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I don't know if it's just the dark chilly weather or what, but I seem to be all full of philosophic mutterings lately. I'm bashing at fractals again. Every so often I try web searches to see if I can find any examples of fractals being used for something really interesting or unexpected or cool, but so far not much has turned up. There are still the small handful of people making images I like, but nothing outside the already-familiar.

And I am constantly discouraged by the overwhelming quantity of really dull fractal art. I realize that lots of people try out a fractal generator, say Ooh, awesome! and stick a couple of dozen pictures on a website before getting bored and going on to something else. Therefore there's a lot of noise in the signal. But I'm disappointed that so few seem to get past that initial factor of Whoa! and realize that there are lots of possibilities still to explore. It's as though everyone who ever owned a camera took a picture of their foot, said Amazing! A picture of my foot! and then never tried taking a picture of anything else. Or maybe it's more like someone who takes pictures of everything, indiscriminately, and never gets as far as considering subject, composition, light, color, contrast, balance, aperture, shutter speed, or different kinds of film. (Everything is digital! There are no kinds of film anymore!)

There's also the part where sometimes I also make really awful fractals. My approach, when doing the sort of illustrative ones that are my usual style, is to build up (hopefully) recognizable shapes out of simple geometric elements, which are then mapped onto the basic fractal skeleton. I probably owe a lot of credit to the drawing instructions of Ed Emberley (warning: flashblob), where you put basic shapes together to make animals and buildings and so on.

Most of the time, I try to do this with a certain amount of subtlety: I think about light and shading and the kinds of materials different objects are made of, and whether they're transparent or reflective or squishy or fuzzy or what. However, it's trivially easy to make some truly hideous things out of simple geometric shapes. And sometimes I do, just because I can. Usually those die in the nethermost regions of my hard drive, where the rainbows and valentines go to rot.

To the obvious question, Why make the damned things in the first place? I can only say I don't know. Probably just to get them out of my head. So I made a thing full of smiley faces, and realized that there was an actual idea in there, and that in fact it needed to be a series. So far there are five of them. None of the others is as hideous as the smileys. For the sake of some kind of consistency, I did make all of them more simplified and saturated and cartoony than I normally would have.

And now I'm sitting here grinding my teeth in bitter self-loathing, because this is exactly the kind of thing I hate most about fractals. I'm pretty sure there are people out there who would think this is really cool. Or cute. Or legitimately cheering.

Gah.

So, anyway, I'll probably post part two of the series tomorrow.
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On the one hand, it's really nice to be back in Seattle. The air is clear, the light is beautiful, the water tastes good, and I have all my nice familiar systems of tea and food and internet.

On the other hand, I hate a lot of Seattle. We tried to go out this afternoon to run some errands: stop at the bank, pick up some art supplies, maybe get some lunch. This was the Professor's last free afternoon for months, because the new quarter is starting. We got as far as the bank, and somehow it sent me into complete crash-and-burn mode. I don't really know why. Maybe because it was much colder outside than I was expecting. Maybe because the bank guy was a flawless example of the kind of supercilious hipper-than-thou jerk that I hate the most. Maybe it was the dude with the gasoline-stinking leaf-blower on the sidewalk between the bank and the car, that blew a lot of grit into my eyes and made me cough.

At any rate, I ended up having a complete freak-out breakdown, and we just came straight back home, without doing any of the other stuff that was supposed to get done while we were out. An almost entirely wasted trip. I felt completely like a useless loser asswipe. Something about this town convinces me that I am utterly worthless. I don't think I was quite so overwhelmed by that idea when I was in Pittsburgh.

I miss having people around to talk to. I feel so impossibly far away from everyone.

But I like having all my normal tools and supplies available. All my pliers and hammers and mat-knives and bits of copper leaf and tiny drill bits and spools of wire. All my carefully sorted boxes of beads. All my proper kitchen knives.

