It’s been over a year since I went through a course to become SCUBA certified. I finished my final “open water” dive in March or April of last year. More on that later, but first some context.
When I was about 13 years old my family took a vacation to the Florida Keys, this was not a super monumental vacation since we lived outside of Miami at the time, but it was still a memorable trip. Although I grew up in and around beaches and oceans I had never been snorkeling and I had certainly never been near a coral reef. On this trip I got my first (and last) taste of the beauty and magnificence of coral formations. It was a fairly standard boat tour, loaded with tourists, a laid back captain who was probably more concerned with the safety of the marine life then of the tourists (knowing how threatened the world’s reefs are I’m not sure I could disagree with his priorities). As a somewhat neurotic 13 year-old I was naturally a little apprehensive the night before: I’m a great swimmer and have always loved the water but I had never gone 10 or 15 miles from shore and just hopped into the blue abyss.
I’ll always remember the beauty of that reef and how free I felt, slowly gliding over it. I was only limited by the necessity of staying on the surface the majority of the time to get air through the snorkel. So naturally I started thinking, “the only way that experience could have been better was if I could have stayed deeper for longer and not been so limited by the need for air.” I think it was at that moment when I, subconsciously, put ‘SCUBA certification’ on my bucket list.
Fast forward almost 10 years. My roommate, the consumate outdoorsman, had signed up for a SCUBA class offered through the university and was pushing me to join him. As usual, my fears about money and non-commital nature had me waffling for about a week until the deadline past and the decision was made for me without me having to use any degree of agency. I lived to regret that period because for 10 years I had dreamed of learning to SCUBA dive and a cheep and easy opportunity to learn with a friend had past.
Three years later: I learned that the school I had transfered too was offering a SCUBA class in the spring semester. Having learned from painful experience I was not about to pass this opportunity up and I hit the “submit” button on the registration form with righteous determination! I took the class and it turned out that SCUBA diving was everything I had hoped for and more. The freedom of feeling weightless and totally at peace, the calming but muffled sounds of the water all around, the overall feeling of having a superpower: breathing underwater. Diving is an amazing experience and if you have a chance it’s not something you should pass up like I once did.
After that class I began plotting how I could get back into the water as soon as possible, I planned to go on a few trips my local dive shop was having last summer. I thought about planning future vacations around the best dive spots. But I did none of those things.
Fifteen months after receiving my PADI Diver card in the mail I have not worn a BCD or stuck a regulator in my mouth. Although I have gone in the water all my attempts at breathing under it have, so far, been futile. So some may ask what the point of becoming a certified diver was, and why it was so important that I do it at that moment in time.
The truth is, I don’t regret that class at all, not for a minute. The certification is good for a lifetime and although my schedule and finances have not permitted any diving since I was certified I fully plan on diving in the future and seeing more of the world’s stunning (and tragically disappearing) reefs. However, even if I never go diving again in my life, which I sincerely hope will not be the case, I wouldn’t regret getting certified. We all do things in life that don’t end up panning out, we make plans that get canceled, learn skills we never use, get certifications for jobs we end up quitting. Were these things a waste of time? Only if we choose to see them as such. I had always wanted to be a diver, it was a major goal of mine. Of course it would be better if I could say I’d been on 30 dives in the past year: I haven’t, but I still have the skill and some small degree of knowledge about SCUBA diving. It changed the way I see the water, the weather and think about pressure and the human body. I think there is a lot to be said for pursuing your interests even if they don’t look good on a resume, even if they don’t change you life, even if you don’t end up becoming a guru. Don’t be afraid to take a risk and try something you’ve always wanted to do even if you have no chance of using it in the foreseeable future, just don’t make the mistake of thinking that it was a waste of time or money.
It’s a bit of false start to redesign the blog, post these Monday Motivations: here and here, and then to drop off the face of the earth for three weeks. And it is true, I missed the past 3 opportunities to most some motivation for your Monday. I will be getting back on the horse next week (already wrote the article). This summer, so far, has been a busy one.
I graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s in management (well I didn’t walk and haven’t received a diploma yet, but according to them I have completed all the requirements). This was a big accomplishment for me, as I said to my mother: “I did in 5 years what most people do in 4”.
I’ve done some touring with family around Southern Utah, visiting America’s National Parks and avoiding the massive Brian Head fire that was active a few weeks back.
But a lot of my time has been spent working on two major projects. I’ve been designing an app for court reporters called Q&A Transcript Manager. (See the logo below). We are currently testing it. It’s been extremely rewarding to see something that I designed from the ground up finally on a screen and functional. In addition to this major design project I’ve been doing a lot of print art lately (like the above image for my friend Quintin’s show).
I’ve also been re-designing and developing a website for Brazilian students called Avalie Meu Professor. Our team hopes that this will gain traction in South America were Rate My Professor is not available. This has been an ongoing project for some time and it has really forced me to learn a lot of new technologies and accelerate my knowledge of Ruby on Rails. Once again, it’s been incredibly rewarding to see these really complex and sometimes abstract features come together into a tangible user experience.
