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Work Smarter not Harder…or just don’t work at all?

So I just graduated from my graphic design program and am about to re-enter the workforce. The last time I graduated college, back in May 2009, I was trying to find a job in the worst economic crisis since the ’29 stockmarket crash with a degree I didn’t have all my faith in. Now, thankfully the circumstances are pretty different and I am starting a job… tomorrow!

Embarking on this new career, I can’t help but think of my grandfather who worked for the same company for over 35 years. However, this notion of working for one company for your whole life seems to be shifting. I know so many people around my age (pushing 30) that are working just to save money so they can quit their job and travel around Europe/volunteer in Africa/be some sort of nomad. This is whether they are high-paying white collar jobs or low-paying service industry jobs.

This isn’t really an original concept, there are plenty of articles (here’s one) explaining the work ethic or lack thereof of “millennials.” I know, I hate that word too. They explain it’s not necessarily about work-life balance, it’s more about living your life now.

I agree, but I also think it’s more than that. It is the way that companies hire you, especially in the more tech-y industries. As a graphic/ux/visual designer, it is pretty common to work on contract. In return for their non-commitment, the company is kinda saying, “hey let’s hang out for a bit, and see how it goes before things get too serious. We won’t be mad if you end up working somewhere else at the end of this contract.” And it makes sense except for pesky things like healthcare, made less pesky because of things like obamacare.

This mutual non-commitment trickles down to other parts of our lives. If you don’t have the commitment of a 30 year job, it’s hard to commit to a 30 year house mortgage. So that’s where tiny living comes in. For the price of a car, you can buy/build a house. You just need to find someone’s backyard to plop it in.

There was also that article going around Facebook about that woman who has been “on vacation” for 3 years. Really what she did was save up money, quit her job, travel to mostly cheap but tropical destinations, and work her way around with odd jobs while staying on friends’ couches. I put this under the category of “feel good stories that make you feel bad about yourself.” Eat Pray Love falls under the same category. That’s great for people who can swing it but what grinds my gears is when she says, “I don’t understand why more people don’t do this.” Well how can you not understand it? That’s not a super easy lifestyle. And people have things like partners, friends, family, or maybe even kids.

This non-commitment isn’t really sustainable. Is there a time where we have to grow up, bite the bullet, and earn our way? I think it is difficult for us pay our dues because we saw our parents’ generation work really hard, only to be laid off during that crazy time in 2009. And the tech industry is known for working people to the bone and then throwing them out the next day. So it is difficult to pay our dues when we don’t know if they will ever pay off.

To me, the U.S. is a place of extremes. Oh our houses are getting too big? Let’s live in 100 square feet! I don’t like my job? I am going to quit my job and travel the world for 3 years! We don’t have a work/life balance, just work or life. But either way is depressing to me. Why can’t we like what we do? Or balance what we do with hobbies? I intend to try just that.

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Does It Need To Be Designed?

I am breaking my accidental year long hiatus with a post about doing nothing, my favorite pastime.

The reason for my absence is almost exclusively due to the fact that I am in a two-year graphic design program at Seattle Central and am just about to start my second year. Many times my fellow classmates and I will go out to eat and drink at neighboring eateries and drinkeries and jokingly kid about the crappy logos or bad kerning that surround us. Being back in school makes one more aware about the visual communication around town. Though said comments are made in jest, I wonder, is it sometimes better if something is crappily designed or not purposely designed at all? Many times our job is to rebrand companies and websites but I think it is more important to distinguish when it is necessary and when it is arbitrary. For instance, when logos for corporations are redesigned.

hershey's logo
One commenter thought it looked like a literal steaming shit

moo logo

Transferwise logo

Sometimes I think, wait which one is the before again? Is that a really good use of their resources? Probably not, but maybe yes. But honestly, what the hell is the difference? (These were taken from the Brand New site that reviews logos.)

One of the UI/UX instructors at Seattle Central, Erik Fadiman, is the one who made me not only think about design but also the necessity of design. He often says that companies will approach him for what they think is the need of a website. But in some cases do they need a website? Sure he can take their $8,000 and make them a responsive website, but will it really benefit them? Will simply using social media suffice? In some cases like food trucks, yes. E Fad started out more concerned with design and slowly moved to the other side of the spectrum, focusing almost solely on functionality and leaving the appearance to visual designers. I feel myself doing to same sort of leaning, but don’t want to let go of design. Can’t I have both?

