Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Baby Steps

The classes I'm taking are generally of the basic variety. We're talking classmates who still haven't bought a camera, or know what Photoshop actually does. But my thought was "rebuild the foundation, and maybe pick up the odd thing here or there you haven't thought of." Sort of like going back and reading "winning poker is aggressive poker" and playing $1 SnG's because you can't get past the $10 barrier.

This is the week where the learning starts. A class largely spent making doodles on the back page of my notebook or helping those around me find the mode dial on their camera (it's the big one on top) yielded a few small tips and thoughts that I should have thought a long time ago.

We live in an age of information. A few keystrokes is all it takes to find answers, opinions, and data. The problem is, the context gets lost among the repetition of hearsay and elitist attitudes. Something that was true five years ago is still repeated as gospel despite technological changes. People with no hands-on experience quote other people with no hands-on experience. Subjective opinions are thrown out the window. If you aren't doing it all from first principals, you're doing it wrong.

A non-anonymous opinion is refreshing. Someone who can say "I do it this way, you do it how you want, but here are some examples" is welcome. My own malformed attitudes are already changing, and the results are encouraging. In the process, I'm relearning what I thought I already knew, and dropping those hang-ups leaves room for new observations.

So for now, a change in colour space, a change in applications, and a change in metering are already paying dividends. Maybe I'll actually get good at this thing eventually.

Friday, September 17, 2010


For 10 years I've been the guy who asked grad students how the could possibly want to keep going to school. After 22 years of education, I had needed a break from tests, exams, essays, reports, problem sets, assignments, and not being paid. They all respond with "I love learning."

And my opinion was that one can learn without attending a lab or class every day. In fact, one can potentially learn MORE because they aren't restricted by the subjects they've enrolled in.

Granted, I had toyed with the idea of doing a second bachelor's, in something like English or Philosophy, or some other course that would work my underused right brain. I had a knack for English before I did Engineering, and love to spew bullshit opinions that have no bearing on reality, so Philosophy seemed appealing too. They'd be taken purely for fun.

But as time went on, and I got older, they appealed less. I didn't want to be the "old" guy in a class of teenagers. Hell, I've barely read a book in the past 5 years (almost done Lost Vegas - it helps when I keep a book on the toilet tank), which I hear atrophies ones comprehension abilities.

New passions came, long-held ones expanded. My cooking went from something I enjoyed, to something I was actually getting accomplished with. Photography went from Mom's old Yashica to my own SLR to digital point-and-shoots to my digital SLR. With that final step came an explosion of interest, and many rabbit-holes to go down.

And now, with no small kick in the pants, I'm back in school. It's just taking up spare time that would have otherwise been wasted, and it's not shaping up to be anything challenging. Hell, most of it won't even be educational for now, as I'm starting from the bottom, and I've already taught myself up to the middle.

But it IS working my brain. In 3 days, I've gone from "what am I going to do for that assignment?" to spewing out enough ideas for the whole class to use and then some. I'm finding inspiration in things, and viewing the mundane scenes of daily life as potential subjects to explore. The creative juices are flowing again, and the structure that I've paid for will force me to actually follow through with ideas, to explore new avenues, and ultimately, to actually DO the work.

I've long lamented my lack of extra-curricular activities. I kept procrastinating on doing anything, and made excuses for it. Now, I may find I regret wasting that time.

I have no desire to go back to 30 hours of class a week, nor do I want to research ways to cure cancer. But 3 hours a night, 3 nights a week? For now, at least, that's looking like a pretty appealing practice to continue.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


The other day, I was informed that for the first time in a decade, I will HAVE to write something that at least resembles a formal essay. For the first time in longer than that, I will have to write an exam that takes a format that isn't really seen in the line of study I had followed in my school days. That is to say, I'm used to equations, problems, and code, but this will require rote memorization, critical analysis, and contextual discussion in short answers giving within a specified time limit.

Which just reminded me that I actually was granted extra time in high school for these sort of things, as I regularly took too long to formulate the ideas. See past blog postings (and this one) for examples of my ability to ramble.

Now I've just realized that my penmanship hasn't improved in ten years, and has most likely degraded.

But those are minor issues to the bigger one of having to write. I've filled countless screens in this little corner of the Interwebs over the past 4+ years. Recently, like many of you, I've slacked off in taking up valuable Google server space. Whereas this was once my main outlet to express opinion and impart the occasional half-witted joke, Twitter has usurped that position. In many ways, reducing what used to take hundreds of words into a mere 140 characters has been refreshing - see: brevity, soul, wit. However, I fear it may have atrophied my ability to expand these same thoughts into the long form. So I must increase my efforts to post here, and maintain my ability to flesh-out ideas.

I'm back in school. Nothing major, nothing overly stressful or time-consuming. Nine hours of my week that would have been otherwise spent in front of a television or computer or glass of scotch will be put to more productive use improving a hobby I am most fond of. When study dovetails with a passion, it hardly seems like study at all.

In the two classes I've attended so far, the spirit of discussion has been invigorating. Granted, one of them is better-suited to wide-ranging discussion than the other, as the 2nd does have fixed amount of material that has to be covered in the 13 weeks allotted. Being surrounded by students from 20-60 years of age means a broad range of opinions, knowledge, experience, and attitudes. Small class sizes also means less competition to be heard. Or maybe I just miss meeting new people.

If things continue on the path that's been seen in week one, this could be worthwhile time spent. If nothing else, this space will continue to be an outlet, and the results of my studies should be seen here regularly.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Just spent nearly a week in the land of the Mouse. Let's guess 1000 pics to go through... on top of the NYC ones I haven't gotten to yet.

Smoky Castle

Maybe one day I'll get around to blogging about this summer. Feels like I've spent more time in the States than home.