I did an interview! Which was great! And now I am tired.

I did an interview today with Obsolete Press, for their upcoming solarpunk issue. That was an exciting event and I will keep y'all posted on when that's available.

It came at the end of a very long day at work, though, and by the end of the interview I was dipping more than a little into backup fuel -- like, I'm fairly confident that I was cogent, but it was definitely going to be a "finish this then crash for a while" kind of thing, and I'm still pretty crashed. 

There's a few more days until the July 23 deadline to submit solarpunk-related content to Obsolete Press, btw.

Post Readercon Post

My last panel, I feel, went very well. It was on Science Fiction and Fantasy Fashion.

Overall, though: holy crap this was one of the best weekends of my life. 

The only bad thing I can think of about the entire weekend was that my debit card got rejected at McDonalds on the drive home, because the hotel was still holding the security deposit money.

This has been immensely gratifying, both because it's been a major life goal for the past several years, and because it went so well that I feel like I'm equipped to start thinking up even bigger life goals (because there are dots to connect between here and "Win a Hugo.") 

Next up on my list is to apply to be a panelist at the other Boston conventions, Arisia and Boskone, which are in January and February next year. (I can't remember which is when.) I will keep y'all updated about how that goes.

Hampshire College 2016 Course Catalog

I spent most of this weekend doing stuff in InDesign, during which time I learned a lot of new skills, missed a lot of sleep, and made this:

The image and this link are both to a PDF of the document. The table of contents is fully linked so you can click any course name and it'll take you straight to the page.  

Because Hampshire College's system for looking up available courses is sort of terrible, I got annoyed and took the results of a search for all classes and made it into a properly formatted InDesign file. Then I exported it as a PDF and I've been sharing it with people. 

For SEO purposes: If you're looking for Hampshire College course listings, for Fall 2016, of the 2016-2017 school year, this is a PDF of the course catalog. 

I watched a ton of InDesign videos today

I spent a huge amount of time today watching the Linda.com playlist on YouTube called "InDesign Secrets," which may not have been the best possible use of that time. (I slept through at least four videos. So, I guess, getting some sleep was good.)

There was a ton of stuff that I wouldn't have known how to do, but virtually none of it directly applied to anything I work on. Instead, what I got from it was a lot of peripheral insight into features that I could get better use out of. I don't think I'm ever going to use the Drop Words workaround detailed in video 5 of that playlist, but I have no doubt that I'll find a use for object anchoring at some point, and I have a better idea now of how to relate paragraph and character styles.

(This is leading into a train of thought about accessibility of professional tools and the evolution of punk aesthetics but I don't have the time or energy to develop that thought right now, and besides it'd probably be better on Watsons-Solarpunk than here. So, look forward to that, hopefully, soon.)

Tried and failed to use Access after 8 years without touching it

I spent about six hours today trying to build a form that would prompt me to take a survey about my day every night, then compile the data and email me a weekly report. It's supposed to be a mechanism for maintaining self-care when I don't have the energy to think about it: Off-loading the responsibility for remembering that I'm supposed to be paying attention to overall trends in my life.

My effort included extensive googling, building two Google Forms, downloading Microsoft Office via my school's free MS agreement, attempting to re-learn Microsoft Access, building the whole form again in Access, using four inter-referential tables, then giving up.

Now I've set my To-Do list app to remind me at 11 p.m. with a link to the Google Form, and I guess I'll have to manually dig through the data, which is less than ideal. Hopefully I'll be able to figure out a better solution before the next time it gets too overwhelming for me to keep up with it.

If anybody knows any good tips on how to set something like this up, let me know.

Finals are over! + art blog

All three of my finals were due at 5 p.m. today, and I turned them all in. So I'm done! I'm even happy with most of the work I did! 

Also, I set up a Tumblr for my art. It's txwatson-art.tumblr.com, and I think for now at least I'm going to stick to posting new stuff there, not my older art. I'm also going to finally start using the queue.

