Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

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No Video Friday

In Slice of Life on February 5, 2011 by ryepdx

Today I moved in to the artists’ apartment that Lauren is in. Awesome times were had by all. I will write more later. Sorry, no video today because of that.

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Ramble Ramble Ramble

In Slice of Life on February 1, 2011 by ryepdx Tagged: , ,

Nothing like a good ol’ fashioned slice o’ life to shut me up.

Sorry I missed my post yesterday. I could feel the tension from all of you. All six of you. I had stayed up all night working on That One Freelance Job and ended up sleeping through most of the day. Various other errands then consumed the rest of my Monday and I found myself in Tuesday with nothing posted. I’ve made some good progress on that project, though. I could be one or two more all-night coding sessions away from finishing. I just need to gather some of that ever-elusive focus.

Focus is hard to gather when there’s a revolution going on, even if that revolution is halfway across the globe. I haven’t even spent that much time gathering facts about it due to trying to get things lined up to move in to the artist apartments where my bandmate live and working almost nonstop on That One Freelance Job, but there it is, taking up space in the back of my head. The role that technology has played, especially the hitherto frivolous-seeming Twitter, has captured the technologist in me. “When the revolution comes, it will be…” tweeted? That was a surprise.

It has set me to wondering about what good I could be doing with technology and set me to wondering about what my focus is, what it should be. I believe in long-term action, long-term planning. Only the lucky get anywhere without sustained effort. My heritage is Irish, so I definitely can’t count on luck. (Has anyone else besides me wondered how the “luck of the Irish” came to mean “good luck?” A most ironic malapropism, that.)

On the other hand, I think there may be something to being rudderless for a while, if only to find your internal compass again. As Steve Jobs put it:

“…have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Well, what do I want to become? How about this: Warren Buffet meets John Lennon meets Cory Doctorow meets Ghandi. Something like that, I’m not too picky about the icons as long as they’re more or less equivalent. But how do I make all these mesh up?

I guess that’s where living creatively comes in. I guess that’s why I’m going to have to work hard at this.

The Universe has at least begun cooperating. The freelance jobs have continued their “just right” trickle into my inbox. All I have to fight now is myself. I’m meeting someone tomorrow about potentially joining a startup. I’ll see what their idea is, whether it’s something I can get behind, whether they want too much from me.

Honestly? There is one project I would personally like to see brought to fruition. As soon as I finish with That One Freelance Project I’ll have to get started on it. It’ll require people who have skills in business theory and psychology, people who are way smarter than me and probably hard to find, but I think it’ll have the potential to do some really cool things for the world as a whole. It’s a need I’ve identified which I’m really excited about trying to fill.

I’ll keep you updated.

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I Got A Ukulele!

In Slice of Life on January 24, 2011 by ryepdx

Look what came in the mail for me today!

A ukulele!

Yeah, I’m pretty stoked about that. Maybe it’ll make its debut in my video this Friday? Perhaps…

I texted my bandmate about this recent acquisition.

Me: Guess what just came in the mail? 😀
Her: 😀 tiny tim time! is it beautiful? have you named it yet?

I don’t normally name my instruments. I have enough trouble remembering people’s names, so why would I want to make my life harder by giving my instruments names?

Oh well. Maybe I’ll call it… mini-me? :-p

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Living Creatively

In Slice of Life,Travel on January 19, 2011 by ryepdx Tagged: , , , ,

I’ve been listening to the CD I got at the Kimya Dawson concert last weekend, so I’m still in Kimya fanboy mode. As I write this, her song called Fire is playing. It’s relevant to what I’m about to talk about, so I’ll post part of the lyrics here:

It’s okay to be scared; you don’t have to act tough.
Take all that pain and turn it into love.
Take all that pain and turn it into love.
And let your emotions be fuel to your flame;
Being on fire will keep you awake.
If somebody yells out, “Hey, stop, drop, and roll!”
Say, “That might save my skin, but it won’t save my soul.
That might save my skin, but it won’t save my soul.”

I went through the usual emotional travails in high school, though you probably wouldn’t have ever guessed it then. By the time I entered college I was a mess. It took me about a year before I recovered and managed to become the master of my emotions. The terms of my depression’s surrender, however, were rather draconian: it would be two years before I let myself feel sad again.

Tonight I had coffee with a friend of mine who is going through some difficult times. I’ll call her Storme, since I don’t know if she wants all this public. Right now she’s looking for a job, the family she has been staying with is about to move out of Portland, and a bit of bad bureaucratic planning on the part of her university has left her in a catch-22 where she can’t re-enroll because of money owed, she can’t pay the money owed until her academic aid gets disbursed, and she can’t get her academic aid until she re-enrolls. (This leaves her in the bad position of being responsible for over $30k in student loans in a couple of months.)

