Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gym Bag Issues

I do a lot of activities at my gym/workplace. Lots of it uses overlapping gear, but some of that gear has to come home to get washed. I want a really lightweight bag since I bike to work in good weather and I can't just tote everything around. Right now my system is to panic before every shift, pull out the contents of the canvas tote I use as a gym bag, search for whatever part is missing to do my job, and try to put as much of the rest of the gear on as possible so I won't have to bring street clothes as well.

I have some first steps in mind. I think I will heavily use my assigned locker to store things that don't need to be washed that often, like my guard sweatshirt. I am going to streamline my toiletries- right now I use a glass hand cream jar that is rusting to store my shampoo, and the same jar but newer and not rusting to store my lotion.

OPD Physical Ability Test

I am seriously looking into working for the Oakland Police Department, just because I think they are a really good one. They have you take a couple of exams before the interview. One of the tests is to check whether you are likely to be able to complete the Academy physical training. It's not meant to be difficult, but for me it was.

In it, you have to wear a weighted vest and do a timed obstacle course with a fence, serpentine cones, and a dummy drag (165 lb sandbag man that you have to drag 50 feet). I did complete the practice course, but at 8 seconds over the cutoff time. (35 seconds under the cutoff time is considered a very good score for a woman.) The officer who told me I didn't pass told me that if I ran for a half hour every day until the actual exam, I could probably get my time down. I had never run a half hour, but I gave it a shot once, and a couple of days and massages later I could walk around upright again.

On the morning of my exam I felt pretty confident for no reason. I had really started off slow during the practice, conserving everything for the dummy drag, and since I had managed that I thought maybe if I ran faster the rest of the time, I would do better. The entire morning was spent shivering under an overpass waiting in line after line. As I got to the head of the final line, I reviewed my strategy and found it nonexistent, so I just tried my best.

I was too spent when I finished to understand whether 2 minutes and 31 seconds was more or less than the qualifying time of 2 minutes and 35 seconds, but the attendants helped me figure it out by saying "Congratulations" and giving me a paper that said the same thing.

So I am presently just barely in baseline shape for OPD purposes, but the interviews are two months out and luckily I am guarding at a gym, so I have access to a track and weights, not just a pool.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Moving Home

On trips, everything seems so special and exciting. Taking a trip to my old hometown mixed that excitement with nostalgia and now I am itching to move back. The trip was for an interview, so moving back was already on my radar, but oh! The tiny dumpsters, the tiny libraries, and the friendly strangers were all wonderful. I had a nice time being a tourist in Oakland, it was just so vibrant.
 I was trying to sketch this tower at Ghirardelli Square so I took this photo to help me frame it. I felt like the height of the streetlamp was really interesting but ultimately didn't finish the sketch.
I am familiar with the idea that graffiti is undesirable, but I feel the hypergraphic urge when I am in overly sterile environments.., seeing evidence that other people feel the same way makes me feel at ease. My high school had a "graffiti table" where we could write our feelings, to keep the school building cleaner, and then someone put swastikas on it and we got to have a school wide meeting about that. And everyone cried. I don't tag things but I do install microsculptures and of course there's the car.  
This is a parking meter. I am charmed that I will have a couple of 35 cent purchases on my bank statement. 

The lifeguard interview went badly-- HR didn't tell anyone to meet me for it so I had to wait around, which is a really bad sign, the practical portion was perfect until I was supposed to perform CPR and couldn't remember how--but I will keep looking because I feel so strongly drawn back to Oakland. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Wax your car with beeswax, maybe.

After years and years I picked a name for the submobile. It's the Knotilus, in the punny tradition of boat names, because I think it's funny that it's a fifteen year old car but is faster than a top of the line military sub. It goes top-of-the-line-military-sub-speeds in third gear. (In case mariner stuff isn't your forte, I'll mention that knots are like miles per hour, except nautical miles per hour.) I tried to lay out the lettering myself, but it was a disaster, so Dad did it for me. Sign painting is really its own specialty, and my drawing and painting skills were no help.