So in short my travels, these projects and a few others have kept me from blogging regularly, or fixing the 20 + errors preventing this theme from being fully “WordPress Compliant”.
Most of us take the web and websites for granted: we rarely think about the costs associated with setting up, running, and updating servers, or ensuring that the pages we visit will work reliably and safely. These are costly operations and the more users a web service has the higher the costs. It’s fairly safe to assume that if Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Reddit charged users even a fraction of their costs they would have been unable to become the giants they are. Unlike in the real world, we have come to expect information and services on the Internet to be free. For most for-profit businesses this leaves little alternatives for profit outside of advertising. I don’t want to comment on the ethics, legality or impact on privacy and society that such advertising has. We know it’s pervasive and with the marriage of ever-improving algorithms and more time spent online, it will probably continue to become even more so. But advertising is one of only three ways (that I can think of) to make money on the Internet. The second is, of course, selling something whether it be e-commerce or a SAAS or anything else that individuals and companies are willing to pay for. The last way is the traditional non-profit model, however, it no longer powers charities and churches. It’s proven to be the most lucrative and the most viable.
Think about the last time Wikipedia adorned their header with a fundraising banner. If you’re anything like me you’ve probably closed that modal about a dozen times over the years without thinking twice. Yet, I use Wikipedia almost daily and have for years and they have never served me an ad or enforced a pricey subscription fee. We all use Wikipedia, don’t even try and deny it. What about Khan Academy? What about other non-profits that you may not think of? The Apache Foundation? Linux? Mozilla?
For at least 10 years I’ve used an FTP client called Cyberduck to maintain my website, every time you exit the application it asks for a one-time donation. I must have closed it hundreds of times without ever giving. About two years ago I bit the bullet and actually donated about $50 to Cyberduck, as a student it felt like a lot but I wanted to give back to a program that had given me so much. However great the sacrifice of $50 felt at the time, considering how long I’d been using the software it equated to a subscription fee of $5 a year! Not such a big sacrifice when you put it that way especially considering David V. Kocher and Yves Langisch probably spend more than 10 minutes a year maintaining Cyberduck.
This innovative model extends beyond just services and software products it is also applied to the content. More and more I’m seeing YouTube channels featuring a link to their Patreon accounts and why not? Making videos takes time and resources and making really good videos takes more time and more resources. If you really a channel’s content and are a regular viewer consider giving the creators a bit of compensation especially if they’re not big enough yet to be making a lot of money as YouTube partners.
I’m not saying that advertising is wrong or a bad model only that there are alternatives. One alternative is funded by your generosity, without which the lake of alternatives grows ever and ever drier. So this week give a few dollars to a non-profit website or service you use regularly and make it a monthly habit.
Good artist copy, great artists steal.
This is an oft-quoted saying, perhaps originally coined by Pablo Picasso but it’s hard to say since I’m willing to bet he stole it. But it’s not just a humorous saying, what Picasso was getting at is deadly serious. (In this post I’m going to talk a lot about art specifically but these principles can be applied broadly to any field where you create something, baking, software engineering, or laying bricks).
Within each of us, I think there is an inherent drive to create something new, to do things that no one has done before, or to take something that exists and twist it into something that did not exist before and is arguably better. This is not only the basis for creative expression but all progression generally. So, naturally, when seeking to exercise whatever creative instincts we have been gifted with we generally want to create something new, original and wholly our own. Today, I’d like to make a slight argument against this; this week take a work you admire and copy it 100%.
Seriously, lift someone else’s art, music or design this week. I’m not saying you should sell it, distribute it, or claim it as your own, that’s highly unethical. But I am saying that you should copy someone else’s work for your own personal education. You can burn if afterwards if you wish because the value of this exercise is in the creation process, not the final product.
I think it would be difficult to become a great artist in a vacuum, there is just too much to discover without help, I’m confident that any living artist would not be remotely as good as they are without generations of influences behind them. But studying the masters of art will only get you so far. From an artistic perspective, there is no substitute for putting pencil to paper and copying someone you admire. You will learn things that you could not have otherwise known from even the motion of your hand as you sketch.
Your results won’t be of much value to the world, selling them or passing them off as your own would be plagiarism. Even your most of your friends will look at your masterpiece and say, “Hey cool, but I like Turner’s better”. But that’s not the point. You’re not making this for the world. If you’re serious about your craft and you actually want to progress rather than remain stagnant it’s worth putting in a few hours a month to copy a work you like and in the process you may even teach yourself (without an expensive online class) some of the very techniques that the master originally used in creating the work.
Copying something will help you to familiarise yourself with the conventions of a genre. For example, I’ve long been fascinated by the advertising of the 1920s and 1930s. For example, the beautiful Grand Prix posters created by French illustrator Robert Falcucci. As much as I love this style, I couldn’t possibly create an ad like this, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Largely, because I just don’t know the conventions of the era. These designers, illustrators, and printers were constrained by numerous factors, from the medium they used, to the cost of the commission; even what society considered to be an “acceptable ad” was a constraint. I have no idea about any of those things but by attempting to recreate my favourite ads from the time I have learned to see the world a little bit more like those who were originally creating these beautiful ads. By so doing I have in a small way become like those designers and am now slightly more capable something original in that same style.
