Category Archives: Uncategorized

Photos With a Pulse

8534577680_ff8d252d61_zAs part of my quest to challenge and enhance my skills with photography, I decided I would try to take some self-portraits while I was up north last weekend.  They turned out… OK.  At best.  I found that I was much better at taking them outside than I was indoors.  Maybe it was the limitations of the “studio” inside Mom and Dad’s house; I had trouble finding a decent backdrop to use, and I really was just lighting those shots by the seat of my pants.

I haven’t registered for that online photo class that I bought just yet, but I’m going to very soon.  I really want to improve in this aspect of photography.

3/7 Follow-up: here’s one of the aforementioned self-portraits.


Twenty-Two Is Not a Lot

I paid my monthly bill to Etsy this morning.  It’s never really that much, as I sometimes go weeks or months with nearly no activity at all in my shop.  If I want to increase traffic over there, I probably need to add a lot more listings.

We’re often our own worst critic.  That is painfully true for me in every creative endeavor that I’ve undertaken.  I first got the impetus to open an Etsy shop when a friend at work mentioned the one that her photography instructor had.  I took a look and said, “well, I have all kinds of pictures that look better than these…”  The thing is, with art, there is no accounting for taste.  I should strive not to take and then sell the pictures that *I* necessarily like best, but put forth my best effort to look at my photos objectively, make them look their best in post-processing, and then let others judge.

What have I got to lose?  Twenty cents a listing?  Hey, if I’ve got four dollars, I’m just going to throw it in the street anyway.

Out of Ammo

One of the things that has gotten me hung up from time to time as I casually look for work that I would find more fulfilling and interesting is the notion of the One Perfect Job.  I guess I figured I would just stumble into something at some point that had everything I was looking for, I would magically get hired, and suddenly I’d reach employment nirvana.

I no longer have the expectation that this will happen.  When you want to be a creator of things for a living, you have to realize that the world and everyone in it makes subjective assessments of your work (and everyone else’s).  Because of that, success is going to require hard work and perseverance for sure, but also a certain degree of good fortune and meeting the right people at the right time.  It might mean that you have to toil thanklessly on a series of small projects, or hold down a variety of part-time jobs, peddling your creative wares and diligently searching for the right opportunity.  You’re not going to get hit by a silver bullet that will suddenly make your professional life everything you dreamed; you’ll have to scrounge around the grass at the shooting range, picking up stray brass and reloading those shells yourself.

I have a couple gigs on the side that generate a very small amount of extra cash, but with a little more effort, maybe they could be more fruitful.  Add some writing (and possibly teaching) to that, and maybe I won’t end up with One Perfect Job, but just One Perfectly Satisfying Livelihood.

2013-14, Plan B.


  • Think about whether or not I can or should stay in the apartment where I currently live (certainly could, probably should).
  • Look for a different job in Madison.
  • Look for a different job in Milwaukee.
  • Commit some more time and effort to photography.
  • Finish some actual writing and self-publish it.
  • Get a job (or more than one) as an adjunct instructor somewhere in the area.
  • Choose some schools to apply to for 14-15 much earlier, get applications sent out early in the fall.
  • Plan summer vacations, since I won’t have to worry about relocating in July or August (probably).
  • Plan a spring writing vacation.

Weekend Synopsis

2013-02-16 17.36.23-1Not quite enough done over the weekend in terms of writing — managed to slog through and make notes on previously-written material, but didn’t get anything new down.  Also had a busy Friday night and Saturday-day, but it’s important not to make excuses.

On Sunday, I did accomplish some work on photos; downloading everything from the last few months, and picking out some possibilities to put up in my shop.  In similar fashion to the “get busy writing” project, I should probably set some simple, reasonable goals for taking pictures.  I did buy a Groupon recently for some online photo classes; figured it couldn’t hurt, and it was a low-cost proposition.

More words to come sooner than later…

Habit Forming

The biggest issue that you absolutely have to overcome if you actually want to be a writer is that you need to do it all the time.

Lots of people think they could write a book, and a lot of them are probably right, but a significantly smaller number are going to commit the time necessary to actually do it.

For me, it’s always been a question of allowing myself to write as little or as much as I like without feeling guilty about it.  I let myself get down, thinking that I don’t have “enough time,” or I didn’t “get anything done,” and the not-writing just perpetuates itself.  Frankly, it IS much easier to NOT write and feel bad about it than it is to actually write something.  So, I’ve historically followed that path of least resistance.

I’ve also noticed over time that each individual who wants to write is going to do it in his or her own way.  You can get all sorts of advice on how to write, or what it’s like to be a real writer, but there is no real prescription other than to DO IT.  The experience of writing my thesis taught me that I am at my best and most productive when I can sequester myself for a length of time, and completely wipe out distractions.  I am horrible at working in coffee shops, for example.  It’s risky for me to even be in the same room with a TV if I want to really make headway on a writing project.

Letting those issues completely paralyze me is a problem, though.  I might need a week’s vacation or some other sort of “writing retreat” to make significant progress in a hurry, but by not doing anything most days, all I’m ensuring is that absolutely no progress happens.  So, in the same spirit as picking up the blog again, I am going to set a very small and reachable goal for myself to get some writing done on a daily basis.  Thirty minutes.  I am going to commit to spending just half an hour per day working on a piece of writing.  By the end of the first week, I will have written for three-and-a-half more hours than I did last week.  It’s time to develop some beneficial habits.