I intended to letter it with enamel, but there was none at the craft store. Instead I chose a permanent paint pen. The paint pens were in a locked cabinet, so I asked for help opening it, and the woman I asked didn't have clearance so she went to get someone else. While I was waiting I figured out how to open the case, but I didn't do it because I didn't want to be rude. I selected a color called Brilliant Blue, which looked like it would match my rims. On my way up to the counter, though, I noticed that it was marked "flourescent" and that wouldn't do. So I got to break into the marker case after all, to swap it for black.

I don't know if it's clear in this photo, but the lock shank is so long that if you turn it sideways it lets the plexiglass doors swing out. 

I'd started to refer to the car as "my eyesore" since the coat of paint from 2011 got really dull and wouldn't take a second coat without flaking. It was so dull that the doors had fingermarks from where I closed them with lotioned hands. That gave me the idea to coat it in linseed oil, but before I had a chance I found an old chunk of beeswax and on a hot day started buffing it onto the car (before and after, above). I am really pleased with the initial results. Right now it is coated with pollen, I think I can preserve the surface by washing it when it's cold out, then parking it in the sun once it dries off. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Cosplay as yourself: Hivemind

 At work we have to wear radio earpieces. We don't like them because they hurt to wear for 8 hours. I don't like mine because customers think I am on the phone, when really I am greeting them, or think I am talking to them when really I am checking on something for them. Sometimes customers hear one side of a radio game and think one of us is unstable. So we all prefer to use the radios clipped to our belts without the earpiece attachment. I got the idea of playing up the transhuman/cyborg aspect, and ran it by my boss, who said, "You can do anything you want with it." presumably because that would be one fewer person to scold about non compliance with regard to the earpieces. (as an aside, I am about the quietest, least deaf person on staff so the earpiece works better for me as a transmitter than the radio does, so I do wear mine when it's not lost.)

Anyway, I read an instructable about fake sugru and was all over making my earpiece into an upsetting biological thing. The first iteration is pictured above. It looked a little Neverending Story special effects in person, so I scrapped it and used a latex glove to make a wrinkled one, but it was too shiny and bulky so I trimmed it down and put on a lot of tendrils for the current iteration.
These are the supplies, except the top is some other cyborg things I was thinking of coating. Like, can I open a sealed house, write, or slice things, except when augmented? But ultimately I have not had time to mess up my hairdressing scissors or anything. Cornstarch, the kind of silicone that smells like vinegar when it cures, a half credit card wand for stirring, and a colorant. I used eyeshadow most successfully. The foundation pictured combined with the white cornstarch to be too bright for my skin.

So, cosplay. I don't think it's proper to spend more time thinking about your presentation and garb for an annual event than you spend, total, day to day. Or to have an idealized avatar and a whatever self. Sometimes I want to cosplay a Katniss braid but I just tell myself, spend that energy developing your style. So I have purple streaks at my temples and I am medium buff and I never wear pants. I get that doing it this way doesn't connect you to other fans, but my planner is covered in royal blue goatskin and literally I am wearing a dress subduction printed with inaccurate dollar bills. Also not to be too intense but I drive a submarine.

I was going to write about the mechanism of the hivemind but I am pretty tired. In essence, I am the unit able to be gracious with the fifth person of the day who wants to tow without a vehicle equipped for towing, and I can read the scheduling log, so I am the user interface bit. I draw extensively on my coworkers, via radio, for information about where a person might find any given replacement bit for a trailer, who truly needs electric brakes, and then all the regular corporation stuff, where one person is apprised of a weird situation but it's not me.

Right now I am training two of my coworkers to man the counter, to make myself a bit more obsolete in anticipation of starting substitute teaching this term. They are both great and competent, but kind of passive. Like one is three years my junior (so should be running circles around me when it comes to computer things) but waits for me to direct everything she does, and the other is like a finance guy who maybe has forgotten 10-key. Jump in, guys, literally all the mistakes are recoverable.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

First Forays with Adobe Illustrator

 Well, I followed some Illustrator tutorials and finally stopped doing this with the pen tool:
It turns out you have to draw everything with rectangles and ellipses that you stretch out and combine. 

