Friday, October 31, 2008

Update: Woggy #7

(Oh the progress! I'm already on my second update!!)

So, hip hip hooray! I've made all my decisions for Election Day, and none of them are even "abstain" (well, except for all the uncontested seats, but that's an intentional political act, so lets save that soapbox moment for another day...)

I can now check some items off my Woggy To-do list:

X set aside an evening or afternoon to review the voter's pamphlet
X mark down all of my preferred choices
X do any needed research and make final decisions on any undecided-on votes

Things Left To Complete This Woggy Project:
  • get dressed November 4th morning in my voting socks
  • go to my polling center down the block and vote!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Woggy Project #10: Understanding Comics

Like many people of my gender, I did not grow up reading comic books. This is not to say I was entirely unfamiliar with the medium, of course. I read the newspaper comics every day, and if I do remember correctly, much of every rainy-day fun book I ever remember reading/ activity-izing contained alot of what would probably be considered graphic storytelling. The memories are vague, to be sure, but I definitely remember a comic-drawn George Washington telling me all about the Minutemen.

As an adult, I have read and collected a small collection of books that I now realize are basically of this genre, even though their location in the bookstore made me unaware of this fact. Wanting to understand various facts about Relativity, Physics, and other topics, I gravitated towards the books which told these facts using pictures rather than plain words. They have names like Relativity Visualized and Introducing the Universe.

Also as an adult, continuing my enjoyment of newspaper comics, I did find a few which when put into book collections do actually find themselves shelved with the graphic novels rather than humor. And, as a fan of animated films whose primary feature is not their accessibility to the grade-school demographic, I have found myself really liking a whole host of films which, I am told, have graphic novel counterparts I should probably try reading one of these days.

So for a fairly long time I have had the general impression that comics might be something I'd like to try. However, while I can't deny the evidence that I should be interested in them, there has been a mighty obstacle standing in my way, and that is the culture of comic books and comic book stores. Having attended a college that was not only filled with geeks but specifically filled with male geeks at a ratio of 3:1 female geeks, it was of course completely impossible for the institution of the comic book store to have escaped my notice. I had, in the course of palling around with friends inadvertently found myself inside of these mysterious buildings on more than one occasion, and in an attempt to be one of the guys tried in vain to make sense of the culture, or at least to blend in. Suffice it to say that while I occasionally managed to find something that I could actually stand in front of for more than a few minutes without giggling, rolling my eyes, being horrified, or needing to suppress a strongly impending feminist tirade, those moments were very few, very far between, and never long enough to get me past the sea of content that was clearly not for me and all the way up to the register with my wallet.

Any female who is reading this and is still somehow unaware of what I'm talking about, let's just suffice it to say that it's a bit of a boy's club. And a strange one at that, stuck somewhere in adolescence where there is plenty of discussion of girls, unless one actually shows up, in which case she better get out of here because who wants a stupid girl around here? For additional assistance and reasons, you may want to more closely observe Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.

So anyway, this takes me to today's subject (yes, finally, I know...) which is the book Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. Having occasionally voiced my dilemma over comic books, I had found this book recommended by several male (and comic-book-reading) friends as not only a book I might actually like to read, but also one that might demystify some of the mystifications I was experiencing.

Very happily, buying this book did not require me actually having to visit a comic book store. My favorite bookstore actually has a very civilized looking "Graphic Novel" section, where I can stand and look over the shelves and still feel like a grown up lady in a bookstore reviewing my sophisticated literature choices. I still feared that some "Comic Book Guy" might be lying in ambush to ask me "Excuse me lady, and I dooo use that term loosely, but the romance section is that way," or worse, that he might just rip the book out of my hand and give me a disdainful sound with a curt "I don't think so; " but it seems my fears may have been a bit exaggerated.

So, I got the book home and began reading it along with the remaining pile of books I brought from the store. And I did really like it. Very interesting and thoughtful and educational, even. But like many other books, it somehow ended up set aside one evening not to be picked up again, and eventually made it back onto the graphic and art book shelf, and I haven't gone back to it since. I'm looking forward to it, though!

Things to Complete This Woggy Project:
  • Set aside an evening or afternoon
  • Take book off shelf and begin reading again
  • Repeat until book has been finished
  • Consider buying another book from the graphic novel section!

Update: Woggy #7

(My very first Woggy update!!)

Concerning my efforts to complete the task of voting in the November 4 election, I did successfully set aside an afternoon hour yesterday to review the voter's pamphlet, and am happy to report that I now have decided my votes on all but two of the many city, county, transit, and state initiatives and charter amendments! Hooray! I also began reviewing and making my candidate choices, and have set aside an hour tomorrow afternoon to review all of the remaining candidates. This means I have half-completed each of the first two items on my Woggy to-do list.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Woggy Project #9: Mini Walden

Any of you who might have happened to view my profile are probably aware that a book I consider to have been among the most influential in my life is Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I first read it as required reading in eleventh grade, and the impact of its words were so profound on my life that I continued to remember many passages quite clearly into my adulthood, even though I did not actually sit down to read it again until a year or two ago.