So if you admire something but it boggles your mind, spend some time this week copying it. You won’t realise it at first but next time you sit down to create an original work you may well have, inadvertently, “stolen” a little of a great artist’s technique.
Below is my attempt at Robert Falcucci’s masterpiece as viewed by an iPhone.
The original Falcucci poster was taken from Benjamin’s Flickr account and is under Creative Commons Licence.
After a nearly four-year hiatus (from which I did not believe I would ever return) I have taken up the pen to resume my blog. A few semesters ago I was in a class that mandated all students keep a weekly blog. I was not too keen on this since our topics were dry and a bit redundant but it made me miss blogging. Also since I last regularly posted I have learned a lot about content creation and internet marketing so I’ve been wanting to try out my skills on myself before offering them to others.
In previous years my blog was a collection of semi-coherent ramblings about a plethora of subjects. My main focus now is on motivation and intentional living and how those things relate to business, design and life. I will be updating the blog faithfully every Monday morning with a little bit of motivation for you. This Monday motivation will be stories of people or products that inspire me and other inspirational thoughts that I come across throughout the week. Throughout the week I’ll be posting more sporadically on design, business and very occasionally web development, these weekly posts will be more in the vein of the ramblings that I used to post so if you’re interested in what I’m up to professionally then tune in, otherwise check the blog on Mondays for a little dose of motivation.
Lastly, this website is far from finished, in fact, according to Theme Checker there are about 30 changes I have to meet WordPress guidelines. But that is above and beyond what I can see with my own eyes. I’ve been working on this template on and off for about six months (the bulk of it was done in May) and for a long time I used it as an excuse to not publish anything. I realised that if I waited until perfection I would never post anything so I’m opting to begin posting on an unfinished website.
A few notes on this blog redesign:
The collaborations between Colin and myself are sometimes brilliant and sometimes less than. Whenever we get together (about once a year) there is a strong desire to shoot something, anything, and if a good story is not something we can brainstorm we resort to wandering the streets of Princeton and nearby Sourland Mountain with a kids bike and a couple of cameras.
More than anything else one could say this was a test of our SLRs, neither John or I had ever shot anything so long or intensive on our cameras so this was a good test just to see how they would hold up over the course of an intense shoot. I have to say I am very pleased with the outcome.
I spent about three days editing this (with a week-long venture to Rome in between).
Remember our little films look good in 720 or 1080 HD! Check it out on Youtube.
Below are some behind the scenes photos (second only to cool guys not looking at explosions are cool guys riding a little girls bike):
Everyone’s trying to get Will to quit…
Last week when I noticed a colonie of ants all over my sidewalk I never intended for it to become a thing. I wasn’t planning to make a video. I just love ants, seriously; they exhibit a degree of sociality present among few other insects, let alone animals. This also served a good test of my new SLR’s video capabilities.
After viewing the footage I quickly decided it was too good to waste and thought perhaps I could get some milage out of it. I also drew a sweet doodle in my sketch book which served as a title. About four years back I was at a popular Ontario Amusement Park once licensed to Paramount Pictures 😉 while standing in line with my good friend Talia; we saw a hill of ants so I pretended to be David Attenborough/”the voice of nature” whilst she filmed, I suppose this could be seen as a sequel with a sinister twist.
I was digging around in my computer-box-machine when I found some gold from yesteryear. Shortly before my mission I was working on turning a 2D image into a dynamic 3D image, it was going to be used as an intro to a specific part of my website set aside for doodles and random sketches. I never got around to using animation to make it 3D but I did a lot of photoshop on the original image and I was actually quite impressed when I found it the other day, take a look!
Original (don’t click on it it’s huge):
(Image courtesy of wikimedia)
Wow, I was filled with chills as I clicked “New Post” for the first time in almost three years! When I posted last I was about to serve a full time two year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. To find out more about my faith check out my page: here.
I returned in July 2012, and I’m sure when I wrote ‘Hiatus’ I was planning on picking up right away however I said “why”?. I started school, did two semesters (finals week right now actually, I should be studying), but as my ambitions and creations grew like a chestburster inside me I knew that it was time to get this rolling again.
To catch you up, because my photo on the about section and above is four years old here is a semi-recent photo of me in my buddy Mike’s ascot:
Certainly an under used fashion accessory by most of us, except Fred Jones, so I thought I’d rock it. Sorry for the photo quality, it was taken with the front camera on an iPhone which implicates that I took this photo myself.
After Dreamhost’s servers were hacked my website disappeared; but it’s back, bug free and that’s all for now. As I start to rebuild something of a portfolio I will being posting it here, maybe someday I will do this stuff for pay again but for now “eis for fun”.
Dear friends, readers any anybody who happens to stumble across my website. For the next two years I will be serving a full time mission for my church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (mormon.org). I will not be updating my site, taking any jobs or responding to my work email here on the site.
It’s a big commitment but I know that serving the Lord is the best thing I could possibly be doing with the next two years of my life. I know the truth of the work I am doing and can not be swayed.
Thanks and I’ll see you in two years.