!”

Okay, so you get the gist. The grasshopper’s goofing off and just kinda’ being a douche. At least, that’s the way I’m telling it. Point is, he likes wasting time more than working. Working is anathema to him. Not only that, but he’s really, really short-sighted.

Winter comes, of course, and the grasshopper finds himself quite cold and quite hungry. He happens to come across his little ant-friends again.

“Hey brah, can you let me in? I’m freezing my coxa off out here!”

“Eh? What’s that? I don’t hear so well anymore, not after you RIPPED OFF MY FREAKING ANTENNA!” (What the hell, ant? You should know your sense of hearing is in your feet.)

“C’mon, it was a joke. Ha-ha. Funny, right? I’m cold and I’m hungry, brah!”

“Get lost. You could’ve worked but you didn’t. We can’t afford to feed you and ourselves anyway, even if we wanted to. Jerk.”

“Aw…”

Then the grasshopper freezes and/or starves to death.

As The Last Centurion is about a post-apocalyptic United States, the “ants” are those who start to rebuild the best they can after things start going downhill and the “grasshoppers” are those who sit around waiting for someone else to fix it. The “ants” like to work. The “grasshoppers” hate it.

I’m a freaking “ant,” man. I hadn’t had anything that felt like meaningful work for a while up to that point and it was starting to drive me nuts. I needed to write something, or do a show, or make something, or…

Hey, I thought, maybe I should start reading about Africa a little. I’ve been meaning to do that for a while. Only problem is I’m pretty sure I would feel the need to sign up for the Peace Corp after just a couple books.

This illustrates my need for a solid, detailed plan. Without one I start whipping around in the wind. Grinding my gears. Spinning my wheels. Being what I had just learned (from The Last Centurion, of course) to call “active/stupid.” While my long-term plan has always been to address hunger in developing countries in some way, I hadn’t even found my feet yet. It’s impossible to make any progress if you haven’t even found your feet.

So I set about finding my feet. My subconscious was chewing at the problem already. I knew this because I kept having dreams. Like the one where I was in Goodwill. I kept finding all these awesome things, and I would put them in my cart and get in line. After a couple seconds, though, I would get distracted by something and wander off. When I got back, my cart was gone and so was all my stuff. So I went out to find more things, got in line, got distracted, etc. The dream just kept on going until I woke up.

Like I said, “whipping around in the wind.” But as I alluded to in my last post, a plan was already forming. Is already forming, if I’m honest. I have only the barest of ideas as to what that plan might end up looking like. I’ll probably just pull something out of the air and go with it, because I really have nothing solid to go on right now.

Well, I guess we’ll see what I’ve come up with by Wednesday, won’t we?

On a side note, here’s the bed I slept in last weekend when I went to meet my girlfriend’s family:
A room with a bunch of animal's heads mounted on plaques.

Yeah, my girlfriend’s dad is a hunter.

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A Week in Passing

In Plans,Slice of Life on December 24, 2010 by ryepdx Tagged: ,

I had a great Monday. I woke up at 8am, far earlier than usual. I spent the first half hour writing via this website I discovered called 750words. The idea is to start your day with a brain dump, writing out the first 750 words that come into your head. What you write is then analyzed for certain keywords and a set of graphs are returned showing you what topics your writing was about, in percentages. I found this gives a pretty good indication of the things I’m concerned about, the things my subconscious has been chewing on while I’ve been going about my day.

That day I saw the two biggest slices of the pie were devoted to “money” and “success.” My mood was judged to be introspective and uncertain, though still mostly positive. Okay, I thought, makes sense. That day I had an interview for a freelance job at 10am, so I was guessing the money issue would soon be taken care of, at least for a while.

I did well at the interview, despite being late. The company seemed to consist of two people operating out of a house in a suburban neighborhood. The way there was rather circuitous, and I understood why it was that a number of the other interviewees had apparently gotten lost on their way there. When I arrived, my potential employers greeted me in sweatpants. I had dressed in a suit, a fact that did not escape comment. They had a medium-sized brown dog, of what breed I couldn’t say. It was rather cute, and we made fast friends. That is, until it was put away. Ah well.

