Ben Crowder / Blog

Blog: #things-on-my-mind

Things on my mind #9

  • The joy of breaking a larger task up into small, concrete to-do items.
  • How the title of this post series lends itself to sentence fragments in these list items, and how I still blithely end them with periods regardless, and furthermore how some list items will then evolve into full sentences. A garden of inconsistency.
  • Wondering how much time to put into exploring new hobbies vs. going deeper into what I’ve already been doing.
  • I added a /uses page. In writing it, I realized I no longer upgrade to new major versions of macOS, because doing so inevitably makes my computer slower. This should not be the case.
  • How I have zero visibility into who buys my art prints via Society6. (I just see which prints and how many.) Maybe someday I’ll make my own rather than doing print-on-demand.
  • With my current style of symbolic religious art, sometimes it seems like a piece is more visually interesting the more internal edges it has. Not sure if that’s always true, though.
  • I sometimes worry that having my religious work in my main feed alienates readers who aren’t interested in religion. But I myself don’t mind skipping uninteresting things in others’ feeds, so I need to stop overthinking this.
  • Going forward, I’m going to try batching art posts so they don’t dominate the blog.
  • I used to have a simple confirm button on my blog app when publishing/unpublishing a post, but I had too many accidental clicks (read: one or two), and days could go by before I realized it, so I’ve updated my app to require entry of a five-character random code. Working well so far.
  • Making new friends and acquaintances online continues to be one of the joys of having a personal website.
  • I want to use paper more often — writing/drawing by hand in notebooks or on index cards or what have you.
  • How lovely Terza Reader is. I’ve been trialing it for personal ebook reading and mmm, it hits the spot. Low-contrast Aldine letterforms are my thing.
  • My wife and I have been enjoying Ready, Set, Love on Netflix. It’s a crazy Thai romantic comedy series. Also looking forward to the new season of Somebody Feed Phil.

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Things on my mind #8

  • I realized recently that I never use Siri anymore. Voice input isn’t my thing, apparently.
  • The importance of saving mental state when working on something. (Usually via keeping a journal/log or a to-do list.) Makes it much easier to pick the project up again months or years later.
  • Another thing I noticed recently: my dreams are never in a secondary world. A pity. I have no idea why this is.
  • I’ve set myself a rule where I need to spend at least ten minutes blogging each day before I’m allowed to read books. It’s working, as you may have noticed with the increase in posting this past week or two.
  • I was today years old when I learned how to do jumping jacks. I’ve apparently been doing them wrong my whole life. (Not that I’ve done them a ton. But still.)
  • Our local theater charges around twice as much per ticket as it used to. I have no idea when it changed.
  • On my phone I much prefer reading with fonts that are slightly heavier. Digital type is often too anemic, too wispy. No substance.

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Things on my mind #7

  • I’m noticeably happier on days when I’m making things.
  • Reading long books is often daunting, but I need to remember that I’m never reading the whole book all at once: it’s always a page at a time, and I can read a page. (This applies to writing and other things, too.)
  • Thinking about a project helps motivate me to work on it, warming it up in my mind. Setting aside time (saying “I’m going to spend ten minutes on this project right now”) also helps.
  • I still have heaps of imposter syndrome with my art. (That it’s digital and not analog, that it’s overly simple and not ornate enough, that it’s too abstract, etc.) I try to not let that stop me from making the art, though. Relevant quote from Martha Graham that I think about fairly often: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” So that’s what I try to do.
  • It’s okay, I think, to make art that only one person likes. Or only a few people. Not everything needs to be wildly popular.
  • I feel vaguely guilty when making sequel art (a new version of an earlier piece) and worry that it’s less interesting, but it’s an important part of my process and I get a lot of value from reworking earlier ideas. (I also tend to overthink things, so here’s a grain of salt.)
  • With my art, I’ve optimized for short execution times — generally around a couple hours once I’ve got the idea figured out. Which is good, but sometimes I feel like I’ve lost (or am losing) the ability to work on larger, longer projects, pieces that take multiple months to complete. Might need to do something about that.
  • It’s been harder lately for me to write small atomic posts; I gravitate toward bundled/batched larger posts like this one. Longer posts feel heftier and more substantial, I suppose, but post length really isn’t a great metric for measuring actual value. Perhaps it also has to do with the design of my blog and/or the design of my internal blogging app, Slash.
  • I wonder if I ought to start writing weeknotes again.

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Things on my mind #6

  • Drawing with pencil or pen on paper is so much more satisfying than drawing on my iPad.
  • I went dairy-free for three weeks to try to rid myself of the nasal congestion I’ve had for fourteen years. Didn’t work.
  • It was kind of surreal hearing about Lahaina on fire. We visited there back in April, walked up and down Front Street. All of that’s gone now. Sad.
  • Summer has ended and the kids are back in school. I miss having them home during the day.
  • My dad’s headstone was finally installed, almost a year later. I’ve felt an increasing sense of sadness as we approach that first anniversary. The memories from that week of searching for him have been coming back, after lying mostly dormant for months.
  • I need to play around with Blender’s geometry nodes some more.
  • Tried using my iPhone 12 Mini again. Man, do I miss that form factor. So much easier on my hands than the 14. I sure hope the market’s aversion to small phones stops at some point.

