On Beakernight I popped by the 10th St Wave because for some reason I thought that was where the Bow Wave was. It seemed like a good connection and I have a fairly lose relationship with where things actually are a lot of the time. The Bow Wave wasn't there but it was nice to wander around and check out this funny thing that has happened in Calgary.
In my undergrad I spent a lot of my time in a small windowless room on the political science floor of the University of Calgary. It was the office for the Political Science Association, or as we called it the PSA. You have two options for PSA: you can read out each letter, distinctive and unique, or you can meld them all together as if they were a word. Both were used. I usually went with spelling each out.
I started going there in first-year because my sister hung out there. As a recovering high school debater it was exactly my type of crowd. People were loud and said whatever they wanted. We ranged from libertarian, to Randian, to middle of the way Alberta Red Tory to me, a pragmatic Nordic style social democratic, though I was about eight years behind on life experience including living in two Nordic social democracies to say that's how I felt. We were a random bunch and we never took agreements personally. This approach to socializing didn't prepare me well for the post-uni world where bosses want you to smile and nod, and interns are to be quiet and do whatever work they get thrown.
At the end of the first semester of first-year I was asked to be the first-year rep. Then I was asked to run for President at the end of the year. The powers that be liked me and wanted me around. I won. I spent the rest of my university experience on the executive and went to that office whenever I needed a microwave, fridge, place to dump some crap or people to hang out with.
The club didn't do a whole lot. We held some events. Mostly we sat around the office. I tried to keep it clean and organized. I was the angry one who would complain when pop can jenga was used to decide who would deal with the large mound of deposits.
I also designed posters and wanted to rebrand the club. The old logo was lame and we didn't have it on file anywhere. So I designed a new logo. When we had events I made posters. We didn't really need them in the way I was making them but I liked it.
I did a graphic design program at SAIT over the summer. I am building a portfolio of sorts. I still love these posters. I still love the way they looked and they way they turned out. It was fun. I really loved that place.
When I was in Copenhagen I joined a KU group called IMCC Rwanda. I signed up for their marketing team mostly because their recruitment flyer was ugly and I thought I could design a better one. They were really nice and happy to have me on board. It was a fun way of meeting some nice Danish girls and I had fun working on the poster.
I've been going through old stuff to build a portfolio so here it is.
These are a couple of fairly crude Resist images I did. I had ideas and wanted to see where I could take them and practice using Adobe CC.
A poster I designed around the time of Muslim ban and the Quebec mosque shooting. The idea is that the C is Calgary and the C is hugging and embraces Muslims and accepting them. I like how they turned out.
I am going through and saving all the photos I have in Smugmug so that I can close up my account. The renewal date looms so I need to get it done. I think I have it all off, it's just a matter of checking they worked. Then I have to check those downloads against files on my hard drives when I one day get to that. It is so much easier to just dump them random places and never do anything with the duplicates, at least in the short term.
But I am thinking long run. I want order damn it. I want systems that work. I want my files to be a gleaming wonder that people will come from miles around to gawk at. I just want to be able to find old projects and make sense of my photos.
These tasks, this going through things, waiting for files to download then double checking them, it's a bit tedious. My days aren't exciting. It's one task followed by another followed by another. So it goes.
I've been writing things down in different places for ages. I like to write things down. That's how I learn, how I remember. I go through notebooks like crazy.
I cannibalize them, destroy them. Rip out the pages and sort them into piles. The piles are filled with pieces of paper that are different shapes and sizes. The pieces of paper with various things jotted in my handwriting — which is somewhat illegible but in my opinion beautiful — contain potential like a 21-year-old who has just finished undergrad. They are unformed and may become something.
I have been sorting, going through the bins that I have pilled quotes, thoughts, inspiration and a nice turn of phrase. I have typed up a large pile of thoughts for a project that I want to start, a project that I got the idea for from the way I write certain things down. It is about words. I am scared to start. I want to not be scared but I am. I am hesitating. Waiting to be ready.
Things happen in their own time and when you are ready but sometimes you just have to leap. I have this image in my head that occurs at times like these of me standing there on the edge of a cliff above some water. The water is dark blue with swirls of white, deep, deep enough that it is safe to dive into. I imagine myself jumping in feet first and the water rushing up beside me. I trust water, I like water. It's about taking that step, leaping as it were. Sometimes you just have to go for it.