Here's an example of the work that's going up there:

My personal font

I finally got around to using MyScriptFont.com's font making tool. It took a massive amount of time. I kinda spent a ton of time tweaking the letters in photoshop until I was more or less happy with the way they looked together. It took a while. I had to download and install the font eight times. 

font sample.PNG

Adobe After Effects is so cool!

I'd love to have a video to share with this but I haven't finished any yet. 

After Effects is awesome! And it's also clearly what I should have been using for, like, most of my video editing, because my videos are pretty special effects heavy and that's super clunky in Premiere after a while. 

It feels like this is the program I can use to just doodle in video making the way I do in Photoshop. In fact, since you can import a Photoshop file as a sequence and animate all the layers independently, I can just make myself a Photoshop file with all the assets for a scene I want to build and import it! 

So far I've been trying to build video of the graphs I see in my head when I try to explain complex ideas. Those will be forthcoming. 

I have a DeviantArt page again!

I've got a drawing app on my phone, Autodesk SketchBook, which recently added DeviantArt integration, the main interesting feature of which is challenge prompts. These are great, because more often than not when I open the app it's because I want to draw, not because I have something to draw, and it's super frustrating to draw the same couple scribbles over and over again.

A timed sketch challenge, to draw a landscape using black and white/grayscale within 15 minutes.

A timed sketch challenge, to draw a landscape using black and white/grayscale within 15 minutes.

So far that's all I've used the account for: Uploading my challenge entries. I'm more happy with some than others -- the tree (another timed challenge) is outright embarrassing, but the City at Sunset is one of my favorite pictures that I've drawn lately.

No, I'm not embedding the tree.

No, I'm not embedding the tree.

I'll probably start to upload some other stuff there too, it'd be nice to have a convenient place to point to for a portfolio. I don't think I'm going to try too hard to maintain it, though, because I've got enough online identity maintenance to handle right now that I don't want to have to learn how to interact with a whole new website on a serious level.

Let me know if there's any art you know I've done that you think should be online.

Park design for Hampshire's lawn

My most recent assignment for Green Cities was to design and illustrate a plan for a new green space, taking up a large rectangular segment of land at the front of the campus. Currently it's a wildflower field -- it was recently mowed but usually it's overgrown with local plants.

After the images is my essay explaining the park, cut and edited for presenting as a blog post.

 I really like the field as it exists, and wanted to leave a lot of room for natural growth. So, I started by putting bridges over the space, where people could go and stand out over the field, which would be unnavigably thickly grown.

I felt like that wasn’t interesting enough, though. The design I had felt like it could be a site of complex exploration and mystery, but the actual paths available didn’t actually sustain that feeling. So I added paths on the ground.

I also decided to attempt to plan where the water in the space would flow. Ideally I’d like to bring in a part of a nearby river’s flow and run it under the tower at the front of the space, where I’d also add a micro hydro power plant, then directing the water back out to the Connecticut River, probably by way of the Fort River, but I couldn’t quickly find sufficiently detailed water maps of the area so I gave up on that for the purposes of this design.

For accessibility, I made sure that there are no areas that don’t have at least one paved road leading to them, and each platform has at least one bridge leading to it that’s roughly set up to accommodate the ramp incline standard of 1 inch rise per 12 inches run, though if I were actually planning this for construction I’d spend a lot more time making sure I got that right. There would also be an elevator in the algae tower, as well as stairs.

Each of the platforms is large enough to accommodate a whole class at a time. The largest, highest platform, on top of the algae tower, contains an amphitheater and a garden.

The garden would be planted and maintained so that the canopy it creates is roughly level with the top of the amphitheater, as if the treetops were the surface of a lake. 

The algae tower is a two-story tall algae-powered light. Other smaller lights throughout the park will also be algae powered. Inside the tower would be an aquaponics lab and classroom, and, if the river works, a hydro electric plant that also provides power to the college.