We hadn’t talked since August of last year, so we had a lot of catching up to do. As I listened to her talk about her situation, I realized that all the trouble she’s running into has to do with pursuing her dream. Most of her troubles could go away if she gives up her dream of working in the music industry. To her eternal credit, she does not even consider that an option. However…

“The Universe hates me!” She said as we sat at a table next to the wall-sized window in the Starbucks near Music Millenium.

“The Universe doesn’t hate you. It’s just making things hard right now.” I replied. It wasn’t the most comforting thing I could have said, sure, but it was all I had just then. I sipped awkwardly from my 12oz mocha.

Just down the road, at the aforementioned Music Millenium, the Decemberists were holding an album signing for their new release, The King Is Dead. We wandered down there at around 7pm. It was packed, as I expected it would be, and it took about ten minutes to get into the store. I bought a copy of The King Is Dead once we were in, while Storme wandered off. When I found her, she was back in the $2 section, leafing through the used CDs.

“Hey look, Semisonic,” I said.

“Oh cool!” She said, plucking the CD from the bin.

“It’s been a while since I heard them.”

“My friend is actually friends with their drummer.”

She leafed through the bins a bit more, all the while talking about the musicians she had been following online and the bands she was personally friends with. She mentioned enough bands (most of which I had never heard of, being as uncultured as I am) that I’m sure most people’s heads would have turned green and exploded with jealousy. Her passion for music was undeniable, as was her propensity to befriend famous musicians and keep abreast of their emotional states. As she put it, “I love going to concerts because for me it usually means I get to see a bunch of old friends again.” At only 20 years of age, she is already well on the way to being an A&R force to be reckoned with.

Hearing her talk about her passion was like hearing Kimya telling everyone in the audience at Backspace last Saturday night to follow the things they feel passionate about. It was a reminder of what can be done when passion meets drive.

In my first year of college I learned to regulate my emotions, to consciously control them. While this allowed me to undo the damage I had done to myself in high school, it has also left me somewhat confused as to what my passions are. I have drive; I’m always pushing and trying. But toward what?

To follow one’s passions: that’s what it means to live creatively, I think. If you weren’t around in the beginning of this blog, “a period of living creatively” was the subtitle back then. That was my reason for choosing the name Cyan Years: I started this blog to document my life after I quit my job and started trying to live outside the box.

But it seems to me now that living creatively isn’t a goal or an end in itself. Now I think that perhaps living creatively is what happens naturally when we try to follow our dreams and our passions. It means that we get pushed to our limits and challenged time and time again; far more than if we let someone else make our decisions for us. Creative living, then, becomes a necessity, a way of surviving and (hopefully) flourishing.

Because the fact is that the Universe is neither kind nor malicious. It’s a combination of forces acting on each other, pushing things to and fro. In order to follow that internal compass we call our passion, or our dreams, or our conscience, or whatever else that spark which gives us joy and brings meaning to our lives might be called, we must sometimes work against those forces. Sometimes that means doing your strongest breast-stroke just to keep from being swept off-course until the currents start flowing your way again. This is, I think, where creative living enters in.

Creative living is a response to the hardships which threaten our passions. It is a way of keeping that spark alive, of feeding it until it grows into a wildfire. It is the reason Storme is living with another family. It is the reason I am freelancing as a programmer instead of taking a steady job.

But what am I passionate about? Well, that’s a very good question. Give me some time and one day I might be able to give you an answer. I have some ideas, but it’s in the living of life that all becomes clear. I won’t worry too much about it for now; I’ll just “let [my] emotions be fuel to [my] flame” and head in whatever direction the fire points.

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Kimya In Portland

In Photos,Slice of Life,Video on January 17, 2011 by ryepdx Tagged: , ,

There is probably just one person alive today who can turn me into a giant, raving fanboy.

I went to see Kimya Dawson with my bandmate last Saturday. She was playing at Backspace, the same place she played last time she was in town. It was, as always, an incredibly inspiring experience. At the risk of reverting to my primitive fanboy persona, I must say that she’s the only artist alive today whose music expresses almost perfectly the way I feel about things these days. Unfortunately, the song of hers which resonates most with me and which I’ve now heard just twice has not yet wound its way in its entirety onto the Internet. A small clip of it can be found here, though.

She touches briefly on the same themes found in that song in another song called Enema, which has still yet to make it onto a CD. I imagine it’ll be on her next album which I hear will be called “Thunder Thighs.” The lyrics in question:

Was it an Olympian hippie or a New York City hipster?
What’s the difference? ‘Cause we all try hard to make this world better.
If it’s thrift or if it’s vintage, it is still your grandpa’s sweater.
Either way, three cheers for you, ’cause it’s better to reuse
Than to support the corporations buying crap they mass-produce.
You think, you think, you think
You think I’m preaching to the choir
But I am not, I’m not,
I’m singing with the choir.
We are all birds, birds of a different feather;
We each sing the way we sing and we are all in this together.