So, obviously, the thing to do is move all my ten thousand pieces of heavy, fragile, specialized crap back to Pittsburgh, where there are people I like to see. And where the winters are cold and snowy. And where the summers are thick with haze and pollen. And where my skin completely freaked out during my two-week visit, such that there are huge weird rashy patches up both my sides.

Arrgh.

Adding to the complication is that there's a branch of the community college that's really close, right up the hill, and the Professor has been trying to get a class there for at least a year now. They always contact him at the very last minute before the beginning of term, and so he's always had schedule conflicts with the other classes he's teaching. But this time they needed somebody at an hour when he's available. And they're paying extra because the class size is large. And he gets to have an office. And the reason this class opened up was because the guy who used to teach it, and who was full-time, was also very old and died suddenly. Which is sad, and all, but it means that the college might conceivably be looking to hire a full-time person to replace him: death or retirement of existing faculty members being the only allowable exception to the current hiring freeze.

Arrgh.

I really can't even tell, at this point, if I'm all pissed off because I hate it here and am desperate to leave, or if I'm all pissed off because I'm clearly not doing so well here, and feel like my only option is to give up and leave. Or if I'm all pissed off because the Professor's job prospects seem pretty decent here, and I'm worried that I won't get to leave.

Arrgh.
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I fear I have entirely forgotten how to write anything for posting.

It's gotten to be that dim & grim time of year, when the light goes away and the warmth goes away and I mostly just shut down completely. This year I'm especially sad, thinking about the windows in the house that didn't end up being ours, up on top of the hill where more light happens. Some evenings I can tell by the color of the sky that there's been a break in the clouds, way down at the western horizon, and I know it would be visible from the upper windows of the house. From where I am I can't see it at all.

And I beat myself up, mercilessly, because no matter what I do, I still can't stand the business of trying to sell any of the things I make. Putting stuff online is always painful, and taking pictures is slow, and writing ad-copy is excruciating. But none of those components are nearly as bad as getting a reaction from some interested customer. As soon as some poor soul says "Yes, please, send me many!" I go into a useless catatonic state, withdraw from the outside world completely, and shun all communication. And I stop making things, because I don't have any way of storing them, but somehow making them go away is beyond my capacity.

I'm developing a theory about the stuff I make, which is more or less like this: There's a thing that happens sometimes, where I get a terrible joke stuck in my head. Those jokes that turn up in hideously-illustrated booklets, intended for gradeschool children. They are often puns, forced, utterly unfunny. Sometimes the pun is explained in parentheses, just to make sure the reader gets it. [One was a salted (assaulted).]

At any rate, I'll get one of those jokes stuck in my head, as though it was a pop song I'd heard in the grocery store muzak. [Hold up the chicken and make it pea.] It rattles around in there, driving me batty, and the only way to get rid of it is to tell some unfortunate victim the joke. Somehow that clears it out of my head, so I can get on with my life. Sadly, this is not a nice thing to do to a person, since these jokes are not at all funny. They are embarrassing. They are painful. I am ashamed to admit that I know them in the first place, let alone feel compelled to pass them on.

Something very similar happens with the stuff I make, and the projects I do. They start with small, stupid, irritating ideas, that get stuck in my head and won't go away. The only way to clear them out is to make them physically manifest, so that somebody else can see what I've been thinking about. But showing people the things I've made feels just as horrible as telling them those jokes; it's the same overwhelming shame and embarrassment. [Because he was a common tater (commentator).]

This results also in a distressing corollary, which is that when people say they like the things I do, I have no idea how to react. (I wouldn't know how to react if I had an audience who laughed uproariously at the jokes, either.) To me, any feedback that seems enthusiastic or even positive is purely baffling, because I feel so bad about inflicting such crap on the world. I'm not doing it on purpose. It just sort of bubbles up from the unseen depths, and I push it out of my way in hopes of getting loose of the stuff. It's not something I'm proud of. I would stop, if only I knew how.

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mrvelocipede

June 2011

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