Now that I am through that first pile, the one filed with potential, the one that is an idea, an intuition, a thought, made real here now through admitting it, I am moving onto the next one.
The next one is quotes. I have been collecting quotes for years in various ways. One notebook was drenched in coffee. I had spent six months recording quotes in it and the ink ran and the pages were ruined. It was a hard loss.
I also collect them in screen shots and on Pinterest. Written on pieces of paper that are different sizes, shoved into bins, sorted. Some of the quotes may become things, some of them just make me happy. I've been typing them up in the morning. It's a nice way to start the day. Sit down with beautiful and inspiring words. That article you read, that book you love, words to live by.
Words. Stories. Ideas. Ways of life.
My first love was otters, water, nature. There was always art, more a tendency and a longing than a love. It seemed forbidden. My mother tried to crush it out of me every chance she got. It still feels a bit that way. Something that's there but that society would rather wasn't.
My second love was writing. I finished reading Politics and the English Language by George Orwell yesterday. It's one of those short beautiful books. At the end they list other books you can buy from the series. One of them is Some Thoughts on the Common Toad. Just reading the name of that essay and knowing it's available on it's own moves me, it reaches back to me in grade nine reading the essay for the first time. It's simple and beautiful and it made me want to be a writer. Not in a vague, abstract way but in a while reading it I decided that I wanted to be a reader way. That essay changed my life.
So these quotes. They keep me going when I desperately need a reason to not lose hope. They remind me of how I want to live. They distract me when I should be doing other things. I look at my photos and I see the life I've lived, the places I've gone. It's the same with these quotes. If you want to know who I am and how I've spent my time on this earth you need go no further than my Excel spreadsheet of quotes.
Yesterday I finished Ten Years in the Tub by Nick Hornby as part of my effort to finish books I've started now that the year is drawing to a close — I have about twenty of them so if I don't start now I'll never get there. It was an overly long book that made me feel like I wasn't getting enough reading done a lot of the time. Once I got near the end I let go of that. Nick Hornby is clever and I picked it off the library shelf for a reason. There was one passage where he was saying something about humans being flawed and imperfect and how we make a mess of life. It wasn't awkward, it wasn't that dark or sad, it just was because it is. It was easy and true. I'd like to be able to say that. Instead of having the lostness and the sadness and the disappointment at the state of things be dark and annoying and unpleasant I'd like it to be clever and easy and obvious the way it only seems to be in the pages of a book.
Whenever I need them books are there for me. They say things I can't say. They say things none of my friends can understand. They have been there for me no matter what, unjudging and steadfast. They remind me of where I've come from and where I want to go. They provide an escape when I desperately need one and a calm place to rest for a few minutes when I have a break.
Words, stories, ideas, quotes. Who knew that spending your mornings entering words from various bits of paper could be so inspiring.
I am a fan of rain and mild weather. Summer is nice and all but spring and fall, they're what I love.
I can feel fall coming, or more likely I've decided that I'm so over 25+ weather. One day I woke up and felt this intense urge to buy flannel shirts and pants. Fall is coming and I can't wait.
For me summer starts to wrap up after the Calgary Folk Music Festival. Sure there's a bit left but it's on borrowed time after that.
Along with fall comes a time to wrap things up. I had a bunch of library books out, far too many, enough that they were making me stressed. Minimalism can apply to many things including that large stack of library books you know you'll never finish. I am trying to finish up books that I've started. Get everything back to the library and finish what I've started. I like to start January with a clean slate instead of books that I made it a third of the way through and go distracted from. I finished one today that I've been working on for months and it felt good. I have a few more that I just need to focus on and they'll be done.
It's nice to feel like things are getting done. It'll be even nicer when the weather cools off a bit and I can give my new flannel tops a run.
The Eclipse that some people have long awaited and I heard about a few weeks ago happened today. It was pretty cool, although probably way cooler down in totality. The partial eclipse was neat but not really the same.
It seemed that the people who were crying and deeply moved all got the full on eclipse experience, and well I felt a little bit bummed out that I didn't. I felt left out from the coolness. I wish I'd hoped in the SUV and headed to Idaho or that I'd been in Oregon. Next time.