We arrived at Backspace at 7pm, the time displayed on the website. Unfortunately it turned out the website was wrong: the show started at 6:30pm. And Kimya was opening.

So, after standing in line for ten minutes with the rest of the misinformed, we finally got in. The first song she played after our arrival happened to be her first public attempt at a rap song. It was good, honestly, and it expressed a lot of the “live-and-let-live” philosophy that I touched on earlier. This song also will reportedly be on her new CD.

Afterward, Defiance Ohio played. They were good, though I likely feel this way because of their violinist. I’m a sucker for a bands with violinists. My bandmate thought they sounded like Flogging Molly; I thought they sounded like the Dropkick Murphys without the bagpipes. I got a headache from headbanging.

While headbanging, I happened to see Kimya pass by. I’m pretty sure I made the scariest face a celebrity could ever hope to see: my eyes went huge, my jaw dropped, a huge, goofy grin spread over my face, and I did this palms-up, arms-open greeting I often do which is sometimes mistaken for an invitation to an embrace. She begged off, saying she was looking for someone, and I, somewhat embarrassed at my behavior, nodded as if I knew how it was and let her be.

Finally, when the crowds began to die down, I saw my chance. There was a window of time when nobody was at Kimya’s table. I’m not sure all of what happened or what I said, but I’m somewhat aware of saying something like “I love you” and “can I get a picture?” I’m pretty sure it was only one of many such awkward moments in the poor girl’s life. She obliged and gave her best for the camera. I spent a good half hour after that in a sort of euphoric, fanboy stupor.

On the way home, we danced the night away.

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Back in Newberg

In Slice of Life,Travel on January 10, 2011 by ryepdx

This weekend was crazy. It was the weekend all my undergraduate friends were supposed to go back to school. I was looking forward to this somewhat, as I wanted to have an excuse to go back into hermit mode and bang out that freelance job. (Yes, the same freelance job I mentioned in the last few posts. I really, really underbid on that one.)

Well, they all went back except one. I’ll call him Mike, to keep his identity safe. Mike happens to be my best friend. Unfortunately it also seems he’s struggling with depression right now. This was news to me. I had no idea until I called him up to hang out with him on the last day he was going to be in town.

That was a somewhat surreal conversation.

I had band practice yesterday. I was late again, which pissed my bandmate off pretty badly. Not really the best follow-up to our last meeting, in which we aired grievances and made up in classic sitcom fashion.

On top of that, my girlfriend has been unemployed for a long time. I, of course, feel the need to fix this problem for her, but that’s far easier said than done. Then there’s the freelance job, which is hanging over my head like an ACME anvil, and the other freelance jobs, and the eternal question: “what the hell am I doing with my life?”

I started wondering if it might’ve been better to just sell my soul, so to speak.

Of course, these are all first-world problems, which makes me somewhat self-conscious.

Perspective, right? But if you want to get right down to it, whether or not I’m starving and naked in Africa is hardly the measure I want to use to measure my success. Yes, I am glad to be in the first world, and yes there are worse things going on, but life starts to get awfully dull for us first-worlders without our little first-world problems. This blog would be quite empty without those first-world problems. Most blogs would be quite empty without those first-world problems.

So regardless of the kids in Africa, I was stressed out.

I went to coffee in Newberg with a friend from college. It was weird being back in my alma mater’s hometown, even though I’d been there just the week before. Mentally I had already checked out, said goodbye. I didn’t expect to be back in the coffee houses there again for a long time.

Newberg has a high concentration of coffee houses around the edge of the college campus. Only counting the places where a person can come in and sit for a while, there are four. Add in the stalls and the number doubles. But there’s only one combination coffee shop and used bookstore serving Stumptown coffee.

We met at Chapters.

There’s something about being in the town where I did so much growing up and learning that really helps the stress fall away. It’s like being there puts me back in that optimistic, excited mindset I cultivated during my college years. Being back felt like putting on a comfortable, well-worn coat, formed to your own particular shape through years of use.

It’s thoughts like that which make me feel a bit more like a hobbit than anything else.

So we talked. Well, I talked for the most part, it felt like. Stress does that to me. She was good-natured and let me go on about how I felt like I needed to solve everyone’s problems, then told me the obvious thing I needed to hear:

“You need to prioritize. Take care of your own problems first.”

Well yes. Of course. How silly of me.

After that I went wandering around campus a bit.

For all the griping I do with students and former students about the university’s various idiosyncrasies, there really was something good there. It was a time before the wisdom of the present, before the future got written and called the past. It was a place of bright-eyed idealism and Quakerly concern about the world. It was also a crucible for my ideas and my dreams, a place where I was melted and formed and re-formed.

Was it unique? Sure, but everything is unique when rightly seen. Was it for everyone? Hell no, not by a long shot. But it is my alma mater, and I find it comforting.

I left Newberg and got ready to face the week.

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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!