"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation."

That passage in particular, along with the similarly-minded philosophy of the entire book, had an immense impact on my teenage self. It was as if all at once I finally had discovered in those words the exact pinpointing of that amorphous feeling I had been acutely aware of throughout much of my life up until then. It spoke directly and succinctly to what was actually wrong with the philosophies I had been raised to lead my life by and explained in just a few small words the knowledge I had always carried somehow in me that I would never be able to live that kind of life. Rather miraculously to me at the time, Thoreau seemed to offer up with his words a mature, thoughtful, specific, and directed version of the very undirected and nascent hope and rage I carried around with me every day, and which up until that point in my life I really had little idea of what I was supposed to do with.

I realized suddenly that the "problem" with me, with my understanding of things, of my difficulties with many people, was not me at all, really. It was a difference of philosophy. "Most" lived in "quiet desperation"; they chose to live that way, sleeping, not paying attention. People like me, though, people like this mysterious guy writing this book, we were aware of this fact, knew such a life was wrong for us, and therefore had a very specific choice, and that was to instead live our lives "deliberately". This realization was for me, quite akin to a spiritual revelation. Looking back on it now as an adult, I now know that's because that's exactly what it was.

I decided quite deliberately the day I first read those words, and have continued to hold that belief ever since, that I would never, no matter what I ended up doing in life, live a life of "quiet desperation."
"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."

But now I'm sure you're wondering, what does this have to do with a woggy project? A year or two ago, realizing how odd it was that I did not actually own a copy of the most important book I had ever read, I finally bought a nice copy and reread it cover to cover. Doing so was a very healing balm for a me that by that point in my life had become quite scattered. This was of course one of a vast series of things in my life setting me back aright, but nonetheless it was still a significant reread for me.

Around the same time I had already begun becoming interested in doing various miniature gardening projects. While I had always placed alot of small vignettes around my garden, it was seeing some really amazing miniature gardens at the local garden show that really piqued my interest in creating some specific mini garden projects around my patio garden. I live on the courtyard level of my building, with what I feel is a pretty nice-sized patio, but it is certainly no grand estate for planning major formal garden plans. Creating miniature gardens not only gave many interesting nooks and crannies to my garden, but also in a way has made the space seem larger, since these mini-gardens around the regular garden create an interesting sense of scale, making all of the larger things seem so much larger, and making every small space seem like a possible vast micro-sized world ready to explore.

Since I had reread Walden right around the same time I had started really getting into my mini-garden creations, it occured to me one day that one miniature project I might be able to undertake would be to build my own small home, a la Walden in miniature as both a fun garden project and a means of seeing through, to the best of my abilities, the lessons of building my own to-scale house, which while small could surely be built using all the same principles of building presented in the book. Besides a nice concrete spiritual exercise, I thought I might actually pick up some actual fundamental life skills in rudimentary building construction. While much of Walden is a philosophical treatise, it is also a quite explicit blueprint on how to build your own "house in the woods", at minimal costs with all the necessary comforts one needs to exist. From the number of boards used, to the manner hewn from trees, to the method for insulating for winter, Thoreau really left nothing to the imagination. He even fully documented his accounting, to show others how they might make an attempt to live as he did that year. It seemed with adjustments for scale and modern inflation, I should be able to create a miniature home by simply working through the book's more specific pages step by step.

I am not the first person to think of a mini-Walden. I found my best help in figuring out how to scale down the very explicit descriptions Thoreau offers in his book on the building he built himself with some folks who "built" their own mini-Walden via cardboard modeling.

So, I began collecting materials. I began my research. I started doing scale-model size calculations. I purchased a few small trees (the sort often used for bonsai gardens), and planned my plot. The plot it turned out, was a bit of an issue for me. Figuring exactly what sort of scale I would be building the mini-home to, what sort of trees would look scale to that, and what sort of pot I could put that in was a difficult bunch of calculations. I finished doing one set of calculations, only to realize at one point that since I would need to be purchasing premade windows (Thoreau did as well, buy completely framed used windows from a neighbor), and these only come in several specific sizes, I was going to have to build my home around the scale of whichever I purchased. And by the time I got done with all of that figuring, I found that the trees and the pot I had found were all way too small.

Also by then, the season had gotten late. Since I had figured on actually building my home directly on my dirt plot outdoors, I would, like Thoreau need to take season in to account, most sensibly beginning my project in the spring. due to this, and due to the fact that I was wondering if things weren't getting needlessly complicated by me (which after all seemed to be the opposite of this endeavor's intentions), I decided to table the project to the next spring.
"Our life is frittered away by detail."

Well, "next spring" was last spring, and while I thought about it a bit, I didn't set any part of my garden aside for it, and haven't given it too much thought since then. By now I can see if I am really going to do this, I will need to spend the winter making plans, actually choosing a location, and buying the materials that I can do ahead of time, if I am to ever get this project on its feet.