So I started thinking about the need (or rather un-need) for design more. But how far can you go with that? For instance, I noticed restaurant websites are always really shit-ily designed and have nothing on them. And you are usually only going on there for the hours, phone number, and/or menu. So isn’t yelp a much better way to access this information instead of being sent to an external website that probably is not responsive? I understand wanting to have cohesive branding so if you could personalize your restaurant’s yelp page a little more, that would be ideal.

My fantasies on how to redesign something has changed to excitement over what does not need to be redesigned. Instead of my first question being “what would I do to change this?” it is now “does this need to be changed?” For example, there is this super cheap taco truck near us:foodtruck2

Is this menu aesthetically pleasing? No. Does it need to be redesigned? No. It is functional. In fact, it’s lack of design is its design. Besides, is there anything more beautiful than four tacos for $5.49?

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Do We Have a Right to Ad-free Entertainment?

During my winter break from school, I have been taking advantage of a sedentary, carefree lifestyle. I am slightly addicted to watching clips of Conan’s tbs talk show on youtube. I love watching Conan flutter around as his coif bounces.

conan

The only thing is the ads are out of control. Between me and Conan entertainment often stands a 30 second non-skippable ad. And this is just for a 2 minute clip. And if you watch most of the ad but then want to watch a different clip, you have to re-watch the ad. It is just infuriating and wasn’t nearly this bad before.

Spotify is a bit ad-happy as well. It is especially annoying that the ad volume is jacked way up compared to the volume of your music.

Hulu seems to be the bane of Brian’s existence. He hates the fact that if you have hulu plus, you still have to watch ads. He doesn’t actually have hulu plus, he still doesn’t like it to a point where he has almost black-listed it. (Brian black-lists many companies. If there is an annoying ad from a particular company, he will never buy anything from them every again.)

It is something me and Brian often argue about. I would always say having ads are not so bad because they are giving you a free service. Plus, when you have to watch tv you have to watch commercials anyways and at least hulu will tell you how long the commercial will last. Who am I that I get to watch hours and hours of free content and not have to watch a couple ads? At the same time, how much is the reasonable amount?

Happy New Year, btw. Instead of making a resolution, join me in complaining more.

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Back to School in More Ways Than One

The first back to school was last month. My building had an Artists’ Open House, aptly named “Back to School,” since we live in a school and all. It is always a little scary opening your home up to random people off the street but it was a success for sure! I even sold a copy of our zine — “Growing Up Half Ass(yrian).” Brian showed off his woodworking skills, and I promoted this blog with spiked punch of course.

openhouse

spikedpunch

The second back to school is my graphic design program, of which we just finished the first half of the first quarter. Apparently, I didn’t get enough college the first time around. It dawned on me that has been almost 10 years since the last time I was a freshman in college but only now am I getting the college experience I always wanted. The program of course, is great. The people have cool stories and shoes to match, plus the faculty actually knows what they are doing! But my apartment building also has that collaborative, college vibe as well. Propped up doors with neighbors wandering in for a few beers is not unusual, especially you have a nostalgic record going and the Altered Beast plugged in. Since we are all artists, it gives us the chance to work on projects together.

In any case, better late then never.

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Growing Up Half Ass[yrian] Zine

photo(19)

The much-anticipated zine is here! Okay, maybe you haven’t heard anything about it, but it is here.

We have compiled some of our favorite blog posts and created a zine about growing up half-Assyrian and half-white. We made some drawings with watercolors based on our childhood photos and rewrote the stories on our grandmother’s typewriter. It was a lot of work but we are so happy with the result!

If you are in the San Francisco area, come to the SF Zine Fest Saturday and Sunday 11am – 5pm.

We would like to thank our beautiful mother, Odette, for her olive inspiration, our Aunt Marlin for her always fun parties and stories, Julia for hide-and-go-seek, Larkin for her beauty, Pam for editing on such crazy short notice, Rachelle and Rochelle for the Assyrian writing help, and our friend Jeff from J & N Printing in Belmont for cutting our pages for free!!!