Fortunately I get to say next time. Come hell or high water I'm planning on hitting up the totality zone in 2024. It seems like an amazing experience and I want to have it. Just have to stay alive until then. If I do live long enough an eclipse will be headed over Alberta this century so that's something to look forward to — that's 2044. I doubt I'll be around for the one in 2099 but that will hit up Canada.
My mother is a huge nerd so she ordered eclipse glasses early. It was great having that taken care of knowing that they were probably not fakes. She used to take us out to do astronomy things as kids and I'd be tired and bored. She never converted us.
Today I went up to Nose Hill because I wanted a view to the south. It's close and high and it was a great pick. I don't go there enough even though it's so close. It was pretty quiet when I got there. I was worried I wouldn't be able to get a spot in the parking lot but that wasn't an issue. The Internet said things would start around 10:20 so I got there for then. I could see it start bit by bit. It was neat but also left quite a bit of time for reading while I waited for things to move.
By 11:00 more people were showing up and it was getting closer and closer to the maximum eclipse we'd get. It was fun chatting with people. There was a mother with two young daughters. They had a pinhole type setup. I offered my glasses, they took a look and then ran back down the hill. I joked that they weren't patient enough for astronomy. I certainly never was. I still don't think I am.
There were dog walkers and joggers. A mother and daughter who hung around for the peak.
It was nice chatting with people. It would've been fun to go to one of the parties that was happening or to hit the U of C.
After the peak had passed I headed home. I watched a few of the live streams on Twitter. It was then that I started to feel like this really big thing had happened for people and sadly I hadn't been there for it. I'd kind of been there but not in the place where it was really happening. It was cool to see how intensely people responded to it, the clapping, the cheering, the way the NASA commentators talked about it. The young scientists really understanding why what they do is cool.
Social media, as it can be when it's good, was lit up with moving and beautiful posts. People were in awe of the wonder of the world and it's beauty. Science isn't that much different from art after all.
Maybe if we can appreciate how cool it is that we live on this place that keeps us alive and has all these rare combinations happening then we might want to protect that beauty. I get that jobs matter but so does beauty and wonder. If we destroy beauty and wonder what's the point of any of the rest of it? Why bother being alive?
How can we build a world where we maximize beauty and wonder as a precondition for all decisions? How can we remember that we're a part of nature and that we need it?
Later I was reading an article in Monocle where they interviewed a prominent American landscape architect. He talks about connectivity — connecting with each other, with the places we live, with nature and getting where we need to go. It's a great idea. I think a good philosophy for cities is connection and sustainability. That should be at the heart of our world. Connecting with people like the mother and daughter, with this planet, with wonder and beauty. Taking care of this place we live in, having just enough and not more, taking up only the space we need, being a part of nature instead of destroying nature.
Take that sense of wonder and awe. Build a connected and sustainable society. Remember that this world is fantastic and beautiful. It's worth taking care of.
I came across an article this morning called "Mansplaining the City" on Twitter. I find it frustrating being a part of a field where dudes make a whole lot of the choices. I've been to events where every last person including the emcee was a dude. When this happens I always want to ask whether they've could've gone and found one female city hall employee or stakeholder to just read the names and bios of the dudes. That way at least one woman would be there.
When a friend of mine who works for a feminist organization asked me who I'd recommend for a female built environment panel I told her that I couldn't think of anyone in the city. I could probably come up with a better answer now but that moment was a bit sad.
The article blends these traditional concerns about how male dominated the built environment field is with questions about gentrification. I appreciate the comments on the need for some dudettes in the industry. I feel less comfortable with some of the comments about gentrification. The author has her own perspective but she is also dismissive of groups I think are doing good work and the role for middle class individuals caught in a crazy housing market. Walker calls out lots of people and waxes nostalgic for the neighbourhoods of yore. Some of these concerns are valid but I also think they lack nuance.
Gentrification is complicated. It is also not inherently a good or a bad process. It is a process characterized by changes in class. That can be from super duper poor to less poor. It can also be a process that makes even the worst neighbourhoods unaffordable for people with lots of money. A lot of it depends on other factors and how this process unfolds. As Walker notes it originally described an influx of intellectuals, students and artists. This group, which I am a part of, are often initial gentrifiers. They are drawn to places with cheap rents. As the neighbourhood improves the initial wave of gentrifiers are pushed out, too poor to enjoy the changes they have brought about and seeking the next spot where they can afford to pay rent.