Things Left To Complete This Woggy Project
  • Make a final decision on window scale
  • Buy windows and any other similar needed items
  • Figure out where the "acreage" will be
  • Decide if I'm really going to attempt creating the cellar
  • Draw up scale plans and final measurements
  • Come spring, begin cellar (if doing) and cutting up wood pieces
  • Continue building house throughout the spring and summer as per the book
  • Plant seeds for garden, and tend
  • Finish up chimney, insulation, and mortaring before november rains start
  • Complete documenting project

Friday, October 24, 2008

Woggy Project #8: Lil' Me Cartoon

Ahh, juvenile me. Aren't I adorable? I think so, but then again, I'm probably biased...

Anyway, this project happens to be one in which I invest much of my professional goals for the medium-term future. I would like to create my own cartoon series, somewhat loosely based on experiences growing up, somewhat based on experiences that belong to people who are completely not myself but who I have observed in a comedic way over the years. As such, I will need to be just a little bit vague about the cartoon itself, even though the details of it are very non-vague to me, for the simple reason that, knowing how slow I am to achieving my goals, I wouldn't want to just lay out a whole blueprint for some ill-intentioned fiend of the interwebs to come and steal my brilliant ideas as their own, simply because they happened to be a little better at the speed of finishing a project thing, if you catch my drift. For example, the name of my cartoon is definitely not "Lil' Me", but that name will just have to do for our purposes. This is of course, all to speak of the future, so let's get to the beginnings of my little woggster, shall we?

I was vacationing in a particular unnamed place with my husband, one which helped pop up some memories of yesteryear, when all of a sudden I woke up in my hotel bed on a dark and early morning with a terrific idea. I was going to write a cartoon!!! The beginnings of the theme song came ridiculously easy to me, or at least the first half did, and I wrote it down immediately in a little notebook that I always carry around in a hopeful manner whenever I go on trips, even though the exact number of pages I have filled in it and other similar ones on similar trips probably could be counted on the digits of one or two hands, tops.

I was very excited to finally have something to write down, let me tell you. I could hardly wait the three hours it would be until my husband would wake up so I could sing my theme song for him, but as I knew he probably wouldn't appreciate its genius at that hour quite as much as me, I decided to spend the time in between thinking up some characters and episodes to go along with my fab new theme song. Of course, I didn't write them down, but little changed about them between then and the time when I actually did get around to drawing and writing about them.

My enthusiasm for this particular project blazed forward in a fashion I had not seen in years. It was quite exciting, let me tell you! I sketched, I plotted, I purchased items of technical importance, I found and began demo-ing professional animation software! I tutorial-ed like the wind!!! I created playlist soundtracks for my characters, I researched pop culture for technical accuracy, I planned my website debut, to be someday followed by a full cable network contract!! (Well, the last two in my mind anyway)

And then... well, then my demo expired, and it was time to buy the whole professional shebang and I sort of faltered, and believe was assisted by our old computer opting for early retirement during my period of faltering-ness.

With a new system brought differing system requirements, blahdeblahdee, and then, and then, and then, here am I today. In the same place. Many sketches, many computer files, many ideas, a complete theme song, but still no cartoon.

The primary obstacle here is a technical one. Having begun the tutorial process I became happy to see that mastering computer animation was a skill that actually seemed quite achievable. However, I quite dismayingly also realized that man, this learning curve was going to be waaaaaaaay longer than I had originally anticipated.

You see, I had, it is true, had ample experience creating films, and understood that part completely, and had read several books on the animation process. I had even, as previously mentioned with Woggy #6, made some simple animations that I had included as parts of my films before (ones in my thesis my advisor even called out as a primary quality highlight of my film, though they were only seconds long). But I had never actually been through any sort of formal animation training, nor had I ever walked through a complete animated production from beginning to end. Not to mention the highly technical process of using software nowadays, which while making some parts easier, makes the learning part much more difficult.

What I wanted was for all of my fab, fab ideas to spring straight from my head, or at least my hand, and quickly make themselves into the fabulous cartoons I could already see fully formed in my mind. What was real was that as I walked through my technical tutorials, I realized that while I had thought I was in cartoon college, getting ready to complete my PhD in cartoonology by say, next month, in reality I was actually in cartoon kindergarten, and it was going to be a long, long time before I would be able even to figure out how to animate my own stick figure silently jumping up and down for three seconds with a pretty background. Let alone create my first character study for my cartoon, let alone have a full fledged pilot episode to show someone somewhere. All of the fabulous episodes, many of which I already know the plots and settings to, would be many a distant day in the future indeed.

So, let's just say I was a bit discouraged.

And that's where I sit today. I still think my idea is fab. I still think my cartoon could really make it and be amazingly funny. I still think this could be the future of my career. And I even still think I will someday soon quite capably enter and one day complete the little old home-self-school course I call Computer Animation 101, taught by professor Online Tutorium.

Now when that day will be, that, I don't know. Let's keep hoping for the best!!