I hope that the partial ceiling of the bridges, tall grass and large plants on the edges of the paths, student art, and the watery green light of the lamps, makes people wandering the lower park feel like they’re in a bottle universe that’s even further separate from the world than the college is, and is definitely profoundly separate from the bridges above: Ideally I want them to feel like two different parks.

(In writing it’s occurring to me that I could strongly accentuate this effect by building frames around the entryways to the lower park that form thresholds to entry -- you couldn’t go around them because of the overgrown grass, so they might create a very mystical feeling, and give students the opportunity to tangibly leave their external sense of stress outside the park as they pass into it.)

The bridges, on the other hand, would be designed to give a very strong sense of presence in the Hampshire campus and its surroundings. If the lower park is meant to be like stepping out of the map, then the upper is meant to be like stepping up to look at it. 

If possible, they’d be accoustically designed to direct sound well within themselves, but not out; people standing on the ground or on another disc shouldn’t be able to clearly hear two people speaking to each other at a normal volume on another disc. This would be good for classes held on the discs, and for privacy, and to preserve the sense of otherworldliness on the ground.

First report: Hampshire College

I'm at the end of day 5 on the Hampshire College campus; still two more days before classes start. 

So far, this place is amazing.

If anyone following me goes to Hampshire, let me know, I'd love to say hi.

I've had piles and piles of things I've wanted to say, but as of this moment it's hard to pull them all together in my head. This week has been a really exciting torrent of information and context and I can't wait to get started on the actual work of being a Hampshire student.

It does sound like it's going to be a very challenging program, but I really think I'm up for it. 

And, by the way, (and I will definitely be writing about this at length later) Hampshire is the most solarpunk place I've ever seen. I'm super excited to find out if there are other solarpunks on campus and exchange ideas.

Cool brushes by Kyle T. Webster

I stress-purchased some digital brushes the other day, and so far I have only been regretting that decision in terms of having less money -- having the brushes has been fantastic.

I bought the brushes from Kyle T Webster's Gumroad store. I got the cross-hatch set, the screentone set, the animator pencil and the Mr. Natural brush. So far, my favorite combination is definitely the screentone set with the Mr. Natural brush. I've done portraits like the one to the right (from my favorite picture of me) of like half my friends in the last few days.

Watson's custom notebook line guides

I mentioned yesterday that I had made some custom plain paper line guides, based on these ones from The Well-Appointed Desk. 

These are kind of time-sensitive -- since one of their features is this and the next two months' calendars on the bottom of the first page. I figure they'll most likely get damaged over time, or I'll use them to scribble to get ink flowing in pens, or whatever -- and they'll need to be updated, my guess is around once every three months. If it's longer than that, I can add more calendars to the bottom of page 2, I guess.

Both pages have a space for the current date, my location, and the page topic. This is for easy organization and later reference.

The lines are 5.5mm apart on the lined section of the paper and 5mm on the grid. I like writing really small and that way I get the most use possible out of the page space, despite the amount of leftover white space in the header and footer sections.

I modeled these sheets after my most effective note-taking experience, which is at panels at Readercon. (It feels much more urgent to get things right there.) The box on the upper right of the first page would be for the list of panelists; I will probably generally use it for the names of instructors, and/or major themes or sources. That's an element that I'll explore more when I start actually using it. (One of the good things about the planned obsolescence of the calendar is that I get to tweak them based on experience on a regular basis.)

The grid section is for side-calculations, doodles, off-topic thoughts and other stuff that doesn't belong in the main body of the notes. The margin in the main body is so that I can have important headers stick out for emphasis, and/or notes about things I have questions about, so I can quickly refer back to them.

Every third line on the main note body is bolded, for an easier sense of page space. The dotted line down the middle is for quickly eyeballing the spacing for multiple columns. And the markings down the side of the top page are spaced in inches, because there was room to add a ruler so I figured why the eff not. I've got metric with the grid, anyway.