Buy it here on etsy!

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Lemon Juice Changed My Life

684_1lemon_slices_03_togashi

I am a lover of lemon juice. So much so, the enamel on my two front teeth has been reduced to basically sandpaper and I had to get a few hundred dollars worth of veneers. Worth it! (Thanks Mom.)

When I was young, I was a notoriously picky eater. My mom would cook all kinds of amazing Persian, Assyrian, and with the help of Julia and Jacques, French dishes. My mom would beg me to at least try her food, so I would touch the tiniest spoonful with the tip of my tongue, wince and say ewwwwww. Man, was I annoying. All I would eat was riza masta (rice and yogurt).

But I always loved lemon juice. Maybe it’s genetic (my siblings are the same) or maybe it’s just cultural. Persian food is all about the sour. Lemons, pomegranates, and cherries are used a buttload. So I started opening up to eating anything that I could put lemon juice on. And by put, I mean my food would swim in lemon juice. This included fish which then evolved to seafood and sushi.

Ghormeh Sabzi Irani- tumericandsaffronblog

Ghormeh Sabzi is one of my favorite Persian dishes. I wouldn’t go near it when I was young but once I figured out there were dehydrated and therefore super sour lemons in it, I was all over that shit.

My love of lemon juice is mirrored by my love of vinegar. I can sip vinegar straight. So obviously, anything vinegary I will probably like. Torshia (Persians call is torshi) is pickled vegetables and goes with basically every meal. So once I started eating that, I would put it on everything. I even started eating spaghetti with red meat sauce (yes, I didn’t even like that; it was pesto or nothing).

And let’s not forget the cleaning properties of both vinegar and lemon juice. I use diluted vinegar as an all-purpose cleaner all over my kitchen and bathroom. Lemon juice can be used in laundry to brighten whites (I learned that one from Fruit Ninja). My grandmother on my white side swore by a spoonful of vinegar to cure hiccups. Dude, it works.

Basically what I’m saying is lemons and vinegar changed my life. One of my favorites still is sliced lemons with salt. Mmmmm.

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Pink is for Boys and Blue is for Girls

This is how it used to be for much of history. It is really only within the last 60 years that it flipped.

If you look at the many Jesus-y paintings from the Medieval or Renaissance eras, for instance the Annunciation paintings, you will see the Virgin Mary usually wears blue and Jesus or the angel Gabriel usually wears a dark pink or red.

Annunciation, Fra Angelico c. 1437-1446
Annunciation, Fra Angelico, c. 1437-1446

Yes, that is a male angel in pink, he’s just pretty.

Leonardo Da Vinci, Virgin on the Rocks, c. 1480
Leonardo Da Vinci, Virgin on the Rocks, c. 1480

Again, the boy angel Gabriel in pink.

Carracci, Pieta, c. 1560-1609
Carracci, Pieta, c. 1560-1609

Blue was considered a virginal and feminine color and pink was considered a strong, manly color representing the passion or blood of Christ. Whether she is getting knocked up, giving birth, or grieving, Mary is rockin’ blue. Many times the Virgin Mary will wear both colors, representing the impending, well you know, Jesus killing.

A 1918 article from Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department wrote, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

Interestingly, nobody knows for sure why the switch happened. They do know when though, sometime during WWII.

One theory is that since Hitler used a pink triangle to identify homosexuals, pink became regarded as an effeminate color. Yes, it wasn’t just a star for Jews, every color meant something different. A stripe above the triangle meant repeat offenders.

German concentration camp signifiers
German Concentration Camp Badge Colors

Maybe a bit of a stretch, but it sounds like a plausible theory. Now obviously, the homosexual community has embraced the pink triangle as a symbol of pride.

I’m not sure why I am so angered by the color pink forced upon my gender. Maybe it is because I hate that whenever anything is that certain baby pink, it is considered a woman’s issue. Like the pink breast cancer ribbon. Really, that’s the best you came up with? Pink? Dressing babies in an excess of pink or blue is like already deciding for them what their favorite color is. Can’t you just let them decide?