Things Left To Complete This Woggy Project:
  • Get a new drawing program for my Mac
  • Purchase professional animation software
  • Purchase needed tutorials
  • Begin tutorials
  • Complete all tutorials
  • Create a short & simple trial animation with one of my "Lil' Me" characters.
  • Make a new list, based on what I learned in the tutorials, of all the remaining steps between now and a completed pilot episode of "Lil' Me", and do all of those things

Monday, October 20, 2008

Woggy Project #7: 2008 General Election

Ok, because I always like to achieve a little balance in my life, I thought I'd try and complement big, old, difficult to complete Woggy Project #6 with a small, young, simple but important article in the current woggy queue. And that is to properly prepare and then actually vote in the upcoming November election.

For those of you who find it difficult to vote, I hope this may inspire you to finally take action. If it is, say, too late for you to register wherever you currently live, why not take initiative today to register now anyway, so you will have one less obstacle standing in your way for the next election that rolls around. If you are registered but seldom vote, why not take some time now to consider and decide on at least a few candidates or initiatives you can get behind, and make a date in your calendar to vote on November 4th (or send your ballot in by mail for you mail-in lovers). You don't have to vote for every position and initiative on the ballot. You can always leave parts blank. But if you find someone or something you do believe in (and there must be at least one you can get behind somewhere!) you can at least make your small difference by standing up and making your thoughts heard!

Besides being a great lover of the in-person voting process (although my county will sadly be going mostly mail-in any year now boo!! hiss!!), I am a person who usually takes my duty to vote quite seriously, and generally try to attend and vote completely in every major and primary election around. Of course, in my region, where the initiative process is not only standard but is a veritable epidemic, voting even in the smallest off-year primary can require considerable study ahead of time to familiarize oneself with all of the issues. And as you can see here with this two-page excerpt of a multi-page extended explanation of just one of the initiatives up this year (yes, thankfully they have an abbreviated version for those of us without a free year to prepare), preparing for all of these issues can sometimes be quite a chore. Nonetheless, I usually spend at least an afternoon each election time to figure out where I stand on all the issues and candidates. And where I can't decide, my local environmental club usually can help me figure out where to draw the line on the remaining undecided-on few.

I admit, the past two minor elections, I did not participate. One was a political statement on my part, as somehow my state had ended up with both a caucus (counted) and a primary (didn't count) for the party presidential primary. I went to the caucus but not the primary. The other recent local primary I ended up not attending because I put off my day of study again and again until it was too late, and I eventually decided on election day to forego the election just this once. However, as I think we all know, this election coming up is far too significant to avoid for that reason.
Yes we can.
-Barack Obama
While I have not yet opened this year's voter's pamphlet (er, except to take the above photos...) I know that besides the presidential election, on which I have been thoroughly decided most of this year, there are many important local initiatives I want to be sure to vote on next month in an informed fashion. I believe I will succeed.

And with these socks already purchased and ready for voting-booth prime time, how could I not go this year?

Things Left To Complete This Woggy Project:
  • set aside an evening or afternoon to review the voter's pamphelet
  • mark down all of my preferred choices
  • do any needed research and make final decisions on any undecided-on votes
  • get dressed November 4th morning in my voting socks
  • go to my polling center down the block and vote!

Woggy Project #6: Looking For America

Today I've decided to face one of my more terrifying woggy projects, a dark, rich, complex ten-year tawny that in its day was generally known to me and those around me as the Neverending Thesis Project Holding Me Hostage in the Greater DC Area, but who's proper official nomenclature is a little ole indie film short called "Looking For America." In it's youth, this woggy project impetuously kept me an extra two and a half years beyond the time expected for my Masters degree, in anguished long distance from my beloved now-husband, and indirectly contributed to me being on the wrong side of a collection agency debate. And this is all, of course, to say nothing of the ensuing ten years since. There were of course, many fruitful and positive effects of this project's young impetuous nature: time spent gaining and deepening friendships, my first salaried job, my first successful dabbling in the art of animation, and alot of enjoyable and educational time getting to know the wonderful bounty of my nation's capital from a native's perspective (not the least of which included many fabulous free hours in the array of Smithsonian Institution's various museums.)

Other than the above paragraph, I'll not go anymore into the anguish of those years of the project, other than to say that by the end of that period, I did end up with a degree, a financially respectable rollover loan, my freedom, and an almost completely finished film.

The "almost" part of that of course is where the pause button was hit, and continues to rest, even to this day. The main reason for this is that while the artistic endeavor of the film itself was (at least in my if not my advisor's estimation) complete, the film as an object viewable by others was not, unless one happened to have a multi-track Steenbeck film editor handy, which after leaving school I, nor did anyone I know, of course happen to have.

So, in these boxes my film has sat in its tri-part nature, waiting, waiting, waiting for the day when it could be brought forth into some film lab's recording and conversion room where it could be transformed into a medium that someone, somewhere might actually be able and willing to view. Moved carefully from place to place and stored safely on a shelf that was intentionally neither too warm, too cool, to damp, or too dry, it has waited. And waited. Look, here's it waiting right now! It's the blue boxes and gray film can stacked in back.