Got back to podcasting with Bryan yesterday after taking a couple weeks off while he’s been in play rehearsals, and other stuff conspired against our regular schedule.

I thought it was a pretty good show; we mostly went over the Oscar ballot and chatted about the movies that we’d seen.

One of the tough things about podcasting for me is sort of similar to the issue that I think I’ve had with the blog in the past: how do you come up with enough material to talk about without being all over the board?  There are times that I feel like the BryGuy show is a bit scattered, but that’s been the nature of program we wanted to do.  I think we’re at our best when we sort of branch off-topic and have some good jokes to tell.

Podcasting is a fun hobby for me, because I always enjoyed working at the radio station in college, and it lets me continue to scratch that itch without having to be too responsible for anything.  The editor/producer in me always wants to critique our work and improve the product, but how much time would I need to do that?  How much better could the show(s) get?  Why should I stress myself out about an activity that’s just supposed to be fun?

It sort of makes me wonder about other people’s hobbies.  Obviously, with every activity a person does, you can either be good, bad, or so-so at it.  I think we’re generally so-so podcasters.  But maybe that’s OK. Who’s judging?

Saddles, and How to Use Them

I wrote exactly one goddamned blog post during the entire year of 2012.  I decided that I should change that.

So here I am, but with a new purpose.  What I’m going to do here for the foreseeable future is talk as often as I care to about the processes and struggles that I’m going through to create things that I like to create — that might be writing, or pictures, or podcasts, or some other project that requires me to invent something in my brain and expose it to the world.  I thought some focus might help me to saddle up here again.  Also, I’m clearly not getting enough mileage out of those 140-character quips.

I talked to the K-Bear last week, and we thought that we could both use a little writing review/motivation, so I’m going to grab the bull (I am really loving these ranching metaphors) and be the first to toss something out there.  I have a long-standing project that I probably just haven’t had the courage to complete.  I want to write a fictionalized account of my misadventures with my best friends from middle school, and the days we spent biking across snowmobile trails, reading comic books, playing arcade and/or Super Nintendo games, throwing knives at trees, stealing Playboys, and other dumb stuff that 13 or 14 year-old boys do in the Northwoods.

It’s been tough for me to build up some momentum on this project because while the memories are very important to me, it’s hard to see a compelling narrative emerging from the stories.  My best friend, Ben, passed away in 2005, and it seems obvious that that event will come up in this story.  But how do you transition from the simple joys of youth to the heavy reality of adulthood?  Up to this point, I’ve taken time to write down things I remember, I interviewed Clint to get some of his thoughts, and not much else.  This is a project that I absolutely want to finish (at least the first complete draft) in 2013.

So, I’ll send Joe and Wordy a couple thousand words, and next week I’ll try to send them a couple thousand more.  Gotta start somewhere.

Martian Dreaming

Had a really odd dream last night.

An old friend and I were the first humans to go to Mars, although the mission wasn’t initially planned that way.  The deal was, we’d stay in the lander, and deploy a number of robotic probes from our craft.

Once we got there, it became pretty clear that I hadn’t trained for the mission at all, asking my buddy what I should be doing, where my spacesuit was, and generally just watching him take care of a lot of the heavy mission-critical lifting.  At one point on that first day, a few of those probes malfunctioned; their wheels didn’t deploy, and we couldn’t move them around.  Even though it was night, and I’d have trouble locating the probes, I went outside, found them, and manually popped the wheels down.  Problem hopefully solved.

On our second day at the Red Planet, we realized it was awfully strange that I hadn’t needed my helmet to go out the day before; clearly, there was a lot more oxygen in the Martian atmosphere than was initially reported.  I had even gone out in bare feet, for chrissakes.  I decided I would wear shoes on day two, because you sure don’t want to cut your foot on a Martian rock, and get infected with some alien bacteria you’ve never encountered before, right?

So both of us head out in the morning on Sol 2, now with the bright light of day making the surrounding terrain easy to see.  In the distance, there was a strip mall and a Target store.  That seemed weird for Mars, too.  Looking up in the sky, we saw the Moon, and thought that perhaps we weren’t on Mars after all.  Turns out my friend Ben wasn’t very good at steering our rocket.  Despite his best efforts, we hadn’t even escaped Earth’s atmosphere, and after taking off from Cape Canaveral, we landed our ship in western Wyoming, thinking we’d reached Mars.

It sure was a fast trip.


Had a nice visit yesterday after work with an old buddy from E.R. who I haven’t really been in touch with since we graduated from high school.  Both our lives afterwards went on different trajectories, and it just so happens that we have landed, at present, living just a few miles apart again, and more importantly — we landed in very nearby seats at a recent Brewers game.

Chatting with Clint for a couple hours over beers was a good thing.  It sort of made me realize how much we’ve changed (and probably, everyone from those days has changed) since then, going through unique paths of experience, and forming new world views around them as adults.  But, at the end of the day, there are things about us personally that made us friends before, and they still remain.  32-yr-old me is drastically different from 14-yr-old me, but there must be something essential that stays the same in certain ways.  Ditto for my friend.  Looking forward to rekindling an old relationship whose history is strong and important to me.