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From…To…Happy New Year!

from me to us

from expecting to mothering

from “I’m still learning to be an adult” to “making it work”

from squirming to rolling to crawling to walking to climbing, and falling in between

from consulting meetings at 2pm to watercolors at 2am

from earbuds and daydreaming to singing aloud and being happy if you know it

from 8-mile hikes to playing in the leaves

from lazy Saturdays to ceramic pigs

from a movie and a cocktail at the Kabuki to the 1970s Robin Hood animation at home one, two, three, hundred times

from Hawaii to France to Yosemite and back

from sleeping through the night to waking up every two hours to back to sleeping through the night (knock wood)

from brunch at Plow and coffee at Farley’s to brunch at Plow and coffee at Farley’s

from this year to next, may the ride continue

happy new year!!

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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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xmas letter from a new parent

Dear family, friends, and strangers,

I reflect on 2014 and its many life changers.

Last new year’s was spent with my head in the bowl

But not due to shots at the local watering hole.

I had a bun in the oven and six weeks of morning sick.

Come summer we expected a new Dornadic.

Fatter and fatter I grew

staying away from meats, cheese, and any kind of brew.

Giant belly, swollen feet, and a bloody bumhole

Waddling around, counting down to the big arrival.

Until one day in August, the doc said, “We’ve got to get that sucker out.”

After lots of poking and coaxing, and a little (ok, big) shout

There she was, a skinny screaming pup, with long hands and feet.

Dark brown hair, blue eyes, we were so excited to meet.

The family said congrats, dressed in their best

Then promptly headed to Santa Barbara for a wedding love fest.

We brought her home, and as she lay on our bed, a tight screaming ball

We looked at each other, eyes wide, and giggled, “Now what, doll?”

Sure enough, she kept us guessing,

Is she eating, sleeping, pooping enough??? We were obsessing.

Then French people came and invaded our home.

Well-meaning grandparents, armed with baby clothes, oils, and tome.

Then it was all bavoirs, tétines, coucous, doudous.

Est-ce qu’elle mange, dort, fait caca bien???

Et puis, au revoir et à bientôt, merci, de rien.

Back to 4am feedings

Online readings

To pooplosions

And lotions

Reflux.

Sucks.

And just when I thought, I can’t do this, enough is enough

She looked square in the eye and smiled at us.

And with that, the heart melted, OK, she’s a keeper.

Happy holidays to you and your Santa believers!

babyfoot

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

So that’s where my original letter ended, but then my friend sent this response and I had to include it because it’s so splendid:

 

Just read your sweet xmas letter.

Things will sometimes be down and then get better.

And so take note, these little munchkins of ours are smarter than you think.

Just when you are at wit’s end and on the brink,

They turn around and give you a wink.

Our hearts melt and are overjoyed,

Till two months later and the next mental leap that leaves us destroyed.*

It’s definitely a journey like no other I’ve found.

Seeing them turn into real people is way better than being round.

 

*Originally “annoyed” she changed it to “destroyed.” I think this says a lot but I’m no Freud.

 

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Social Sketch in life

I met Mike when Courtney asked if I’d like to join them for a sketch sesh. I said, “of course!” but was kinda nervous about sketching with the two of them. They are what you might call real artists. The kind of artists with degrees in art, who show their work in galleries, write books on art and craft, and teach others how to make art. I am a bit of a poser. I am a “paint in my living room after I finish work, don’t really know the difference between student and professional materials” kind of artist.

I decide to go sketch anyway. After scarfing down a terribly saucy, terribly delicious falafel in Mike’s studio space, we get to it. We each start on a sheet and when someone gets tired or feels like they’re done we exchange work. Then we exchange one more time so that everyone has made a mark on each sheet.

It was magic.

I loved trying to figure out how to enhance their work. I love how clearly Mike and Courtney’s styles come through, and how they play off of one another’s work. (You can see more of their collaborations on Instagram under the hashtag #ccrabbit.) I wasn’t even that scared to mess up their work because there was no ego about it. Turd it up? Doesn’t really matter, flip the page and start something new.