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Things on my mind #5

  • The importance of good friendships.
  • Layoffs. Planet laid off 10% of the company early this week, with one casualty from my team. (Better than last time, where every other member of my team was affected. But still sad.) I’ve now lived through three rounds of layoffs in the last fourteen months, which is…a lot. Hoping for more stability in the industry going forward.
  • The recent UAP/UFO hearings. I don’t believe it’s actually aliens (though the science fiction reader in me certainly would not complain), but even natural explanations for some of the exhibited behavior would still be intriguing. And yet Occam’s dull razor says that the most boring explanation will be the one that applies here.
  • Still thinking about taking a break from making new symbolic art for a while. Maybe doing some other kinds of art. Maybe not. We’ll see.
  • Unrelated: I still have a hefty amount of impostor syndrome when it comes to being in the art world (doing exhibitions, etc.). I think part of it comes from being a digital-only artist and part of it comes from the simplistic nature of my art.
  • We’re coming up on one year since my dad disappeared. It’s been in my thoughts a lot lately. Those dates (September 13, when we realized he was gone, and September 16, when we found his body) are burned into my brain.

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Things on my mind #4

  • Cars on a busy road (sans honking) sound kind of like waves on the beach.
  • I feel like my relationship with my dad is still evolving and changing, in some ways. My take on that: any relationship has actual interactions (very important) but also mental model interactions in the absence of the other half. Since I’m still able to interact with my mental model of my dad, that half of the relationship apparently continues to change over time.
  • But at the same time, it’s been ten months of utter silence.
  • The amount of family photos and videos we have keeps growing, and it’s already much larger than the hard drives on our laptops. We have a decent backup strategy in place (local + Backblaze), but we don’t yet have a good solution for viewing the photos and videos. Thinking about getting a cheap media server with a massive amount of disk space, set up to allow streaming to our phones and computers.
  • In 30 years, what do I want to look back on having done? (Outside of being a good husband and father, etc.) I feel like I don’t necessarily know the answers to that question.
  • In a similar vein, I feel like I’m largely discovery writing my life. I’m not really planning five, ten, twenty years ahead. I’m okay with that, though, because my goal is to follow the spirit, and those revelations generally come one step at a time. (And have served me well so far.)
  • An iteration mentality, where I accept that my process involves doing lots of passes (even 10+) until the thing is done. The one-draft mentality only works once in a rare while. Also, outlining is not an escape from iteration.
  • I installed Threads and then a few days later deleted it.
  • Lately I’ve had a few things push me into a break from art: nothing was coming together in spite of my attempts; my wrists and arms have been aching; and I’ve wanted to get back into other types of projects (I feel I’ve become a bit of a one-trick pony in recent years).
  • I’ve been preparing a print for an upcoming art show, and the museum paper I printed it on is lovely. Very happy with how it turned out.
  • As a software engineer who occasionally needs to interview for jobs, I’ve found myself hesitant to put hobby code up online because of the time it would take to make the quality professional enough. But I now think it’s more important to make the code available, even if it’s not perfect or professional. So I’ll be posting the code for my genealogical chart scripts soon.
  • An awful thought: I have a large enough number of books now that I’m pretty much guaranteed to die before I finish reading them, given average life expectancies and my reading speed.
  • Siberian unicorns.
  • When I make and release things on here, is my goal really to help other people, or am I doing it more to make myself look good? How do I keep focused on the first and not slip into the second?