This Smithsonian article cites our 1950’s obsession with consumerism for deepening this pink/blue split. Making parents buy a whole new set of clothing meant doubling their profits. It was fairly common back in the day for both little boys and girls to wear dresses. They usually wore white or pastel colors. Children wearing gender-neutral clothing meant you could pass down your daughter’s clothing to your son. It was simply more economical.

Speaking of cross-dressing children, this great NY Times article discusses “gender fluid” children, or more specifically, “pink boys.” Basically, boys that like to wear dresses. In an attempt to be more understanding in our slightly more homosexual-accepting society, self-proclaimed liberal parents are trying to figure out how to raise a gender-fluid child. We as a society like defining: male, female, gay, lesbian, transgender. But what if your child doesn’t fall into any of those categories? In the article, Alex wants to sometimes wear boy clothes, sometimes wear girl clothes, but still identifies as a boy. He hasn’t gone through puberty yet so who knows if he will be gay or straight? And is that even important?

A line that really stung my feminist core was, “Of course, had Alex been a girl who sometimes dressed or played in boyish ways, no e-mail to parents would have been necessary; no one would raise an eyebrow at a girl who likes throwing a football or wearing a Spider-Man T-shirt.”

It made me stop and think, it’s so true that tomboys are generally culturally accepted. It’s okay to act like a boy but God forbid your son wants to dress like a girl. It goes on to say:

These days, flouting gender conventions extends even to baby naming: first names that were once unambiguously masculine are now given to girls. The shift, however, almost never goes the other way. That’s because girls gain status by moving into “boy” space, while boys are tainted by the slightest whiff of femininity. “There’s a lot more privilege to being a man in our society,” says Diane Ehrensaft, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who supports allowing children to be what she calls gender creative. “When a boy wants to act like a girl, it subconsciously shakes our foundation, because why would someone want to be the lesser gender?” Boys are up to seven times as likely as girls to be referred to gender clinics for psychological evaluations. Sometimes the boys’ violation is as mild as wanting a Barbie for Christmas. By comparison, most girls referred to gender clinics are far more extreme in their atypicality: they want boy names, boy pronouns and, sometimes, boy bodies.

In the comments section (many I have to skip because they will make my blood boil), a reader eloquently states, “It is, to me, very sad on many levels that boys who want to dress in dresses [and] skirts are vulnerable to bullying and judgement. The whole problems with gender identity issues lies pretty much in the reality that society denigrates women. Period.”

What is so shameful about being a woman?

I suppose my point is why force a color or a way of dress on a child? I do not believe that gender is only a societal construct, but I also do not see a need to push the genders further apart.

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Photo: JeongMee Yoon
20130619-112841.jpg
Photo: JeongMee Yoon

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Quilting: The Opposite of Instant Gratification

I subscribe to hundreds of blogs, mostly design and art blogs. I will see about 300 blog posts a day, a few per second. Next, next, next. The image overload is mind altering. I usually tell myself I will look at them for inspiration but most likely I will end up feeling bad about myself because everybody is always making cooler shit than me. The ones that I like end up on my Pinterest. I am an addicted Pinterest user: pinterest.com/ssm818. It’s public but not invasive. I love how visual social media, like Pinterest, has become. I remember in high school one of my first encounters with social media was xanga. It was a wordy, text heavy journal. Or I guess more like an online diary. I think mine is still up . . . xanga.com/shaba_the_hut. My bff pimped it out for me. Little did she know what she was doing was graphic design! Anyways, you had to pay for xanga premium in order to post your own photos. Not exactly an emphasis on imagery. Then came lord what was it? Well some more crap. Then myspace, putting more of an emphasis on photos. Facebook, the same. Twitter – basically instant messaging. Instagram – my newest addiction! Image only. And only one at a time which I think is perfect. Then obviously Pinterest. So many images, so little time.

As a graphic designer, it is exciting to see websites condense their information to images. This means they are conveying information in a more efficient and visually appealing way. Designers should be asking themselves everyday–how can we make this information more clear? The more words, the less likely someone will read it and the less likely you will get your point across.