Here’s one of my faves from the night:

collaborativesketch

And here’s the bunch at the end of the night that we divvied up:collab sesh

This collaborative way of drawing reminds me of old Persian miniature painting. Each artist would have a specialty, such as gold leaf, color, calligraphy, and would only add that particular element to each work. Paintings were a result of several artists’ efforts.

Several years ago the Asian Art Museum here in San Francisco hosted an exhibit that played off of this idea. Karkhana: A Contemporary Collaboration included paintings that had been passed from artist to artist. Here you can get an idea of the process (excuse the shitty images throughout this post, these are quick phone snaps of the exhibit catalog):

karkhana process

karkhana_final

This brings us to the awesomeness that is Social Sketch, a monthly event recently started by Courtney and Mike which alternates between San Francisco and Oakland venues.

social sketch

It’s an open event, you can find upcoming dates on Instagram #socialsketch or Facebook. Bring beer, burritos, and your favorite pen or paints. Start a work, throw it in the middle of the table, take someone else’s and add to it.

Why I think this simple concept is so good:

there’s no ownership of the work, no ego because you don’t necessarily know who made what, no money involved so it’s not really competitive. You make something you’d never otherwise make, meet and work with skilled people, have dedicated time to hone your craft, take cool shit home. And if you make something crappy, it doesn’t much matter. Throw it in the center so someone else can fix it, and start fresh.

I would love to employ the social sketch concept in other aspects of my life. How come it’s so hard to find paid gigs with this same spirit? Projects where you work with cool people, with no ego, who help to make something that wouldn’t otherwise happen alone. I suspect work projects don’t feel this way because they involve money. As soon as you pay or get paid for shit it changes the dynamic of the relationship, and people tend to feel more possessive of the process or final products. Even so, I’m looking to embrace social sketch in other contexts because it’s a fun way to work, and a lot of cool stuff gets made.

Here’s some collaborative pieces from previous Social Sketches. Hope to see you at the next one!

socialsketch_bottles

socialsketch_house

socialsketch_french

socialsketch_shapes

socialsketch_shoes

 

 

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Expecting: A Zine About Pregnancy

belly parade

Dear readers, fellow pregnant ladies and those who think pregnancy might be a hoot, I made a zine about my experience being pregnant. It’s not about the adventures and misadventures that led up to it, nor will it include the labor, delivery, or gory aftermath of childrearing. I will not broach the natural versus medicalized birth debate. Nor will I give any helpful tips or insights to alleviate physical or mental discomfort.

It is simply about what a strange time pregnancy is, how it changed my relationships with other people, with food, how it generally complicates social interactions, and all the bodily weirdness that no one tells you about. And you may identify with some of it. Or not. I’m writing it down now because I assume it will get wiped from my memory shortly after I give birth.

The physical paper zine is available on etsy and hopefully soon at Pegasus Books in Berkeley and Needles & Pens in SF! You should check out those locations anyway for their awesomeness. As well as San Francisco Zine Fest Aug 30-31 in Golden Gate Park.

Here are some of the illustrations in the zine as well as outtakes. Rest assured, there are no fewer than 32 nipple illustrations that appear in the zine. (I love painting nipples and bellies.)

first trimester floating

fetal fruit

about me

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Weird things people say when you’re pregnant

I’ve refrained from telling pregnancy stories until now because well, they’re pretty boring if you’re not pregnant. However, I think anyone can enjoy a good round of “weird things people say.” These weird things were said to me in the recent past.

Size Matters. Being pregnant sends the message that it is now OK to openly discuss your shape, size, and weight. Even strangers will engage in this behavior.

“You’re so big.”

“It’s so big.”

“You’re so small.”

“You’re carrying so low.”

“Can I touch it?”

“Oh. You don’t look pregnant.”

“Don’t worry, my friend gained 80 pounds when she was pregnant. She lost it all but now her skin sags.”

 

Vices. Be it their own or on your behalf, it’s now OK to comment on your personal choices.

“Are you supposed to be eating/drinking that?”

“It’s OK to drink a little.”

“I want to smoke, please leave.”

 

Funny product recommendations.

pillow

“You can’t have a baby without this….”