I made this worksheet to take to work. The U-Box shipping has a lot of components- the cross-country shipping, local shipping, and rent on the box plus insurance. I'll print some of these out and be able to give out a cohesive quote. This took two extended sessions of drawing rectangles and trying to get the proper rectangle in front. As someone who already put in my time learning to draw, this was excruciating. 

I have found one easy trick so far. It turns clean pen and ink sketches into vector sketches. In the object menu, scroll down to Image Trace and then select "Make".

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Good Riddance to Endless Summer

 I got really tired of life guarding! But I don't have to do anything about it (except find a new job) because the season is ending. When I got this job, for about a month I couldn't believe how easy it was and how nice a second paycheck was. Since it's obviously seasonal (and this pool is closed for half the year, so it's not like they could keep me on if they liked me) I felt preemptively sad for impending fall. I loved having people listen to my instructions, getting trained to teach swim lessons, sitting in the sun, and eating free sno cones, and I didn't want it to end.
 Cut to August, where I am very nearly off the schedule but still dreading the few shifts I do have. We're on the third aquatics director of the summer and this one is terrible. Last week there was a fire at the pool. I am tired of tending children whose parents can't be bothered. I want people, even kids, to take responsibility for their own safety. My parent-tot swim lesson is supposed to be cancelled since it's just one student, but it's not, and the parent wants me to teach ISR but I can't because I don't know how and also she doesn't want to put her baby underwater. I don't want to listen to 60s and 70s beach music (except the Beach Boys) any more. I am so ready for fall and my next thing.
I wish I could hold on to this lesson, that endings are often a relief and nothing to dread.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Reusing Zip Ties

I have a friend who is really into zip ties, like he uses them like a book strap to hold his items together, and mends things with them. He has special reusable ones, which made me think there must be a way to reuse zip ties (this was one of my pet projects when I was little, and I never succeeded) and it turns out all you do is push the locking tab out of the way of the teeth. And then the next day at work I had to unpack a pallet of dollies and was able to salvage all but one super industrial tie (it was on too tight). To avoid hurting myself I unpacked the pallet really, really slowly since each unit of dollies was unbalanced and heavy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I got a free sticker.

I found this on my car this morning and I was so offended. I know I'm abusing the visitor parking, so I only park there when retrieving my car from a tow yard seems preferable to waking up at 5:30 to shuffle the cars so my landlady can leave for work. I like rules, and this notice is so sloppy that it made me feel like the parking enforcement person is not competent. It says "NO OVERNIGHT PARKING," but the sign just says "VISITOR PARKING ONLY." And also I was not parked there overnight, but from 4:21am to 8:47am. And also it says my car will be towed at 7 AM, and it had not yet been towed at nearly 9. And also "TODAY" is not a date.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lead Shot Comfort Objects

Having camera and video camera and phone camera problems, but I am extremely keen to share my new project, so here is a frustratingly paced video
I made a weighted lap blanket, for self-soothing! 

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Donkey

 At work I have been helping out as best I can with our delivery pods. No part of it is a strong suit for me (I'm not mechanical, I am an average driver, and I am quite handy compared to my old peer group-- I can lay carpet or find a fuse box-- and totally useless compared to my coworkers. Is the alternator important-important? What is weight distribution? Yes, I see that the jack is going back down, that is why I have changed direction.) but that's what makes it so exotic and fun.
This is the awesome gear shift for the Donkey-- the ridealong forklift that fits on the back of the delivery truck. The gear shift (black plastic on the left) is just welded to that little red indicator, so they move together. A regular forklift has a 10k lb+ counterweight (ours is 13k) but the Donkey has to ride on gravel roads and people's driveways, so it has no added counterweight. We use the Donkey to pull 5'x8'x7.5' plywood boxes off the delivery truck and position them on people's driveways, but if the road is too narrow for the delivery truck we park nearby and deliver the box via forklift. I was very nervous to use the forklift to travel the last 1/3 mile to a farmhouse because I am very used to using the counterweighted, solid-tired forklift, which responds terribly to patchy pavement and has even caved in the cement on the lot at my storage center (not while I was driving). But the Donkey has air tires, and I could even take it off the gravel road into the dirt when I was positioning the box. I had to drive backward, of course, because the plywood box on my forks took up my whole field of view. But on the way back to the truck, I got to drive downhill, unencumbered, and I got it up to third gear, which was super fun even though I was riding the brake so much that my supervisor let me know afterwards that it might have been a good time to take it out of 1st.