While on the one hand I am a gentrifier I also live in poverty. I will likely spend my entire twenties either in poverty or as a student. I am white, my family is upper middle class and I am well-educated — probably over educated. I have more choices than many but I struggle to figure out how to pay rent. I struggle to see where I can go in my city. I have a friend who charges more for a one bedroom condo in a nice inner city neighbourhood that I love and want to be a part of than I earn in a month. There were moments when I lived in Vancouver when I'd buy groceries on my credit card unsure whether or not I'd have enough money to pay for them.
We are all a part of cities that are increasingly unaffordable. We live in a world where even tech workers struggle to afford housing. This is a sign that something is very wrong. Housing in any major Canadian city is a nightmare no matter what class you belong to. The issues of gentrification are tied up in market forces and development processes that treat housing like a bank and an investment rather than a basic necessity. New attitudes towards housing and different ways of building cities are as important as preserving character.
Managing change is one of the most important parts of planning and urban design. You want to keep what is good while still allowing communities to change. You need to find a way to ensure that nice communities are varied and accessible to all, not just people who earn enough to rent my friend's condo. You also want to find ways to have run down neighbourhoods become better. The biggest problem I see in places like Vancouver and Calgary is the market forces that have overrun our cities turning them into places we can no longer afford to live combined with zoning bylaws that prevent the construction of a diverse range of housing.
We are all coming up with our own responses to cities and how they should change. Groups like the YIMBY movement in San Francisco want wealthy homeowners to allow the construction of more housing. They may come from some privilege but I look around me and I see the same problem. We build mostly one thing, it's low density, unsustainable and really unaffordable. Maybe if we built something else we'd have more affordable housing? Maybe if we relied less on the market to provide housing and more on our government like they do in large parts of Europe then gentrification wouldn't be putting such a squeeze on people and housing wouldn't be so unaffordable?
In May I came across a moving and beautiful speech by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu about the removal of four Confederate statues from the city. After this weekend's sad events I remembered it. The speech is so beautiful and relevant.
Watch it here.
It's smoky outside. My wrist hurts. I have a cold. I don't feel like going outside for the rest of the day or if I'm not doing photography for a while potentially ever again — there are so many nice things at home and I'm an introvert so going outside is something I feel a need a reason to do.
Still there's this voice telling me to go do stuff. There are tasks and errands. I went to the library to collect part of my overly large stack of holds and then went to Old Navy because they allegedly had a sale on pants — the pants process took forever and ended in my buying two pairs of pants I have and like and that look kind of fancy so you can pretend to be a real person in them. I didn't find any jeans. Buying jeans is awful. I need to find somewhere new to buy jeans that are either cheap or that last. Damn you cycling.
I am done my SAIT program so I no longer have somewhere to be and things to do. I won't be speaking to people all the time. I won't need to appear somewhere each morning. I could honestly never go outside again.
Anyways I don't feel like going outside. I went on Facebook and Facebook told me not to go outside. So stay inside kids. The outside world is dangerous and scary and sometimes you have to buy new pants.
The Facebook tells me I posted this picture four years ago. I was a big fan of it at the time and still am today. Tents look great in pictures. I always try and snap a few when I am out camping.
This spring I bought a tent and I'm pretty excited about it. Depending on the wrist situation I might take it out for a spin later this summer and early fall.
I don't know what to do with all my photos. There are so many of them. It feels like I could always be taking more but I'm much better at that than I am at dealing with them. I have all these folders to go through, things saved in different places. Duplicates and inconsistencies.
I don't know if Flickr is the way to go or if Squarespace is the answer. I don't know. I need to be good with not knowing.
My wrist hurts. I messed it up when I was doing some event photography last year. The strap I had wasn't the best option. I was holding it wrong. The gear was heavy. The event was long. My wrist ached afterwards. I rested and made changes.
Mostly it's been okay since then. Sometimes it bugs me.
