Sound Mobility

I don’t write about podcasting on this blog much anymore, but since it *IS* a creative endeavor, it felt appropriate to do so in this case.

Since I’ll basically be a couch-surfing vagrant for about eight weeks between finishing work in Madison and moving to Saint Paul, I’m glad that I have my “mobile podcasting” equipment, ready to set up anywhere that I can find electricity and an Internet connection.  There is still quite a bit of stuff that I need for any given show, though, so I also needed a good way to carry it around.

Some time late last year, I got an old briefcase from my brother-in-law.  It’s a fairly standard-sized briefcase, faux leather on the outside, combo locks, and a few folio pockets on the inside.  My test run of using the briefcase came a few weeks ago, when I wrapped up my equipment in old t-shirts and found out that it would indeed all fit in the case.  The move prompted me to finally complete the idea I had when I first acquired said case…

Without even measuring the case to be sure of what would fit, I bought 2 sets of Pelican  Pick n’ Pluck foam for a 1200 case.  Since I was buying the foam for a briefcase, I figured I wouldn’t find an exact fit, anyway.  I went with something that I *knew* was smaller, and hoped to make it work.  The other options that I found online were unbelievably expensive.

Working with this perforated foam lining was pretty easy.  The two “main” compartments fit pretty nicely inside my case, with a little room to spare in the back.  That worked out perfectly, with my “fragile” components going into those main areas, and cables/power packs tucked in the back.  Take a look at the pictures — I thought the whole deal turned out pretty well.

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All set for ‘casting on the road this summer!

Back on the Move

Photo by: Christopher KoppesCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

So, I’m moving out of another apartment at the end of this month.  This will be my 15th move1 since the spring of 1999.  I’ve written from time-to-time about how good I’ve gotten at it.

I definitely haven’t aspired to this transience, but that’s just the way things have gone.  Even though I’m just getting started with packing, I’m confident that I’ll be able to get things boxed up and ready without a lot of teeth-gnashing.  I’ve got a whole weekend without any other obligations coming up, and a fine storage facility to start stashing my stuff.

It never hurts to get rid of some things when you move, though.  I eliminated a mess of books the last time (predominantly from grabbing public domain digital versions instead), and I might cut out some more on this go-’round.  At various times since I moved into my current place, I also thinned out my wardrobe, sold or stored more DVDs, and dumped some bulky electronics.  I could see CDs going into semi-permanent storage this time, and ditto for all these old toys that are rapidly losing their sentimental value.

Some of those who know me will try to point out that I still have lots of stuff, and don’t want to part with a good portion of it.  My attachment to those sorts of possessions, though, have more to do with lifestyle and income than sentiment, though.  Of course I don’t want to lose or get rid of my computer(s), TV, cameras, and other favorite gadgets; they are how I make myself seen on the Internet, stay in touch with people I know, and enjoy my hobbies.  Any of them could replaced, if they had to be, some at substantial cost.  I have, in recent moves, made a habit of cutting loose from things that might be considered highly sentimental.

There are times that I wonder, then, if making snap decisions about my sentimental attachment to “things” has dulled my overall capacity for sentiment.  “Stuff” that I own doesn’t really affect me that way very often anymore.  My desire to reflect on the past and dwell in warm memories seems to be reduced.  Is this change attributable to my detachment from certain possessions, a by-product of my brainaltering pills, or a simple matter of getting older?

In a way, the technological times that we live in have made preserving memory so much easier.  What are my most valued possessions?  The photos that remind me of the people, things, and places that I’ve experienced hold that distinction.  I’ve got 90-ish percent of those tucked away on a hard drive the size of a deck of cards.  I just need to keep good backups.

  1. 456-A High Ave, 456 High Ave, 6140 S 18th St, 3520 Shangri-la Rd, 4415 Johnstone, 606 Nelson Story, 2716 Woodridge Ln, 2080 Dickinson Ave, 470 N Main St, 661 Division St, 6524 W Wright St, 4121 N Ardmore Ave, 2131 Effingham Way, 5327 Westport Rd []

I Guess HDR Sort of Works

I don’t usually do a ton of photography with my phone, for obvious reasons.  Every now and then, though, you come up with some shots that look nice.

I recently set the camera on my Moto X to take HDR images by default.  I hadn’t really noticed much in the “enhancement” area up until yesterday, when Kim and I took a walk through the Pheasant Branch Conservancy around dusk.  It must have just been the right time and place for making the most of that feature…

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A Dreary Hamline Day In Photos

Last Tuesday, the 29th of April, I spent the day visiting the campus at Hamline University in St. Paul, and the surrounding neighborhood.  I think I got a decent feel for the area, as I drove several dozen laps around the streets, and poked my head into some of the buildings on campus.  On Wednesday, I had a chance to stop by the Creative Writing Program house, and met with my advisor there.  Take a look…

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Initial Impressions

IMG_20140429_092342773_1I’m in the greater Twin Cities area this for a few days this week to check out my new campus and try to find a place to live come fall.  The weather up here (and across the Dakotas, MN, and WI, really) is awful this week, but I brought a rain coat and waterproof shoes.