Monday, May 5, 2014

I kind of love throwing away reusable stuff.

A few days ago my landlady took me shopping on Berkeley to make sure I was out of the house while she fumigated. I got to go to Daiso, the dollar-and-a-half store of housewares and things. I usually get bento boxes there, since I always eventually let mine rot away- for me, reusable food storage containers are not much longer lasting than disposable ones. Everything in Daiso is plastic or silicone or some other synthetic, except the stationery and the food, so I was totally surprised when at the register I couldn't get a plastic bag. 

The same day, I made The Worst Cup of Tea in the World. I put three black tea bags into some previously hot water, and when they didn't steep I remembered the carton of premade chai I had and decided to mix them together. I fished out the tea bags, poured out some of the very weak tea, then forgot what I was doing and filled the rest of my to-go cup with milk. Then I remembered, poured part of it out, and topped it up with the chai and thought, "this is the worst cup of tea in the world." I was sort of looking forward to trying it but instead left it in my house while it was being fumigated, rendering it either dangerous or just scary (I am okay with not knowing the ins and outs of poisons). Then I inadvertently let it sit out and it curdled horribly and very quickly so I  didn't try to salvage the cup. I think I used it for nearly 8 weeks, so that was pretty good. When I throw away reusable cups and bags I try to reckon whether they weighed more or less than the disposable option and I think this time it weighed less  which is probably the first time that's happened. 

I love my replacement to-go cup. It is a plain white ceramic cup in the shape of a paper coffee cup and the sleeve and the sippy lid are both green silicone. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Vanity Postage from Stamps.com

 I tried vanity postage from Stamps.com and it is extremely cool and also a headache. I love it so much that I was in denial about what a mess the process is until I found myself trying to explain to my housemate and fellow mail artist, Dawn, how she could use my credit to get a page of vanity stamps of whatever she wanted:
       "If, in the next week-- before my trial period ends I have to cancel my subscription or it is $16 a month-- you want to order stamps, you can definitely use my credit to order the photo stamp blanks (the stickers), but the credit doesn't apply to postage so you can either use my remaining balance, which is a couple of dollars, or if you want more you can buy it in whole dollar increments of at least $10."
And those are just the hoops remaining after I signed up for and installed all these things and navigated the stamps.com labyrinth and the one in the mandatory desktop version. I have worked for the post office, have the First Class Mail rates memorized by mailpiece and by ounce, read postal regulations as a pastime and found this process inscrutable I honestly don't know who would find the ordering process and billing manageable.

I found a gift card at the Goodwill for half off of $2.99 and thought it was worth checking out, and it was redeemable for $21 in postal supplies but no postage. But, signing up for stamps.com comes with a welcome kit (designed for small businesses) with a $5 postage credit. The welcome kit coupons are really clever, they are postcards redeemable for $10 in postage if you send them in using stamps.com postage after your trial is up. I have already put the cancellation date in my planner, even though I love my vanity stamps, because the subscription is just way too expensive for private use.

This page of stamps is a drawing I made of a triceratops skull at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.
This is a photo of my dad. The printing is over saturated. He's in a gorilla suit warming up to peddle his pontoon paddle boat in a river parade. 