But what is this image overload doing to us? Well I can tell you I haven’t finished a novel in years. Starting them yes. Finishing, no. I have a sneaking suspicion that my patience is being depleted.

So one day, I was at a friend’s house. Actually, it was Sunshine’s, from my previous post about communes. She was working on an amazing quilt made of Crown Royal bags for her brother.

crown royale quilt
If you are an alcoholic craft-person, this is the project for you

I wanted to start a quilt but the idea of starting a full size quilt was daunting. So Sunshine showed me some quilting books and I decided to do some throw pillow covers. I have had a bunch of squares of different colored pieces of silk that my mom had given me from 30 years ago! At the time, she was a fashion designer working for someone who was into tie-dyeing. So I decided since I already have the material, it will be cheaper and more special than buying throw pillows. Usually my rule is that I only make something if it is cheaper than buying it and/or what you want doesn’t exist. I am totally in support of making things but if I decided to make everything, nothing would get made–so I get a bit picky.

So I got sewing, got greedy, and rushed. Many hours later I ended up with something that looked like it was made by a drunk child.

See?
See?

I ended up seam ripping the whole thing and quilting it by hand. I found something very meditative about doing this hand embroidery. Even the seam ripping wasn’t too terrible. I could carry on a conversation, half watch tv, or just listen to music while doing it. It was a relaxation I have not felt for a while.

The end result. Was this post a thinly veiled attempt to brag? Possible...
The end result. Was this post a thinly veiled attempt to brag? Possible…

But I sort of realized how ridiculous making these pillows were. After buying extra fabric for the back of the pillows, the pillow forms themselves, a quilter’s pizza cutter thing, and thread and needles, I had spent $80! The money plus the approximately 40 hours I had spent on them made me think, why didn’t I just get this shit at IKEA? At this, my man-friend got a bit defensive. He is into woodworking and if he had his way, would make everything. Tables, kitchen islands, sofas, you name it. (I must say he has already made us a beautiful kitchen island). I usually have to talk him down from the ledge. I reason that it would take way more time and money to make a sofa then to buy one. Like I said, I am totally in support of hand-making as much as you can, but at what point is it too much? Now if you want something very special or custom then it’s totally worth the extra time and money. Or sometimes you can really make it for less than what you could buy it for.

Anyways, I guess the point is maybe I was wrong. If you make something, even if you could buy it for way cheaper, you are putting pride into something that will be in your home. So at the end of the day, it is worth it. Maybe knitting next?

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Peeing with Strangers

Ah, drunkenness. Making you do things you would never do in real life. It’s an alternate universe where everything you do makes sense.

On a recent karaoke night, when drunkenness is mandatory, I was waiting in line to tinkle. When it was my turn, a very drunk woman said “Can I come pee with you? There are two toilets in there.”

By two toilets, she meant this:

Two for Pee?
Two for Pee?

Though I knew of this unusual urination situation before she proposed a dual pee, against my better judgement I said, “Sure . . . why not?” Pulling my pants down in front of a stranger was sobering. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of drunk squats in parking lots, driveways, porta-potties in driveways, but usually in the cover of night. Peeing in a well lit, very nicely remodeled bathroom made me realize the folly of my decision. I was trying to be forward thinking and sympathetic. She really did have to pee, as most drunk girls do, and there were two toilets in there. Besides, guys pee in front of themselves all the time in urinals, right?

I’ve been known to try to reclaim actions usually reserved for men. Chest bumps, for one. But we do have boobs and we don’t have penises. There have been female urinals and FUDs, or female urination devices, around for almost a hundred years (according to the most reliable source ever, Wikipedia). But you probably haven’t heard of them, right? And no, I don’t think it’s because women are more modest (see above, drunk squats). Our parts are just made differently. That’s why something like this probably would never work:

Female Urinal

You have to totally take off your pants so your buttocks are exposed to the world. Who wants to do that?

So, for now I will have to face the fact that men get to easily pee next to strangers and I don’t. Damn you glass ceiling! In the meantime, I find myself thinking of my pee buddy and wondering if she ever thinks of me. Or does she even remember me? Has she peed with other people since? Well pee pal, I hope you have a long future of successful urinations in front of you.