Tomorrow morning, I have a meeting set up with my faculty advisor at Hamline.  It will be nice to meet some people who I’ll be working with and take in the campus before fall.

I think this whole business of moving and starting this new program is going to work out.  I haven’t had occasion to write about every single minor epiphany that’s hit me in the last few weeks, but I have a strong feeling that I’ll enjoy living here well enough, and that I’m going to be successful in school.  It feels like the right time to be here, and I feel like I’m in the right state of mind for it as well.

Hope to have some other thoughts/commentary later in the week.  You can also keep an eye on my mobile musings via my about.me page if you need up-to-the-minute updates.

Quick Milwaukee Springtime Shoot

I pulled the shots off my camera from a little walk around the east side of Milwaukee that I took a couple Saturdays ago.  The sun was bright and began setting while I was outside the Art Museum.  Some of these turned out pretty well…

I parked near Wells & Milwaukee, then walked toward the lake, with stops in Cathedral Square and at the War Memorial.  Here in the upper Midwest, I feel like spring can be a funny time to shoot photos outdoors — the trees are still bare, the streets can be wet, sloppy, and/or still peppered with snowbanks… it’s just not very pretty.  A beautiful sun-soaked day makes quite a difference.

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Well, Shoot.

Since I primarily use a Linux operating system on my computer(s), finding alternatives to popular Windows or Mac software can occasionally be difficult.  For cataloging, organizing, and editing photos, the common Windows players are Adobe products — Lightroom and Photoshop.  In Ubuntu, I used Shotwell for a quite a while, then about 2+ years ago, switched over to DigiKam.

When I recently built a new desktop machine and started running Fedora as my OS, the version of DigiKam in the repos was 3.5 (I had been running version 4).  The switch prompted me to look at Shotwell (the default photo manager for Gnome 3) again.  Like I said, it’s been a couple years, so even though the Fedora 20 repos aren’t up to the latest version of Shotwell, version 0.15.1 constitutes an upgrade from what I was last using.

I started with a (mostly) clean /home directory when I installed Fedora, so I needed to rebuild my Shotwell database completely. I was impressed that this version correctly pulled in all the meta tags and organized my photos into “Events” by date, making them a bit easier to sift through and work with. In the past, the software had trouble with certain cameras or images (particularly those that I had scanned). I haven’t looked through all 23 thousand pictures, but a glance through the last couple years appears to have sorted everything correctly. I also don’t have a folder labeled “Dec 31 1970,” which appeared to the be default applied to those images that made Shotwell throw its hands up in the past.

I haven’t tested all the plugins for web services yet, but it at least offers options for all the popular ones. I want to test out the Flickr plugin for sure, since all accounts come with a terabyte of storage — that means Flickr could be my web-based backup for all my pictures…

It’s probably at least partially a byproduct of the hardware upgrades that I’ve done with this machine (16 gigs of RAM, all SATA-3 SSD drives), but I found that the “helper” apps for editing images loaded up much more quickly than I remember. That gives Shotwell the benefit of being the place you “live” with your photos, while the other programs (like GIMP, RawTherapee, DarkTable) almost function as extensions.

Looks like I’m sold on Shotwell again for the time being.

Reboot

By: Brian HoffmanCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

So, this is good news.

A couple months back I was talking about getting the first of a trio of grad school apps out, and in the intervening weeks, I’ve gotten rejected by one, accepted by another, and I’m still waiting on the last one.1

When I got the message from Hamline that I’d been accepted it was a surreal experience.  It’s been a long time since really fantastically awesome stuff happened to me, so I usually approach anything with low expectations.  I didn’t jump up and down, but I did start shaking nervously, got a little light-headed, and had to go talk a walk.  It was a good feeling.

More than anything, it gave me back the feeling that all the work I had done in previous programs was worth something — that someone other than me and the people closest to me felt like it mattered.  One of the toughest things about the almost-nine-year career that I’ve had in financial aid administration has to do with identity — I always pushed back against the reality that I was an administrator, a bureaucrat; someone who processed data for a living.  I’ve always wanted to give myself a creative title and label, but while I’ve been working here in fin aid, it seemed silly and even presumptuous to do so.  That always made me feel guilty on one hand (for not pursuing what I really wanted with more fervor), and inferior to my peers on the other (because by rejecting the labels associated with my actual career, and not having license to take the label that I wanted, I felt like I was just treading water and skimming by while others made progress and did things).