Page 2 is page 1 without the major content box or bottom reference notes. This is so I can go to class with the first two sheets already set. If Readercon is any good for experience here, 2 pages will be enough for most hour-long note taking sessions. But even if it takes three or four, that reduces the number of actions I have to take in the middle of class to adjust my notepad. (I also expect that I'd probably find the first-page content distracting on what was meant to be the second page of notes.)

The blurred out stuff in the lower right is a set of addresses and numbers I frequently need to reference, and often forget. None of them are actually particularly sensitive, but it seemed vaguely irresponsible not to blur them.

It's very important, if you want to use these, to make sure to print it at actual-size, not resize to fit. Otherwise, the ruler on the side will be inaccurate. And if there's any interest in a generic version I'd be happy to set one up.

Just upgraded to Windows 10

To be honest I've barely managed to do anything with it so far. The first half hour I spent with it was spent trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with my touchpad, which was no longer functionally scrolling. I ended up having to uninstall then reinstall the most recent driver update. 

So far I've run into nothing but frustrations. It took me a long time to get the search box off the taskbar, and I'm annoyed that the accent color no longer changes to keep up with my current background. (I spent a long time making a set of custom backgrounds that rotate every 10 minutes, and I really liked that even when I had windows open, I saw accents all over my screen shift in tone every once in a while.)

I don't know whether I'm going to find anything to like about Windows 10. I'm not really excited about having the start menu back, so there's the one thing people seem to care about, gone. The notifications thing looks potentially pretty cool, but I don't have time to customize it tonight.


Inside Out is a really good movie

So, Inside Out is a pretty good movie.

I cried. A bunch. Whatever. It's not a big deal.

Okay, Inside Out was a really incredible movie. I'm super impressed by it.

That said, though, I can't think of anything to say about it. Like, there are tons of moments in it that are incredibly funny that I could quote, but I don't want to spoil any jokes. And there are great big things I could say about the plot, but I don't want to spoil that, either.

Maybe I'll talk more about it after it's been out for a while, and everybody's seen it.

For now, though: Just go see it. It's great. You'll cry.

IT'S ALLIIIIiiivve...ish

Solarpunk Press is up and running! By which I mean the website works and there are two posts on the official blog. (One of them's a recording of me reciting a poem.) Submissions still don't open for another week, and it'll still be over a month before we have the Patreon up, and over a month after that before we publish our first piece of original fiction.

In the meantime, we're going to be doing a lot of preparing and a lot of practicing and we're very, very excited.

General updates

I spent all day working on projects that I'm not ready to make announcements about (apart from what I've already said) so I don't have much to talk about. So, now seems like a good time to update anyone who's interested in the state of things going on in my life.

No one at Adobe has returned my email about making life management software. I can't remember whether I brought that up here.

Faith and I are getting ready to double down on effort to finish the Observer Employee Handbook, so that it doesn't fall between the cracks while we work on the magazine.

This blog's URL finished transferring -- my squarespace blog is now accessible at txwatson.com. Y'all probably noticed that by now.

Back from Readercon with news

Wow, a lot just happened.

If you follow me on Tumblr, you might have noticed that I'm gearing up to open submissions for a new solarpunk web magazine! Submissions are going to open on July 27, which I'll definitely post about here. 

I spent most of today working on stuff for that -- so I have a whole lot to talk about, but I don't want to say any of it just yet. The stuff we've already said out loud, though, is that we're going to pay $0.03/word for stories between about 2,000 and 5,000 words, to do 12 issues of 1 story a month starting in October. We'll be setting up a Patreon account in hopes of making the project self-sustaining, and hopefully of making it bigger, but we feel like even if we have to pack it in after 12 stories it's worth it to get some good solarpunk fiction out there.

Also we're gonna podcast it.

I love Readercon.

If you want to know right away when submissions open, subscribe to the mailing list at tinyletter.com/txwatson. I'm going to send exactly one email out on that list, then delete all the subscribers, so you don't have to worry about ever getting spam from me there.