Once, maybe five years ago, I managed to summon the courage to face my foe, and found somewhere I thought could transfer my film. I bravely emailed them with my query. Alas, they weren't able to process that kind of multi-track film, because few places do anymore, since not many people of low budget are still doing things the old-fashioned way. I abandoned my fight and set my cans to rest again.

Every year since I've moved to Seattle, when the Film Festival rolls around, I am reminded of my aging filmic woggster. This past year, I even found not one, but two (two!) ads in a local periodical advertising some sort of film to digital transfer services. dutifully, I cut them out and put them up on my whiteboard. And here do they stand yet. (yes, that did expire last february..)

Things Left To Complete This Woggy Project:
  • find someplace that will actually transfer a 16mm film with 2 synched magstock soundtracks to DVD or other media
  • mail or deliver my dear old pal to said establishment
  • try to not imagine building being engulfed in flames and losing 3 years of work
  • Pick up or open package containing my dear ole pal in his fancy new format
  • Maybe make some copies or actually mention to people that I have something they might like to look at someday, if they aren't too bored, you know...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Woggy Project #5: '07 NaNo Monkey Novel

Two years ago, about this time of year, I found out about this great yearly event for adventurous writerly types called National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. In November of every year, people with writer-like aspirations, of all ages, genres, geographical locations, and level of professionalism gather together to pursue one crazy goal: to complete the task, within the confines of one month, of writing at least 50,000 words of a novel.

Now, while I am a person who considers myself a writer, and even have a degree from a prestigious university to that affect, I must admit that sitting down to write that many words of the same piece of writing, let alone within one month, is actually something I had never done before. I've written plenty of poems, short stories, articles, essays, a one-act play, and even the whole first act of a screenplay (which trust me, is alot of pages), but a novel is not something I had ever attempted (let alone succeeded) in doing. I have had (of course yet another woggy project) a novel concept which I for years have been nibbling away at, doing research for, creating characters, writing chapters here and there (in no particular order), but the actual full complete writing part, with large volumes of pages to show for it, was a goal so far off on the horizon I wasn't even really sure how one would really go about doing it. I had read novels of course, and knew how to write of course, but putting the two together to actually reach a finished product, well that was something I have to say was not only intimidating but really a completely mystifying process.

Anyway, the actual place where I heard about this NaNo was an online forum that consisted largely of people who were probably young enough to be my own children. When I started hearing so many of them talking about how they not only planned to try this crazy endeavor, but actually complete it, and in fact that many of them mentioned having already completed the endeavor successfully in past years, well, lets just say I had finally run out of excuses. Especially considering I had no pesky obligations like a job or school getting in my way like probably many of the others did, I realized well, what did I have to lose? I signed myself up and began plugging away like I had never done before. I had no idea what I was doing, and ultimately I finished the month no where near the intended goal of 50,000 words, but I have to say the freedom of just sitting down with no purpose other than to see what might happen after I wrote a few words, and then a few more, and then some more after that, was incredibly liberating, and left me at the end of the month with more written content than I had generated in probably the past five years of my life put together. I was decidedly hooked!

But that was 2006, and the NaNo project I am nominating for woggification number 5 is actually the one from last year, which is one that unlike the first strange project, actually has some chance of someday seeing the light of the outside world as a finished and published novel. As you might imagine, I did much better last year, as I this time had an actual plan of attack, and actually gave myself a schedule, and participated regularly in that, succeeding in surpassing several personal best goals I had set for myself. I ended up with over 20,000 words, and a story interesting enough for me to want to see through to the end of complete novel-age. I call it my monkey novel because the main character of the novel is a monkey. My novel even has a mascot, which is the picture you see above.

While I don't know when I will finish this novel, I have high hopes that this is one woggy project that will live to tell tales in its elder frogitude of its good old woggy days.

Since every NaNo novel is to be a new project you do not begin writing until November first, I for sure will not be completing this woggy project next month, as that of course will be set aside for a brand new NaNo-related woggy project. But someday, somehow, I believe my monkey will have his day in the sun.

Things left to complete this woggy project:
  • set aside an afternoon to begin writing again
  • begin writing my monkey novel again
  • monitor progress and continue to make appointments for future writing days/times
  • repeat, repeat, repeat!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Woggy Project #4: Crushed Velvet Shirt

Like every good crafty person worth their salt, I have a dazzling array of what is known in the crafting community as UFOs, or UnFinished Objects. These come in several flavors, but today I present you with an old favorite UFO, my fabulous crushed purple velvet shirt.

As the creative among you can tell from the pattern package and the fab fabric, this is going to be one fabulous shirt. And every fall, when I go through my wardrobe to out with the old and in with the new, I think of my velvet UFO and pull it out again with renewed hope that this year, I will actually finish it, and in time to actually wear it suitably for the weather!