That stuff is behind me now.  I can begin to plan and look forward to a future that I truly want.  I’ve been happier in the last few weeks than I’ve been since I finished my thesis.  I have a long list of things that I need to start taking care of now (resigning from my job, finding a new place to live, moving, figuring out finances, getting my mind reconditioned for an academic living), but these are all things that I’m excited to do.

Summer will fly by like summer always does, and for the first time in a decade, I can’t wait for the fall.

  1. Sorry that most everyone who would read this blog already knows all about this crap from Bookface.  It happens. []

Great Literature

I watched the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s much renowned novel The Road last weekend.  It was OK.  I admit that I have yet to read the book, which could possibly be a very different experience.

The film did a fine job of portraying a post-apocalyptic hellscape, and the characters, such as they are, were portrayed well by Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee.  I had problems with story itself.  First and foremost, in what was depicted as an utterly hopeless, slowly dying environment, what motivated the characters to do anything but die?  Viggo’s character, the father, also seemed to be all-too-aware of his ultimate fate, and by extension, that of his son.  It’s tough for me to buy into a narrative where the chief protagonists have absolutely no reason whatsoever for hope.  At the same time, this is a film with a 75% score on Rotten Tomatoes, from a book that easily makes the top five of any list compiled citing the best works of the 21st Century.

Sometimes I feel guilty for not enjoying “the classics.”  Sure, a background of study in English guarantees that I’ve studied some of the most “important” works in history, but where is the line between important and good?  These are two subjective assessments.  “Important” tends to follow behind “good” on a time line, but since they ARE subjective, couldn’t any work with ample scholarship behind it become important?
By: ChrisCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It must be true that exposure some Great Literature (i.e., “important” works) is needed in order to become a successful critical reader.  A person must be cognizant of the themes found in fiction, the character tropes, the places and settings where important stories happen, etc.  But on the other hand, doesn’t relatively “bad” fiction (or, what literature scholars might call “contemporary pop fiction”) have the same features as Great Literature?  Don’t we fashion stories across the board in roughly the same way?  Comparing the Modern Library 100 Best Novels lists as compiled by the board, versus the one voted on by readers does a fantastic job of exposing the line between important and good.

In the end, what’s the purpose of fiction?  To entertain the reader, or to be great?  Seems to me you can have wildly entertaining works of fiction that probably won’t be called “great,” and some of the most studied works in human history are not that fantastic, particularly to a contemporary audience.  Still, “greatness” often is defined by some combination of cultural penetration and time.  I don’t think anyone who read Nicholas Nickleby in 1838 would have immediately recognized it as Great Literature.  But on the other hand, it was wildly popular and well-received as a work of modern fiction.  I guess my bottom line is this: any work of fiction that you enjoy and wish to study is important enough to you.

Up and Over

By: College of William & MaryCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I overcame a big hurdle earlier this week when I finished up one of the three applications I’ll be sending out to grad schools for that MFA deal this month.  I had been beating myself up over it for about a month, for no good reason in particular, and as soon as I made a phone call to Rindo, I immediately felt a lot better.  I also had to put a lot of pressure on my friend and MA classmate from Oshkosh, Kevin, but hopefully he won’t hold that against me for too long.

Why do I put off doing things that are so easy, relatively speaking?  That’s one of the things I’ve always asked myself in this forum, as well on the couches of various mental health professionals over the years.  I still don’t have a good answer, but people are trying to help me with strategies for not hating myself as much for it.  Sometimes it works.  It’s consistently amazing to me that I keep sentencing myself to long stretches in that emotional purgatory when the relief I feel upon completing things is so immediate and satisfying.  It’s just as confusing (and light years more frustrating) to me, trust me.

I have to try to ride this wave of relief and positive emotion now, as best I can.  I’ve started working with some of my backpacking friends on plans for a 2014 trip, which is sure to involve higher elevations than last year.  With that in mind, I should get back to exercising with regularity.  I fell off the wagon last summer, and it’s been pretty poor going since then.  I made a bit of an effort in early fall–with Kevin’s help, actually–to start in on Insanity.  In my case, with the condition I was in, that’s exactly what it was.  I got about nine-and-a-half minutes into the first session, and felt like I was going to die.  It seriously took me another 35 minutes of laying down on the floor to catch my breath, lose the head rush, and regain the use of my legs.  That whole event has scared me away from intense physical activity ever since.

Finally, I spent about an hour today thinking about how none of the schools I’m applying to have guarantees of financial aid, which is something I’ve been saying I really need in order to go back again.  This is pretty typical behavior, too: getting wound up about things that aren’t even relevant, because I haven’t been accepted to any of them yet, anyway.  In relation to thinking about financial aid, I went through how I would pay for my car, my credit cards, an apartment, and health insurance.  It’s way too early to sweat any of that, but there it is.

firing from the hip since 2002