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Things on my mind #3

  • Father’s Day was sad, as expected.
  • At least once a week I wonder who in my immediate or extended family will be the next to die, and when. I hope I’m not taking for granted whatever fleeting and finite time I have left with them.
  • I miss being able to do dishes and yard work: something I never thought I’d say, back before my back got bad.
  • The Great Vowel Shift — what phonological changes in English are underway now, and will I even be able to notice them? (Also want to acknowledge that there’s already such diversity in accents in English across the world, which seems to mean that any shift would probably be more local than global.) And are other languages experiencing phonological shifts right now?
  • Stemming from my WWII reading: I’ve been wondering what the world would be like now if nobody had ever been murdered, and if infant mortality was unheard of. What lost inventions and works of art would we have? I suspect that most of the inventions eventually get invented by someone else in this timeline, but the works of art seem forever lost.
  • Do people named Tod think about death more? (Yes, yes, it’s effectively a German dad joke, but also a real question.) (Ben means “son of” in at least some Semitic languages, but I almost never think about that, so I guess I have a likely answer.)
  • The Apple Vision Pro seems like it might open up ways for me to do my day job (software engineering) with less back and neck pain. But it’s not something I’d want to use around other people, because of the isolating factor. (Also: wow, expensive.)
  • Loved Across the Spider-Verse. I wish every comics book movie was in this style. Also really enjoyed Flamin’ Hot and American Born Chinese.
  • I love Procreate’s sharpen filter.
  • There’s so, so, so much I don’t know. I need to spend more time learning and studying.
  • Why does the US–Mexico border between Los Algodones and Colonial Migel Aleman (the southwest part of Arizona) sort of follow the Colorado River but also not? Or is the Google Maps border wrong?
  • Ebooks are great, but there’s something special about libraries as a place where bookish people go.
  • I’m slowly coming to terms with the likelihood that I’m only ever going to be a digital artist (as opposed to doing, say, acrylics or oils, and producing originals), mostly because of my back but also partly because I feel more drawn to digital.
  • Inkscape’s live path effects (like tiling) are cool. I need to learn to use Inkscape better. Wish the UI weren’t so clunky.
  • I’ve wanted to start using web components but the JavaScript dependency has been less attractive, so I’m looking forward to declarative custom elements.
  • Lately, to make progress on stalled projects, I’ve been using a five-minute productivity hack — where I set a timer for five minutes and work on the project until the timer goes off. It continually surprises me how much I can get done in such a small amount of time.

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Things on my mind #2

  • Apparently I binge blog.
  • It is good to be part of a family. (I especially felt that with my aunt’s funeral and road trip it took to get there.)
  • While I’ve been saying “saith” with two syllables all my life, the reason for one syllable suddenly made sense to me the other day.
  • Remember that ebook of Robert Caro’s The Power Broker? It was too good to be true. It’s a woefully bad digitization, with full pages missing, lots of OCR gunk, and page breaks in the middle of paragraphs. Back to the print edition.
  • Favorite ice cream flavors: Umpqua’s Chocolate Brownie Thunder, Ben & Jerry’s Tonight Dough, Dreyer’s Cookie Cobblestone, and an ube flavor I had at Handel’s one time.
  • Back pain is something I think about all day, every day. I’m conscious of it almost all the time (like, I think about it every few minutes). I wonder if the cognitive hit here — taking up mental RAM — has diminished my ability to work on projects.
  • I’m trying to find the right balance between pushing through and resting when my back is flared up. (As it has now been for a few days.) Yesterday, though, my physical therapist recommended generally being more active when my back isn’t flared up and more specifically recommended weightlifting, which has always been a no-no with my spondylolisthesis, but I think there’s something to it.
  • Landscaping our backyard has turned into a nice opportunity to take texture photos for my art. (Well-used industrial machinery has lots of delicious scrapes and scuffs.)
  • Reading history and how I know what’s written is only the merest sliver of the totality of what actually happened, even when the history is of something relatively short (a few days as opposed to seven thousand years, for example). I wish I could see more of all the little mundane bits in between. (But do I really?)
  • Lately I’ve been thinking about how there’s a lot of power in iteration — coming back to the same project over and over again in tiny increments. (Eating an elephant, etc.)

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Things on my mind #1

Trying out a new column idea. Might do it regularly. Things on my mind, in no particular order:

  • Death. My aunt passed away tragically last week on a flight to London (which also resurfaced some of the feelings about my dad’s death). And one of our neighbors in our ward passed away a couple days ago.
  • On this blog, I want to post more than just an endless stream of art releases. Especially more short essays and other posts that involve writing, since that’s the fun part for me. I think I’ve just been lazy.
  • I’ve been sitting on an ever-growing links post for (checks notes) over a month.
  • With the religious art, I wonder if I’ve been doing too many sequels and not enough new ideas.
  • Also thinking about spending more time gathering religious art ideas from parts of scripture I yet haven’t used much (or at all). And gathering new texture photos.
  • How I make my art. Part of me wants to paint every piece in Procreate (it’s the most satisfying way to do these pieces), but painting is (much) harder on my back and often leaves it flared up, and some of these types of pieces seem to work better with a crisp graphic design feel.
  • Working on this type of symbolic/geometric art for so long feels like it has dug deep furrows into my brain and I’ve forgotten how to draw anything else (like the art I used to make).
  • I need to figure out ways of working on other types of projects that don’t exacerbate my back pain. I feel like it’s become 100% art all the time and while it’s nice to make progress there, I miss having a wider variety of projects on the table.
  • AI. I have pretty much no interest in using it myself, at least for now, but it’s anthropologically and culturally interesting and we’ll see what kinds of effects it has on everything.
  • I’ve been at my new job for a month now. Slowly starting to come out of the usual initial onboarding whirlwind.
  • Using a heating pad during the day at work has helped reduce my back pain a little, but with the warmer weather it also makes my back ridiculously sweaty each day. I do not like this and need to find a more sustainable solution.
  • A fly is buzzing around the room now, first one in the house this year. Mmm, a snack. (Just kidding.)

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