So far, I have cut all the pieces, marked them, and removed the pattern tissue and pins. I have reviewed the pattern instructions thoroughly, but have not yet begun pinning anything together for sewing. Several of these already accomplished items may have had a year pass between each of these being done. This year, I have a good feeling, may be the actual year I will complete this shirt!

Despite the "Simplicity" on the pattern envelope, this shirt is complicated, to be sure, due to the stretchy fabric and tailored fit. However, it isn't anything I can't handle, as I've actually sewn formal dresses before. But it has been a while, and it will take me a while to remember how to do all that crazy armhole stuff (the fitting of which might actually be made easier if I actually accomplished Woggy Project #3...)

But basically, what I need here is a block of uninterrupted time and a clear work surface. The first one I could probably swing but the second would require first clearing my work surface, which also would require some uninterrupted time....

Things left to complete this woggy project:
  • set aside an evening or an afternoon for work
  • clear work table, or create household discord by using dining room table as work table
  • begin pinning pieces
  • Find my purple thread, and load a bobbin
  • sew next batch of pieces
  • puzzle over next batch of instructions
  • repeat above steps as needed until complete
  • adjust fit
  • admire self in fabulous new shirt

Woggy Project #3: Learning Calculus

So, I believe in my last post I mentioned a point which in certain company is embarrassing to mention due to my lack of education, yet in other company is embarrassing to mention because it makes me look like some kind of nerdy freak. that point would be my desire to someday learn calculus.
"Calculus is the mathematical structure that lies at the core of a world of seemingly unrelated issues." -- Great Courses Catalog
Back in high school, I was advanced enough in math to be a year up on the "standard" math track, but a year behind the most advanced folks. This left me in a position where having finished my graduation-required math at the end of my junior year, I had the choice to opt out of math for my senior year. While I had been pretty good at math when I had been younger, several years of drudgerously-taught geometry and advanced algebra coupled with a general math-testing anxiety I had intermittently struggled with even in elementary school had left me eager to dispose quickly of any and all math duties, despite a rather enjoyable final year of very well-taught pre-calculus. I knew by this point in time that I was destined to be a great writer, or musician, or both. What did I need any more math for? So I opted for Creative Writing and Music Scholars instead.

Later, in the midst of college Physics and Stats classes, I finally realized after observing my study partners (something I never had in high school) that there was basically a whole different style to learning these more empirical sorts of topics that would allow you to succeed in learning a subject, and even excelling at that subject, even when it was one that didn't instantly make sense to you the first time you looked at it. My previous lack of understanding on this matter was something I realized had caused in large part my assumption by the 9th grade that I was simply "no good at math", putting a nail in the coffin of my grade-school astronomer aspirations.

This realization in college helped me see that in fact, I did still have, as I thought I did way back in the sixth grade, a pretty good head for math and science. In the way that I had to prepare for my humanities learning by sitting down and reading, reading, reading, I could prepare for math and science by doing problem sets, problem sets, problem sets. And having teachers who actually knew how to show me the bigger picture every now and then certainly helped fill things out. When I did these things, everything fell into place, the fog lifted, and these topics were challenging and fun again, instead of dreadfully boring and painfully futile. But of course, by the time I had realized this I was not only waist-deep in fulfilling my other childhood vision of becoming a writer, but lacking in, among other things, one key essential required for any program of study in the sciences, which is to say, high school calculus. I secretly considered switching to Physics but stuck doggedly and mostly happily to my English-degree path.

I entertained the idea while I was still in college of taking some sort of Calc class as a means to simply round out my education, in the way I had taken, say, Russian when I already had fulfilled my language requirement, but given my always-full schedule I continued to reason that at this late date, what would be the point anyway? I knew it would probably require alot of hard work and I might not ever end up using it anyway.

Fast forward some many years into the future, where I find myself getting more and more interested in topics of physics and astrophysics, especially where it concerned the nature of time and space, so much so that I begin writing a novel that has this as a general theme, and I found myself running headfirst into that large wall of obstacle called "never took high school calculus! d'oh!" I literally found myself having to stop cold in my reading of various physics texts over and over again because "the next section of this book assumes you have a familiarity with integral calculus", etc.

While I got quite adept at identifying the few physics writers who made it their business to explain things to the "laypeople", trying as best they could to help the calculus-impaired understand certain basic elements of the calculus as it relates to physics without our having to actually, er, learn calculus, I could tell there was still always some basic fundamental understanding missing due to my lack of knowledge. So I set out again to tackle this mathematical obstacle. I poked around in the community college and adult education catalogs, I grilled my math-degreed husband over exactly what parts of calculus did I really need to learn to understand all this stuff here on page 132 of this book and page 8 of this article over here. Finally one day I was in a used book store and saw a little booklet titled Calculus by and For Young People: ages 7, yes 7, and up. I thought well, if a 7 year old can do it...