At the end of the interview I was told I would be sent a test problem to solve and that they would “try to keep the dog under control better next time.” I left in high spirits, of the mind that the job was as good as mine. They had told me what the test problem consisted of and it was a task that would likely only take me an hour at the very most.

Afterward I returned to my apartment, blogged, fiddled around with my condenser mic a bit (I had not yet completed it at that point), and then went off to Portland to see my girlfriend again. Now, seeing my girlfriend is in itself enough to make my day good. But that Monday I had already nailed an interview, just about finished my condenser mic, and written a blog. It had been productive and I felt hopeful.

So could Monday have been any better?

Yes, apparently. My girlfriend made brownies.

Sorry, I don’t have any pictures. But you can pretend these are them:
Brownies.

And then Tuesday I saw Requiem for a Dream for the first time.

I felt like Requiem for a Dream was one of those movies everyone else had seen except for me. The theme from it, Lux Aeterna, had become just about ubiquitous, being used in trailers for everything from Lord of the Rings to The DaVinci Code. I knew it was a depressing film. I knew it was about people’s lives disintegrating. I had heard it was disturbing. Somehow I just was not prepared for it though. I’m not sure if there’s anything I could have done to prepare for it. It was incredible in every sense: the soundtrack was excellent, the cinematography was inspired, and the acting was dead convincing. It was an incredible film, but it left me bereft of all the optimism Monday had brought with it.

The movie is about a group of four people who decide to pursue their dreams. They end up going about it all wrong, however, and their lives are changed irrevocably for the worse. I could almost swear I heard the black vortex from a few days before looking over my shoulder and chuckling to itself.

Damn you, I thought. I need to make a plan!

A plan, however, was already forming.

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The First Days

In Plans on December 15, 2010 by ryepdx

My first full day of freedom was productive, and for that I am glad. It meant I could avoid looking at the swirling, black vortex of the unknown I had headed into for one more day. As long as I keep my head down and stay busy, I reasoned, I don’t have to look at it. Of course, that’s not at all a workable strategy. The fact was, I knew I would have to look at it sometime. And I wanted to look at it, to figure out where I was headed. Sometime. Just not right then.

Oh, procrastination. On the positive side of things, I could afford to procrastinate just then. I had nothing at all set up, so anything I did was a step in the right direction. I wrote a blog post, I promoted my blog, I started desoldering components from all those circuit boards I had lying around.

I started building a condenser mic too! To me that was rather exciting. It took me a few days, but I managed to turn this:

Condenser microphone components

Into this:
Condenser microphone

Which sounds like this.

Pretty awesome, I thought. (I’ll be posting a “how-to” next week, if you would like to make your own.)

But then the swirling black vortex began to descend. “You need to reconcile your ambitions with reality!” It said. “You can’t just run about willy-nilly being ambitious! You need to know what you want to do! You need direction!”

“But- but…” I whined.

“No ‘but’s about it! Sit down and make a plan, even if that plan could not possibly stand the test of time! It’s better to have an idea of where you want to go than to have no idea at all.”

The swirling black vortex then went back to wherever it is swirling black vortexes live. (Canada, perhaps?) As for me, I escaped back into the world of procrastination, lured up to Portland by the dual siren-songs of my girlfriend and my band-mate.

But the swirling black vortex got me thinking: is it necessary to have a plan? Are plans inherent in people, or are they simply snapshots of some aspects of a person? What are plans?

Sorry to get all philosophical on you. I swear, sometimes I think I should have been a philosophy major. Then I remember I don’t actually like delivering pizzas and flipping burgers all that much.

