April 30, 2012

Acceptance != Resignation

Denial: Raging against what is. 
Resignation: Giving up hope.
Acceptance: Acknowledging the situation, but not giving in to it. That gorilla knows that he's stuck in the cage for now, but he's still thinking of a way to get out. Open the door, and he'll be gone in a flash. Denial gorilla might not even notice the door is open, he's so busy pulling on the bars. Resignation gorilla doesn't think he can do better; open the door, and he'll stay put.

April 27, 2012

Margin Doodles No. 10

I've been the webmaster for the Gem Lakes Recreation Association for a few years now. I was recently railroaded voted secretary, so now I take real notes at the board meetings. But before that, I often doodled on my copy of the agenda.

Since the Recreation Association deals with managing the neighborhood recreation area and planning a few outdoor events throughout the year, most of the doodles tend to center around these themes.

Here are a few from 2010.

A lot of people walk their dogs at the rec area. 
All the lakes are stocked with fish. Someone recently claims to have caught a 15 lb. bass.

April 25, 2012

What Is Creativity For?

For the past week, I've been thinking a lot about the purpose of creativity. Everyone seems to want it, but what do you do with it once you have it? Like the proverbial dog chasing the car, if someone suddenly waved a magic wand and made you more creative, would you just stand there, stupefied, and wonder, now what?

I've been struggling with this because I feel like I have plenty of creativity but not enough of the things I really need: focus, drive, organization. Without those other things, what use is creativity? And if I had those things, would I even need creativity? With focus, drive, and organization, I could accomplish a lot of things. I could get the house clean, our finances in order, our family schedule organized, fill out my timesheet accurately and in a timely manner. None of that requires creativity. In fact, creative impulses distract me from doing the things necessary to live a proper life.

But I have the creativity anyway. It's not going away, so I might as well make the best of it. What useful things can I do with it?

And then the other morning, just as I woke up, it hit me.

Creating things that didn't exist before, that wouldn't be there if I didn't make them. That's useful. Whether it's a song, or a picture, or a story, or an idea; whether it's a new recipe or an interesting way to display photographs or an elegant javascript function, these are all created things that owe their existence to a creative impulse.

God is called the Creator, and humans are supposed to be small, imperfect images of God. We, too, are creators. It would be a shame to ignore that heritage.

April 23, 2012

Notes on Worship Music

While cleaning out the living room, I found an old notepad. It looks like I used the top page to take notes, probably at a seminar on using contemporary music in traditional liturgical churches that I went to about a decade or so ago. That was back when I lived in Columbia and we were first setting up a contemporary music group at St. John's.

The notes are sparse, but they contain some good information. I'm transcribing them here so that their ephemeral wisdom will live on.

Kierkegaard: in worship, God is the audience

liturgy = work of the people

Lewis Lyle: "A Theology of Music"  (rec'd book)

Aim for music that's God-centered, not self-centered

Leading worship, not giving a performance

April 21, 2012

Sailormoon on the Mandolin

Image from Anime News Network
George gave me a Jam iPad instrument interface for Christmas. I recently tried it out using Garage Band for the iPad. It works pretty well, and playing around with the different amps and effects is fun.

Here's a straight-up recording of me playing the closing credits from Sailormoon R:
Otome No Policy on the mandolin (mp3)

April 20, 2012

Chicken Doodles

In the back of my old Pre-Calculus notebook, I found the mother lode. Here is an entire page of chicken doodles I drew for my little brother. Some of these made me, him, and our sister laugh until we couldn't breathe. Good times. (Click on the image to see it full size.)

And here's a bonus surfer chicken. The speech bubble coming out of his mouth isn't my handwriting; it seems one of my friends thought he looked more duck-like. And, really, it does make more sense for a duck to be surfing than a chicken, doesn't it?

April 18, 2012

How to Be Less Creative

Creativity is mostly useless. Here is a short list of the times in a typical day when creativity is helpful:
  • Keeping from being bored while doing chores
  • Making up stories to tell my boys
  • Blogging
  • Solving a particularly difficult problem at work
Altogether, that accounts for about 3 hours out of each day. Subtracting the time spent sleeping, that leaves 15 hours per day when I do not need to be creative.

During those hours, creativity is an impediment to the things I need to get done. I need my thinking to be logical and organized. I do not need to be distracted by ideas.

Steps for Becoming Less Creative

There are thousands of books and articles about how to be creative. But how do I switch it off? What if I really just need to be less creative? 

The May Real Simple has an article titled "Can You Get More Creative?" It includes a list, "7 Habits of Highly Creative People." I'm going to turn the list around backwards and see if it contains any useful advice for blunting the creative impulse.

  1. Play. Work.
  2. Borrow ideas. Dismiss any ideas that aren't your own.
  3. Sleep on it. Complete all work by the end of each day.
  4. Collect every seed of an idea. Don't study, observe, or learn.
  5. Embrace constraints. Rail against constraints.
  6. Commune with nature. Avoid nature.
  7. Compete. Avoid competition.
Number 4 is the tough one: that's what I mean by needing to turn off my brain. How can I not remember things I see and read? How can I stop putting together all the puzzle pieces rattling around in my head? It happens automatically, it may just be how the human brain is wired.

Perhaps being less creative just takes practice.

April 17, 2012

Society, Community, and Civilization

Which word works best to complete this sentence? "I am pro-..."

If I'm pro-society, does that make me a socialist?

If I'm pro-community, does that make me a communist?

Saying "I'm pro-civilization" makes me sound as if I either want to cover the earth with factories and parking lots, or else hate spending time out in nature away from flush toilets and coffee makers. Neither of these is true.

Lately I've heard a lot of politicians and pundits question the need for any of these three. That's why I want to state for the record that 
  • I am glad to be part of a community, a group of people living together and supporting each other. 
  • I am also glad to be part of society, an organized structure of communities that has laws and solutions for dealing with big problems. 
  • I am glad to be part of civilization, to have access to the scientific and cultural advances of the last few millennia. 
The motto of my alma mater, the University of the South, is "Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum," or "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity." (Taken from Psalm 133) Perhaps that says it best.

Ecce Quam Bonum

April 11, 2012

My Presentation for Aiken El's Career Week

This week is Career Week at Aiken Elementary. I volunteered to talk about my job, so this morning I went and told two fifth grade classes all about being a web designer.

Here's my presentation in PDF format. If I had it to do over, I would definitely have spent more time on the graphics and I also would have included testing the web site as the final step in building it.

It was also picture day, so one class was late showing up. I killed time by asking the other class what their favorite web sites were. The sites they mentioned were Facebook, some retail sites, and some gaming sites. I was struck by how quiet most of the kids were when asking their questions (either that, or my hearing is going).

After my presentation, I gave the kids a chance to ask questions. Here are some of the questions they asked me:

  • "What was the first web site you built?"
  • "Do you have to have good grades to be a web designer?"
  • "What was the hardest site to build?"
  • "What's your favorite site you made?"
  • "If you're a freelance designer, how do you get people to give you work?" (I expect this perceptive boy has a bright future.)

April 2, 2012

Sheepish Serendipity

I just had to take a screenshot of the following coincidence of items that appeared on my Pinterest homepage today:

Happy Easter, y'all.