When it doesn't bug me I forget why I decided that a lightweight and simple mirrorless camera was the most important thing in the world. Right now I am reminded whenever I do anything. When I type these words for example. Or flip eggs in a frying pan. I am reminded of how much of who I am rides on the ability to use my right wrist.
I would go kayaking Wednesday but my wrist hurts. There is also smoke. I feel like it's time to take a break and hibernate. To pause and pivot.
I love photography but I know that heavy gear is out of the question. My body is telling me no. I am going to take it easy and then try to remember to be careful.
I am going to start dealing with things. Going through some stuff. Getting my affairs in order — I have oh so many of them and I can't keep track of them.
My documents are saved across five or six different hard drives. I want to consolidate them.
The instructor from my Graphic Design Fast Track program said we should only save final versions once a project is done. I have so many working files. I probably have two hundred versions of my dissertation. Each file over 25 mb. Some saved an hour or two apart. I will never need them all but I struggle to let it go.
Yesterday I found a fantastic article about closets in Places Journal. They're the type of publication where you click on something and are moved and awestruck by a piece that combines a history of closets — there are so many things you don't know about the history of closets — with a wistful reflection on the stuff we collect and make, where we put in, what happens to it when we die and what we do with it all. All this about closets.
I wonder about this stuff I make and generate. I wonder what to do with all of it. I want life to be simple but there are always more and more things. New hobbies, new hoodies, new files made endlessly with each day. A pile of hard drives in various states of disarray. Things on the floor. Bins and boxes.
Despite my best efforts I am probably a failed minimalist. I want life to be simple but it isn't. That or I am only organized because when I'm not chaos unfolds and I can't find a thing. I went to a concert last week with my parents and my dad had entrusted the ticket to me — he commented that it was about treating me like an adult and I was all awe shucks. I hadn't remembered that I had the ticket. When he told me I walked upstairs and opened the drawer where I keep these sorts of things. It was there happily stored for when I needed it.
Order. So nice when you can find things.
Then there is the rest of my life, when the order fails. There are piles of things waiting to be dealt with. Shuffled around endlessly but never addressed.
As I said I want to be a minimalist but I often fail. I want to have just enough, everything with its use, everything with a place. I believe that the Life Changing Magic of Tidying up can be achieved through drawers. Marie Kondo's comments on drawer were a huge eye opener. I don't believe in everything in the book but that one theme is enough to validate the title.
I have my eye on a drawer unit at Superstore. Maybe I should just go for it.
I can't find exactly what I want in a drawer unit but that ones the closest and the best value for money. One drawer for pens. One for pencils. One for watercolour. One for notebooks. One for cards. One for envelopes. A drawer for everything. Everything in its place. One day I'll get there.
File management is a never ending work in progress. I am trying to remember that.
It's all a never ending work in progress. I learn more each day and will have a better idea of things later.
You don't start an expert and anyone who is an expert got there through hard work and tough lessons. I will simply try and enjoy the process. I am here and this is what needs doing today.
I have a new website. I am organizing Flickr. I am researching prices on external hard drives. I am getting stuff done. Big girl pants for the win.
As a bonus I have enough money that buying a 2tb hard drive no longer feels like a financial crisis. For a long time I've been just hanging on. Today I feel like I can buy a new pair of shoes and a hard drive in a month and still go out for drinks.
It's a nice feeling. The choices that having a basic amount of money gives you. The freedom from the worry about the simplest purchase whether it's a couple beers with a friend or a new shirt or kayaking classes.
Now that I am stepping back from any concept that I could actually use a 70–200 lens and live to see the end of it I am no longer trying to figure out how to buy one. I feel like the gear I have is good for what I want, what I can do. It's a bit of a relief. In the future, when my wrist feels better, I will buy gear that is light and simple. Gear for city streets and beaches and mountains. Not for events. Not for feeling fancy. Not for trying to be something. Just for doing what I am drawn towards.
I have decided to try out Squarespace. I just got here so there isn't much yet but there will be. Just you wait.
The light painting workshop photos in black and white.
From a light painting workshop I did with the fab PhotoSoc in Edinburgh.
Photos from around Copenhagen.
I spent a lot of time in the central area when I lived there. I love those streets and can never get enough of them.
A photo I snapped in the USD studio in Edinburgh.
One from the bus and another from a classmate doodling on my arm when we were defs paying close attention in class.