I did start to read the booklet, and started to understand it a little bit. But it did take concentrated effort and I eventually ended up putting it back on the shelf for a later day. Truth be told I was a bit embarassed to be reading a book designed for 7 year olds. Then another day I saw a book called Calculus Refresher. I thought, now here's something that should boil down all those basic concepts for me, yet still talk to me like I was an educated adult. Although, that book too has sat patiently waiting for me on the shelf. The times I have thought to pick it up I've felt like a sham, like someone who was trying to pass herself off as someone who used to know calculus of course, but had simply gotten rusty over the years, and was looking to brush up the old noggin. What do you know about calculus, the book seemed to say to me. Who exactly do you think you are fooling?

Ultimately, while I do think I might actually read these books someday, the conclusion I think I've come to about this is that I really just need to take some sort of a class. But of course the embarrassment of actually having to sit in a class, at this point in life, and admit to a whole classful of people that I, an educated person, with two degrees, happened to have never learned calculus, has been a difficult hurdle for me to overcome.

A possible solution came in the mail a few weeks ago in the form of a catalog at The Great Courses University, a place that offers online and video lecture "courses" in various subjects taught by real actual college professors. They actually have a calculus class. It's designed exactly for people like myself, it seems. And no grades, tests, imagined snickering of classmates or teachers. So, who knows, maybe I'll actually get to it this time? A girl can dream!!

Things left to complete this woggy project:
  • order calculus video class
  • open packaging, etc.
  • actually begin watching calculus class
  • with a notebook and pen!
  • repeat until calculus has been learned
  • read calculus books
  • take notes
  • repeat until calculus is learned
  • wait for magical calculus knowledge food to be invented
  • choose flavor and buy calculus-knowledge food
  • eat tasty, tasty calculus knowledge
  • instantly know calculus!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Woggy Project #2: Mario Livio's The Equation That Couldn't Be Solved

My husband and I are members of Seattle's Pacific Science Center, which occasionally hosts lectures and book readings for adults. Since my husband is in the field of Computer Science, and I just have a hobby interest in math and sciences, this is a topic in which we both share an avid interest (in fact it is at a university well known for its math and sciences where we met).

A couple years ago, I heard this author speaking on the local public radio show about this book and was fascinated by the subject. I was happy to find he would be speaking at the Science Center that same week, and got my husband and some friends of ours to join me at the lecture. It was so interesting to me that I bought the book on the spot and had it signed by the author, which is something I'm usually too shy to do. The very next day I delved right into the book, and continued right through on and off over the following month until the page you see above.

I don't remember what led to the book being set down, but I'm sure it was something banal like the business of getting ready for the holidays or something like that. I even remember discussing the book at a party, having full intent to pick the book up the next week, but somehow it never ended up happening. After a while, I realized the book was still sitting out on the coffee table collecting dust, so I put the jacket back on it and put it back up on the shelf, bookmark in place, to tidy up the house. I knew I would pick it up again, because I was still very interested in continuing the book. Just not interested enough to drop everything and read it that day.

Now it joins several other unfinished books I have sitting on various shelves, bookmarks in place, waiting for their day of reopening. When I try to think of the reasons, other than "well, I ought to finish this other book first," the only main thing I can think of is that it was, for a person of my mathematical educational level (no calculus, yes now my pre-calc teacher can say he "told me so"), a book that did require a bit of extra concentration to read certain parts of it, since it did discuss various mathematical issues that were a part of what was largely a story of personalities. Also, I remember that somewhere in some notebook, I had been taking some sort of notes on this book, possibly to supplement my understanding of some ideas I was working on for a certain woggy novel of mine, or possibly to help expand my mathematical understanding (a sort of life woggy project of mine), or perhaps just because there were an unusual number of interesting quotes (the collection of which has been a lifelong woggy project since I was old enough to begin writing them down). So its also possible I keep thinking I should find that notebook before I continue reading, or perhaps I know it will be a slower read due to all the note-taking I will inevitably be inspired to do should I pick up such an inherently interesting book. In any case, I haven't picked up this highly interesting story ever since.

Things left to complete this woggy project:
  • find a notebook with empty pages, and a pen/pencil
  • set aside an afternoon or evening for reading
  • take book off the shelf and out of its jacket
  • begin reading next page
  • finish reading the book

Woggy Project #1: BC Trip Scrapbook

I like to make scrapbooks or memory boxes to commemorate enjoyable trips I've been on, or occasionally meaningful events, etc. My ambition to create these far exceeds my ability to actually make them with any regularity. So far I've been able to see about one of these projects through per year, which seems like a pretty good rate to me. I only have a couple of these waiting in the wings.

The scrapbook currently voted most likely to succeed is the one from my most recent trip to Vancouver Island and northern British Columbia (BC). My husband and I spent a good amount of time preparing for this trip, and it was a really pleasant adventure, complete with a road trip, a nautical voyage, camping, museums, glowsticks, bears, and whale sightings. It is definitely a trip I would like to commemorate for later years to come.