– crazy pillow for sleeping

– crazy pillow for breastfeeding

– nipple cream

– swinging musical chair

– giant jogging stroller

and on and on

 

Scary Stories. Something about seeing pregnant people triggers all the (often hearsay) tragedies others need to now share with you.

“I know this woman whose baby died right before she was supposed to deliver. Have a great day.” (-airport security officer)

“You think you’re safe after 3 months, but my friend miscarried at 6 months.”

“My wife’s water broke at 7 months.”

“When I went to this birth class, the instructor told us how this baby was born with listeria blisters all over its body.”

“This [insert messed up thing here, i.e. pooing blood, peeing blood, fainting] happened to me when I was pregnant…”

“…And she couldn’t look at fish again.”

 

Fun with Doctors. They can’t all be good with people.

“You had a big jump in weight this month, don’t do it again.”

“You have a marginal cord, that just means it could get compressed and the baby could be in trouble. Have a great day.”

“Oh that? That’s a zit. Hang on, I’ll get it.”

 

Then there’s all the comparisons people make between your pregnancy and theirs, be it regarding sleeping, eating, nausea, mood swings, labor, women like to compare themselves to other women. But I’ll stop here.

 

 

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Flocking v Differentiation aka why I’m uncomfortable in IKEA

(image from Flickr Creative Commons)

I have a lot of anxiety around IKEA. For starters, it’s always packed full of grubby kids and Noah’s ark styled couples, you know, the kinds that dress alike. Second, they trap you on certain floors and sections, by making you go up an escalator with no way down, urging you to follow the yellow brick road through the store. I’ve solved these problems by never going on a weekend and entering the store through the exit (and first getting a $1 ice cream cone as extra incentive). Seana has already written on IKEA as a sore subject.

My biggest beef with IKEA, however, is that I really like their stuff. I go happily along picking new sheets and pillows and crap and then it hits me that millions of people have all this same crap in their homes. The cool style reinforces your belief that you are a unique individual with good taste but in reality you are unique just like everyone else buying this mass-produced consumer good. This tension has pecked at me for years but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I was listening to an episode of the Planet Money podcast today, Episode 457: Why Pink. In the episode they discuss how fashion trends occur and why copying is so prevalent (embraced even) by the fashion industry. The reason there may be 50 different kinds of denim shirts for sale in 2013, is that we all want to be accepted and fit in (flocking), yet we want to feel unique and like we have our own style (differentiation). Designers offer so many different iterations of what’s in right now so that you fit in, but allow you to select one piece to stand out from everyone else.

(image from Flickr Creative Commons)

I think this tension is most profound in IKEA because of its lack of direct competitors. Really, who else is in the affordable furniture biz. Target maybe? There is no middle market for furniture. The next step up, we’re talking about Design Within Reach and Room & Board, where a couch may go for $5000. Besides antique, vintage, estate sale type situations, the only place to go for affordable designerly furniture is IKEA, and thus the conundrum. There aren’t enough iterations to make me forget that I’m like everyone else, and to fool me into believing I’m a unique snowflake. They definitely have fresh, youthful, clean styles with some variety, yet lots of people I know will have the same exact thing, not a variant, the same exact thing. I walk into a new client’s office. Oh, that’s my coffee table. At my friend’s house, oh I have that rug. It’s too much flocking folks. I haven’t solved the problem of furniture & home goods differentiation, but I’ve identified a new piece of my Ikea-discomfort puzzle. And thus, a win.

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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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What do you do? A printable booklet for applied anthropologists

I usually cringe slightly when people I just meet at a dinner party ask, “So, what do you do?” Not because it’s very complicated, just because it’s a little amorphous. I created this booklet so that I can simply hand it to the person who asks. You can print your own copy by clicking the PDF below.

Here’s what it looks like:

page1

page2-3

page4-5

page6-7

page8

If you’re an anthropologist and would like to use this – Download your booklet here. Simply print out the two sheets. Fold each in half with the images facing outward. And then fold in half again. Slip the middle pages inside the cover and staple. Voila, your very own business card booklet. Don’t forget to add your own contact info on the back page!