I feel weird cancelling a service that is so neat, but it is really not priced for personal use. I send more mail than anyone I know and I use under 200 stamps per year. Just subscribing to stamps.com costs twice as much as those 200 stamps, and anyway there are always new fantastic commemorative USPS stamps that I want- vanity stamps can't replace them.

 For example, one year a panoramic stamp came out depicting the cherry trees around the Washington Monument to celebrate the centennial of friendship between the United States and Japan. I had an application for teaching abroad due, and since I was living in the capital I delivered it to the Japanese embassy by hand. They asked for a self addressed, stamped envelope for replies. I used the cherry blossom stamp and they sent it back saying no thank you. So that worked out well for everyone.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mike Kistler

My grandfather was proudly riding the early, avoidable death train the entire time I knew him, with the exception of the year he was 74 and got treated for cancer (I think it was because he was a newlywed). When I was little and was taught, sans nuance, that smoking kills, I would lecture him all the time and he would laugh it off. He continued smoking even after the mother of his children died of a heart attack brought on by getting by on just the one lung for years. Probably the sweetest death train story is that he wore a seat belt until it was legally mandated, and then he never wore one again. He also ate what he liked in the face of diabetes and didn't care to exercise. He retired at 55 and spent decades going on cruises around the world with his second wife. When they split up, he got together with his high school sweetheart. I am sorry we didn't get in some long, meaningful coffee dates before he passed, but we did get to say goodbye, at least, while he was lucid.

The checks he sent me every birthday and Christmas used to be wonderful when I was a kid- I would plan how to get to the bank, when to cash them, what to put the money towards, and then when thanking them I could specify what books I'd bought. Since then, though, I have used the checks toward groceries or paying bills and I appreciate it of course but it's not the same as that thrilling glimpse at adulthood. I am so grateful that this last Christmas present was something tangible, a flashy set of cocktail jewelry. I wore it to his deathbed. He said it was sold as jade but was probably just glass, and that I didn't have to wear it at all if I didn't like it. We have always just talked about me. I don't know who I thought was going to tell me how he became an engineer or where he met his French wife or what his family did for fun when he was a little boy.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Soapstone Seal

Seal Impression in Wax
Soapstone tiles

A friend picked up some soapstone tiles for me for Christmas, and I had a couple days off this week to work on projects so I rounded one off and carved my initials with a pin and a paper clip. Then I found an old pool cue in our pile of sticks and pipes and sawed off a 3 1/2 inch piece to use as a handle. The pool cue was much, much harder to sand than the soapstone, so I left it squared off. I drew from this tutorial: http://myceliae.deviantart.com/art/Tutorial-Personal-Wax-Seal-169771200

3D ichthyosaur

Here I intended to rough in an ichthyosaur and then drag the lines around, but I guess I only know how to drag around pen lines. I was petulant because Dad wouldn't explain to me how to get to the drawing tools so I just liquefied the background as well as the sketch. The background is meant to be 3D for pen and paper doodles and I found it while looking for interesting graph paper from printable paper to track my New Years' resolution progress. They have hexagons, percentages, everything cool but so far I have only used the 1/4 inch square grid.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Dressing up Free Business Cards

Vistaprint puts their contact info on the back of their free business cards, which dares everyone to laminate the card with something awesome to avoid the branding. So far I have thought of wood veneer, the pages on which I mix paint when I can't find a yogurt lid, flocking, or sand. I recently bought a bunch of leather samples (since I was paying to ship some royal blue deerskin to recover my planner, it was close to free to add some postcard size samples) of fake exotic leather- embossed on cow leather- that I thought would be super funny for a schoolteacher/truck driver/artist (yes, I'm flailing) who is broke as anything.

embossed cow, embossed cow, pigskin
I noticed when I was shopping for refills for the planner that everyone is into these colorful, childish planners for stay at home moms, and the company also sells expensive business cards for people without job titles, like families. They are called "call me" cards. So that made me feel like it will be okay to have business cards that just have contact info. Then after I ordered them I saw all of these cute designs, like checklists with one or two jobs or skills ticked off, or word searches where you circle your current role, and I am not doing something polished like that.