The photo above is a picture of the array of items I have set aside in a little bag for later insertion into a scrapbook. In addition to these items, we have photos, which I have thus far succeeded in uploading and filing with proper name on to my hard drive, but have yet to sort, select and get printed. In addition, I need some sort of a book to put all of these in.

The book is the biggest obstacle here, as I tend to be quite choosy about aesthetics, since I know this is going to be preserved for the future and I want to make sure it will be just right. I've discovered these expandable photo albums I can sometimes find, which are alot like the sort of book-cover system you use for stamp collecting, but I have not yet found a consistent supply for these. But I really don't want an actual photo album, I want something I can bind paper pages into, so I can create some actual pages with all of my various-sized mementos, and possibly include some journal pages. The last time I had this problem, I solved it by making and binding my own book using a souvenir paper bag, some souvenir fabric, a sewing machine, a hole punch, and some twine. Since my collection of things this time around is much larger, I hope to find something pre-made to do the job. I haven't started looking yet.

Things left to complete this woggy project:
  • Select photos for printing
  • Get photos printed
  • look for a suitable book/binding system
  • buy book/binding system
  • plan scrapbook layout
  • create any needed text or other related content
  • paste up/ assemble scrapbook

Filing Woggy Projects

Being a somewhat organized person, I will attempt to present my woggy projects in a somewhat organized fashion. Here is a guide to my plans for said organization.

A standard woggy disclaimer: this system is of course a work in progress, and subject to change at any time.

Starting with my first post of woggy projectness today, I will number my woggy projects from #1 forward. If I should happen in the future to make any progress on (or dare I say ... complete?) said project, I will use the same woggy project file number to refer to that same project. Whenever I do that I'll do my best to link to all posts related to the same project, so you should be able to follow any specific favorite project's progress with relative ease.

Additionally, I will be attaching project types to each project depending on the sort of woggy project it is. These will be labels such as "books", "household", "writing", etc. I will use labels and do my best to be consistent about use of those labels. In this way, it should make life easier not only for myself when reviewing my woggy files, but also anyone who may be interested in only a certain portion of my woggy projects. So for example, if you are only interested in books and writing, you can get to those items using the label links, and you can skip right over reading all of my other woggy things that are of no interest to you.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

introducing wog

welcome to wog.

Why wog: part one

Seeing that I was probably the only remaining member of my generation without one of these, I finally decided to jump in and make one. Which leads me to answering the first part of the question you may not even be asking: "Why wog?"

One of the big reasons I have put off joining the by-now-inevitably-named "blogosphere" has been my discomfort with the very word itself: "blog" bleh, bleeeargh! Have I just come down with a case of food poisoning? no, I'm just writing a diary. While it seems no one is with me on this one, I had been holding out hoping somehow a better word would evolve. However, since none has, I am finally, reluctantly joining the bleh-bleh-bleh-blog party, but not without saying this: it should be called something better, like why not, "wog"? If we can have a weBLOG, why can't there be room for a WeblOG? I know that bloggy is here to stay, but since you're still reading this, can't you at least consider it? Maybe just for one nanosecond? Aw, thank you! You're so kind!

In any case, this is half of the answer to "Why wog?" and whether anyone likes it or not, it is how I will be referring to my own blog, er, I mean of course, wog. I mean, its my wog and I can call it that if I want, so there! Even if I can't change that my wog is not on a site called, say, wogger. Tiny steps, tiny steps...

Why wog: part two

Now, to the probably more publicly acceptable reason for naming this wog, er, wog. You may have been cued in by the photo to the right. that is, the inspirational totem for my wog is the friendly state-of-becoming little fellow called the polliwog. (If you are still confused, we are talking about the creature some call "tadpole". Look it up, its an official variant!)

A polliwog is a creature somewhere in between the state of birth and that of full creature-hood. It is neither an egg nor is it an adult. Being amphibian, it is even more in between than any other in-betweener, as it begins life as a sort of fish, and ends its life cycle as an air-breathing frog. While a polliwog it can be any sort of in between way: no legs, one leg, three legs, four with a fishy tail...

Anyway, this wog is not about polliwogs per se, as my field of education is not that of biology (um, yeah, do frogs actually breathe air? I was guessing on that one). But since my field is the overeducated one of written thought, the little polliwog (which I did by the way have a hand in rearing when I was myself a sort of polliwog) is a perfect metaphor for what I do want this wog to be all about, and that is of course, things which are in the state of becoming.

More specifically, this will be a document of all the projects, ideas, etc. etc. which some others when looking at them might call "unfinished". It has come to my attention that being the sort of person that I am, I have more than what one might say is the "normal" amount of woggy projects. In fact, if I were to only document all of the various woggy projects of mine that are currently in woggy form today, I might have enough, were I to post one such project per day, to continue this wog well beyond the end of my days, assuming I live those days to full-aged maturity given current life expectancy of the modern healthy non-smoking female. In that way, even this wog will be its own woggy project, in that it shall likely always be what less visionary people might choose to call "unfinished".