This is one thing my band-mate and I tend to clash over though. I make plans. I don’t always accomplish those plans, but I make them, and once they’re made it almost takes an act of God to get me to abandon them. I’m the worst kind of type-A. I’m bullheaded. She, on the other hand, prefers to just “see what happens.” This sometimes drives me nuts. I feel like I’m at the mercy of whatever winds life throws at me if I don’t have a plan, or at least some sort of specific, short-term goal in mind. I feel like I always need to know the direction I want to be headed in at any given moment. Otherwise I start getting visited by swirling black vortexes. I’m not very neurotic about too many things, but I’m quite neurotic about life-plans.

But then I start to wonder if there isn’t some wisdom in just seeing what happens, seeing where life takes you. Because isn’t there some intention that motivates us all? If we choose to act so that we’re always moving in whatever direction is most attractive to us, then won’t we tend to end up finding a direction that fits us as people? Is it necessary to have a ready answer for life, or does life engage in Socratic dialog? Not that the two are mutually exclusive, of course, but I simply mean to ask if set ideas about where we want to go do more to help or to hinder. Does it even matter? Is it all a wash?

And how am I supposed to go about making a plan for something this open-ended anyway?

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Liberation

In Introductions,Plans,Scientology on December 13, 2010 by ryepdx

The holiday party was fun, though somewhat difficult. It was fortunate that wine was provided for free. At the party I was reminded again how very good of a group I was leaving, and how hard it was to be doing so, especially as I stood to gain so much if I stayed. Doing the right thing, it seems, is often incredibly difficult.

The goodbye party was somewhat awkward and short. I was thrown off a little by the fact that two members of the company were missing. These two I had hoped to say a proper farewell to, but it seemed it was not to be. I had to give a speech, which involved trying to say everything I wanted to say which I could say while still keeping it appropriate as a group address. Since this was rather short (something like, “it was great working here and I’ll miss all of you!”) I ended up repeating myself a bit to make up the time. There are a lot of different ways to say “I enjoyed working here” and “I’ll miss you,” it turns out.

15 minutes later I was finally free! As I drove down the road back to my apartment, I turned on the radio. Nirvana’s cover of Bowie’s “Man Who Sold the World” was playing. I thought it rather appropriate.

I still had one more appointment to go: I was to meet with a friend from college for coffee that evening. I spent the little bit of time until then playing on my guitar, fussing with my stash of salvaged electronics, and generally just enjoying the feeling of freedom. I had not yet started worrying about the fact that my lifeboat, so to speak, was rudderless.

Consumer whore that I am, I met her at Starbucks. She was late, which was perfect as I was only a little less late. I ordered a Pumpkin Spice Latte, forgetting that I had ordered that drink before and had disliked it, and took a seat in the back of the store.

She had come in coughing, the last vestiges of the bronchitis that resulted in our meeting last Thursday being canceled and moved to that day, the Monday following. By then I was standing by the Tazo display, entranced by the tea tins. I’m a sucker for tea tins.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey,” I replied.

We hugged, then sat at the table.

After the initial “how are you”s and such, we fell to talking about our relationships. Her boyfriend was a logical introvert, while she herself was a bit more on the emotional side, so she had a lot of insights about how to make such a pairing work. I joked, suggesting that she write a book someday. “And hey,” I said, “I could help you write it, seeing as that’s what I’m doing these days.”

“How is that going, by the way?” She asked.

I told her about my exodus and how I had begun to keep a blog to help garner support for my efforts as a writer and musician. “I’m terrified,” I confessed.

“Yeah,” she said, “it does seem like a rather un-Ryan-like move.”

“I know. I’m all logical normally, right?”

“I’m sure you’ll do fine,” she said. “You’re determined. That counts for a lot.”

“Thanks,” I said. Then I spilled my guts about what I was hoping to do, which, due to the lack of detail in my plans at that point, didn’t take all that long.

One thing I’ve been impressed with so far in my nascent journey as a writer and musician is the level of support I’ve gotten from the people around me. Without that support, I do not doubt it would be impossible for me achieve what I hope. It’s one thing to work alone and quite another to work with the comfort of friends.